Mental Health And The Mid Life Woman & Man.
My family has a history of mental health problems on my Mothers side, my grandmother Ada was diagnosed with Schizophrenia (she was very placid, not a knife wielding murderer like the movies and media make out). And so 5 years ago when I was very low and down, I was worried that maybe I had (if it was possible) been passed the ‘depression gene’. Interestingly some research done by Kings College London 7 years ago, showed that there is a specific chromosome which showed up in a study of 917 siblings who had severe recurrent depression. And further to that there were potentially 214 genes within the region of chromosome 3 identified as being linked with severe recurrent depression.
However, as science is beginning to understand, just because you have a genetic pre-disposition for something doesn’t mean it will show up. Environmental factors play a big part in depression also. And whilst the rise in depression in teens and young people is potentially linked to the rise in social media and the 24 hour society, the rise of over 20% in depression cases amongst middle aged, or midlife, women, is not.
Dr Peter Byrne, director of public education at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said the role of woman had changed significantly in the last 15 years. You see many midlife women (in this case women in their 40’s and 50’s), were likely raised by stay at home mothers, but themselves are struggling to juggle a career, young or teenage children, and caring for elderly relatives. And they have no role model to look to for how to do all of that. Capio Nightingale Hospital reported much of the rise in depression cases this year is also linked to financial pressures.
And Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said the stigma still surrounding mental health may be preventing women from getting help.
And that makes a lot of sense to me, because when I speak to women in this age group on a one to one or in a small group (like our women’s retreats) all sorts of stuff shows up which women are not happy to talk about in normal circumstances.
You see, we feel we SHOULD be coping don’t we? There must be something wrong with us if we can’t take on more and more responsibility and still have a smile on our faces.
Guess what every ONE is feeling the same, so why can’t we just be open about it?? Is it the British stiff upper lip? Well no because I help WHYs women and men all over the world and they all have the same “mask”.
Er…..NOOOOOOO. Stop it!
Listen, our world has changed out of all recognition in the last 100 years. My mate’s great grandmother was the housekeeper in a ‘posh’ house in London in the 1890’s and early 1900’s. She had a hard life, as we would consider it today. She worked a 6 day week, for low wages and there was little spare for extra’s like for example ….a visit from a doctor when you were ill ! (No NHS till 1948 remember).
So, in some ways it was a hard, physical life. But in other ways it was much simpler. You had a job for life. Men knew their role was to provide and women knew their role was to care for children and relatives. I’m not saying it was brilliant, because it clearly wasn’t in many ways. It wasn’t EASY, but it was SIMPLE. And the complexity of life nowadays is what contributes massively to the stress that leads to depression.
Back in the day, once you got a job, you generally had it for a long time (if not for ever). Everyone lived together, if not in the same house, then in the same street, so there was a lot of support in the community and extended family – that is just not there today. Yes, terrible awful things happened – like the Great War for example (and I am sure there was a lot of undiagnosed PTSD) – however it wasn’t as in your face. You heard about stuff in the newspaper days later, or perhaps on the radio the day after, but not live – not ‘this is happening now’.
Now, we live (according to the media) with the threat of someone running up to you in the street and stabbing you, or running you over, or blowing him or herself up next to you on a bus. Things change at an incredibly fast pace. 100 years ago, once you learnt how to operate your job or your life effectively, you could always do it. Now your skills might be out of date in less than 12 months.
According to the BBC the amount of information we have thrown at us in 1 day is more than a 15th century person would experience in their lifetime. Well, I am not sure where they get those figures from but I get the analogy. Things are getting…well…MORE. There is more data, there are more experiences and there are more expectations – that others put on us and, more importantly, that we put on ourselves.
Who is it exactly, that told you that you SHOULD be able to do 4 jobs at the same time? (Career person, Mother, Primary Carer, Housekeeper to name but 4). It isn’t realistic to expect yourself to be perfect at all 4, and there is a big tendency among women to ignore themselves in all of this. Our primary priority SHOULD be to look after our own mental and physical health. Think about it. If you get ill, if you have a breakdown, if you die (god forbid) – who is going to look after all the other people that YOU currently look after?
However, we don’t prioritise ourselves, do we? And then we wonder why we are tired all the time, tearful for “no” reason or feeling like staying in bed and shutting the world out. And we beat ourselves up for it. This is exactly where I was 5 years ago until I realised I was living someone else’s WHY and not my own!
So, I’m telling you, stop doing that. It is normal to feel overwhelmed with the pace of change, the amount of information thrown at you and the multiple responsibilities you have. So, now you know it is normal, that’s great. Time to do something about it!
Maybe it is time to take some time out. To stop for a minute and have a look at your priorities (which remember should be YOU at the number one spot). Perhaps you need to stick your head above the parapet and just breathe.
If you feel a little overwhelmed at the moment and need some help to find some ‘you time’ – click here to book a 20 minute chat with me (no charge) and let’s see if we can find you, in all this busy madness!