A baby boomer’s guide to depression

We got an email the other day and although what followed wasn’t standard fare for BoomerCafé, we decided to run it, because here’s how the email started: “My name is Laura, I’m a baby boomer, and I’m depressed. It’s not easy to admit that to a stranger, but like many, the death of Robin Williams has made me want to confront this problem.” Freelance writer Laura Chapman of Westerly, Rhode Island, who actually has written a guide about her problem, went on to write for us, You Keep It All In.

You keep it all in.

Well, at least that’s how I always felt. I was born in 1947 and my mother was born in 1917. She was an odd, quirky woman and brought me up in a very starchy “children should be seen and not heard” way, as I’m sure many of you might be familiar with.

(stock image)

(stock image)

Problems, should they arise, were swept under the carpet and left to gather dust -– covered over in a memory of fabric and let-it-be. You know when people say “If you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t there?” Sadly, I remember them, all of them -– I was a good girl, I didn’t misbehave, I didn’t do anything bad in case it might upset my mother. But that aside, it wasn’t the only reason I can remember the decade.

You know when people also talk about feeling really down, or a bit grouchy and low? Well that was me. Only, I’d get so low that I actually had periods of time I can’t remember because I slept through them. Whole weeks!

The other end of the scale would be when I came ‘round from these periods of depression feeling like I was so full of energy I’d absolutely pop if I didn’t get rid of it. To be honest, this was probably easier to cover up when I went away to study -– most people thought it was just high-jinx and me being in high spirits.

But still I couldn’t talk. I had my mother’s voice in my head.

I went through my life not knowing or understanding why I was like I was. I lost two marriages, though I have three beautiful children—but beautiful as they are, motherhood was tough for me, especially when, as my first husband put it, “She’s gone into one” again.

I met my current partner three years ago and he’d had some knowledge of mental health issues because he had been working as a counselor for some years. He unintentionally witnessed me at my worst one day and it was he who suggested what might be wrong.

I was actually sixty-five-years-old when I finally got diagnosed: I was suffering from hypomania and bipolar. It took me most of my adult life to find out what was wrong and to understand that it was okay totalk and to open up.

Suffering from any form of depression can be a real challenge. Depression in later life is like that, but you can talk and open up and know that it isn’t a crime to do so.

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  1. Thank you for sharing Laura. I know that must not have been easy, but I am sure that your opening up will go a long way to helping others facing, or perhaps not facing, the problems that are their challenge.

  2. Depression is one of the most difficult afflictions to self-diagnose partially due to the stigma attached to any mental illness.
    I am just a little older than the author and was not diagnosed with depression until I was in the hospital for an unrelated illness. As part of the hospital’s routine exam, I was visited by a psychiatrist. We had a wonderful conversation wherein I discussed my recent health problems and how lousy I felt. After a few more visits, the doctor decided to put me on a mild anti-depressant. All I can say is that it changed my life. I now look at things in a different light. My mind has never been clearer and even many of the aches and pains have gone away. I urge anyone who feels that they are not the same person they once were or are suffering from some undiagnosed illness or just sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, to get professional help. And remember, you are not crazy, you are depressed and there is a cure for that.

  3. Thanks, Laura, for being willing to write about depression. It runs in my family, and I’ve seen people really struggle with it. Finding the right medications is challenging. Sometimes, they don’t work.

    Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide

  4. Excellent, excellent article, Laura. I faced a similar battle, and had no clue what my condition was until I stumbled across a book in my early 40s and saw myself there. Although we suffered for decades, we are the fortunate ones who eventually learn what our diagnosis is and seek treatment. Hopefully articles like your help others do the same.

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