As an well-informed boomer and specialist in midlife psychology, I have been trying to draw attention by writing about and publishing pieces on the ALARMING increase in depression and suicide among Boomers, especially among women going through menopause, since 2008.
DEATH NEED NOT BE AN OUTCOME OF MENTAL ILLNESS IN OUR WORLD TODAY! WE CAN DO SO MUCH BETTER THAN THIS…
In 2013, when my cousin killed himself and my brother John disappeared after descending into a profound, private despair, I dedicated my book: Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife, to them, as I continued to seek a deeper understanding of the reasons why midlife suicides keep rising. Here’s an excerpt from one of those pieces from the Huffington Post, April 2013:
There have been a number of studies on boomer suicide that seek to explain why we continue to kill ourselves at an ever-increasing rate. Some say it is the “period effect,” blaming the historical and cultural experiences we share as a generation. The “cohort effect“ theorizes that being born into the largest age cohort in American history created unbearable competition for limited resources, including jobs.
Then there are the facts: Boomers share higher depression and substance abuse rates than any previous American generation. Could it be that we did not face the kind of adversity growing up that creates successful coping skills? Were we raised to be too optimistic, and now find we cannot deal with how it all turned out?
Beyond all of the mythology around boomers, the fact is we now face extreme wage inequality, and the highest level of poverty since the generation born before World War I. We also face ever-increasing personal debt. In 1965, the ratio of household debt to income was 60%. In 2012, that ratio had risen to 163%.
We may have been born at the high point of American optimism, but that has vanished…
Some say Boomers have been witnesses to the death of the American dream. Most of us grew up with high expectations for our lives, but now, as we reassess where we’ve been and where we hope to go, we must admit, this is as good as it gets. We will never be richer or younger than we are right now.
I only know that I tire of so much misinformation about boomers and their lives. I have had enough personal experience with midlife depression to now feel determined to do what I can to alleviate some of the suffering, and this terrible waste of human potential.
Globally, about a million people kill themselves each year, the single largest cause of violent death. It remains mysterious and debilitating for those who surround every suicide and ask the question: What made him/her do it?
Through my research, I have learned just how normal and natural it is to feel depressed and disillusioned in our 40s and 50s as we discover that our lives may not turn out as previously planned. What is the best way to cope with these feelings of hopelessness? I share what I have learned in my ten years of research, and what has worked for me, in my books about boomer psychology, midlife despair and how to change your midlife for the better.
Laura Lee Carter, Midlife researcher, author, psychotherapist
I received so many heart-felt responses to my recent post about the many reasons and ways that we grieve. One really hit home. Writer and member of Women of Midlife, Carla Birnberg, told how the grief from divorce “hits me in waves at odd times and often in public places.” This brought back memories of how I struggled with my own divorce in the early 2000s, so I decided to share this essay:
Divorce: The Loss of the Dream:
Sad to say, I find myself to be a bit of an expert on divorce. It certainly wasn’t my intention to know so much about it, but there it is. The first thing I learned from my own experience and talking with hundreds of others is that divorce is always traumatic.
When my husband of six years and I decided to call it quits back in the year 2000, we went about it in the most civilized and ‘adult’ way. We both agreed that we were making each other miserable, we had tried various counselors, and we were simply too different in our goals and interests to stay together. In other words, it was a purely rational decision. Unfortunately, my emotions didn’t agree. While it seemed easy for my soon-to-be-ex to cruise through this difficult time in our lives, I was crushed and temporarily emotionally disabled. I felt like the biggest failure in the history of womankind and his apparent inability to feel anything, just made things worse.
I quickly launched into a mid-life crisis of astronomical proportions, asking myself all the tough questions. Why can’t I ‘do’ marriage? What is it about me that makes me unable to be with others emotionally? Do I have to live alone forever? Why doesn’t love last?
As luck would have it, I lost my job just two years after the separation and divorce, intensifying the depth and drama of my ongoing mid-life crisis. Then I began to ask myself even more difficult questions like: What am I doing here? Will I ever find meaning in my life? How do I want the rest of my life to be different? I felt a strong need to understand the first half of my life, so as to make the second half better.
I got so wrapped up in this quest, I decided to start my own dating service to explore the simple question, “Do I still believe in love?” while helping other recent divorcees with their own explorations. Although it wasn’t a conscious choice at the time, it turned out to be the best therapy for understanding my own feelings about love and rejection.
Lessons learned from divorce
First of all I learned that I most certainly was not alone in my disillusionment with love. There are millions of us who don’t know how we feel about love and relationships. Interviewing scores of disillusioned divorcees showed me that we all have a lot to learn.
It became clear to me that we can learn a lot more about a person by divorcing them, than we could ever learn by staying married to them. When we are married, we are always “playing nice” to some extent. We still have a lot invested in the relationship and its future. When divorce becomes real, and it takes varying amounts of time for each of us to register this disturbing reality, the gloves come off and we become more honest with our soon-to-be-ex.
There is no more relationship to protect so we naturally begin protecting ourselves and our own interests. In short, we say what we’ve been thinking all along!
A singles workshop I offered to my dating clients provided a moment of awakening and clarity for me. We were involved in a discussion about the distance between the simple rational reality of divorce, the total ambivalence we may feel towards our ex, and yet the contradictory deep emotional emptiness that can ensue after it all sinks in. A short, elderly gentleman who looked a bit like Sigmund Freud and spoke with a heavy German accent stood up and said, “Divorce is not about the loss of a relationship, it’s about the loss of the dream.” Truer words were never spoken. I had not only lost a significant human connection in my life, but, more importantly, I had lost all faith in love and the beauty it can bring to an otherwise difficult existence.
For what is life, if we fear that we will never feel true love again?
I knew then that I had to get busy and turn my heart around. I needed to find a way to believe in love again. In my case, this wasn’t an easy assignment, but I took all the necessary steps and love did return, so much better than I could ever have imagined!
This essay appears in my first book “Midlife Magic: Becoming The Person You Are Inside.” Please let me know if you would like to purchase this or any of my books direct from me for a great price! MidlifeCrisisQueen@ gmail.com