TED and The Huffington Post invited me to write a post about my past personal battles with depression.
Goodbye Darkness, My Old Friend
This is war... and the battle is depression. I’ve never been a fighter. I’m anti-war. But now that I have won my personal battle with depression, I am ready to fight for others.
I am ready to fight for change. My message was going to be about conviction, creativity and courage with a mission to help people unleash their creativity, to empower people to make a better world. But then I read those words in an advertisement for a Mazda 3-D printer.
People don’t like talking about the big D unless of course it is a woman’s cup size. The more I talk about it, the easier it becomes, and the clearer it is to me about the importance of doing so. I love tossing the word around... Personally, I found it to be liberating, like a feminist burning her bra.
Depression needs a makeover. What if we changed the perception of depression? We could spin it. Happiness would no longer be in. Maybe I could find a fellow depressed PR person and ask them to dream up a new marketing campaign. The rebranding of depression. First I would get a list of celebrity names, known for their struggles with depression. How about Tony Soprano? Dr. Melfi would be the expert therapist who described depression in an episode of The Sopranos as a manifestation of rage turned inward. We could make a licensing agreement for t-shirts from the band, Rage Against the Machine, as our call for change.
Last year, I wrote about my reinvention at 60. My nice little story was picked up by many websites and I received countless emails from women who related to my message. We are not dead yet, I would reassure them. But there was a larger truth that I wasn’t ready to divulge at that time. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I was able to write about my depression. Taking control of something that took control of me my whole life felt like the best revenge. So, I whipped out my laptop and wrote about it. The response was so underwhelming it was depressing. My title “From Depression to Reinvention” was a neat little follow-up to my prior reinvention blog, “This is What 60 Looks Like.” I know, not a very original title, but WTF.
I was diagnosed with depression in my late 30’s. It explained a lot. After that, I had a twenty-year on-again off-again love affair with anti-depressants. They loved me, they loved me not. It was during the times that they loved me not, that were the hardest. When anti-depressants first lit up my life, it was a love affair that knew no boundaries. I knew happiness for the first time. When I was on anti-depressants the world was my oyster. I was living not just existing for the first time in my life. The problem was that it was on the anti-depressants terms not mine. I would spend my time chasing the dragon. Looking for that initial high.
She encouraged me to try different things. It wasn’t easy. When you are depressed that is the hardest thing to do. It’s like walking in quicksand. — Robin Bobbé
Depression is a lot like science fiction. In fact, the original 1956 science fiction movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, was a favorite of mine as a little girl. People’s bodies were invaded by extraterrestrials that then looked the same but were void of any emotion or individuality. Sounds like a metaphor to me. It wasn’t until I went to the right therapist that my life started to change. I told her I didn’t want to go back on drugs. I had, had enough. She didn’t want to hear about the family dog or blah, blah, blah from my past. She was concerned about the here and now. She encouraged me to try different things. It wasn’t easy. When you are depressed that is the hardest thing to do. It’s like walking in quicksand. Slowly, I did start trying new things. I found talents that I never knew existed.
I saw her for about a year and a half. When I got to the point where I felt the changes were happening, I told her that I was ready to move on, she said, yes, I agree.
I believe in therapy, I believe in drugs and I believe in my husband whose love and support through the treacherous years were part of my salvation. What I have learned in my long, arduous and ongoing journey of living without depression is my work is never done. Self discovery, finding the right therapist, the right drugs and the right support and belief in yourself, is key. Please join me in my rage against the machine of depression. Together we can demystify and destigmatize depression.
Nora Ephron was 65 when she felt bad about her neck. At 64, I feel bad about my elbows. It is nature’s gift that I don’t have to look at them. But you do, so let me apologize in advance. Maybe that’s why we are invisible. We are a walking advertisement for the inevitable pull of gravity and today’s youth clearly would rather not be reminded. Assisted suicide franchises for people over 50 will spring up replacing plastic surgery as the only alternative to aging. Who has the money? Even with all the over 65 perks, who wants the perks? I have a friend with a Senior MetroCard who keeps her full price “vanity” card handy so she wont be forced to suffer the slings and arrows of her coworkers discovering her well-guarded secret. If you can’t afford a facelift or fillers I have the cheapest alternative around. It’s called Warby Parkers and bangs. Aging gracefully is a bore and the term “age appropriate” gives me hives. Fashion should be age neutral not age appropriate. I want to make some noise, break boundaries, have a cocktail…maybe 2.
CNN recently wrote an exposé about how the modeling industry exploits young workers but nothing about older models. A stunning silver haired model, who shall remain nameless, recently shared her own story of exploitation in the industry with me. While on a fashion shoot for a high profile billion-dollar company she was asked to work double the amount of hours of the other models who were half her age. Why, she asked indignantly? The answer was that she sold double the amount of clothes and they needed more shots. She also discovered she was being paid half the amount of her younger counterparts. Ageism at its finest.
When I was in my mid 20’s I had a boyfriend who told me I needed to start exercising in order to keep my body in shape. Like the late bloomer I am, 40 years later I took his advice. I snuck onto the information highway where The Refinery29 plank challenge beckoned. Now I never leave home without it. Three minutes of blissful purgatory. Keep your bod together and who’s going to notice your neck?
As people around me are retiring, dying or even worse, leaving New York, I wonder, who am I and where am I going? At 64 I’m not ready to retire or die or even worse, leave New York. So I guess I go on discovering, growing and doing my 3-minute plank every day. Maybe I’ll just go outside and walk around naked. I’m sure to get noticed. And try to figure out what to do with my hair, while sipping a cocktail, of course.