She* wasn’t depressed. Not in the clinical “you have a brain chemical imbalance and need medication” sense anyway. Discouraged? Yep. Disillusioned? Certainly. Dissatisfied? Disheartened? Discontent? Yes. Yes. Yes. Her family was growing up. Her children were all in school full time. Her husband had a great job that more than adequately met their needs, and they had agreed early on that she would be the ‘at home’ parent, volunteering in classrooms and managing the household, even when the children weren’t home full time. No, that wasn’t really the problem. It was her. She was struggling with an identity crisis…of sorts. “Who am I? Really? Underneath all this?” she often wondered.
Her roles—wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend—were clear. Or were they? Under all those titles, who was this person wearing these hats? She really wasn’t sure. She had married young and had her babies young. She didn’t have a career to fall back on. Honestly, she doesn’t even really want one. Most of the time. She had never lived anywhere but with her parents or with her husband. She didn’t know what it was to be on her own, and at the moment it sounded completely heavenly. She even fantasized about running away. No one to cook for…except herself. No one to clean up after. No one clinging to her or crying at the bathroom door. There was a whole world out there to explore…and she was ‘stuck’ here with people who didn’t appreciate her. Or so it felt.
The more she thought about it, the worse things seemed. Her husband didn’t see HER anymore. She couldn’t remember the last time he had said she looked beautiful. He didn’t seem to notice the time she put into keeping the house clean and tidy, or cooking appealing meals. He only saw the messes, and felt free to call them out any time. (Only when she was older and wiser did she realize that perhaps he only saw the messes because she was so competent and so good at what she normally did that the mess was glaring.) Her children loved her, yes, but they only ‘needed’ her for rides to practices, hot food, and clean laundry. Was this all there was to life?
What about the dreams she had when she was a girl? What was it she wanted to do and be? And now, did she really like what she had done and become? Could she make changes and alter her course, or was it too late? Did she really want to? Or was it too hard, too frightening, too ‘out of character’ for her to even think about? What would people think? How would it affect her family? After pondering those questions for days (or weeks…or months…or even years), she decides to do:::nothing. “I’m just having a bad day. Tomorrow will be better.” she tells herself. And for a while it is. Maybe.
The thing is—if the root cause is not addressed, the problem is not resolved. For her, gutting it out meant that nothing changed. Nothing got worse, for sure, but things didn’t necessarily get better. Sure, she got better at ‘living with’ her issues, but they weren’t resolved. Even knowing who she is in Christ, knowing that He loves her, and understanding her value in His kingdom didn’t make things better. It helped, but the underlying issues still remain. And surprisingly few people are willing to truly hear her, to be open enough, transparent enough, to help her. Trying to explain it to her husband was hard…he just couldn’t understand what she was saying. Years later, the issues she thought were gone pop up again, and this time it’s harder to cope. Harder to ‘gut it out,’ to want to stay with the status quo, and much, much harder to talk about. After all, life is just that much better, from all appearances. The kids are great people, mostly grown and starting to be on their own. Her husband is successful, and their marriage seems to be great. Yet she still struggles with her own identity crisis. Every day, she wonders, “What is the answer to this? Who am I? Who do I WANT to be?” And she feels like the questions still have no answers…
*’She’ is not a single person; ‘she’ is a composite of women I have met and talked to over the years. Young moms, gals my age, older women—many of them have shared pieces of this story. Often shared in desperation, they feel totally alone. I am honest with them: I understand. I get it...most of it. I’ve been there...or some of those places. I only wish I had answers. For all of us.