The is an introspective/optimistic post on depression in later life – transient (sad/bad day) depression, not clinical/chronic depression. The latter is a more serious topic which I am not qualified to comment on.
When I was younger, I was prone to the many afflictions of youth such as self-obsession, boredom, lack of direction, bad poetry, and depressed days. This lasted until my life progressed bringing families and jobs and promises for the future. During these middle years, I had scant time for introspection or discouragement.
I imagine this is a pretty normal sequence of events.
However, even in the midst of this normality, I’d have unexpected pauses for the classic feelings of depression: “sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, ashamed or restless.”
Whether in response to my responsibilities or benefiting various self-help programs or just dumb luck, I learned to deal with these episodes of gloom. I developed/acquired stories to tell myself (This too will pass) and activities (jogging) that minimized the duration of these rough spells.
Today’s thesis is that this middle stage of life between growing up and growing old is the ideal time to struggle with (minor) depression. It is the period with best social support and the most distractions. The is the cow pox period for mental health. Minor mental health problems can be fought and defeated.
I believe that the busy middle stage of life is the time to to build the habits and attitudes required for later life.
As the years go on, family moves away and retirement arrives. Social life is hollowed out, and calendars and to-do lists are cleared. Life returns to the afflictions of youth: self-obsession, boredom, lack of direction, bad poetry, and depressed days. Unfortunately, all this arrives without the promise of a long life ahead.
This is a time when internal resources at critical. Once again on our own, I wonder if for some it might be too late to acquire mental health skills.
I feel fortunate that the anti-depression skills I acquired in my middle years are with me now that I really need them.
Target has kicked off their Wellness Initiative by providing Fitbits for their 335,000 employees. With massive investment, Corporate Fitness is again in the news. One might wonder if this is all hype and PR, or whether these corporate programs, which seem to come and go, have any lasting value.
I have a single anecdotal data point to contribute to the discussion.
In 1978, I was working at Xerox and corporate wellness and fitness was all the rage for large, progressive corporations. Their program was not as grand as Target current initiative, but given the 1970s technology, it was state of the art.
The handed out copies (it was Xerox) of monthly calendars for employees to log the miles they ran. After you ran 50 or 100 miles, you got a T-shirt. Not much compared to the $1 million prize Target is offering..
Did this work?
Well … in 1978 I was a cigarette smoking computer scientist – not so uncommon in those days. However, I took my running log, stopped smoking, and maintained the log long enough to turn in a record for my 100 miles and get my t-shirt.
It turns out that that was enough. By 1979, I ran my first marathon and continued that for 25 years, and still exercise daily. I am scheduled to participate in a team triathlon next month.
That corporate fitness program certainly worked for me.