This powerful essay illustrates what it's like to live with an 'invisible' mental illness.

"Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always."

While this quote is true for anyone you may come in contact with, it may be especially true for those of us with "high-functioning" mental illnesses.

You come in contact with people in this category every day, even if you don't know it. In fact, you might be one of these people yourself.


Despite a handful of mental health diagnoses, I have a steady job, am working part-time on a master's degree, have a social life, and in general seem to be a functioning adult. I am glad to be moving through life, and I refuse to let my disorders define me or even limit me. However, struggling with these demons while also being an over-achiever can be isolating and frustrating.

Being "high-functioning" does not make disorders or battles any less overwhelming.

Sometimes it feels like I'm swimming in the ocean, caught in a riptide and getting pulled in over my head all while fighting with every ounce of strength to reach the surface for a breath of air. It is a constant struggle to keep my battles from drowning me or pulling me under.

Many people understandably do get pulled under to the point of not getting out of bed or going to work or functioning. But others' highly active survival instincts keep them struggling to reach the surface of the water so they can breathe. Their current is just as strong, and the threat and pain of these struggles is just as real. Their instinct is just different — to fight as hard as they can and not ever stop.

It may seem like this makes high-functioning people's struggles "easier," "less severe," or "less real."

In reality, my instinct is just to tread water and maintain appearances while many other people's is to not fight the ocean quite so hard. Neither response is wrong — people just fight their battles differently.

Of course, mental illnesses and trauma are awful and isolating no matter what. Being "high-functioning," though, can feel extremely isolating and confusing in a different way. Most of the time, the people I love are not aware of how much I am struggling. They see me achieving, they see me living, and they figure I am OK. I have an active sense of humor and tend to minimize my fight. People assume I'm managing just fine.

Even those closest to me are sometimes confused by the juxtaposition of my mental illness and my functional life.

Unless I specifically tell my family and friends that I am absolutely not OK in explicit terms, it is all too easy to assume that everything is fine. I realized about nine months ago that my own parents, whom I am very close to, had no idea how severe my PTSD was or how anxious and depressed I felt.

A couple of times a week, I go to bed having to actively battle thoughts like everyone would be better off without me and that I should just make myself disappear. These thoughts aren't rational, and they aren't visible to anyone (other than my therapist who always seems to know).

When I get up in the morning, I put on a brave face and tackle the day while my brain and body scream at me that it would be better, safer, and easier if I just stayed in bed all day. Every moment of every day, I fight the current that is trying to pull me under and fight the desire to just stop. I want to give in. I want to let the pain and depression wash over me. More than anything I want peace and rest for a little while because fighting this and putting on my brave face is exhausting. I still fight, though, because that is the only way I can find to manage life.

Being "high-functioning" is a gift at times, and it allows me to be a productive adult.

It comes at a cost, too, as fighting to remain functioning drains me. In all likelihood, someone in your circle, someone you know and love, is fighting this same battle. Smiles and laughter and "I'm doing well!" answers can lie about the pain and exhaustion that may be completely invisible to others.

So remember, as much as you can, be kind always with everyone. Sometimes your gentleness might just be the lifeline someone needs to get through the day.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text "START" to 741-741.

This story originally appeared on The Mighty and is reprinted here with permission. If you or someone you know needs help, visit The Mighty's suicide prevention resources page.

Photo courtesy of Macy's
True

Macy's and Girls Inc. believe that all girls deserve to be safe, supported, and valued. However, racial disparities continue to exist for young people when it comes to education levels, employment, and opportunities for growth. Add to that the gender divide, and it's clear to see why it's important for girls of color to have access to mentors who can equip them with the tools needed to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.

Anissa Rivera is one of those mentors. Rivera is a recent Program Manager at the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc., a nonprofit focusing on the holistic development of girls ages 5-18. The goal of the organization is to provide a safe space for girls to develop long-lasting mentoring relationships and build the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to thrive now and as adults.

Rivera spent years of her career working within the themes of self and community empowerment with young people — encouraging them to tap into their full potential. Her passion for youth development and female empowerment eventually led her to Girls Inc., where she served as an agent of positive change helping to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Inspiring young women from all backgrounds is why Macy's has continued to partner with Girls Inc. for the second year in a row. The partnership will support mentoring programming that offers girls career readiness, college preparation, financial literacy, and more. Last year, Macy's raised over $1.3M for Girls Inc. in support of this program along with their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programming for more than 26,000 girls. Studies show that girls who participated are more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, score higher on standardized math tests, and be more equipped for college and campus life.

Thanks to mentors like Rivera, girls across the country have the tools they need to excel in school and the confidence to change the world. With your help, we can give even more girls the opportunity to rise up. Throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases or donate online to support Girls Inc. at Macys.com/MacysGives.

Who runs the world? Girls!

Screenshots via @castrowas95/Twitter

In the Pacific Northwest, orca sightings are a fairly common occurrence. Still, tourists and locals alike marvel when a pod of "sea pandas" swim by, whipping out their phones to capture some of nature's most beautiful and intelligent creatures in their natural habitat.

While orcas aren't a threat to humans, there's a reason they're called "killer whales." To their prey, which includes just about everything that swims except humans, they are terrifying apex predators who hunt in packs and will even coordinate to attack whales several times their own size.

So if you're a human alone on a little platform boat, and a sea lion that a group of orcas was eyeing for lunch jumps onto your boat, you might feel a little wary. Especially when those orcas don't just swim on by, but surround you head-on.

Watch exactly that scenario play out (language warning, if you've got wee ones you don't want f-bombed):

Keep Reading Show less