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Why It's Easier to Say I Have a 'Headache' Than Say I'm Depressed

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I have the overwhelming feeling that today is going to be a “write-off” day. The self-loathing. The hoodie and hide under the covers type of day. Sometimes there are tears. Sometimes just the feeling in the pit of your stomach. I woke up today feeling like this. I have depression and anxiety and after a difficult night filled with paranoia and panic attacks, the first step out of bed was a difficult one.

Then I get the text asking, Where are you?… What’s wrong?… What hurts? And the truth is… it’s easier to say I have a migraine. Or a stomach ache. The flu even. Because then I get the comfort and advice I need.

“I’m so sorry to hear that… Get some rest, have a hot bath, keep warm, pamper yourself… Do you need anything? Should I come over? Get yourself something decent to eat…”

So sometimes saying I have a headache is simply easier than:

“You know what? I’m not OK. I feel so, so low and nothing is working. I hate myself. I feel stupid, nobody loves me, nobody understands and at this moment in time, it doesn’t feel like anything will ever get better. I feel guilty for feeling like this. I feel so alone.”

I don’t tell people because people don’t know what to say. I’m generalizing, but after being honest, so many of us have gotten the “Oh dear” response.

I was speaking to a friend who was struggling with mental illness. They were commenting that they were feeling truly desperate, but didn’t feel comfortable walking into the emergency room.

If somebody walks into the emergency room with a broken arm, then people try to fix it. Mental illness may not be easily recognizable, but it is as important as anything physically apparent.

On the days depression is more attentive than usual, it shouldn’t be OK to make up hidden aches and pains in order to get understanding. The aches and pains may not be visible, but they can be as difficult and devastating as any other illness.

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Thinkstock photo via kevinhillillustration.

Originally published: August 8, 2017
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