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.