Sitting in my favorite chair, sipping a cup of dark roast, I realized my 59th birthday is three months away. After a moment of terror, I fell into thinking about my life so far and where 58 years has “brought” me: I am approaching 60, was laid-off 6 months ago, I’m unattached, and starting my fifth career. The only constant in my life I could come up with, the one thread tying the patchwork pieces together, is depression.
“Wow,” I said to my cats, “the pinnacle of almost six decades of living! I never could have imagined.” Then, I did what anyone in this situation would do, I laughed. I don’t know what else to do with life sometimes. Besides, though my pinnacle of achievement is not as stupendous as I thought it would be by now, I’m happy (when I’m not depressed).
Since my seven-year marriage ended with an itch in 1992, I have lived alone. Though I’ve been told it is not normal to love living alone year after year, I do. I am not currently dating or companioning with anyone either, causing friends and family to gasp with concern. It is true, my new freelance writing venture keeps me home a lot, but I can work all day without wearing a bra; a dream comes true.
What’s funny about my depression is that I have had it since junior high, and didn’t know it until I was 42. I have had a couple bouts of nasty major depression, but generally I am dysthymic (diagnosed with dysthymia). This type of depression is chronic and wears on you like water dripping on a rock. When people develop it in childhood or adolescence they can grow up thinking the symptoms are their personality, as I did.
Upon reaching adulthood, I struggled through employment and social situations with all the pizazz of cardboard. It took a few years of counseling to separate myself from the symptoms. The process of therapy intrigued me, so I went to graduate school and started a fourth career in counseling. That turned out well and left me with another of life’s little jokes. I recently figured out that at the rate I am paying back my student loan, I will make the final payment when I’m 190 years old.
I admit to having an occasional daydream about being carried off by a financially sound knight on a white horse, but starting my own freelance business is energizing. I am combining years of counseling expertise with my love of writing. The fact that I am, so far, only making half of what I need for a simple, comfortable life is more motivating than anxiety producing. It forces me to have faith in myself.
I would not have left my agency counseling job if I hadn’t been made to. The three of us that were let-go because of “funding cuts” were all female and over 55. Why would a mental health agency want only young people? I happen to believe life experience is valuable, especially since I have acquired some. It feels as if it’s my fault I am 58 and three fourths. Really, I put it off as long as I could.
People keep telling me I “must be” lonely, but I’m not. Though unopposed to making new friends, I have enough on my plate right now. I had assumed it would take a year to get my writing business rolling, and that I would spend oodles of time at my computer making that happen. Except for the occasional day when depressive symptoms flare up, I find this yoke very light.
Being almost 59, unattached, and working for myself is a rickety but rich spot to be in; not quite as good as winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but close. As imperfect as my life appears from the outside (even to me), I feel alive and that is priceless.
ABOUT JACQUELINE MARSHALL:
Jacqueline Marshall is a writer for Help for Depression. She specializes in the areas of mental health and personal development. She has a MA in Counseling Psychology and is a licensed therapist living near Chicago.