What ‘I Don’t Feel Well’ Really Means to a Person With Depression


“I can’t come, I don’t feel well, sorry!”

“I’m just going to go on home, I’m not feeling well.”

“I’m OK, I just don’t feel well.”

Those three blanket statements are 80 percent of my vocabulary and are in 100 percent of the conversations I have with people on a day-to-day basis. By any “normal” person’s standards, one would take one of those statements at face value and think, “Hey! That person doesn’t feel well. They must have a headache or an upset stomach. That’s too bad.” Then, just move along. Right?

This is what I mean when I say I don’t feel well:

1. “I can’t come, I don’t feel well, sorry!”

I don’t feel well because I’m uncomfortable with what could happen at this event. My mind is racing, filled with catastrophic thoughts and what-ifs. My anxiety is telling me I won’t fit in, I’ll be the odd man out, they’ll know something is wrong with me. My depression is telling me it’s not worth going to anyways, to just stay in bed all night long in the same pajamas I’ve had on for a week. My anxiety and depression and insecurities are laying into me, so make me tired and not feel well. So I don’t go.

Then I spend all night overthinking the decision to not go. Anxiety peeks in, concerned about what others had to say about me not being there. Depression could care less about what those people think.

2. “I’m just going to go on home, I’m not feeling well.”

I don’t feel well in my brain. My mind’s a mess. It’s all over the place. It’s cluttered and overworked trying to process the interactions I’m having and instructing me on how to respond or be involved in a situation so I don’t have a meltdown and helping me interact in a “normal” way. I’m uncomfortable. I feel like I’m being judged, even if I’m not. My brain is tired, and it makes me tired, and we don’t feel well. We want to go home.

Then I spend all night overthinking the decision to leave early, people’s reactions to it and what was said about me. Anxiety grows, self-doubt grows, self-esteem plummets until I can nod off to bed.

3. “I’m OK, I just don’t feel well.”

I don’t feel well in my mind, but I knew I had to be at this event. My mind is battling back and forth to keep me appearing like a functional member of society. My vulnerability is high, my self-esteem is at rock bottom, and there is no ounce of confidence in sight. I’m drained physically and emotionally and it took everything in me to get me here. I am here, but I certainly don’t feel well.

Mental illness is hard. It is tiring. It is complex. It is unfair. It is confusing. It is conflicting. It is misunderstood. I am fighting battles with myself, with my brain, with my bipolar disorder, my depression, my anxiety, with self-doubt, self-esteem and self-confidence constantly. I am continually classifying positives and negatives, and continually running and I am continually tired. So, sometimes, I don’t feel well. So next time, when your friend with mental illness cancels plans because they don’t feel well, take a second and think about what that might mean for them.

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Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash


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