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Mental Illness and the Art of Pretending

Photo by Kyle Sudu on Unsplash
In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I have decided to share one of my mental health experiences this month. Writing about mental health can be hard, but I feel it’s worth it to spread awareness and share my story with others, who may have suffered or are suffering with something similar. It’s always good to know you’re not alone with this.


When you’re depressed or anxious or are just suffering with your mental health, you become skilled at the art of pretending.

Everything is “fine.” You’re “great.” Nothing "new" is up. Your life is just so boring right now. Nothing new to report. When really it’s the exact opposite. Your life is so hectic. It may all be happening inside your mind: the depression, the anxiety, the panic attacks, the manic episodes, the obsessive thoughts, but all of that still filters out into your physical life and is taking up so much of your time. It's consuming your life. That's "what's up" with you. You just don’t want to tell anyone about it or admit that it’s even happening. To you or anyone.

You’re a pro at make believe, that everything is normal and that you’re not suffering inside.

But what people don’t know is that you don’t want to bother anyone. Bog them down with your troubles. Burden them with it. Your medication and side effect woes. Your psychiatrist/psychologist/therapist/counselor/doctor appointments. The sleepless nights and sleeping all day. Or the fact that you don't have any help or anyone to talk to. That you're alone in this awfulness. Those feelings that you just can’t escape and so desperately want to. So you pretend that everything is just fine and dandy. It's really not though.

Pretending is an art that you’ve mastered and you have everyone fooled. But deep down you know you want help or someone to just ask you if you’re okay, and for you to just say simply and easily, “yes, yes I do need help,” or “yes, I do want to talk about it.”

For most of my life, I have been one of those people who have pretended. Pretended I was okay, pretended I was fine, pretended my life was so boring that there really was nothing up with me, when really everything up with me was a horrible tornado in my mind, spinning out of control, and causing deep depressions, outbursts of anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, awful compulsions, endless crying, and more. But on the outside, I wanted everything to look as if I was just like everyone else. Someone with a “normal" life, the one I was trying so hard to imitate. I didn’t want to admit that anything was wrong with me. So I lied and pretended.

And I have to admit, I still do at times. I’m afraid to speak up, not just because I don’t want to admit that there’s something wrong with me, but because I don’t know who to talk to about it (besides a mental health professional). Who will understand, who won’t judge me? Who won’t call me crazy? (It’s happened.) It’s a scary thing to admit that you need help or want to talk, but when you finally do get the courage or are desperate enough, who can you turn to talk to or to trust them with your innermost thoughts and feelings? Thoughts and feelings not everyone will understand because they’ve never gone through something even remotely similar? The very idea is terrifying to think that you could tell someone and they wouldn’t understand or get it. (“You do know that’s crazy...right?”- something someone actually said to me once.)

But you know what I’ve learned after years of being silent and trying to be stoic and not be a bother?

People who pretend are strong. They’re trying so hard to keep things to themselves, figure it out on their own, and not burden their family and friends, that they’re suffering even more because of their silence. But that strength will only get you so far until you need help, and then it might be too late. 

But people who ask for help are also strong. Because they have that bravery, and that knowledge to know that it's time to ask for help. That they realize they need help, and they have the strength to seek it out and ask for it, even if they're at the brink of something terrible. And I applaud them for it. (That's called advocating for yourself, people!)

I hope that one day asking for help won’t be so shameful and that you don't have to pretend that you’re okay when you're not okay. (You can always keep things to yourself, of course, because it's your life and it is your choice whether or not you want to tell people what you’re going through. You don’t have to tell any old person, just someone you trust, whether it’s a friend or a mental health professional.) That it’s acceptable to tell the truth. To ask for help. To know that you’re not a burden.

Because you’re not.

And I’m not, either.

Never be ashamed to ask for help, especially professional help. We all deserve to get the help we need, to be able to ask for it, without drama, without judgement, and with compassion. If you need help, and you’ve been pretending, I hope you can find a person you trust, and ask for help if you need to. Or even just someone to talk to. (Though I really would suggest professional help if you're having serious problems. There's only so much a friend can listen to and try to help, so getting professional help is a must, sometimes. And something I definitely encourage for people!)

Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength and that you know it’s time that you speak up for the help that you need and deserve. Let's do away with pretending and start speaking up for ourselves. Because it's about damn time.


I know May is Mental Health Awareness Month and is a great way to remind people of everyone who suffers from mental health and obviously bring awareness to it, but just remember that it doesn’t have to be May for you to speak up and get help. Any month of the year, any day of the year, is the best time for you to ask for help. And I hope you do. To everyone else who may not suffer from any mental health conditions but is friends with someone who has them, please listen. It will mean the world to us if you do.

Have you ever hid your mental illness behind the art of pretending? Have you learned to be more open about it, or do you still keep it quiet? (After all, it's a personal choice whether you want to talk about it or not!) Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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6 comments on "Mental Illness and the Art of Pretending"
  1. This was a great read, thank you for sharing and reminding people that it’s ok to ask for help! X

    1. Hi Katie! Oh my gosh, thank you so much for saying that! Sometimes it can be hard for me to write about mental health, but I pushed through it because I really wanted to talk about this. And it makes me happy that you liked it, so it was worth it! And it's more than okay to ask for help! I hope people remember that <3

      Thank you for reading and your wonderful comment!!! <3

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this post. It's very transparent about mental illness, and what some people may not see or realize because it's often kept inside. ♥


    1. Hi Deandra! Aw, thank you so much! It was tough to put into words, but I'm glad I finally wrote it down and I hope it'll help someone if they ever read it. Thank you so much for always being so supportive and sweet! <3

  3. Hi Emily! I love this post. I agree. People with mental illness do have to pretend a lot, or at least I do. Like you, I try to deal with my problems myself and not burden friends and family. It is difficult to find understanding at times, especially when our mindsets may be a little "weird" to others.
    You're so right about how people who pretend are strong. Sometimes, I listen to people and I realized that perhaps I wasn't weak, but I was trying too hard to be strong.
    Great post!

    1. Hi Julie! Thank you so much for saying that! This was one of those hard posts to write, but I feel like it was worth it if it spoke to people like you and myself.

      And I love what you said: "Sometimes, I listen to people and I realized that perhaps I wasn't weak, but I was trying too hard to be strong." That's so true and real and I felt that so much. That really encompasses what I imagine a lot of us feel sometimes. I hope you know how strong you are and that one day we won't have to pretend and feel like burdens. Because we aren't. (Despite what our brains keep telling us! haha)

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment! <3


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