This is what depression looks like.

“I had no idea you deal with depression. You seem like you have it all together. You seem so … normal.”

That is essentially what I hear when I confide in someone that I deal with depression. They’re always so surprised. Because on the outside, I look like a regular, suburban, 30-something mom of little kids. I generally look put together. In a decent mood. You know … normal.

When I’m depressed, I don’t look sad, angry, anxious. Like I feel like I’m falling apart. Like I’m ready to scream at my kids for every little thing they do. Like I’m worrying I will blurt something that will make their little faces crumple in sadness or worse – fear.

I also don’t look dirty, frantic, or bizarre. I don’t act erratic or crazy. I look and act like me. Just maybe a little quieter, a little sadder, a little less of myself.

When I am struggling with depression, I look normal on the outside. Because I AM normal. I just have depression, too.

If there is one thing I want people to understand about depression, it’s this: Depression often – usually - looks “normal.” Because “normal” people struggle with depression.

Some people will bristle at a comparison I am about to make – and honestly, I’m not sure why – but I think my depression isn’t different from many other chronic diseases. I have friends, acquaintances, and relatives who deal with lupus, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s, and other awful diseases that flare up and seemingly go away – just as my depression does.

I am not always depressed, nor do I always have to be on medication. My depression comes and goes. When it’s here, I take meds for it. When it’s gone, I don’t.

And yes, I know that many, many people have constant depression and have to take meds and go to therapy all the time. And you know what? I think their depression isn’t any different from any other disease that needs to be constantly monitored and cared for and medicated so the person who has the disease can feel normal.

(There’s that word again.)

It bothers me that there is such a stigma about depression. I can understand it – anything that messes with our brains is scary – but it still makes me mad that I’m afraid to talk about it much. But I’m writing about it, at least. And I’m glad that I am.

Because if I can help some of you out there feel less alone, and if I can help some more of you understand that regular people deal with depression – well, that makes me so happy.

Right now I am in a very good place. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think I am coming out of this 3+ year bout of depression – the longest one ever. I have been slowly coming off my antidepressants and it’s going really well. I’m exercising, taking time for myself, and doing a host of other things that make me feel good.

I hope this bout of depression is ending like it seems it is. If it’s not? That’s okay. I’ll be disappointed. But I’ll be grateful there are medications I can take that can help me feel like regular old me.

So if you have a friend or family member who confides in you that they struggle with depression, just remember: They’re just as normal as your friend with diabetes or your cousin with lupus. And they’re still the person you know and love.

*****

New to Honest Mom? Get the backstory on why I write naked.

I blog about my high-maintenance kids, write about dealing with depression, and sometimes, I can be kinda funny.

Thanks for visiting!

Comments

  1. says

    Love this JD. Love that you’re feeling better first and foremost – I hope it continues a long time for you. I also love how you explained your depression so clearly. There are so many levels, so many faces of depression. I, too, have gotten the comments about how I seem so outgoing and happy and seem to have it all together. I still think people thought my depression came only from my son’s illness and death and not from my previous life until I wrote about it (using my real identity as most of the people who read my blog are people who know me). Depression is a real, most of the time inherited, illness just like the ones you spoke of, not just someone feeling sorry for herself or having PMS or any of the other reasons people try to explain it away. Thank you for using your voice and your wonderful blog to clarify this. Big cyber hugs!
    Kathy at kissing the frog recently posted… Our Journey – Part 2My Profile

  2. Rane says

    Thank you. This brought tears to my eyes. I, too, suffer. I, too, am weaning off meds, dealing with “discontinuation events” and other stuff that people don’t want to understand. So I keep it quiet and go about my day. Until reading this, I didn’t realize how much that bothered me. Thank you for sharing your strength. You rock.

  3. says

    I don’t see depression as “not normal.” But that may be because I’ve dealt with depression’s cousin, anxiety, my whole life. My anxiety has at times been completely debilitating. When I’m in full on anxiety mode, depression kicks in. I used to keep it a secret (that is, until someone would witness me having a panic attack – then I’d have to fess up). It wast so much my anxiety that I hid (people could clearly see that I was a worrier) but the fact that I would have such severe panic attacks. For years, I saw it as my dirty little secret. But in the past few years, I’ve begun talking about it. I no longer hide it. I see it as a part of who I am. I trust that my friends love me anyway, despite this “thing” that has the ability to stop me in my tracks. I am glad you have this blog as a way to share your struggles and success with depression. I only wish you didn’t feel you had to hide it from people. I have such admiration for those who admit they deal with something like depression. I hate that people see it as something to be ashamed of. I certainly do not!
    Steph at The Healthy Mom recently posted… My Top 10 Fears for the SummerMy Profile

  4. Thalia says

    Well written article about depression! Actually, my boyfriend is also experiencing depression and he has it for ages.. And I can relate to this so much..
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  5. says

    I totally feel the stigma. I confide in some friends, but for the most part no one knows I deal with this. My parents, siblings, have no idea. There’s something shameful about it, even though it makes no sense. And as the depressed person, it totally exacerbates the problem. Who needs to feel depressed AND ashamed?

    I’m currently in a low point. I was trying to wean off of a medication and apparently I need to still be on it. Despite the fact that I’m exercising, getting childcare help, and “should be” totally happy. I’m depressed that I’m depressed. Life feels unfair.

    But you’re right. No one knows. Just the other day people were telling me that I’m funny, always see the humor in life, etc. If only they know how low I feel! Mostly it makes me quieter. I have less patience with my kids. I don’t want to talk to my husband or anyone. I’d like to be entirely alone, although that’s just not a possibility.

    Anyway, thank you for putting this out there. It is always good to hear we’re not alone!
    Allison @ Motherhood, WTF? recently posted… Why I Need to be CommittedMy Profile

  6. says

    EXCELLENT post!!! And so timely in so many ways: Right now I spend all my time going to appointments, it seems, to deal with my depression: psychiatrist, gynecologist (yes! they can be great with hormonal mood disorders!), chiropractor. (Physical therapy, too, for my shoulder–not entirely related, but every little bit helps!) Besides that, I’m trying to make time for yoga and running and getting enough sleep. I feel like I am in deep treatment right now, and I guess I am, as things have shifted for me lately. It’s nice to have an entire team helping me, and it really does seem like it’s a chronic medical condition.

    That said, I DID blog openly and publicly about this, and I feel like everyone’s treating me differently now–my parents are all freaked out, other parents at the preschool give me these looks and little pats, etc. I feel like they think I am tainted somehow. I’m just trying to normalize depression and PMDD, and though I may be reaching some people, others just think I am unstable and whiny.
    Julia Magnusson @ It’s Not Like a Cat recently posted… TurmoilMy Profile

  7. Teresa says

    I love your blog! I love that your honest about motherhood! It gives me a sense that I’m not alone on this roller coaster ride! I have noticed that after my second baby Im very quick to temper Im always irritable! I have a 7m old and a 2 yr old both stuck to me like glue..Ive been chalking it up to lack of sleep.. But I feel as if I would benefit from going to a therapist.. If you are in the Boston,Ma area and have anyone that you would recommend that would be great!

    I wish more woman would just be honest and share the ups and downs of motherhood instead of being so judgemental..it would make it so much easier for us all : )

  8. says

    So proud of you for taking action! Exercise has definitely been the most difficult, yet the most rewarding, way to combat my depression. Although I have been on meds this year for the first time, I finally don’t feel defeated. Strengthening my body has helped me to strengthen my resolve and feel in control again. You can do this! Great post.
    Emily @ My Pajama Days recently posted… Sometimes I wish I was their friend and not their motherMy Profile

  9. says

    Thank you for keeping the topic of depression going. Our family history is sprinkled with depression and I find one thing that helps is simply talking about it…keeping it real and not pretending it doesn’t exist. It does exist and it is very real. Talking (and reading about it) helps. Thank you.
    shelley recently posted… Eat a Sandwich. And Some Chips.My Profile

  10. says

    :) As mom with fibromyalgia and depression, with a degree in counseling that I never use professionally because of said illnesses, I can tell you that depression does happen to normal people (who remain normal), and that a lot of people don't understand it, including doctors and counselors who already know the science or psychology behind it. They try to, but unless people have experienced it themselves they often really just don't get it. I think part of that, though, is because each person's depression can look very different.
    I don't mention it much, but not because I'm afraid to or people won't understand, but 1) I'm not around new people much and everyone that does know me well enough to have some sort of relationship with me already knows about it, and 2) If I talked about how exhausted, out of it, foggy and fuzzy, and just down I am whenever I feel that way that would be all I talk about. *shrug* It's not necessary and the people that care already ask how I'm doing and I give them an honest answer. Sometimes just a brief "good enough to be here", and other times a little more detail, depending on how I feel and how well I know that person. Then I move on.
    I think also, the more I dwell on it, the worse I feel and the less I feel like doing anything. If I can push it away enough, mentally, I can mostly cope and function well enough, along with my meds.
    Thank you for posting and being honest about depression and how it affects you! Not enough moms talk about this.

  11. says

    Thank you so much for your blog…I stumbled upon it and felt as though I was reading exactly what I am feeling. I have two small children and struggle with depression, but my Dr. didn't want to put me on medication because he knows me and I am such a 'happy/normal' person. I have been spiralling and feeling a consuming guilt over my depressed feelings and increased impatient moments with my beautiful children and supportive husband. I have been feeling worse and worse and now am inspired to reach out again for help. So thank you :)

  12. M says

    Thank GOD I found this Blog.
    I am in the lowest point of my reoccurring depression. Which also includes anxiety and panic attacks.
    As much as we try to educate others, or try to stop the stigma, the shame is still there. I don’t think in my case it will ever go away.
    Reading that you are feeling good gives me hope. I’ve been battling with depression for years. I’m medicated and although this helps sometimes, when the anxiety kicks in loooook out!
    It’s very difficult to be the mom at the school to pick your kid up with tears welling in your eyes (and you don’t know why!!)
    To be the mom at the check out at the grocery store with your screaming child on your hip with tears in your eyes.
    Most often I feel like I am being judged. Like I have kids so I should have this under control better because I am taking away time that should be spent making happy memories.
    Mostly its my own negative, racing thoughts that stop me from being the best ME I can be.
    Before being myself, I am a mother. and the depression can take over my thoughts sometimes and make me question why I deserve to have these beautiful, healthy, forgiving mini me’s.
    The nature of the beast I guess.
    I’m rambling now. Thank you, just thank you so much for sharing your journey.

  13. says

    Thank you for writing your blog on Depression & Mom’s. Everything you write about, the rage and irritability when dealing with your kids, the guilt and sadness for having these feelings at times when you should be hugging your kids, dreading mornings and the not being able to get out of bed, i could go on, but I FEEL THE SAME WAY! Just as i was at my lowest, thinking i must be the only one who could feel this way, i stumbled across your blog. Thank you. You have given me a sense of relief and i have a feeling of calmness today knowing that what i have been feeling isnt just me, its “normal” with depression, im not a bad mom, and things can and will get better. I am so grateful that i came across your blog….more than ull ever know.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    ks
    ks recently posted… A story of a little girl I knew – and why I’m telling you about herMy Profile

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