[[Before I start, I want to say that I have permission to share this story from the person described here. She asked me to ‘tell the absolute truth about us’ so that other women might recognize themselves in her story.]]
A dear friend and I had made plans to meet for coffee last week. We hadn’t seen each other in a few months and had finally nailed down a time to meet that worked for us both. Like a lot of women, juggling the demands of family, work, and life meant that finding a time to chat was tough. But we did it! And we were both looking forward to seeing each other and catching up.
But that morning, just before we were set to meet, she messaged me on Facebook to tell me that she couldn’t meet. She was very, very sorry – so sorry I could feel it coming through the screen of my iPad. She told me she was going through a bout of depression and that as much as she wanted to see me, as much as she knew it would make her feel better, the weight of her emotional state meant she could barely keep up with the basics of her life. The voices of the depression inside her head were also just too loud and too much to over come.
Of course, I understood. I know what depression feels like (I was depressed and unmedicated for about 18 months when I was 19 years old). I gave her as much compassion, love, and support as I could with my words- all the while knowing that sometimes words don’t get through the fortress of depression. I offered to help with anything she needed and we both agreed to meet later when she felt better.
There are a couple of things I want to note here.
The first is that depression is definitely something that can happen during mid-life. Whether we’ve had bouts of depression before or find that they come as a result of shifting hormones, depression can be one of the experiences of mid-life and peri-menopause. Sometimes the Sex Surge® ends in a hormonal crash and both depression and anxiety ensue. Depression can happen and it’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
That said, my friend later talked about how much pressure there is to be happy, joyful, excited, and ‘up’ for the holiday season. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” right? Yeah…but what if it isn’t? And what if the pressure to ‘look good’ and ‘be happy’ just puts more pressure on us when we’re already in a tough place? Depression is a hard place to be during the holidays- maybe having compassion for folks who don’t ‘get into the spirit of things’ is something kind we can offer them (and ourselves, if we’re in a tough spot).
When I approached my friend to write about this, she wanted to be sure you knew that she has a very happy life. She lives in a place she loves. She has two kids she adores and a really great husband. She has two dogs and a new business that is exceptionally fulfilling. And still…and still…the depression came to roost in her life. And at the holidays it’s extra difficult to handle.
As I was talking with my friend about all this, it became clear to me how many of us need space to be super honest about our hearts at the holidays. Maybe we’re depressed. Maybe we’re tired. Maybe the shit just hit the fan and we just want to rage cry. Maybe we’re doing it all and pissed about it. Maybe it’s just too much and we feel like we want off the ride. For several holidays during the Sex Surge, I longed for my FF and had to make a space to grieve those feelings*.
From the outside, I know one thing to be absolutely true: it is a great act of self love to simply admit to these things.
From the inside, my friend noted that it sure as shit does not feel like an act of self love to be honest about what’s going on emotionally. But she could also see how it was exactly that.
This past year I have worked on loving myself more. And one of the tools that has really helped me is simply saying, “well, this is what I feel like,” or “this is where I am.” (If you say it like Samuel L. Jackson it totally helps: “Well, motherfuckers, this is where I am. Tough shit if you don’t like it.” Mostly I just say this to the voices in my own head. But it helps!) This is also one of the tenets of Buddhism- to not be in the future or the past, but simply in this moment. Even if, in this moment, we are depressed, angry, sad, frustrated, or scared. It is an act of self love to just simply say, “this is where I am right now.” I believe that with every fiber of my being.
As we get closer to the holidays, there’s the potential for lots of stuff to come up. Lots of difficult or negative stuff. I would ask you to do two things: admit that this is where you are right now and be gentle with yourself. No one ever got better from depression, anxiety, fear, or difficulty by yelling at themselves in their head more. Instead, please practice loving your self. Accept that this where you are, this is where your heart is, and let it be. Give your self the gift of space for your heart to be where it actually is this holiday season.
Lots of love from hormone central,
Joanna :: xoxo
* Turns out he’s an asshole and I really had nothing to grieve. At this point, I feel so blessed that nothing ever happened between us.