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7 'White Lies' People With Mental Illness Tell

When you live with a mental illness, it can be pretty tough to let others in and show them the “truth” of what’s going on.

The truth comes in varying degrees. Maybe you tell others things aren’t really as bad as they seem, or simply state you’re doing OK when all you want to do is hibernate until spring. Whatever the lie and the reason for telling it, we all do it, and it’s not meant in any malicious way. These “white lies” are simply our way of coping when everything feels too much and you just can’t deal with having to explain it to others.

That’s why we asked our mental health community for the white lies they tell others when faced with questions about their health. If you’re reading this and wondering how best to help your loved one, head on over to what they wish you’d ask after reading this article.

Remember: everyone’s situation is different, but a single truthful conversation can make all the difference in fighting off the stigma surrounding mental health.

Here’s what our community had to say:

1. “I have a headache.”

“‘I have a headache.’ It covers everything and I don’t have to explain it.” — Shelly C.

“‘I have a migraine/headache.’ I do experience them, so it isn’t unreasonable for me to have one, but more often than not it is my excuse to get out of plans because my depression and/or anxiety is too much.” — Courtney F.

2. “I haven’t been feeling well.”

“‘My thyroid is acting up.’ I do actually have hypothyroidism and take medication for it, but a physical ailment is much more widely accepted than ‘I’m having bipolar mood swings.’ Also, my service-dog-in-training prompts people to ask me a lot of questions including what is she in training for and who is she going to be a service dog for. I used to say she’s for me to help with my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic attacks… now, I just say she will be paired with someone with anxiety.” — Liz C.

“‘I haven’t been feeling well.’ I also have a physical health issue so I let people assume I’m talking about that. I’m doing trauma work. It’s a lot of really dark stuff that most people can’t handle. I have to do it alone… So sometimes, I disappear for a day or don’t keep up my usually bubbly persona. I don’t want to talk about it. I haven’t been feeling well.” — Jillian S.

“I’m going to have to cancel, I think it might be a stomach bug, we better not take the chance of you getting it.” — Anthony H.

3. “I’m OK.

“‘I’m good,’ or ‘I’m OK,’ in response to any variation of the question ‘How are you?’ I’ve learned from experience that the number of people who want your honest answer are few and far between.” — Emily G.

“That ‘I’m fine.’ I do it because I don’t want to be a bother to people. Whenever I have one of my episodes, I always feel like I’m a burden.” — Caiden B.

“My white lie is ‘I’m not suicidal,’ because it is always there, sitting in the background and drowning my mind.” — Alana R.

Want to be open and honest with people who understand?  Downloading our app makes it easy to post Thoughts and Questions on our site.

4. “I was drunk.”

“When I have a ‘mental moment,’ I just tell people I was drunk. It seems silly but it’s far less shameful for me to say than, ‘Hey, yeah, I was having a manic episode, sorry about that.’ People also tend to be far more forgiving.” — Juniper H.

5. “I’m just tired.”

“I usually say I’m tired. Although I am, it’s because I’m not in the mood to deal with my husband, my family or friends. I wish they understood about depression instead of just thinking I was lazy or mean.” — Sheila B.

“‘I’m just tired/anxious,’ when it’s so much more than that. I say it because people don’t understand or want to hear what’s really happening.” — Ashleigh B.

“‘I’m going to bed.’ I say this so the conversation or texts are over. I’m too tired to talk anymore, but I never go to bed and sleep. I lie there awake, going through exactly what I was already going through; that lie just saved me telling a whole heap more.” — Tigs-Ley L.

6. “It’s something else…”

“I tell people I have depression instead of borderline personality disorder (BPD) because I work in the nursing field and there is a huge stigma with BPD. I feel I would lose the respect and trust of my colleagues if they knew the truth.” — Susan P.

“I have struggled with eating disorders for years and have rules about what I will/won’t eat and about food touching. I’ve found it’s easier to lie in public or restaurants and say I have allergies to foods; that way, people don’t look at me like I’m ‘crazy.’” — Charlotte O.

7. “I’m just in a funk.”

“‘I’m just in a funk and I don’t know why.’ I, in fact, know exactly what triggered me, and which illness it triggered. It’s just too much to explain.” — Liz T.

What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo by Brennan Martinez on Unsplash