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A Week of Summer Vacation With High-Functioning Severe Mental Illness

Last weekend I went on a spontaneous vacation with my husband. I enjoyed the thrill of exploring an exotic new place. While he drove us, I planned out our weekend, finding us a bed-and-breakfast, interesting restaurants, local attractions, and areas of the city to explore. We had a great time.

But I had a panic attack in a restaurant since it was really crowded and I got overwhelmed.

I couldn’t sleep on our trip since the stress of a spontaneous trip triggered my insomnia.

I flipped to hypomania due to all of the excitement. I felt like I was a speeding car that couldn’t slow down and think clearly.

On Sunday, back home, I was so emotionally drained I had to rest all day.

Monday morning I woke up in a deep depression, crying for no reason.

Monday afternoon my husband and I went birding at a new park. It was a gorgeous day and I took lots of photographs. I was so calm and happy there.

Monday afternoon I was upset by something someone said online that triggered memories for me.

Monday night my husband and I went to see one of my favorite musicians in concert. Our seats were in the back row.

I have panic attacks in crowded places. The crowded concert, with everyone standing and singing along, triggered my panic. I spent the whole concert crying since I was fighting off a panic attack but didn’t want to leave and miss the concert.

When I finally forced myself to leave, my whole body was shaking. I couldn’t seem to control my body or my mouth. I kept saying, “I have to go, I have to go, I have to get out of here.” I was wringing my hands and my whole body was trembling. The people at the merchandise tables stared at me. The cop at the door stared at me. But I had to leave.

I cried the whole way home.

Tuesday morning I saw a new psychiatrist. She asked me all these sensitive questions about my past and my history of mental illness. I stared at the floor, twitching as she asked me very personal questions. She gave me a new diagnosis of PTSD. She had me to take this mental exam and I failed it. Though I’m smart.

Tuesday afternoon I battled depression. I struggled with thoughts of self-harm and kept crying.

Tuesday night I went to a craft night at a library and happily did some screenprinting. I was completely in the moment, enjoying the art I was creating.

Wednesday morning I took my elderly client (I’m her caregiver) to an exercise class. I love that class and its instructor. I talked to the instructor about my drive to fight the stigma of mental illness. The instructor talked about how I inspire her.

Wednesday night I led a poetry group for people with mental illness. We read a poem together and we all wrote inspirational poems to ourselves. I wrote a poem to my former self and it felt healing. One of the women there told me that I gave her hope.

Thursday morning I overslept due to a new psych med which makes me too drowsy.

Thursday afternoon I drove to a park for more birding and photography. When I got home, my husband and I watched a movie, then caught up on our TV shows. We got angry about the people on Big Brother and happily watched GLOW on Netflix.

Friday for work I took my elderly client for a walk in a park and out to lunch. Then we got ice cream and ate it at the overlook of a waterfall. She was really happy.

Friday afternoon my husband and I played a complex board game. I was having a hard time in the game. It seemed like I couldn’t get any of my plans to work. Suddenly I realized my husband was about to block an important move I planned to make. I panicked. I yelled at my husband. I was shaking and starting to have a panic attack. Finally I was able to calm myself and finish the game.

Then we made dinner and I was “normal” again.

95% of the time I seem normal. I am able to do well in grad school and work. I have a stable marriage and friendships. But then I have secret mental health episodes that are hard to predict and control.

It’s just my life with high-functioning severe mental illness.


Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

A Week of Summer Vacation With High-Functioning Severe Mental Illness

Anna Lente

I am currently getting my master's in clinical mental health counseling. I have bipolar disorder, a dissociative disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. I am a writer, poet, and artist. I like to write online about my experience of mental illness in order to raise awareness and break stigma.

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APA Reference
Lente, A. (2018). A Week of Summer Vacation With High-Functioning Severe Mental Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 14 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Aug 2018
Published on All rights reserved.