Depression and Aging: How to Cope with the Losses of Growing Older
There is nothing that gets you feeling more nostalgic than cleaning out the attic. I was cleaning out my attic the other day and I came across a box with maternity items in it including a brochure about breastfeeding and a well used manual breast pump. There were also maternity clothes, a few bibs, and a "boo-boo bunny" fashioned out of a washcloth. I held the bunny to my cheek. I had never used it with my children as it had been held captive all these years in this box. Then there was the bag tied with curled ribbons. It held all the cards I had received to say congratulations for having my babies. I opened one of the cards. It was from a dear friend from years ago who has since passed away.
I sat in my hallway with these things, remnants of a time of my life which will never come again. And then the tears came.
I am not sure what it is about reviving old memories but sometimes you not only unsettle the dust but emotions too. All of sudden I felt like one of the actors on stage in an "Our Town" play desperate to inquire, "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?-every, every minute?" It seems a blur doesn't it? Sometimes I feel like Rip Van Winkle. Periodically I go to sleep and then awaken to find that everything has changed.
There must be some metaphysical trick of time passing more quickly as you grow older. When I was a child waiting for summer or a holiday seemed an eternity. Now it seems that it is that much harder to hold onto moments. They pass with such rapid speed that I cannot catch up. Some days I want to lie in an open field and watch the ants crawl by. I want to observe the slow drip of water from my faucet until it plunges to the drain below. I want to watch the almost imperceptible dance of light and shadow as the breeze blows through a leafy awning of trees. Once I enjoyed the whir and chaos of a frenzied life. Now I want to capture time like fireflies in a jar.
But it just doesn't work that way does it? Time does go forward and despite our reservations we must go with it.
The time for babies is over for me. I have long since lost my need for breast pumps or maternity wear. My children, budding teenagers, will never be the cherub faced pot bellied toddlers they once were. Isn't it something that we always mourn what used to be? It is so easy to romanticize things after much time has passed. Do I really miss morning sickness, the pain of labor, and getting no sleep for weeks with no end? Well no, not exactly. But there is sadness of closing the door to a very special part of my life. One doesn't say it out loud but there is something about the words, "never again" which reminds us of our own mortality. What other things might I never do again? What things might I never get to do at all?
I glanced again at the baby card given to me by my friend, now deceased. I gently caressed the signature. One of the certain side effects to growing older is that people tend to die on you with greater frequency. This was a friend who liked to read the obituaries to make sure that someone he knew didn't die without him being aware. I thought it morbid then but now I may claim his practice as my own.
Thinking of my friend, I look in my email address list. My friend's name is still there. I simply can't bear to get rid of it. I picture him hosting my baby shower at work. Robust and smiling he takes a bite of cake decorated with sticky blue frosting. I was going to have a boy. My friend and I knew each for years. I was one of the first people he came out of the closet to. His dream was to move to San Francisco and write screen plays for the gay community. A well timed heart attack put an end to his aspirations. Sometimes I write him letters just to tell him how I am doing and how the babies grew. The letters return to me as "address unknown." But no matter. Somehow I like to think he gets them somehow.
There is a bittersweet sadness to visiting memories. And as you grow older these memories multiply and invade the empty spaces of your mind.
This is all part of the package. You move on from one life stage to the next. This *growth* means that you must leave some things behind forever. Some things you leave behind are experiences which can never be duplicated. Sometimes you lose friends during this process whether by distance or death. One thing is for certain in all of this and that is that you can never go back. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. Change will happen and lead us to places we never imagined.
It seems a mystical revelation to view time with its many subtle nuances. A decade seems to go by with the snap of the fingers. Yet right now my words seem to come from my typing fingers with a precise slowness. What will become of us in this next moment or years from now? Nobody knows. Wherever we are in time we all must take that flying leap of faith from our past into the future unknown.
I carefully placed my boxes and bags back into my attic. As I shut the door, I feel the great urge to eat cake with blue frosting.
If you like this post you may also like reading...
- "Older People with Depression are Ignored or Misdiagnosed" by Jerry Kennard
- "The Grief and Loss of Miscarriage" by Merely Me
- "Depression in the Golden Years" by Deborah Gray