Upfront Disclaimer: This site is NOT about diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment. We are not licensed anythings, nor do we want to be. Further, I personally do not care what your diagnosis is. Whether you’re schizophrenic, bipolar, agoraphobic, major depressive, or anything else for that matter, if you’re high-functioning enough to convince people you aren’t mentally ill, you’re in. If you get by and are the only person in a given room who knows you’re just “getting by,” you’re in.

Define Functioning hopes to be a forum for those deemed the “high-functioning mentally ill.” The Central Thesis of this site is the belief that the higher up a mentally ill person sits on the Functioning Spectrum, the less that particular spectrum (or its definition of “functioning”) actually describes that person.

This is not to say that we are not grateful or cognizant of our abilities to function. Nor is it to say that we have it as hard or harder than our not-as-high-functioning brethren. What we have and how we live is different.

This difference is what the site is about. Well, not really. It’s not so much about the difference, as it is the result of the difference.

This site is for those of us who know that we are functioning well enough to fool everyone else, but sometimes have a hard time doing it. We are mothers and fathers, employees and bosses. Many of us function well enough to have interpersonal relationships, and thus we are also often husbands and wives. We are friends, colleagues, brothers, and sisters. We don’t want to bother people with our difficulties, and we don’t want to suffer their imagined responses, but this day-to-day stuff is HARD. We need people to talk to about how hard it is to pull this off.

Many of us might be in remission. And we’re scared of going back. Many of us have not always been High-Functioning, but we are now. And we’ll do anything to maintain that.

Really, honestly, I don’t think most people give the “high-functioning mentally ill” much thought. My theory is that this is mostly because we aren’t a burden on society. We don’t require institutionalization (right now).  We hold down jobs just fine or better, and we know how to produce. We figure out some way around our respective disorders in order to contribute. We don’t stand at intersections preaching about the End of Days. If we hear them, we know the voices in our heads aren’t real, and therefore we don’t listen. We know it takes us twice as long (or longer) to do the simple things. And while most of us will never admit that, we do those things anyway. We’re what I call “Closeted CrazyPants.” The stigma of our less-functioning brethren is something we can’t abide. It’s something we fear more than screwing up. (I personally fear responsibility and accountability being taken from me, the unintended consequence of people thinking they can or should explain my creative abilities and excuse my shortcomings with my disorder.) We’re noble people. We’re proud. And, if you’re like me, we’re scared.

And honestly, this might not be completely bad. One, of many, things I wrestle with is the value of reminding people that we exist. Would there be more support? Would we be able to easily explain or state our disorders and difficulties? Would not having to work so hard at hiding it make it easier to live? Would we still be taken seriously? Or would we be stripped of the accountability I mentioned parenthetically above? I don’t know. I wonder, and I hope. But, if you’re like me, then there is a lot at stake and your life as you know it is too much to risk on being wrong. So, for now, I will say this: We are. I am. ∃.

(3 December 2010)

A Note on Terminology:

I insist that to “get by,” we have to be able to laugh at ourselves. Rather, in order for ME to get by, I have to be able to laugh at MYSELF. I call myself “CrazyPants” or “Closeted CrazyPants.”  This site tolerates language ranging from the Clinical to the PC to the Self-Mocking, But Respectful of Others. Anything within that scope is OK.

The one term I stand defiantly against actually defining is what it means to “function.” You may not agree with me on this, but I am hoping this forum will operate on the assumption that our expectations for ourselves are different. What we need to accomplish in order to feel that we are maintaining our “high-functioning” label is different. I kindly ask that if you use the word “function” to mean anything specific, that you clarify your specific meaning. Otherwise, it’s all fair game.

As for your contributions and comments, I ask you to respect some rules about language: We respect the thoughts and experiences of others. We understand that people with different lives and different diagnoses might write here. We know that we have it pretty good, and that it could be much worse. We get to do the things we want to do, although maybe not the way we want to do them or the ways others do them, but they still get done. Because of that, be grateful and BE NICE.


On 15 May 2011, DefineFunctioning was nominated by Jess for a Versatile Blogger Award. Because this forum isn’t a traditional “blog” (and because ∃’s personal blog at ∃E was also nominated), the official acceptance of this award will be there.

On 21 February 2011, the site was dedicated to the memory of David Foster Wallace in this post.