I lost my job a few months ago, and was struggling to find a new one with no success. This led me to becoming less motivated each day, until the point that suicide slipped into my mind - which I instantaneously throw out from my mind.

Things were like normal for my family and friends, but I was seeing them less frequently, until I stopped completely.

People didn't know I had depression, because I covered it from them. But then my best friend mentioned the lessening meeting frequency and eventually "break up".

Now that I'm in a better condition, I wish I was able to explain when I was in depression, and to ask for their consideration.

I really appreciate all the answers so far, but I mainly looking how I couldn't have explained it back when I was depressed, not after the fact. I told people that I was "needing some time to handle personal matters", but it was perceived negatively as in I was intentionally avoiding them.

Note: In Indonesia being diagnosed as "depressed" or something like that is equal to "crazy" (though I know better than that), so I'd like to avoid using that term if I can.

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    If you think you might have a mental illness (which includes depression and anxiety) then it is very important that you see you doctor! But your visits with your doctor are confidential, and you don't need to tell anyone else about them if you don't want to! Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 7:49
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    @curiousdannii I agree, and I thought it is the best course of action one with depression should have taken. However, because the stigma on "depression", I was having trouble in finding one - asking around would hint people to inquire more about why I'm needing one.
    – Vylix
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 8:06
  • Could you add a country tag to this question, and edit this question and add some information about the cultural context? The answer to this question will depend on your cultural context.
    – user288
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 14:33
  • @Vylix I'm so, so, so, so sorry you're going through this, please just hang in there. There is a way out of depression, so devote your time and whatever energy you have to finding it
    – SAH
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 21:19

4 Answers 4


Most people should understand that we all have different capacities for social interactions. Some people love being with other people, other people a little less so. Some people are extroverts, others are introverts. Some people have lots of friends, others have a few close friends.

To avoid stigmatisation, you want to show that how you were when you were depressed was not fundamentally different from this, but just on the lower end of the spectrum. All of us have to make choices about when we socialise with our friends, and not having the capacity to hang out as frequently doesn't mean that you are being selfish or that you dislike them. It's normal to have your desire for social interaction not match your capacity!

The spoon metaphor could also help. Because of depression, or an alternative like "burn out" or "fatigue" if you don't want to use the word depression, you had less capacity than normal. What the spoon metaphor shows really helpfully is when your capacity is low, every decision is much harder to make than when your capacity is high. There are some relationships you have to spend spoons on, and when you have done so, you might only have one spoon left for other friends. Or you might have zero. Using the spoon metaphor might help your friends understand why you weren't able to devote as much time to them before as they would have liked.

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    Interesting link. When I read the last line Some disabled people may not be fatigued by the disabilities themselves, but by the constant effort required to pass as non-disabled. I try to pass on as extroverted person, so that explains why I'm burn out at the end of the day even after meeting close friends.
    – Vylix
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 9:51

One phrase I've found useful in similar situations was talking about "health concerns" - as opposed to "personal matters", which your friends were clearly taking badly as an explanation.

If you mention your reduced activity was due to health concerns, this should frame your choices in a way that lets them know you were unable to fulfill their expectations, that is, interact with them more during that time, even if you would have liked to. Health concerns can also be rather private, and something even friends and family are really less able to help with than specialists (doctors, etc), so it may emphasize that not telling them, and not interacting with them for a while, wasn't about excluding them from your life or not trusting them with personal information (even if it was, just a little bit).

If someone presses for further details of these health concerns, you can give whatever specific symptoms you had and feel comfortable talking about (low energy, fatigue and lethargy, stiff or achy, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, headaches, etc), or talk about the things that have helped (getting more sunlight, balanced meals, meditation, exercise, whatever did help you), or even something about any doctor's suggestions or search for a specialist (if you have something safe to share) - you don't have to give the diagnosis of "depression" as the underlying cause until or unless you trust them with that. Being able to talk about those things means that you can shy away from other topics, like diagnosis or what your doctor said about it, without making the topic stand out as that thing you don't talk about.

Depending on your relationship with the person and the conversation, you could even toss in snippets like technical biochemical symptoms ("low seratonin", "catecholamine systems, norepinephrine and dopamine, for reward processing and attention" "glutemate sensitization") to further explain while emphasizing medical symptoms rather than psychological ones.

As for the cultural belief that depression equals crazy, that can kinda work with you if you're going this route... you aren't crazy, so it will be easier for them to swallow "biochemical imbalance" or other medical symptoms without jumping to the term depression (and its cultural baggage), because you don't fit that stereotype.


I suffer from Biological depression, a little different to clinical as I am hard wired to be "down".

The spoon metaphor is great for things like chronic illness etc, but can only partially describe the fight against the daily mental pain. So I looked around for another metaphor but could not find one that fitted.

After a couple of weeks of thinking I worked out that the best way to describe my situation was a hole in the ground Some days the hole is shallow enough to step out of, other days you cannot reach the edge to pull yourself up. Treatments like drugs and therapy provide you with a ladder, but there are days when even that ladder is not long enough or has been taken away.

Its not a perfect description, but it has helped my family understand a little better what I can go though on a bad day.


It would probably have been best to be more up front with them. But now it's in the past.

If there is such a negative feeling toward depression, then do not use the word.

Just tell your family and friends that you were very sad about the things that happened to you. You did not want them to be sad, so you needed time to work things out. But now that you have, you are apologizing for making people uncomfortable or angry.

This should pave the way for allowing people to understand, and forgetting the circumstances that may have made them feel badly. This should start a healing process that will allow people to put this behind them.

You have to allow for the possibility that some people may have moved on, and are not in a position to "go back". You should allow for the possibility that this may happen, and hopefully not have any hard feelings about it if it does.

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    Depression is not sadness, and mixing them up won't help. Phrases like "fatigue" and "burn out" are probably less misunderstood. Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 7:51
  • Understood. It would be helpful, however, to avoid stigmatizing yourself.
    – John
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 7:54

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