The Mighty Logo

How My 'Depression Speak' Allows You to Read Between the Lines of My Depression

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you live with suicidal thoughts or an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741, by texting “NEDA” to 741741 for eating disorders.

“The past 18 months for me have been hell.”

That’s the way I described it to my doctor.

“I have no motivation, I have no emotions; I just feel like crap.”

“Are you suicidal?”


“What triggered it?”

“I don’t know.”

In all honesty, I don’t know what triggered the dozens of attempts of taking my own life over the past year and a half, but this recent run has been triggered off by little things — misunderstandings of my “depression speak.”

“Depression speak” is what I call the language I use during my darkest days — the message between the lines if you will. Some are simple; “I’m tired” equals “I literally have no energy, I just want to sleep for 100 years.”

“I’m just not hungry” equals “I don’t have it in me to cook a meal and eat it.”

“Do I have to?” equals “I really, really am uncomfortable with this,” or “I have no energy to do this.”

“Sorry” equals “I’m sorry I exist.”

Those last two are possibly the ones I get the most complaints about. I decided that perhaps now is the time I will be a bit more open about things. English, after all, is a complicated language and unless you know the intent or the meaning behind each word, then you will be lost. “Depression speak” just adds to this confusion.

“Do I have to do this?”

As of late, I’ve been saying this more and more — in regards to eating, sleeping, showering, taking photos, cleaning. Everything I ask is, “do I have to do this?” In particular, I feel, the taking photos one has become more of a popular theme. Many people take photos to have cherished memories, to look back and go “yes, I remember that feeling, I remember what we did and what I was thinking.” I cannot remember a time when I was happy. You see photos of me and you go “ah yes, she looks happy. She must have had a good time.” I see photos of me and I can remember what I was thinking at that time. Most of the time? It’s how I’m going to kill myself.

We — my club — recently held a fundraiser for a cat shelter and, as a result, a few photos of me appeared on the internet. It was the few of us as a group I tried to get out of, but rather than saying “I’d rather not,” I used my depression speak. “Do I have to?” I asked in a rather whining tone. ‘Yes.’ Came the firm response. People see that picture and see us as a group, happy our hard work paid off and excited for the night to come. I see the pictures and know, at that time, I was wondering if I still had something to use to die by suicide at home, or if Mum had taken it to her house. I remember thinking about how useless I was. There is a photo of us eating dinner; all I can see is me planning to purge as soon as physically possible.

Photos, to me, are evil. I see every single one and I remember how I planned my suicide, or I see me wondering why my recent attempt failed. I look into my eyes and I realize I’m truly dead inside. No life, no happiness, no sunshine. Just death. I see myself and I see all the words I’ve taken and manipulated to cause me more harm. I see myself and I see failure. Depression speak, in this case, is so dangerous because the response to a simple question can really trigger something much worse. Something that can be seen as “yes, you have to” or “yes, you should” can cause things to spiral out of control. A seemingly simple question with a seemingly simple response does not mean it’s the right answer. Sometimes, a question needs to be said instead of an answer — an “are you OK” or “do you want to do this” is what’s needed. Depression speak isn’t easy, nor is it the same for everyone. Sometimes, it takes a bit of figuring out and testing the waters to see what someone really means when their depression is the one that has the microphone.

For example, the word sorry.

Sorry is a word with so much meaning when you are mentally ill and I use it, arguably, way too much. I apologize for nothing. I apologize for touching people accidentally. I apologize if I’m more than 10 seconds late. I apologize for apologizing. Some people think it’s a nervous habit, and in some cases it is, and others think it’s me not taking the word seriously. In reality, I’m apologizing for things out of my control. “I’m sorry I am breathing too heavy.” “I’m sorry I’m in the way.” “I’m sorry I take up so much space.” “I’m sorry that I’m annoying.” “I’m sorry I’m not great with social norms.” “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help.” “I’m sorry I messed up and I made you worry.” “I’m sorry I exist.”

I’ve definitely noticed that, when I’m panicked or having a flare-up in general, I apologize much more. The apology I’m giving isn’t for what I’m doing but rather because I’m alive. That I am not perfect. The moment it’s brought up with me, I apologize again because “I’m sorry I keep saying sorry.” It’s an endless cycle. The only way for me to break it, at least for a while, is to be reassured I am safe, I am fine. Self-nurturing is something I have to do constantly and requires all of my attention. Unfortunately, that means ignoring the world around me, which means I then apologize for not paying attention. Therefore, setting off the entire cycle once again.

It’s frustrating that most of my day-to-day vocabulary is a simple five-letter word that really does not need to be said as often as I do. It’s annoying that anything and everything sets off the cycle and deep down inside, all I can hear and feel is that I’m worthless, I’m useless, I don’t deserve life and I am sorry because of that. In the darkest parts of the night, I try to imagine what life would be like if a different sperm met my egg or if my egg wasn’t this egg at all. I know I should be happy because it means I wouldn’t be here! But, in reality, I deeply wish I wasn’t born this person, or at all. I feel alone, I feel worthless and I’m sorry I’m a waste of life.

“Sorry” is my call-out word, but not for compliments or for words of reassurance. Sorry is my call word for “things are bad, please check-in.” I’ve gotten so used to not seeking help, being the person who is there for everyone else, being the person who is “fine” when, in reality? In reality, I’m drowning. I hate the person I am. Every inch. And I’m sorry about that.

Photo by Riccardo Mion on Unsplash

Originally published: July 20, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home