There are lots of people out there who are hurting— but who have to keep functioning. 

As it turns out, life doesn’t pause, or even slow down, for us when we’re in emotional— or even physical— pain. 

Lots of people reading this know exactly what I mean. They’ve been in the spot of really struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, an easting disorder, or something else— but having to keep going out in the world every day to “function.” 

Many of us have jobs or roles that simply don’t let us pump the brakes, even for a day. 

So we soldier on. Even through the pain, through the dissociation, through the fatigue. 

I wish we lived in a world that was better at acknowledging the need to recover even if we’re not quite at the point of complete meltdown or burnout— but we don’t. 

The world will often look at us and say, well, if you can get up in the morning and make it in to work, you must not be all THAT bad off. 

If you can still “produce,” even in a reduced capacity, your pain must not be THAT bad. 

They don’t get it. 

It’s not that our pain “isn’t that bad.” 

It’s that our life doesn’t give us the option of taking time and space to recuperate. 

Some people will never know how frustrating it is to be hurting, emotionally or physically, every day— but to not have that pain considered particularly important, because you’re still “functional.” 

There are plenty of people out in the world who are “functional”— right up to the point where they’re not. 

We also live in a world that frequently does not acknowledge how hard we’re working to push through our pain and fatigue. 

We’re told we shouldn’t get special credit for doing things we’re “supposed” to do, like working or parenting. 

This often leaves us feeling very alone, very invisible— and very hopeless that anyone will EVER appreciate the enormous effort it often takes to just get out of bed and exist in the world day after day. 

Trying to live up to our responsibilities when we’re dragging around the weight of a mood disorder, a trauma history, or an addiction, is more exhausting and discouraging than words can express. 

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to face the day when you’re carrying an invisible thousand pound load that you can’t really explain to anybody. 

For many people, recovery has to begin in teeny, tiny increments— teeny, tiny changes in the way we talk to ourselves, in what we focus on, in what we do. 

We have to start with those teeny, tiny changes because we often don’t have the time or emotional bandwidth for bigger changes. 

Asking someone who is living a full, busy life— in SPITE of whatever they’re struggling with emotionally or behaviorally— to make massive changes just isn’t fair or realistic. 

Almost nobody has the opportunity to make recovery a full time job. So we have to start small, and we have to stay realistic. 

We start recovery with harm reduction because a day that hurts or harms us 1% less because of a teeny, tiny change we purposefully made, is realistic. We MIGHT be able to wrap our head around that. 

ANY recovery program NEEDS to take your real, daily life and responsibilities into account. 

ANY recovery program that doesn’t treat your real world priorities and responsibilities as important is in trouble from the start. 

If you’ve been going out in the world and “functioning”— whatever the hell that means— despite the emotional or behavioral load you’re carrying, you deserve to be seen, acknowledged, celebrated. 

Even reading a blog like this when you’re feeling awful isn’t easy. But you’re doing it. 

Just reading this blog counts as a baby step. 

The baby steps are realistically gonna get you there. I promise. 

2 thoughts on ““Functioning,” but not functional.

  1. When you take a teeny, tiny step, be very careful who finds out. There are some who think they are helping you by telling you that step isn’t big enough and you need to do more. There are some who will ridicule you, even publicly, for being so silly. There are others who will point out that they are doing much better than you because they do more than you. And that teeny, tiny step you were so proud of taking becomes a fall into a vast chasm of pain. It helps to remember that all these people were probably trying to help you… but you can’t even think of that, let alone believe it, unless you have reached that point in your recovery.


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