Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sandwich Generation

Hi there; it's been a while since we met. Almost a year. It wasn't my intention to be absent that long, but sometimes you can't always get what you want. Why was I absent for so long? Various reasons; a few of which I would like to share with you.

For over a year now I haven't been feeling too good. Oh, don't worry, physically I'm OK (besides the obligatory lower back pain), but mentally I wasn't in the right place. I was tired. Tired of it all. Being a father, being a husband, being a man. I had lost my sense of purpose. It took me some time and some harsh conversations with J. to realize I was depressed. Talking to a therapist didn't seem to help me. I went back to my family doctor and had a long chat with her. She pointed out that more and more men of my generation are having issues like this. We start having children at a later age, resulting in us being squeezed between the care for our children and the care for our parents, who are starting to need help as well. A Sandwich Generation. Doesn't sound as cool as Gen X or Gen Y and for sure it isn't. I haven't heard of a band that stands to the Sandwich Generation as Nirvana stands to Gen X and I bet if there was they wouldn't be as cool.

During our conversation my doctor suggested I might try some medication. Reluctantly I took her advice and started taking these. For me this was a big issue. I've always hated pathologizing the slightest issue. I've always felt that our society doesn't want to accept people who are outside the norm; who don't behave according to a therapists' checklist. I was skeptical, but decided to try it. I've been on medication now for over 6 months. I feel better. I'm not depressed anymore. All's well that ends well you might say. Not really. This is not the end of it, you see. It took me a long time to realize that I was depressed. During that depression I wasn't the best husband and father that I could have been. I had lost my sense of purpose. I neglected my duties. My duty as a husband to provide comfort, to provide support, to love my partner, to stand by her side. During my depression I had let J. down, although I had promised all the above when I married her and had vowed to take care of her. Luckily for me, J. did what she needed to do and pointed me in the right direction. It wasn't easy. I was stubborn; I didn't realize I was depressed, I didn't realize how far down the hole I was. Reluctantly I took the first step. The first step of many. Now I'm working hard at regaining my place as a husband and a father. It's not easy, but together with a therapist and some medication I'm making headway. I look towards the future and see a loving family. The pressure of being part of the Sandwich Generation is still there, but I feel I'm learning how to cope with it.

Talking to colleagues and friends, I've noticed that a lot of men of my generation are dealing with these issues. Some cope better than others, but during conversations I notice that they too are having a difficult time. There is still too much of a taboo for men to seek help. Don't forget that suicide is the number one cause of death for men between 25 and 34 years old, living in Flanders!! Not cancer or heart disease or traffic accidents... no...suicide!!

I was lucky. My beautiful wife loves me like no other and she pushed  and shoved me in the right direction. It wasn't pretty or easy, but she succeeded. I'm on my way. I'm content and happy with what life has given me. I love my wife, I love my children and I love myself.