This is what a depressed mom looks like.

regular, normal women and moms deal with depression

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.  🙂

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The Truth About Depression: An Honest Moms Speak Out essay

Editor’s note: I’m happy to bring back the Honest Moms Speak Out essay series. Every week, Honest Mom will feature a reader’s story about her mental health battles and triumphs. The goal of these essays is to give women who deal with similar challenges hope, and to help them to feel less alone. If you would like to contribute, read this (you do not have to be a blogger to participate). And you can read other HMSO essays here. Thanks to Marcia for sharing her story with us!

When the country first learned of Robin Williams’ suicide last year, people were scratching their heads, confused over what would have driven America’s favorite funny man to end his life so abruptly. On the surface, Williams he had everything: a unique brand of humor that brought him fame, a loving family and a multitude of adoring fans. How could he have been so unhappy as to take his own life?

Only those who have a personal experience with depression can understand the scope of pain from this form of mental illness. It is a debilitating disease that robs a person of the simplest joys in life. It carves a hole too deep to fill in the hearts of those who wrestle with the inner demons of this acute, medical condition.

Depression is a nondiscriminatory disease that strikes every age, race, gender and class. It manifests itself in the form of physical pain, lack of self-worth, shame, helplessness and hopelessness. It is an invisible wound that is often misdiagnosed and in some cases, difficult to treat.

Those suffering from depression view the world through a warped lens where everything is distorted and emotions are muted. Even when surrounded by a loving family, they feel utterly alone. And while others marvel at the sun’s glorious rays as it rises over the ocean, they can only feel the weight of their emptiness. It’s not as simple as choosing to be happy. Depression traps people under a numbing layer of ice and leaves them gasping for air.

How do I know this? Depression has been a part of my life since childhood. Growing up, I felt out of place, even in my own family, and lonely for reasons I never understood. I woke each day with a sense of foreboding, and at times, became panicky at the thought of leaving my house. It was a struggle for me to find the smile that seemed to come so easily to others. I didn’t know what was wrong with me; I only knew that something inside was broken.

At the age of six, it was impossible for me to explain how I felt, and I was too ashamed to tell anyone for fear they would think I was abnormal. In my family, emotions were not easily expressed, and any show of anxiety or depression was frowned upon. It didn’t help that during that era of my childhood, there was a negative stigma attached to depression. Admissions of feeling isolated or extremely unhappy were viewed as a weakness of character and a lack of courage to overcome a difficult situation.

The shame I felt for having a disease I didn’t understand followed me well into my teens. I went through bouts of binge-eating, self-loathing and cutting. This type of behavior was the only release I had from the unexplainable, inner turmoil that plagued my life.

It took years of battling depression, phobias and suicidal thoughts before I realized I needed help in waging the war against losing my sanity. When I finally confided in my husband about my illness, it was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Speaking openly about my anxiety and depression validated what I was feeling, and in turn, enabled me to open up to others who were struggling with the same disorders. In time, I found the courage to speak to my doctor, who then prescribed antidepressants after a long evaluation period. For me, it was the turning point that gave me a sense of control in my life, something that had been lacking inside me since I was a child.

There is no quick fix for depression, as each case is unique. It is a dark and frightening disease that cannot be cured with alcohol, drug abuse, or sex. In some cases, intense therapy and even love can’t save a patient from the inner demons that haunt them. Antidepressants work successfully for some, while for others, it functions as a temporary patch over a leaky valve that threatens to burst. Once the seal is broken, a storm of uncontrollable emotions is unleashed, driving many to the brink of desperation.

There are plenty of critics who view depression as a temporary state of “sadness”, and suicide as a selfish act of cowardice that inflicts unimaginable pain on the survivors. This is an unfair assessment of a disease that society still knows so little about. Depression is not a choice. It’s a mental illness associated with an immeasurable depth of despair and hopelessness that leads far too many people down the dark path to suicide.

It took the loss of a comedic genius last year to shed light on our country’s inability to recognize the difference between ordinary sadness and major depression. Society as a whole needs to erase all preconceived notions of depression and the stigmas attached to this debilitating disease.

Our job is not to judge or blame. It’s time we promote awareness and help those suffering from depression find the inner peace they deserve. Compassion and understanding are the gateway to hope and finding the courage to seek help. Only then can the people we love begin to heal.

photo credit: Alejandra thinking II via photopin (license)

The Truth About Depression: An Honest Moms Speak Out essay

Is it time for me to quit blogging?

Is it time to quit blogging?

I’ve been too paralyzed to write lately. I’m not really sure I’m burned out, per say. I have stuff I want to write about. There are definitely ideas swimming around in my head. But it just seems like so much effort to blog nowadays, I get frustrated before I even begin.

Those of you who are Honest Mom readers and don’t have your own blogs may have zero idea what I’m talking about. So let me back up.

I used to just sit down and write, write, write. I’d proof that blog post, love it, and then hit “publish.” Post on Facebook, tweet here and there, watch the comments roll in, and interact with my readers on my blog. Good times, circa 2010.

Now blogging is so freaking COMPLICATED. I think of something to write about and immediately think — nah, that’s been written about too many times. I mean, everything I think to write about has been done before. There aren’t any original ideas out there anymore, it seems. What can I possibly have to say that hasn’t been said a zillion times before? I’m flummoxed before I start.

But then I remind myself that my audience hasn’t read all the things I’ve read, and I have my own take on whatever topic I want to write about. So I go for it and I write that post. However. That’s just the beginning.

I have to think of a clickable headline to get people to read my post. And deal with the SEO stuff so Google will pay attention to my post. Oh, and find a great image to create a pinnable graphic for Pinterest. I have to actually make the graphic. Don’t forget a clickable, pre-written tweet to make it easy for my readers to share my post. And on and on and on… Many hours later, I have done All The Things that make a blog post primed and ready to go. And I’m freaking exhausted.

But wait! Now it’s time to promote, promote, promote on social media, or else no one except my blog subscribers will know I wrote anything! I must figure out optimal times to post on social media, schedule social media shares, participate in Facebook blogging groups and promote other bloggers’ posts so they promote mine…

So I do All The Things to help drive traffic to my blog post and get eyes on it. Hours and hours and hours of time — for what? Several thousand visits to my post?

Why?

What’s the point?

This is what I keep asking myself.

Am I blogging out of narcissism? To feel popular? To go viral and be the center of attention for a few days?

I can honestly say the answer to those questions is NO. The reasons I started blogging are still the reasons I blog today: to connect with other moms and to help moms who deal with depression and anxiety to not feel so alone.

But even those good, solid reasons haven’t been enough to make me want to write blogs posts, because writing a post means having to deal with all the other crap that blogging now encompasses.

Blogging used to be about writing and connecting. And it still is, really — but now to connect, we have to manipulate social media to “increase our reach.” The blogging world is oversaturated, and it seems that in order to be heard above the noise you need to write a click-bait headline and a controversial post.

That’s not why I blog. I don’t want to write Buzzfeed-worthy headlines and top 10 list posts about Things That Will Blow Your Mind.

So will my blog posts be seen by anyone, anymore, ever again?

If a writer writes a blog post and no one ever sees it, did she really write it at all?

Sigh. I don’t know.

WAIT. I do know.

Here’s the thing that I have to keep reminding myself: When I write a blog post, typically a few thousand people see it. More, if I do All The Things that social media requires bloggers to do nowadays. That’s thousands of people who read my words. And hopefully, a whole bunch of them are impacted in some positive way.

And even if just a few hundred see my blog post because I don’t do all the promotional crap, that’s a few hundred people who read my words and hopefully get something out of them.

That means something.

That’s why I write: to reach people. To share thoughts that hopefully help my readers in some way, whether it’s comforting them or making them laugh or commiserating with them.

So I will keep blogging. I won’t quit. I might take some breaks here and there (it IS summer, after all!), but I’ll be back.

And I hope you will be, too.

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