Here is the latest column from the Suburban Journals of St. Louis. More on this theme in days to come.
(How is your Lent coming along?)
When we come to the point in our lives when we are called “middle aged,” so many factors come into play. In the past, I’ve touched on some of these, such as being in the “sandwich generation”, seeing kids growing up, some still at home, and elderly parents in a state of decline. The stressors of this time in our lives can be very real.
So on a serious note, I wanted to mention something about mid-life crisis.
It can be something more than wanting a new car, changing jobs, or trying to run to the mailbox without getting winded. For women, menopause is a real physical phenomenon, carrying along with it many emotional side effects. It has been well-documented, fairly well-treated, and is becoming better understood as more and more women are entering that phase of life.
A less-well documented and treated issue is the condition of male menopause.
Men from the ages of 40 to 60 can find themselves coming into life situations that may take a toll on them, even if they are not knowing it or acknowledging it.
Coming to the middle of life knowing that they may not be rich like they thought they would be by now, having a failed or less than fulfilling marriage, coming to the end of their working lives, facing retirement years and wondering if they will have enough money to make it for the next 20 years or so. The loss of youthful vigor, so closely connected to “maleness”. Troubles with children. Will I be healthy enough to enjoy my “golden years”, and not be Grampa Crabby at family gatherings?
These are only a few of the many things that can affect a man as he heads into mid-life.
Recent studies show that about 40% of all men in the 40 to 60 age range fall into some level of depression. The problem with this is that many men deny this, under the need to “be strong, fight through it, it’s just a phase.” Hey, Dr. Phil says we need to just “get over it”.
This needs to change.
Unfortunately, when we say “mental health”, we are conditioned in our society to think “crazy”. This can put road blocks in the way of people who would otherwise seek help. Why is it okay to take of one’s own physical health with diets and workout plans, golf and jogging, but when it comes to the health of the emotions, which so much controls the physical, it has to be done quietly, or not at all?
We see anxiety and depression in children, in teens, in young adults, in senior citizens. Why is it any surprise that it exists in middle-agers as well? Sure we may have more money than ever, be finally seeing our kids growing up to be great adults, have met some levels of success in our chosen careers. But sometimes life’s crazy twists can hit us in a different way, knock us for a loop, when we least expect it.
So it should be no less right to take the steps to improve your emotional well-being than to drop 15 pounds if you’re overweight. No less okay to talk to a professional counselor to help you over life’s humps than to workout 4 days a week for 30 minutes to improve your cholesterol and blood pressure.
Sometimes it takes more than putting a smile on your face, or crossing over to the sunny side of the street. More than prayer and acceptance and forgiveness, all good elements in the plan for emotional healing, but not the whole thing.
Sometimes it takes pro to help you get through it all.
So, seek help where it may be found. Use your employee assistance program, see a clergyman, contact family services available through religious and public agencies.
Don’t be afraid to get the help you need. For the sake of your loved ones. For your own sake.
Hard as it may be to take this step, it may be the most important one you take in your