When you’re struggling with depression, most of the time, you know. The problem is, those around you may not. That’s because many of the symptoms of depression are “invisible.” So when depression appears to you, others may still think you’re “fine.”
That’s why we asked our Mighty mental health community to tell us things they’ve said to others that were actually code for: “I’m depressed.” Because sometimes reaching out when you’re struggling with an invisible illness like depression means making sure others notice what’s not invisible to you.
Here is what they had to say:
1. “I don’t feel well.”
“It is such a simple and vague statement but can hide so much behind it. I say this when I’m not entirely sure of what I’m feeling, but know my depression and anxiety are acting up worse than usual or if my brain is attacking me. It is so much simpler to say I’m not feeling well than trying to explain everything else going on.” — Kathryn W.
2. “I’m just tired.”
“Or when I go off the radar. I’m usually very responsive on my phone and social media. I may just cover it up with ‘I’m just tired.’” — Mandy M.
3. “I need to go/visit someplace new/I want to travel.”
“Variants of this can sometimes be a sign that I’m stuck in a depressive bubble and need an out, even if that’s going to a place nearby for a day or two. So far I’ve only experienced one person catching on to this, but usually people only respond with, ‘Yeah, I want to go to [insert place]’ or something like that.” — Ole H.
4. “I’m not doing well today.”
“I try to be authentic by saying, ‘I’m not doing well today’ and trust in being vulnerable. But sometimes when I’m asked, ‘How are you today?’ I will respond, ‘Medium’ when I really mean ‘Terrible.’ I secretly hope they decipher my codes and hidden meanings, but I have realized it rarely works. So, I am trying to just be authentic and not ashamed of my depression.” — John M.
5. “I’m surviving.”
“In response to the question ‘How’s it going?’ I sometimes simply say, ‘It’s going,’ or, ‘I’m surviving.’” — Jackie R.
6. “I’m hanging in there.”
“When people ask how I’m doing, this is the only socially appropriate answer that implies that things aren’t easy right now. ‘Hanging on by a thread’ would be the ‘honest’ translation.” — Elizabeth R.
7. “I’m so exhausted.”
“No matter how much actual sleep I get, whether I’m up all night thinking and crying or I have managed to actually cry myself to sleep early — I’m still constantly exhausted.” — Sara E.
8. “I feel so frustrated and angry.”
“Most people don’t realize anger, instead of sadness, can be the main symptom of depression.” — Kristen F.
9. “I feel ‘off’ or ‘incorrect.’”
“I tell my therapist all the time I feel ‘off’ or ‘incorrect.’ He knows me though so he is aware of the signs when my depression gets worse. People in my life, which are few, don’t seem to pay attention.” — Charlotte C.
10. “You don’t understand, no one understands.”
“I say this when I’m trying to explain that statement to my boyfriend is so hard, because deep down he wants to understand exactly what I am going through but finds it so difficult when I push him away instead and go quiet while hiding away and avoiding eye contact. I just wish it was easy to explain the situation when I have a bad reaction.” — Shone D.
11. “I have a migraine.”
“I would always say this when I was too depressed to do anything. I felt like physical pain was more accepted than mental pain.” — Jasmine B.
12. “I have it handled.”
“This is my go-to when I am overwhelmed, don’t have enough help and I feel as if my world is going to come crashing in on itself. It is always, ‘Just leave me alone. I have it handled.’” — Julia N.
13. “I can’t go to class.”
“I’m in college and some days I can’t get out of bed and I can’t leave the dorm, so walking to campus seems like the most impossible task in the world.” — Wes H.
14. I’ve just been so busy lately!
“Code for: I’ve been too depressed to even consider making plans outside of anything else that is absolutely necessary.” — Morticia A.
15. “I’m here.”
“I’m here — as in I’m barely existing and I just don’t have the extra energy to do much. Very rarely will someone catch on.” — Savanna S.
16. “My back hurts.”
“When I have bad depressive episodes, my whole body hurts like I was trampled by horses, especially my back because I already have a bad spine.” — Jaclyn R.
17. “I’m not hungry.”
“I love to eat, so when I lose my appetite you know something’s wrong.” — Hayley T.
18. “It’s been a long day.”
“To some, that may seem relatively self-explanatory, but a long day for me means I’ve been in fight-or-flight mode, or struggling not to have a breakdown, or on the verge of tears while arguing with myself in my mind all day while plastering a fake smile on for my family.” — Amber M.
19. “Others are going through much worse.”
“Sometimes the guilt I feel for feeling down is overwhelming because I know so many others out there are dealing with worse. And when I think about all the bad things in the world, it brings me down that much more. It’s a weird cycle and I know I’m not being completely honest with myself when I respond this way. But it’s the only way I know how to answer sometimes without just wearing a mask (which also isn’t healthy). It’s not so much about the answer I’m giving the person asking, but rather about telling myself to just suck it up, which works sometimes, but makes me feel like an empty liar at other times.” — Kristi M.
20. “I have no life.”
“I say this a lot when I’m having a rough time. I feel I haven’t accomplished much at my age. Everyone I know is going on trips and working their dream jobs. The only thing I’ve accomplished was having my boys and even then I feel I’m failing at that.” — Cora-Lee H.
21. “I’m bored/I need to get out for a bit.”
“I don’t think people understand that it’s my way of distracting myself from my thoughts. I’m going through therapy to help learn to not have to depend on others.” — Jennifer E.
22. “Hey, do you want to hang out?”
“I have a hard time admitting when I’m in a bad place, so asking to hang out or get out of the house (anything really) is good for me. I’m glad I have some friends who let me run boring errands with them on days like this.” — Gina G.
23. “My soul is tired.”
“That was the one where I knew I meant I was losing hope and spiraling. That one was when I was closest to making a life-ending decision.” — Samantha B.
24. “I hate everything.”
“This is usually met with annoying responses like, ‘Well do you hate your cats? Do you hate candy? Do you hate me?’ It’s not that I actually hate everything. It’s just my roundabout way of admitting that I’m depressed and nothing seems OK.” — Elizabeth M.
25. “We don’t want to do it at my house, it’s a mess.”
“Or, ‘Let’s take your car, mines dirty,’ because I’m ashamed that I can never seem to find the energy to take care of myself or my belongings anymore.” — Karina W.
Can you relate?
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
By Haley Quinn