Depression is a sneaky adversary.

Over the course of a year, our silly, sweet, bright 14-year-old child slowly morphed into a withdrawn, sad hermit. Her grades plummeted, she didn't want to go to school, and she suffered from frequent stomach aches and headaches. No matter how much I tried to lure her out of her room, she retreated there for hours every day.

While visiting relatives at Thanksgiving, she spent the entire holiday sleeping in a dark room alone. She claimed she had a headache. I let it go.

In hindsight, every sign of major depression was there. But I was too close to see clearly. I rationalized everything: she was a teenager, she was self-conscious about her weight, she was a sensitive child, she was going through a tough time with friends. The list went on.

She was the youngest of our four kids and we had ridden out teenage angst three times before. This too shall pass, I thought. It wasn't until we visited our pediatrician for a well visit that my child's depression was finally identified. Four years later, I still feel guilty for missing it and question my mom card.

Once our child was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, therapy and medication helped to life the veil of sadness and despair. She eventually felt strong enough to tell me that she was transgender. In many ways, I was relieved and felt at least there was a source for her pain that we could address.

This was a naive view, I know now. While my daughter's depression and anxiety have dramatically improved over four years, the symptoms still rear their ugly heads now and then, although they are much milder. I'm grateful for the treatment that brought back the silly, playful side of our daughter who is now exploring life as a college student. And I'm grateful to be better informed about the symptoms of depression.

I used to think depression meant someone was sad all the time. But that sadness can be masked by irritability at times. I witnessed both ends of the spectrum firsthand with my daughter.

Depression can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms that interfere with daily life. Mood changes may include anxiety, persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or loss of interest or pleasure in activities. Behavioral changes such as excessive crying, irritability or social isolation are also common. Some people with depression experience lack of energy, trouble concentrating, sleep disturbances and back pain or headaches.

Depression also can lead to frequent thoughts of suicide.

October is Depression Awareness Month. While depression has many symptoms that vary from person to person, a simple screening can start you or a loved one on the right track to getting the necessary help. Complete an online screening at

And remember, dealing with depression isn't about "snapping out of it" or "sucking it up." Depression also isn't a sign of weakness. If you feel depressed or if you see depression symptoms in a loved one, don't ignore the signs. A life could depend on it. See a doctor or mental health professional who can help. Treatment can make all the difference in lifting the cloud of depression.

About the Author

Joyce is a St. Louis-based writer, marketing communications consultant, mom of four, wife, and general chaos manager.