Am I depressed or just a stressed out mom? Here’s how I know.

“But how do I actually know if I’m depressed?”

That’s the question I get most often from Honest Mom readers. Women read my posts and think, Hmmmm. That sounds like me. But I thought I was just tired / grumpy / irritable / having a bad month / dealing with normal mom stuff.

I’m not a doctor. But I can tell you how what I know from my experience. 

When I’m depressed, I can’t handle everyday life well. I have many days when I am really sad. I wake up down and dragging. I am extremely irritable and everything my kids and husband do sets me off. No matter how hard I try, I can’t just “snap out of it.”

Other days I wake up and I just don’t want to get out of bed because I don’t want to deal with the day. I have to, and I do eventually, but I plod through my days, joyless. And again, I am irritable. Really irritable.

There is a constant feeling of fighting against everything. Getting through every day is an effort and exhausting. Every feeling, every urge to scream and throw something out of frustration, every thought that I just want this day to be over because it’s so damn HARD is overwhelming.

I yell at my kids a lot. I sleep terribly. I have no energy, feel anxious about everything, have a hard time staying focused, and of course – there’s that rage that can happen.

This constant feeling of fighting against myself and unwanted feelings doesn’t go away. Sure, some days are better than others. But that unwanted feeling of fighting and resisting is always there. Every day. Every week. Every month.

That’s what depression looks like for me. It makes everyday life very hard and everyday challenges – like difficult children or a too-busy schedule – overwhelming.

When I’m depressed, life is not enjoyable. It’s hard. And I feel like I’m just going through the motions so I can just get through the day.

But when I am on antidepressants, everything changes.

I am ME again. Just me. Not drugged up or numb or out of it. Just me.

The veil of depression lifts and I can enjoy life again. Sure, my kids can still be annoying. Yes, my schedule is too busy and stressful. Yes, there are some side effects (but very minor for me).

But I can handle it. Life doesn’t overwhelm me.

Instead of getting to the point where I scream at my kids to shut up, I can take a deep breath, relax, get down on their level, and work out the problem.

Instead of getting to the point of rage, I can calm myself down with my clothes dryer.

I can get out of bed in the morning and write instead of lying in bed, dreading the chaos of the day.

I can enjoy life, see the joy in my children, and laugh my big, loud laugh.

I am a better mother. Better wife. Better ME when I am managing my depression with antidepressants.

Like many others, I really would rather not be on SSRIs for depression. I would love to be drug-free. I tried it for four months. But I wasn’t ready. Maybe someday I will be off antidepressants. The nature girl in me really wants that. But now is not that time for me.

And I’m not going to be embarrassed or disappointed in myself for needing medication to feel like me. As many people have said to me – would I be disappointed in myself if I had to take meds to manage another chronic health condition? No, of course not.

I’m telling you all this because if you’re nodding your head as you read, thinking, yes, this is me, too, call your doctor. Take that step. You deserve to enjoy life. Maybe meds, therapy, alternative medicine, or some combination of all three can help you.

But you won’t know until you try.

Do you think you might be depressed? If you know you are, what are you doing about it to feel better? 

Honest Voices linkup at

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

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47 Replies to “Am I depressed or just a stressed out mom? Here’s how I know.”

  1. For me, setting a meeting with a therapist was useful. After I talked to her about what I was dealing with, she could let me know if meds were a good idea or not.

    I used to feel that because my depression was situational instead of constant that it wasn’t “real.” My therapist also helped me to feel more legitimate about that.

    Without meds, it was like looking up at my life from below. On them I feel like I’m level again.

    1. I’ve had had experiences with depression myself, and I’ve sometimes thought about seeing a therapist. After I graduated from high school, I drifted away from everyone I knew apart from my family. I’ve been like that for years now, having trouble keeping friendships. It’s something that I’m working on, and I’ve taken up writing as a way to express how I feel. I started organizing all of my blog posts that deal with my depression ( if you are interested), and I found that this has helped me release what I would have otherwise bottled up. I would recommend writing to other people who suffer from depression. It doesn’t have to be as public as a website, it could be a private journal or diary, but it feels therapeutic.

  2. I am so glad for you that you have the right meds to help you be YOU. It’s wonderful for you, for your family, and for all of the people you are helping by talking and writing about your journey.

    On a lighter note, I feel weird linking my horrifying Brazilian wax experience after your poignant post. I guess yours is the entree and mine can be dessert.

    Thanks for hosting!

  3. I hear ya. I started taking fluoxetine (Prozac) when my (2) kids were little….I had the rage, I had the “I hate everything and everyone in my life” (Most of all ME), all of it. My kids are now 27 and 23 and I am still on the meds. I always will be. It’s okay. Depression runs in my family on both sides, my maternal ggrandmother committed suicide when I was three, my excellent psychiatrist (who first prescribed the Prozac) said I had probably had depression since I was a teenager. That’s just how some of us are. I say to all of you out there: take your pills and be thankful that they exist. It’s no crime, no shame. no big deal. Carry on and love your life. Thanks for sharing your story, Honest Mom.

  4. Thanks for posting this and for your honesty. Last week when I came across your blog, I went ahead and strated calling therapists in my area. I think its time to at least take a step….

  5. What a fantastic post. Before children, I was a high school guidance counselor for 13 years and I used to talk endlessly with teens and many of their parents about depression. It is such an important topic to talk, talk, talk about. I am so impressed with your honesty and willingness to put it all out there. I truly loved how you ended your post with a purposeful statement of action (“if you’re nodding your head as you read, thinking, yes, this is me, too, call your doctor. Take that step. You deserve to enjoy life.”). Yes, and bravo!

  6. I think you wrote beautifully about the difference between being someone with depression on and off anti-depressants. The difference is that the struggle just gets removed. Unfortunately, for me, I also didn’t like the side-effects of SSRI’s, so I stopped. It isn’t always easy, but I’ve learned to be gentle with myself and bite off only what I can chew. I’ve also learned to recognize the signs of depression and take care of myself, before I spiral down into a nasty depression.

  7. Thank you so much for talking about this! It’s hard to believe that, even now, it can be such a taboo topic. For so many, depression and anxiety disorders are looked at as weakness (or even a sign of spiritual issues). It makes me so angry but that’s another post in itself! Just want to say thank you for speaking out when it could be intimidating to do so. You rock!!! This information is so important and can be such a game changer for someone who is nervous about asking their doc.

  8. It’s hard for me to know if I’m really depressed or just in a funk. I feel like the difference is that I can pull myself out of a funk if I really try hard enough- I might not really want to, but if I put a lot of effort into it, I can change my attitude. But when I’m depressed, nothing I do changes how I feel.

  9. Yes, thank you, thank you!!! The sides effects of the SSRI’s are a struggle for me right now. I keep trying new medications and have yet to find the ‘perfect one’. Such a roller coaster. However, your writing is a HUGE help and it makes me feel so NOT alone and very comforted. It is much appreciated!

  10. Love how this is very straight forward and unapologetic. Voices for mental health need to be heard and yours is very clear and easy to understand. For me, well, I think meds may be in order. I’ve been toughing it out without them for about six months. Why? I’m like that old man who thinks it’s all about will-power. If I will myself well….well, it doesn’t work. Thanks for the link up!

  11. I have struggled with depression for over a decade. I refused to take anything while pregnant with my oldest daughter and it was a nightmare. I was a nightmare. I worked long and hard with my doctor to find medicine that will work for me, particularly as I got pregnant with my son, nursed him and now am pregnant again. It makes things harder and it makes me the target of a lot of nasty attitudes about taking meds while pregnant/nursing, but it is something that needs to be done and CAN be done safely. I don't know if I will ever be able to not be on anything, and I go to therapy but I can accept that because it makes me feel more like myself. Not angry, emotionally charged, irritable, etc. Thank you for being honest and sharing this with everyone, because it is important. It is appreciated more than you will ever know.

  12. I’m glad you are writing about this. Clinical depression is more than feeling down or blue, or being tired and weary. It’s the difference between slogging through your day with a raging headache and being blinded by pain so severe you can barely breathe.

  13. I hope you know what an incredibly inspiration you are! Just reading this helped calm me. I feel exactly the way you described in the beginning, but FINALLY almost 2 weeks ago, I drug myself back to the doctor and have started a new script. I really hope that I can get back to being ME more, exactly as you described. I’m so glad things are feeling better for you and thank you endlessly for your transparency and honesty. It is so appreciated.

  14. I heart your openness and how much your words inspire me. I'm having a TERRIBLE day with PPD and the OCD it couples with. I'm thinking about writing a post about it. I don't see a lot about OCD as it relates to PPD, but I have a RAGING case which is ridiculously crippling. During all of my pregnancies and postpartum it's the worst. I'm SOOOO sick of it!

  15. I heart your openness and how much your words inspire me. I’m having a TERRIBLE day with PPD and the OCD it couples with. I’m thinking about writing a post about it. I don’t see a lot about OCD as it relates to PPD, but I have a RAGING case which is ridiculously crippling. During all of my pregnancies and postpartum it’s the worst. I’m SOOOO sick of it!

    1. Julie, I dealt with OCD in my first round of depression – back in college. It was terrible. I had not the hand-washing kind, but the checking things over and over kind. Rituals and stuff. I totally hear you. So sorry you’re dealing with that. 🙁 Check – I feel like I’ve seen posts about PPD and OCD there.

  16. My whole family suffers from depression, it's genetic, and I think you've done a great job in describing it. Luckily it's easy to keep mine at bay with antidepressants. When I'm having a day that is too much for meds I always warn my husband by saying, "my depression is looking for someone to blame, so please don't be that person." He knows then to leave me alone until I"m more balanced. Great post!

  17. Loving how more and more people are talking about depression. Its something I’m not ashamed of and work on controlling it every day. I’ve been on meds since I was 16, now 29. I tried to get off them once and just after a year I had a major downfall. I realized that I just need to be on them all the time in order to live my life the way it should be. One of the best ways to cope… is to talk about it. Find people in your area to talk to, it helps so much. Just to know you’re not alone. All the best!

  18. Thank you for this post! I’ve suffered from depression on an off since I was a teen, but didn’t seek treatment until I was well into my 20s. After my first son was born I developed mild OCD like you did. I’m a hand washer and a checker. ; ) This is the first time I’ve ever heard of someone having the same, thank you so much! I am trying to conceive our third child, but I have major guilt about staying on the medication. I can’t be a mom without them, but the stigma attached to it is so great. I’m so glad I found your blog. Thank you again!

  19. my depression got bad in Jan 2012 to the point that I was on meds – they worked for awhile and work got to me more and the meds didn’t work (and I didn’t like they way I felt) – right now, haven’t taken any meds since July 2012 – I try really hard to keep myself so busy I can’t think about anything else but what am doing – Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, church, fundraising….but we have to move and the stress of it has me dealing with a bout! Am so glad I found your blog – I really needed it!

  20. I talked to my doctor yesterday and read this today. You nailed what I couldn’t put into words, and validated the belief that I was in trouble. My doctor saw it right away, got me a psych appt in just a few days (instead of me having to wait the typical 1-2 mos for an opening). I thought she was overreacting a little, maybe I was too, I’m just tired, I just need to try harder… For the first time, I feel like I (maybe) can (start to) let go of that and focus on getting better. For my sake and that of my beautiful family.

    1. I am so glad you are seeing a psychologist. She/he can help you figure out what kind of assistance you need to be happy and feel good again. Good for you for taking that step. 🙂

  21. My business partner just recently went through a very rough period with stress, I personally believe he was on the verge of have a break-down. And by this I mean hospitalized kind of "break-down". He has a very stressful job (both of us do) and he has three kids to top it off. One of my business associates recommended a herbal product called ImmortalCalm ( He says it's like taking Xanax. Which I believe is an exaggeration, but he is done a 180 and is back on track. He looks a LOT better also and has lost some weight, and his attitude is much lighter, happier. Stress is a killer. Great article. I take the herbs now also, and they work. Amazing what alternative medicine can do. I have no idea how I just ended up on a site for Mom's, darn internet!

    1. I use that stuff everyday. Great for pre yoga. I dealt with a little depression during my divorce. I have not tried the immortal calm for depression as I am not depressed anymore. But I could see how it would work. I used ST. Johns Wart while I was depressed, but I didn’t like the way it made me feel. I think Yoga has really made the biggest change for me so far. It’s all I do now. Those “calm” pills are great when I need to focus on something, like yoga. My mind likes to worry, worry, worry.

  22. This is me word for word. I am crying because I thought I was alone. Thank you for this. I will be seeing the doctor.

  23. Depression is a heck of a drug. I dated about the second most depressed girl in the world. All she ever wanted was anti- depressants, and all I never let her take them. After 5 years she broke up with me, and immediately went on antidepressants, unfortunately she has never been the same. After she got through the diarrhea, and various other symptoms, she “magically,” developed a skin disease.

    For a long time I felt terrible because she was in a worse situation after she left me, and her intentions of leaving me were to better her life.

    Now I’ve been depressed, really depressed, and I’ll be dedicating my life to helping people who are ready to get off those pills and develop willpower, and confidence.

    Thank you for sharing your story, it’s almost painful for me to read, and see how many people are suddenly seeing doctors for symptoms. I just ask that people please take precaution when trying to get the quick fix for depression.


  24. Thank you for your honesty. It’s really difficult for me to talk about this. I believe I have been struggling with depression since my first daughter was born in 2008. Shortly after she was born my husband lost his job and we had to foreclose on our house. I also had a lot of breastfeeding issues with my daughter for the first 6 months. My daughter is now 6 and I have another daughter who is turning 4 soon. I feel like I’m never happy anymore. I love my kids but some days I feel like walking out the door and never coming back. Feeling like this makes me feel guilty and shameful. I’m anxious all the time and I feel like I have no patience with my kids. They are really good girls but they are also not easy. My little one was diagnosed with failure to thrive at age 1. We’ve had countless doctors visits and even did an endoscopy. She was on meds for acid reflux and slow emptying stomach but nothing was definitively determined as the cause of her eating issues. Now she is finally at 5% of the growth chart but meals are always a struggle. I have to sit and feed her every meal. Meal times are especially anxiety provoking for me and I feel like this has added to the problem. I am tired and feel like sleeping all the time and I procrastinate a lot. I have no idea how I’ve done it but I’ve managed to put myself through nursing school and will graduate in May. I should be happy and thrilled but instead I’m sad and scared about the future. After learning in school about depression and mental illness, I recognize the signs and symptoms and understand that I don’t have to deal with this on my own. I have mustered up the courage to schedule an appointment with my doctor. My husband also agrees that I need help. I hope I can find something that will help me get through this and be myself again.

  25. I totally feel this way.. my life is ridiculously out of control. At any moment, I feel like literally having a breakdown. I stay home with my three very spirited children and by the time my husband gets home, I’m to the point where I just want to be alone and want the crying, constant “mom Mom MOM!” to just stop. I can’t handle even one more stressful thing or it’s almost the end of the world. When I get out and am able to visit with people without my kids or with my husband along with us, I feel so much better. I am a fun-loving, easy-going person and really love life but just the past few years I have been so unhappy truly. Lately I’ve even considered getting a divorce because it’s all just too much for our relationship to handle, and he just holds it inside. But anyway, could it just be me with toddlers?! I do believe it will get better when they get a little older. Do I just wait it out and wish this time away? Could that even be depression? I don’t want to be such a hag and make myself sick with my bad attitude. I don’t want my children to remember me so cranky 🙁 maybe I just need a job and it’s not depression at all.

  26. Hi Honest Mom. Thank you for sharing your experience about taking medication for depression.
    My experience is quite similar. And taking medication helps tremendously.
    You mentioned that there are little side effects for you? I see in your about me section that you have “hubs”. I wonder if he agrees with you that the side effects are minimal?
    I am struggling along off the meds for one reason. Sex.
    From research on other’s experiences and just factual chemistry, it is probable that everyone on SSRIs, or at least those with no special immunities, experiences serious trouble with achieving orgasm.
    If you ask me, that is a very big side effect. But then again, not everyone who takes anti-depressants had a fantastic sex life before the meds.
    Anti-depressant medication strips users of their sexual intimacy. That is a big deal.
    I would love to hear if there is anyone out there who takes SSRIs AND has a great sex life. If you exist, you are rare and extremely lucky.
    and if there are others like me, what do you do? Take them and lose a very important and key part of your couple? Or not take them and have great sex…when you can find a moment where you have enough energy and are not super annoyed?
    Depression is awful. I’m thankful that medication exists that helps, but at the same time, I’m very sad that I found something that works, but if I want it, I have to sacrifice so much…just to be me.

  27. All I can say is Thank You Thank You Thank You! I needed to read this today! I took the first step and made an appointment! I’ve struggled with depression for a long time and have been on and off meds, but find myself not able to cope without meds! Such a great article!

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