My life has been busy with weekly appointments—once a week with my therapist and once a week I go to group therapy. Both have been key in my continued recovery from severe depression, which started a year and a half ago.
My group therapy consists of other women, with the youngest being 20 years old. Each week I learn more about them, as I’m sure they learn more about me. What has been the most interesting though is my reaction to the 20-year-old.
When I was 20, I was in college, as is she, and I had no idea that I had a self at all—forget about owning my feelings. Back then I did not even know that I had my own thoughts and feelings, and I was certainly not capable of naming them. I am so proud of my group-mate, as she is 20 years ahead of me, but at the same time, I’ve learned it’s never too late to make these changes for ourselves.
Change is a constant throughout life. I am close to turning 42, and looking back to my 40th birthday, I can see how much I’ve changed in just that short time.
Two years ago I was super woman. I took on my parenting role as I took on my professional role, with the need to maintain control and “do it all.” Nothing could be wrong with my life or how I was feeling as long as I was in control—making dinner, preparing my daughter’s food for preschool the next day, cleaning the house, monitoring appointments, etc. As long as I was in charge, life was “normal.”
But then came my battle with severe depression. I had to hang up my super woman cape and acknowledge that I can’t be in control of everything (and I recognize that I really never was!). I now share tasks with my husband in terms of our relationship, parenting our daughter, and running our home. I am not capable of working full-time right now. There is a layer of dust that coats all the pieces of furniture in my home. And I feel overwhelmed by tasks, large and small—from making dinner to answering the phone.
At times, I miss my old persona, the one who had everything “in control,” but I know that my current self is actually a much healthier version of me.
How can feeling overwhelmed by daily tasks represent a healthier “me?” Two years ago, I conducted all these tasks while feeling a level of resentment—I carried within me a certain level of anger, bitterness, and antipathy that no one would wish to feel at all times. I would often lash out at my husband who suffered greatly as a result of my anger, and sometimes I’d even lose my patience with my daughter.
Now, thanks to therapy and my recovery process, when I start to feel anxious about something like cleaning, I allow the feeling and guide myself through it, knowing all along that it’s just a little dust, and no one will suffer as a result of not cleaning. Or I talk it through with my husband, who is probably the most level-headed person I know. He is the first to say, “It’s OK if it doesn’t get done today! Not a big deal!”
With this healthy way of being also comes a level of acceptance. I am different, and I am learning to accept that. I know I’m at risk for another major depressive episode as the statistics are against me, but as I complete my course of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) over the next couple of months and continue with my therapies and medications, I am also at a point where I can truly live my life.
I am healthy in my head and in my heart, which is how I explained depression to my young daughter. I told her the boo boos in my head and heart receive a lot of help from a lot of different people. Now I can be more present with her and my husband. I no longer feel like simply a shell of a woman.
So, for me, change is good. Change is better than good. I have never felt as healthy, medically and mentally, as I do now. My 40s may have started off a bit shaky, but now I am on a much smoother course. I do not have, nor did I ever have, perfect control over my life. And that’s OK. I hope my young group-mate continues on her course and gains this level of self-acceptance one day. I like who I am today. Change is good.