Depression and anxiety have many faces. Happy one moment, sobbing the next. Refined, then frayed. More than 57.7 million American adults suffer from some form of mental illness, including 18.1 million who have been diagnosed with depression. The epidemic continues to spiral as we try to somehow manage the stress of modern life with its constant demands.
I wonder if the human population has always been this depressed, just undiagnosed. Or if perhaps society’s relatively recent focus on psychotherapy has created some kind of artificial sickness our ancestors would never have dreamed of labeling a disease. But if you’ve ever been close to it—really close, as I have been in my own life and my own family—you know it’s real. Scary real.
Even more shocking is the number of women suffering from depression. The more I dug into the problem, the more I realized its vastness. I discovered that women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression. One in four women will suffer from some form of depression in her lifetime. From anxiety attacks, as in my case, to mood disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and so on, women are under siege. And the majority of women who are wrestling with depression fit nicely in the 25- to 44-year-old age bracket.
We aren’t depressed because we are getting old; we are depressed in the prime of our lives.
During the years when we ought to be making some of our greatest contributions to others and to the world, we are stuck. Caught in a quagmire of confusion, hardly able to put one foot in front of the other. What is going on? And why now?
I’m no medical doctor, and I have no degree in psychology, but I do love to listen to the stories of women. Women who are in the sweet spot of this demographic who are fighting to make sense of their lives. I hear the stories, unpack their pain, and consistently find a common perpetrator.
We don’t know who we are.
We all feel this self-doubt. The nagging sense that we don’t quite have what it takes. The loss of clarity over why on earth we exist. And if women aren’t empowered to cultivate their uniqueness, we all suffer the loss of beauty, creativity, and resourcefulness they were meant to inject into the world.
This is the story many of us live with. But it’s not the life we want to live or the legacy we want to follow us for generations. In the still moments, we cling to the hope that there must be a better way.
When we keep things hidden, we seem put together on the outside, but is that really who we are? When we lay bare our loneliness and isolation, and acknowledge our coping mechanisms, they begin to lose their grip on us.
Over time, the more we name our struggles, the more they are rendered powerless. We find relief. We begin to feel again.
Rebekah Lyons is a mother of three, wife of one, and dog walker of two living in New York City. She serves alongside her husband, Gabe, as cofounder of Q Ideas, an organization that helps leaders winsomely engage culture. When you purchase her new book, Freefall to Fly, you receive three free gifts. Details here.
Excerpt from Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning © 2013 by Rebekah Lyons. Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Excerpted with permission. All rights reserved.
was very well written. Thank you.
You have nailed it for me. Thank you so very much, I know that my feelings are valid and I am not alone. It was like you were reading my mind. I can’t tell you how much this exert means to me.
Rachael [email protected]
Like my subject line says thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s nice seeing more and more women are able to speak out about their depression. I struggled day to day for so long I snapped and thought by pushing everyone out would be easier than facing my fears. It wasn’t and I started a long journey in healing. I was diagnosed with having bi-polar disorder because I would do off the wall things without thinking of the re precautions of my actions. I was regularly taking my meds then made a irrational decision and skipped a few days. I did a downward spiral and depression overtook my life once again. Now I am months along in my journey of seeing a therapist and taking my meds and I am feeling happier everyday. so my advice is for women who physically feel sick and cannot get out of bed due to sadness please for yourself, family and friends go to your doctor and find a therapist to talk it out. Every life is a miracle and precious. To every woman who needs to hear they’re beautiful, you are and your worth living today and tomorrow will be better. [email protected] xo
I agree to all of this. I have to once suffered from depression. but everyword in this i agree to. i am supporting you guys 100%
As a woman who has battled what I a thought was just major depressive episodes for and anxiety for the bulk of my life, I was finally diagnosed as bipolar a few years ago. Having a clear diagnoses gave way to new treatment plans and medications that have allowed me to work for the first time in a decade. While the medication is not a cure is does prolong the periods in between my bipolar episodes to allow me to lead a somewhat normal life. Many people will never understand that mental illness is not a weakness of character, but a disease.
“Many people will never understand that mental illness is not a weakness of character, but a disease.” That really resonates with me and you could not be more right. I’ve battled depression for a solid decade now (sadly I’m only 24) and even my mother, who is my biggest supporter in this life, doesn’t fully understand it. She still says things to me like “Just get up out of bed and go for a run and you’ll feel better!” While I appreciate her encouragement, what she doesn’t seem to understand is that when you have depression, the motivation to do the simplest of things – such as get out of bed – just does not exist. For the past six years, more often than not, I have slept through entire days. Days I will never get back. Days that depression stole from me. It is a day to day battle with this monster in my life, and the lives of many millions of others the world over, but I will never let the monster win. I am determined to live a full, meaningful life full of love, laughter, and joy whenever and wherever I can find it. We are all so much more than our illness. We are important, capable, beautiful women who can contribute so much to the world while we are living in it. At my lowest points, I remember that I am never alone in my suffering and it gets me through. I see the light at the end of the tunnel and continue towards it.
http://globalcole.blogspot.com/search/label/The%20Depression%20Cure In case anyone is interested, The Depression Cure, was a book that helped me. I blogged the entire process. If you click on the link, and scroll down to the first blog you can ready my story, and then the 6 steps I did to help me. It changed my life. 🙂
Amazing blog but perhaps missing the crucial point that perhaps women arent more likely to get depression, but actually that men are less likely to seek help for their depression, therefore not getting diagnosed. Men suffer a greater stigma when it comes to depression and it is a huge problem.