As we hear from members of The Depression Project's 3,000,000+ person social media community literally every single day, it's very, very common to "suffer in silence". And, for this reason, in this blog post, we're going to share with you:
- What it means to "suffer in silence";
- A variety of quotes about "suffering in silence" from members of The Depression Project's community - including quotes about what it feels like to "suffer in silence", and quotes about why people may choose to "suffer in silence" instead of reaching out for help;
- Tips to help make it easier for you to reach out / open up to others instead of continuing to "suffer in silence";
- 50 ways to reach out to someone you know who you think may be "suffering in silence".
With that being said, as soon as you're ready, let's get started :)
What It Means To "Suffer In Silence"
To "suffer in silence" means to:
- Firstly, endure deep pain or struggle - such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and/or some form of loss, for example;
- Additionally, "suffering in silence" also involves enduring this pain and struggle alone, without sharing and opening up about it to others. In practice, this can take the form of, for example, telling people you're "fine" when they ask how you are; pretending that everything is OK if somebody notices that something seems a bit "off", and/or socially withdrawing and then telling people that the reason you've been distant lately is because you've been "busy".
Quotes About What It Feels Like To Suffer In Silence
- "I feel like I'm drowning ... while everyone around me is breathing normally."
- "It's a constant inner struggle - to be feeling so much pain, but to be hiding it all behind a mask so that you appear to be fine."
- "Deep down, I'm begging for someone to notice I'm not okay and to give me the support I crave. But, then on the other hand, I fear that if others did find out, they'd want nothing to do with me and I'd be even more alone."
- "Sometimes, I feel like the mask I'm wearing is even heavier than the suffering I'm carrying. It's exhausting to always pretend to be OK."
- "It keeps me stuck in this downward spiral of withdrawal. Over time, as everything gets worse, it feels like there are more and more things to hide, so it's easier to just avoid going out all together sometimes."
- "I feel like I'm an imposter. 'Happy me' is not the 'real me'."
- "It's total disconnection. I'm living in a totally separate reality that no-one understands."
- "Suffering in silence = total despair. The initial suffering is made all the worse by feeling that you're all alone."
- "It feels like I'm getting more and more disconnected from my emotions. Am I betraying them by not letting them out?"
- "It's like I've built a wall up around myself and am too scared to let someone in or to even take a brick down to make it easier for them to see inside the fortress."
- "It's like I'm a professional actor. I could be in a damn Hollywood movie."
- "As others have said, it's just so lonely, and given that no-one has a clue about anything I'm going through, I sometimes actually feel even more alone when I'm around other people than when I'm all by myself."
Quotes About The Reasons Why People Choose To Suffer In Silence Instead Of Reach Out For Help
- "I don't want to burden others with my suffering or make them worry about me."
- "I'm so scared that if I did open up, I'd be judged and people would think less of me."
- "I feel like people accept the mask I wear, but I have doubts that they'll accept all the suffering that lies underneath it. It's a lot."
- "I fear they'll abandon me if I do reach out. I'd rather have them without sharing my true state, than share my true state and risk not having them around at all."
- "I'm always the one who is there for others and gives out advice, so I feel like I'd be an imposter if others found out I needed help myself."
- "Growing up, I never had anyone to open up to. As a result, I've literally never learned how to."
- "What would be even worse than suffering in silence would be reaching out for help and not being understood / rejected. That would just break me. I can't 'risk it'."
- "I don't want my friendships with others to become consumed by my depression. What if it starts to dominate our conversations, and we can no longer have the joking and fun moments that we've always had?"
- "Part of me likes appearing 'normal' around others - at least when I'm capable of doing so. When I'm around my friends and I pretend to be OK, it's almost like I can fool myself into believing that I actually am during that time."
- "I've always fended for myself - from my childhood until now. I'm used to it. It's just become the way that I do things."
- "Depression has completely destroyed my confidence, self-worth and self-esteem. I no longer feel worthy of the support of others - or even to feel anything other than the misery that fills me."
- "Once I opened up about my anxiety, and was immediately bombarded by unhelpful, insulting, simplistic advice like 'just stop worrying so much!' 'Just take a deep breath!' 'Don't give into the fear!' 'Just try to relax!' That was even worse than suffering by myself. Now I'm very hesitant to open up again. If you haven't been through it yourself, then often you can't understand!"
- "I feel like if I was to open up to my parents and they knew what I was really going through, they'd be so disappointed in me."
- "Where would I even start in trying to explain depression, anxiety and trauma? Like seriously?"
- "I know one close friend who would be so disappointed I didn't tell them, as I know they'd want to be there for me. Knowing this would be their reaction has delayed me opening up, and the more I delay it, the more disappointed they will end up being. So I'm scared."
- "I was always taught that it's weak to show any kind of struggle or to ask for help. On the one hand I know this isn't really true, but part of me still feels this way. It's complicated."
- "When I'm in a depressive episode, everything goes to s***. My apartment looks like a bomb has hit it, I can go days without showering, the rubbish in the bins piles up and my breath no doubt stinks from not brushing my teeth. It's so shameful and embarrassed that I'd be mortified at the thought of anybody knowing."
- "I'm scared to be vulnerable and to really let someone see ALL of me - as opposed to just the 'good' part of me."
- "I just feel like I'm the one to blame for everything I'm going through, and that my suffering is therefore mine to try to carry alone."
- "I'm scared of what will happen. I've been holding onto my struggle for so long that I'm scared that if I did open up, I wouldn't be able to stop all the emotions that'd come pouring out of me."
- "People are used to me being the 'funny' one - I am like the 'Chandler' of our friendship group. So, going from that to having a really serious conversation about abuse, trauma, depression and sometimes feelings of complete and utter hopelessness ... I think it would make people uncomfortable, and they wouldn't know how to react. I envision awkward silence, the mood being killed, and I don't think things would ever be the same."
- "I almost don't want to feel too 'seen'. I feel like it'd stir up a lot of past pain because no-one was there for me growing up."
- "I'm a single mom, so I need to be strong for my children."
- "I'm always there for others, but I don't know how to let someone actually be there for me. Plus, I don't even know if they actually would be."
- "The thing for me is, I actually have a good life - something which people often point out to me. I think I'm the last person they would expect to have depression, and not something they would ever be able to understand. Even I don't fully understand it - I just know it exists and that I feel all alone."
- "I don't want others to treat me differently just because of my depression."
- "I'm scared that if I do open up that I'll be pressured into doing things that I don't want to do and am not ready for (like going to therapy or having them be involved in things). I want to do things at my own pace."
- "I feel more comfortable being in the background / having the attention off me than having the attention on me."
- "Like others have said, I'd rather struggle along myself than become a burden to others."
Tips & Resources To Help Make It Easier For You To Open Up Instead Of Continuing To Suffer In Silence
As many of the above quotes indicate, suffering in silence can be an extremely lonely experience, and make the struggle you're going through feel significantly more difficult than it would otherwise be. However, as the above quotes also show, there are many, many factors at play that can make it very difficult and uncomfortable for people suffering in silence to open up to the people around them. And, if you can relate, then to try to help make opening up easier, we'd now like to share some tips and resources that we hope you'll find helpful.
Start By Taking Small Steps When Reaching Out
In order to make opening up to others about your struggle feel a bit more manageable, you may find it helpful to do so gradually. For example, instead of telling all your friends / family members what you’re going through, could you just tell one person who you trust the most? And, if giving them all of the details of your struggle feels too overwhelming, could you just tell them one aspect of it, or one particular challenge that you’re facing?
If you’re able to “start small” like this, then over time, you may feel more comfortable opening up a little bit more, and then a little bit more after that, and then so on and so forth.
Don’t Expect Everyone To “Get It” Right Away
As you know, depression, anxiety, PTSD, grief, loss and many other forms of suffering can be complex, and difficult for people to properly understand (particularly if they have no first-hand experience of these struggles themselves). And, for this reason, you may find that not everybody who you open up to will immediately understand what you’re going through, and immediately respond in the way that you would ideally like. On the contrary - this may take multiple conversations, as well as, for example, the person whom you’re opening up to to do some of their own independent learning about what you’re going through (for example, by reading a couple of books about depression). And, in order to avoid disappointment, we think it’s important to keep this in mind.
Plan What You’ll Say Ahead Of Time
In order to help you feel as comfortable as possible opening up about your struggle, it can help to plan what you’ll say in advance. This can help you reduce how stressed out, anxious and overwhelmed you may feel in the heat of the moment, as well as maximising the chance of you expressing yourself in the way you want.
On that note, if you have depression or anxiety and would like some help to firstly, put what you're going through into words; and secondly, to explain some of the ways that you may like to be supported, then we've drafted a "depression letter" and an "anxiety letter" for you to help you do just that. You can get the "depression letter" here and the "anxiety letter" here, and you're welcome to customise them in any way you'd like before giving them to your loved ones :)
Thoughtfully Choose The “Right Time And Place”
In addition to planning what you will say in advance, in order to help you feel as comfortable as possible opening up to someone about what you're going through, we encourage you to choose a time and a place to do so in which you feel at your most comfortable as well. For example, you may find it particularly difficult in a group setting or in a busy social situation where you’re constantly being interrupted. However, if you’re one-on-one with someone in a quiet environment, then you may find it significantly easier.
If You’re Scared Of How People Will React To You Opening Up About Your Struggle, Then Ask Yourself: “How Would I React If Somebody I Care About Was Suffering In Silence And Opened Up To Me About It?”
Chances are, as opposed to being judgmental / reacting in a negative way, you would be compassionate, supportive and do your best to help. And, this can help you see that there are likely people who care about you who will react this way too when you open up to them about what you’re going through.
If You Fear Being A Burden:
If you feel uncomfortable opening up because you fear being a burden, then we've created the You Are Not A Burden Journal for you - in which you'll learn a wide variety of cognitive behavioural therapy strategies to help you overcome this fear.
Remind Yourself That It Is OK To Not Be OK
As some of the quotes we shared with you touched upon, there can be a lot of shame and guilt that can stem from struggling with depression and other mental health issues - not to mention that for some people, struggling with something can make them feel like they’re “weak”. And, if you can relate, then it can help to give yourself permission to go through what you’re going through, and remind yourself that it is OK to not be OK.
Additionally, you may also find these two resources helpful:
- Our in-depth blog post titled The Biggest Causes Of "Depression Shame" And How To Overcome Them.
- Our cognitive behavioural therapy-based journal You Are Not Weak.
50 Ways To Reach Out To Someone Who May Be Suffering In Silence
On the other hand, rather than suffering in silence yourself, you may be reading this blog post because you care about someone who is going through something difficult, and who has consequently withdrawn and isolated themselves as a result. When this happens, then it of course restricts your ability to support them, and for this reason, you might think there’s nothing you can do to help them. Not only that, but particularly if they’ve not been responsive when you’ve contacted them or if they’ve ignored you completely, then you may decide to stop reaching out – because you no longer see the point of doing so.
However, when a loved one who is going through something difficult socially withdraws, then we encourage you to still reach out to them regardless of whether they respond or not. This is because:
- It shows them that they’re not alone;
- It reminds them that people care about them;
- Even if they don’t respond (often due to, for example, one of the reasons that were touched upon in the quotes that we shared with you), reading your text message, social media message or email for example is still likely to give them a boost;
- When they do feel like interacting with others, they’ll probably be much more likely to contact you if you’ve continued reaching out to them.
Now, in terms of how to reach out to a loved one when they’ve socially withdrawn and are suffering in silence, it's common for people to think that the only ways they can do so is by directly asking them “how are you?”; or, “is there anything that you’d like my help with?” Of course, these are nice questions to ask – however, they certainly aren’t the only ways that you can reach out. In fact, there are many, many other ways as well!
In particular, here are a number of suggestions for you:
Share something that made you think of them
Tell them you miss them
Ask their opinion about a new song you heard
Remind them they're not alone
Ask if they've seen a popular new Netflix show
Let them know you're free for a chat
Ask if you can help with anything
Remind them they're loved
Ask about a recent social media post they made
Acknowledge that things haven't been easy
Ask if they've listened to a new singer / band you like
Share a piece of news they may be interested in
Offer to run an errand for them
Tag them in something on social media
Ask if they are free for a coffee
Ask how they feel
Remind them of a nice memory you have of them
Send a photo you love
Acknowledge their strength during these difficult times
Share some good news you have
Send a funny meme
Ask about something they shared on their story
Send them something - like flowers or a pizza
Express gratitude that you have them in your life
Give them a compliment
Share what they mean to you
Wish them a good day
Compliment them on a selfie they shared
Acknowledge the good things they've done
Thank them for the joy they've given you
Send your prayers to them
Send a cute GIF
Ask if they're feeling better
Tell them you can't wait to see them
Thank them for still being here
Ask their opinion on something in the news
Ask their opinion on a new outfit you got
Send them a book you like
Tell a joke
Tell them they're enough even on bad days
Congratulate them on a win they've had
Send a "love" GIF
Assure them you won't leave their side
Tell them you miss them
Remind them of something funny they once did
Send them a card
Thank them for their loyalty over the years
Give them a phone call
Tell them how much you love them
As you likely noticed, some of these ways of reaching out are a bit more direct than others, but one thing they all have in common is that in addition to showing your loved one that they’re not alone and that you care about them, they open the lines of communication between you. And, this is very important, because sometimes this is all it takes to break your loved one out of their shell and kickstart a deeper, more meaningful conversation that allows you to support them instead of them resorting to suffering in silence.
Re-Capping What We've Covered In This Blog Post About Suffering In Silence
So in this blog post, we've covered a lot of ground on the topic of suffering in silence, including:
- What it means to suffer in silence;
- Quotes about what it feels like to suffer in silence;
- Quotes about why people may choose to suffer in silence instead of reaching out for help;
- Tips to help make it easier for you to reach out / open up to others instead of continuing to suffer in silence;
- 50 ways to reach out to someone who is going through something difficult and who has consequently socially withdrawn and isolated themselves.
From the bottom of our hearts, we really hope you've found this blog post helpful!
All our love,
The Depression Project Team.