Disclaimer: This post is not for the Baby Boomers who are mental health advocates and believe that sometimes talk therapy, medication, psychiatry, etc. is needed. This post is for those Boomers who seem to dismiss depression, anxiety and other mental health illnesses as just something that people need to ‘power through’.
I’ve spoken with a couple of my friends and one topic seems to be coming up, fairly often. Being early to mid-thirty somethings, we all have one thing in common.
We are the children of the Baby Boomers.
Baby Boomers are the children of those that returned from war and had a LOT of sex. Baby Boomers are controversial. There’s been a lot of criticism by the Boomers toward us Millennials. We’re called lazy, entitled, and so forth. The Boomers don’t understand why our lives are challenging even though we’ve had to deal with crippling student loan debt, increased cost of living, a huge recession, a substantial deficit, two wars purchased on credit…the list goes on and on.
But that’s fine. I get it. Every generation is like, “The damn kids, these days. No respect. No hard work. In my day, we had to do blah blah blah without blah blah blah…and I survived!” Sometimes it’s hard to see younger folks handed the things that you clawed your way through to get to. Younger folks don’t (and can’t sometimes) appreciate the fires you walked through to get where you are.
But there’s one thing I am simply not OK with. It’s the seemingly large number of Boomers’ approach to mental health care.
I’ve encountered three friends who have told me that their parents have dismissed their crippling mental health issues. One friend had horrible prenatal depression and anxiety to the point where she almost lobbed an atom bomb on her life, in full self-destruct mode.
Her mom told her to “just be happy”.
Another friend was experiencing postpartum depression and was thinking about doing a check-in with her therapist to make sure things didn’t get out of control. Her mom’s advice? “Oh I don’t think you need to worry about that – postpartum depression is over-diagnosed.”
When she told me that…I saw red. But the only thing I can do is passionately offer support and compassion and encourage my friend to go talk to her therapist.
Another one of my girlfriends was considering therapy but she didn’t want to tell her mom because her mom doesn’t “believe in that”.
Boomers – what exactly is going on here? Is this some type of “I struggled so everyone else has to struggle”? Is it vindictive? Do you feel like by embracing the idea that mental health illnesses are actually illnesses which need to be treated …does this mentality feel like a criticism on you? Are you jealous that we are more open about mental health issues? Do you not want better resources so that our generation struggles as much as yours did with anxiety, depression and living lives of quiet desperation?
Of course not all Boomers had that experience. But really, what exactly is the crux of this?
If your daughter had a heart condition and needed surgery to fix the problem, would you tell her to just “power through”? That heart conditions are really over-diagnosed and surgery seems a bit extreme?
No. You would do everything to save her. You would call upon doctors and modern medicine to make her whole again.
Do you truly not understand what depression is? Do you not think it’s possible that the chemicals and hormones create this alternate reality where you believe you are behaving logically and rationally – but that’s not actual reality?
For you Boomer women – have you ever had PMS so strongly that when you finally came out of it you felt like someone had taken over your body and possessed you? That you were angry and couldn’t explain why? If so…then isn’t it possible that the chemicals the body requires to grow a human and feed said human could create the same conditions or even worse conditions?
In my case, when I got treatment, I suddenly got better, my fatigue and hopelessness evaporated and I felt like myself again…did I just not try hard enough first? How was it that I got better through treatment, if all I needed to do was just tell myself to be happy? My body corrected itself in response to an adjustment of serotonin and an increase of estrogen and progestin. So then, doesn’t it stand to reason that if treatment made me better, that perhaps trying to practice ‘mindfulness’ or ‘choosing to be happy’ might not have worked? Since clearly a chemical response fixed things?
I realize I’m rambling here…but bear with me for just a bit longer.
Even though I’ve always been a huge advocate of getting medication, talk therapy, for people with mental health illnesses, it actually took me going through my own perinatal depression and then subsequently getting better to realize just how much of an out of body experience depression is.
I didn’t realize just how those chemicals truly create an alternate reality – how they sap all of your energy and hope. It was as if you and I were sitting here looking out at the beach, and I told you that the sky was red, the beach was in fact, not a beach but rather a grassy knoll and martians were walking around killing each other. You’d look at me as if I was crazy, right? But do you see? Do you really see? That horrific scene would be all that I could physically see. You’d tell me to “power through” or exercise so that I could see the calm blue sky, with cotton candy clouds on the windy, sunny day. But I couldn’t change what I was seeing. I couldn’t just think something and make my circumstances change and a different scene appear before my eyes. My brain was telling me that everything I saw was TRUTH.
That is the type of mindfuck that depression creates within your brain.
You don’t get treatment to feel “happy”. You get it to get back to feeling like yourself. Why would you not want your child to use every imaginable tool to feel like themselves again? In more extreme cases, why would you risk your child feeling like suicide is the only option because you think mental health is a myth?
If there’s even a 5% chance that you could be wrong about your views of therapy and medication…why not encourage your child to seek out treatment…just to be safe? If there is even just a 5% chance that there is a fix out there to keep your child safe from self-harm, why wouldn’t you embrace every tool in your arsenal?
That, my Boomer* friends, is what I simply don’t understand.
*I will caveat that there is still a stigma with mental health disorders in society overall. Boomers do not have a monopoly on this. Additionally, not all Boomers are like this. In fact, there are many Boomers out there who are huge advocates of mental health treatment. However, my friends and I have observed that Boomers do seem to be more likely to reject mental health care.