The price of ‘functioning’

close up photo of car gauges

To most people I would appear to be a well ‘functioning’ human being – I work, have a home, am studying a post graduate degree and I’m a parent. I appear to have my shit together but often, under the surface, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

I love to be busy and I need to be constantly stimulated and this constant need for input leaves me burnt out. The mental load of carrying on with all of these activities is exhausting and leaves me with brain fog, fatigue and regular (yet inconsistent) meltdowns.

I get so much joy from working with Disabled kids, even when things don’t go the way we had planned! (see: Why youth work gives me Autistic joy). Nevertheless, for work I need to be more flexible than I’d like, I have a forever changing time table and I must communicate in ways I’d prefer not to (ew phone calls!). Despite working part time, I still find this incredibly overwhelming, especially in busy periods where funding applications are due and home visits are a plenty.

Sharing a home with my husband is the best but it’s constant work; gardening, house work, DIY and all the compromises which come from a long-term committed relationship. As the main caregiver of our baby I also take on most of his care including keeping on top of appointments, baby groups, nursery payments etc (see Autistic parenthood: Mental load burnout).

Then university, which is a massive undertaking in itself – the admin alone is a part time job! Then there are lessons where I have to try to sit still, look like I’m listening and ‘engaged’ with a face which has a mind of it’s own! Then – my favourite part! – being sent passive aggressive emails when I don’t turn up to lessons which don’t suit my needs or teach me anything new.

Functioning well within all of these domains is difficult, so when others suggest that I am ‘high functioning’ they are really not seeing what is going on with me under the surface which doesn’t take much looking to see.

I have been on mental health medication for years, I have obsessive compulsions and cPTSD which both come with horrific intrusive thoughts and a big dose of sleep disorders. I am barely hanging on under the ‘I’m fine thanks’ and the switching between mum-mode, home-mode, uni-mode and everything-else-mode. I am beyond frazzled but because I fit some kind of weird white middle class ideal I am seen as functioning very well thank you very much.

I am but a cog in the capitalist machine, the wheel which never gets the grease – I’m just performing too well for any help like that!

So, commenting on others “fuctionality” is about the most pointless, arbitrary, ableist and sanist thing you can do – you just have no idea what is going on with other people, especially those of us who look like we have our shit together.

Check in on your busy friends – we are often not fine!


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