Depression is the most common mental illness in America, affecting more than 15 million people — one in ten will suffer from depression at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And if that stat isn't depressing enough, women account for two-thirds of all cases. Yet even though so many women suffer from it, one of the hallmarks of depression is feeling utterly alone in your suffering — especially if you're a mom.
Moms with depression carry a heavy burden. Not only do you have to take care of your own health and wellbeing, but you're also responsible for the health, happiness, and success of your kids, not to mention, oh, their actual lives. NBD!
Now that your panic attack has passed, how are you supposed to act like a functional adult through a parent-teacher conference when you can barely function at all? Part of being a mom is learning to make do with what you have, even if it's unwashed hair, sweats, and a bad attitude — just like these moms do.
1. Feeling like a flat-out failure as a mom.
"Being a mother with depression means I seriously wonder why I haven't been fired from this job. It means wondering why my husband hasn't left me yet. It's hearing that a stay-at-home mom is worth $150,000 a year and feeling like I am barely worth minimum wage." —Lizzy V., 39, Charlotte, NC
2. Only buying clothes that double as pajamas.
"I had postpartum depression after the birth of my second child. After getting my kids dressed and fed every day, I had zero energy left to do the same for myself. Thankfully, this was when athleisure was becoming a trend. So I bought myself a bunch of comfy, cute stretchy pants, tops, and sweatshirts — and wore them 24 hours a day. It got a little gross by the fourth day, especially if I didn't have the energy to shower, but it took one thing off my plate and that actually helped a lot." —Charlie A., 29, Minneapolis, MN
3. Wanting to punch the next person who says, "You should be grateful for what you have."
"Being a mom with depression makes me feel ungrateful. Why can't I be proud and happy that I have a wonderful family, supportive husband, and good job? Depression makes everything seem black and white to me — there's no gray in my world, which drives my husband crazy — heck, it drives me crazy too because I can never do it all perfectly." —Becky E., 37, Kaysville, UT
4. Getting guilt-tripped by your kid's teacher.
"I wish my children's teachers knew how much I do care and at the same time how much I can't care. I wish they would please stop looking at me with disapproval in their eyes when I'm late with something. They can't disapprove of me any more than I already do. But there isn't anything I can do about it because I'm already doing my best, I'm just proud of myself for being able to get there before someone called social services." —Lizzy
5. Dealing with mental illness a full-time job — except with no benefits, vacation, or salary.
"My first son was born early this year and less than two weeks later I ended up in the psych ward for a week due to severe postpartum depression and a recurrence of my bipolar disorder. I spent four weeks doing an intensive outpatient therapy program, two to three days a week. It felt like getting better from the depression and my other symptoms was a full-time job. I feel like many other moms don't really understand why I need to leave my newborn son with babysitters so much in order to go to therapy or just take some personal time so I can get the support I need to get through this episode." —Laura K., 38, Pine Brook, NJ
6. Throwing the Best! Birthday! Party! Ever!... to make up for all the days you couldn't even make dinner.
"I feel like during my good times I have to go above and beyond, be the perfect mom, to make up for all the bad times. Sometimes people will compliment my parenting and it's all I can do not to break out into manic laughter because if they only knew what a struggle it is for me." —Lizzy
7. Having those days when even playing feels like too much work.
"I had always been a very active mom, taking my kids to the park, reading, playing with their toys, and spending time singing silly songs with them, but then I had four back-to-back miscarriages and I found myself completely checked out. I made sure my children's basic needs were met but I didn't play with them. I just couldn't. Bath time became 'get washed and get out,' meal time was 'hurry and finish eating', and when they played, it was all I could do to just sit there. Thankfully, my kids loved me unconditionally and while it took a year for me to break out of the depression, they were there waiting for me." —Cindy P., 36, Las Vegas, NV
8. Being depressed by the fact you need anti-depressants.
"I have good times and I feel like I'm fine, then I forget to take my pill and after a few days the world turns black and white again. The worst part? I'm actually surprised by this. Every. Single. Time. A good friend once told me to not feel bad about taking meds because no one ever tells a diabetic they should just go off their meds. For me, my brain needs the meds, but there's a lot of baggage attached because I don't like to be dependent on anything outside of myself. I think there are more women than we know dealing with this, but it is still kind of taboo and we don't like to talk about it for fear someone will think less of us." —Becky
9. Admitting your kids are the best and the worst thing for your sanity.
"Depression already makes me feel the guilt of not being good enough but add in kids, the world's toughest audience, and it can send me into a guilt spiral. Ironically, when I'm feeling really low, my kids are also the only thing that can bring me out of myself completely. So they both exacerbate and cure my depression." —Penny S., 36, Leeds, UK
10. Convincing people that 'me' time isn't a luxury, it's a necessity.
"I wish people understood that when you're dealing with depression, you need to take time for yourself, so you can heal yourself, in order to be a good parent. Just because I need a break from parenting doesn't mean I don't want to be a parent or that I'm a bad parent. Some days just feeding myself is overwhelming and it feels impossible to have an infant on top of that. I need help so I can get through this." —Laura
11. Worrying that your kids will inherit your mental illness.
"I feel a lot of guilt, wondering whether my kids have inherited my depression and anxiety. They're both autistic and have issues with communication, so it can be hard to tell what they're feeling, but they both seem to be showing signs of anxiety. Logically, I know it's not my 'fault,' but I still feel responsible." —Alyssa Z., 37, San Francisco, CA
12. Correcting someone when they say you're a good parent.
"My depression got to the point where I was having suicidal thoughts. One of the most hurtful parts was it made me feel like when someone gave me a compliment or told me I was a good parent, I thought they must be lying because I knew the truth. I couldn't believe anything anyone told me about myself." —Tammy F., 30, Edmonds, WA
13. Recognizing your depressive quirks…in your kids.
"My depression made me forget the kind things people did for me and feel like I was totally alone. It wasn't until I realized the cause of these doubts was my depression that I was able to get past them. I made a list of friends I felt like truly care and have shown that to me, in deed and in word, and I look back at that list when I start to go down that road again. Sadly, I was surprised to find my daughter struggled with the same issue. Once I realized she did it, too, we were able to get her help for her depression and I taught her my technique for dealing with it." —Tammy
14. Wishing to just be a regular mom.
"Every day is a struggle with depression and I've had to change my expectations. I don't care if I am never super mom, I just want my son to be happy and healthy. You may think I'm aiming low, but after years and years of struggling with mental illness, I've learned that happy and healthy means a lot. If he's also great at math, or sports, or music, or cooking, great — but only if it makes him happy." —Laura