For me, my 20's and most of my 30's were flawless. I did everything the way I thought it was supposed to be. The marriage. The career. The house. The children.
And everything felt just fine. Like it should.
And then, slowly...it wasn't fine anymore. It wasn't happy. Or joyful. It just seemed pointless and exhausting.
It's not like I just woke up one day at 35 and thought, "Hey. Do I actually have a purpose here?" It was more like a slow motion detour from the things that once brought me joy. Suddenly, my life seemed sort of meaningless. I found myself contemplating just what in the hell the whole purpose of my so-called-life was. I knew I was a wife, a mother, an educator. And all of those roles were blessings. I never took any of them for granted.
But for the first time in my life, I started to view things from the end of my life going backwards. Like, "How is what I'm doing today going to matter in the end?" Not in a morbid way, but in a thoughtful and reflective way. As in, "What am I doing here that truly matters to me and to others?"
During this same period of time, I began to experience what I now recognize as the onset of depression. I had no idea at the time how much this would affect my life and loved ones in the years to come.
You see, people in my family don't get "depressed." We grin and bare it. We pull ourselves up by our boot straps. We don't complain. Because no matter what, it could almost always be worse. In the very words of my dad, "No one likes a whiner."
While this is somewhat true (whiners are kind of annoying), on the other hand it's never good to deny your own discomfort or unhappiness. To pretend that everything is fine when it isn't, is a disaster waiting to happen.
One of the greatest challenges in my adult life has been admitting that I am not, in fact strong enough to "mind-over-matter" anything that comes along. To admit we can't handle anything is practically a disgrace in my family. Thank GOD we weren't born in Japan or I'd be. Well. You know.
So as my mid-30's rolled along, I started to feel more and more lost. Lost and sort of stuck. Like I had one foot on the ground and one in quicksand. Each day was a battle to keep my knee above the quicksand and pretend everything was fine.
That's another thing we do in our family. You'd think we're the Baldwins, we're such great Thespians. But my acting gig is over. I've still felt a bit stuck in that quicksand, but I've got a life line now. And I've outed a few of the elephants in the room. If you're new here, you can read about them if you wish by clicking here.
According to a very good friend and pharmacist (cue the Collette Reardon SNL clip), depression in mid-life is extremely common. Fortunately for me, it is far more acceptable now than it was when my own mother was younger and suffering from what I believe to have been depression. Then, it wasn't o.k. to admit
to or seek help for depression.
Today? It is almost, dare I say trendy to have a therapist?
But that isn't why I'm writing about this. I don't care about being trendy. Or tough. Or honest.
Writing this blog and meeting the friends and fellow writers through blogging has helped me keep my head above the sand. And I want you all to know that depression is a filthy liar.
The statistics on the numbers of misdiagnosed and undiagnosed people suffering from various forms of depression are staggering. I want you to know that depression doesn't discriminate. You might be an actress, an attorney, a teacher, a homemaker, even a doctor.
There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
I am not suggesting that every mom (or dad) run out and seek therapy or take fist-fulls of medications. Every single person experiences symptoms and treatment options differently.
What I am saying is, you deserve to be happy. And if you're feeling stuck or if any of this makes sense to you, talk to someone. If you aren't feeling like yourself, there may be a good reason for it.
My therapist, Marilyn put it this way: "We would want to know if we had symptoms of cardiac problems or cancer, right? Well, depression is a disease of a different organ. The brain. Why would we let it go untreated if we could live happier, more healthy lives?"
It kind of makes sense. I hope you won't mind, but I'll be writing a bit more about this as the weeks go on. I've just begun a very interesting process that I can't tell you about just yet. But I'm crossing my fingers it works out.
Until then, I will leave you with this.