This is what a depressed mom looks like.

Does the graphic surprise you? Are you shocked that women and moms with depression can look so normal – like the lady who lives next door or the woman you work with?

Or maybe you’re looking at the faces above and thinking, Wow – I had no idea that women like me are cursed with depression. I thought I was the only one.

Either way, if that’s your reaction, I totally get it.

Because when I confide in someone that I deal with depression, this is the response I often get:

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

People are always so surprised. Because on the outside, I look like a regular, suburban, 30-something mom. 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 moms feel less alone, and if I can help some other people understand that regular, everyday people deal with depression – well, that makes me so happy.

If you have a friend or family member who confides in you that they struggle with depression and take medication, 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.

Are you hesitant to tell close friends and relatives about your depression? Is it difficult to explain that having depression doesn’t make you “crazy”?

Note: This is a revised, previously-published post, so that’s why some comments are from a while ago.  🙂

photo credit: Pavel P. via photopin cc | photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopincc | photo credit: Thomas Leuthard via photopincc | photo credit: Kris Krug via photopincc | photo credit: afunkydamsel via photopincc | photo credit: epSos.de via photopincc | photo credit: lauritadianita via photopin cc | photo credit: rockygirl05 via photopincc | photo credit: John Ashburne via photopincc

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36 Replies to “This is what a depressed mom looks like.”

  1. I really hate the stigma that goes with depression. I’m hesitant to let people know about it because I’ve lost friends, “best” friends over confiding this secret to them. I’ve had “friends” straight up tell me they don’t care that I’m depressed. All of a sudden I have to be rainbow sprinkles all the time. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way with me. I don’t like how people tend to treat it like the ebola virus. So the only friend I’ve been able to confide my depression to is another friend that has it because she truly understands.

  2. Thank you so much for this post, JD. I get the exact same response from people who don’t know my entire story: “I had no idea. I would never had expected that you went through that.”

    Glad you’re doing well on your meds (minus the unpleasant side effects).

    1. Are you still dealing with depression? Does this demon ever go away? It hit me six months ago like a ton of bricks. I’ve always been happy and upbeat and now I’ve hit rock bottom. I had two huge triggers that made it start. But I can’t seem to make it go away. I need positive stories!!

      Thanks,
      Rhonda

  3. Bravo, JD. I too hate the stigma…as I often say, depression is a chronic condition like diabetes, for example. Would someone hide their diabetes as if it’s a shameful thing? No.

    I’m a goofball by nature and laugh a lot, so I appear “normal” too. I’m very outspoken about my condition and the stigma, though. I’m still recovering from a breakdown I had in September, but when I feel up to it, I’m going to volunteer at my local mental health agency.

    Spread the word, yo! 🙂

  4. I too suffer from depression.had huge breakdown four years ago from being bullied at work, and another one two years ago. I am in “remission” at the moment but am scared of dropping my meds down as I feel like me again, for first time in four years. I still over-react and am very sensitive when things go wrong. Thanks for your post.

  5. I’ll take it a step further: I think that this “depression’ is such a normal state for so many people for so many different reasons, I’m not even sure if it should be deemed a “disease”. For instance, for moms, feeling tired, irritable, worried, angry and overwhelmed is often a part of motherhood that we all have to learn to tackle and balance in between all of the good stuff we feel too. We’re humans raising humans–no one is getting through that without feeling tired, irritable, worried, angry or overwhelmed. It’s not possible. I wonder if part of the reason there are such “stigmas” is because we’re labeling something that is completely normal–fun? No. But, it’s part of life. I love your post. I’m glad you’ve tried to normalize depression. Maybe in the near future we can simply label these feeling as “Life”. Thanks for your honesty:)

    1. Yes BUT—I appreciate the impulse to normalize depression, but there is a difference between the normal challenges of parenting and depression. Depression is a very real and sometimes fatal disease. My concern with this perspective is that it suggests to those who may suffer from depression that what they are experiencing is just “normal Mom stuff” and they need to “buck up” and handle it. They might not seek out what they may need like therapy or meds. The line between normal Mom stuff and depression can be blurry, but signs someone is truly depressed include feeling like it will never get better, not enjoying even good times, and especially thoughts of suicide.

      1. There is certainly a difference between a kind of low-level mild kind of depression and clinical depression for sure. I think what I was more trying to point out is that a lot of our culture puts pressure on us humans to seek and find a constant state of “happiness”–as though that is our main goal, and if we don’t feel “happy’ all of the time, we suffer from a disorder. I think that expectation sometimes makes us inadvertently think that if we aren’t “happy’ all of the time, something is terribly wrong. That is really what I meant about it being Life. Motherhood is fucking hard and sometimes not fun at all and sometimes we want to run away or just lay in bed and cry all day and other days we feel we are the luckiest people in the world. I feel like that’s all normal….it’s when those feelings become chronic that we really need to get some help.

  6. I wish we could come up with new language. The term “depression” has developed a non-clinical meaning. People have come to use the words “sad” and “depressed” interchangeably. But they’re not the same thing. If the condition had a clinical name I believe it would be perceived differently.

  7. When I tell people I have depression and an anxiety disorder, they say, “But you laugh! You’re happy!” They think “depressed” means the same as “sad”. I’ve always found the difference between depression and sadness is when something cheers you up when you’re sad, you feel better for it, but when something cheers you up when you’re depressed, that feeling is still there pushing you down despite the joy of the moment. Thank you for sharing this! x

  8. I just love this so much. Hormones are US, almost all we are except for some muscle and bone. And yet, the disorders of hormones are all somehow “our fault.” You write beautifully.

  9. You should be so happy because you got me to open up about my depression and my life is in a much better place now. Anti-depressants weren’t for me, but you gave me the courage to at least try them. I am kind of falling back into my pit of darkness but I’m doing my best every day to work on me, because I am important.

  10. Thank you for this. I have had people tell me that I “seem so happy” when I tell them that I have depression. I’m not always depressed, and that’s because of my therapy and medication. I do get relapses though, even on meds.

    Your blog is awesome 🙂

  11. I think over time we mothers in particular have really excelled in “covering up” our depression. Do I look agitated, and angry, and sad all the time? No…but in my case it’s because I’ve become a high-functioning depressive. If I knew no one could see me, I probably would look agitated, angry, sad, and a lot of other things in between. But I have developed good skills (if I do say so myself!) at looking like I have it all together. For me that’s driven by societal pressure and messages from my parents about the high value of appearances.

  12. Thank you for sharing. Below is my post about depression, sometimes I think people just want you to be “normal” and fit in. For me being like this is normal, I’ve been this way since birth. Trying to fit my round peg into their square hole makes me more depressed. If that makes any sense at all. Thanks for promoting this, maybe it will help non sufferers understand.

  13. Hi, I just want to share my last 6 months with you all. In October last year I took an overdose, all the antidepressants, all the sleeping pills (I had been saving up +- 60), pain killers – in other words the lot!!! I was feeling at my very low, everything was so built up that I felt I couldn't cope anymore> I did this in the late morning and everyone thought I was just sleeping off a migraine which I often did. My son came in to check on me at about 11pm and I believe I was grey at that point. My family totally shocked (as anyone would be) as always when we feel at this point we can not take into account the feelings of those who may find you. I was rushed to emergency and spent hours there and then up to high-care for 4 days, three days in ICU and 1 week on general ward. So it was a while before I got home. 2 months or so later I spent the entire night with burning skin so at 6am phoned my specialist and went into hospital again. This time I was diagnosed with epilepsy. Spent a couple of days in while they did tests and was released. Spent Christmas with family and apparently was talking rubbish, commenting on things that were not being spoken in other words sounding completely mental. Mid January I had a seizure (one of the most frightening things I have every had) – back to hospital in an ambulance, this time it was my son who had to deal with the seizure, it had been going 10 minutes or so before he arrived and lasted in total about 1 hour. I'm now back at home, trembling and wobbly. Not even able to cut a tomato up with out cutting myself, not able to get in the car and pop up to the shops and now feeling useless as a mother and a wife. Anyway sorry to go one but I think this may help people but if not then just read as you would a novel.

  14. Im a 54 year old woman and have been dealing with depression my whole life. I been on meds but dont take them any longer. I hate the way they make me feel. I cant get out of bed my legs hurt my body and mind are numb. I wanna die but not really. I cant explain the way I feel emotionally, spiritually, or physically. All I know is I cant drag my self out of bed. I go to work everyday but if I didnt have a job I would never leave my bed. Nothing is happy for me.

  15. i am so very sorry for these past 6 mos you have had to deal with it sounds absolutely devastating but if u were ever brave enough to share this with someone close that would have been very very brave and put u in a vulnerable position. also a brave thing to do. past experience has shown me that this only gives ammunition for later attacks. so i have quickly learned to keep it to myself. less of the 2 evils. our greatest fear is the way that we affect our children and the damage that we do. this being said i feel your complete sadness at your son/sons being witness to your darkest hours. please continue to fight and if u would like to chat feel free to contact me. you are the first person i have ever shared with, i feel there must be a reason. best of love to you,

  16. I just discovered this post because I googled “how to be a good mom with mental illness” because I’m going through a rough patch now. Thank-you for your post and insights! I really agree with you about comparing depression with other physical illnesses. I’ve always been anxious but was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder just over a year ago and have been taking anti-anxiety medication ever since. Meds and other interventions like yoga, meditation, self-talk, etc. help lots. But I still have ‘flare ups’ – especially during my period. Maybe hormone related? Regardless, it’s so tough to deal with these times but add in mothering my two young kids and its sometimes unbearable. I enjoyed your post and found comfort in your insights. Thanks again!

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