Reviewing the Archive: But You Seem so Functional

I’m starting a new series, alongside the art journal work. Now that I’m almost 3 years down the line, I’m reposting art from the early stages of the journal, with a new commentary on what the piece means to me now in comparison to what it meant then.

I’m starting the series with a review of “But You Seem So Functional“.

This piece was about coping with the immense weight of mental illness whilst still holding down a highly skilled job at a top university and living an apparently “normal life”.

This was before Superwoman had let her guard down and before I fully sank into and accepted the massive burnout I was experiencing.

I was on the slope, it was slippery, but I was determined I could ace everything.

Work, personal life, 5 Hours a week of intensive outpatient therapy, plus homework, everything.

Of course, I couldn’t.

When I drew this, I was angry that no-one saw the struggle beneath the superwoman.

I understand now that people only see what you show them. And that even now, “post-breakdown” me still keeps a lot hidden under the surface.

I honestly don’t know now how I ever maintained this version of me! But I do know that making her stop and rest was one of the hardest jobs of my therapeutic journey. And not letting her take over again is a daily struggle.

We don’t have to “win” at therapy.

Gliding over the top, acing everything and being “the best”.

We have to slow down and do it properly. And that has never been easy for us. In fact, we are still just learning how to do it for the first time.

And this girl, in the picture, she is the reason that our therapeutic journey has at times been counter-intuitive to others – stopping when they would advise us to go, taking things slower than slow, listening to the voice that says “don’t go out, don’t get a job, rest more”, “stay in”, “sleep”, “slow down, slow down”. Instead of all of the voices that say “routine”, “exercise”, “fill your time”, “activity”, “do things, do things, do more things“.