Depressed or stressed out in middle age? #mentalhealthawareness for Gen X women has to be better.
The medical assistant was rushing me through the pre-work at my annual physical appointment today. I recognized her from a recent sick visit, and braced myself for the usual impersonal, rushed experience. Expressionless and disinterested even on the best of days, she was now firing off extra questions since it was my big wellness visit for the year. Exercise, eating, tobacco use - check. I answered, she stared at her keyboard, typing furiously. Then, quickly, without feeling or even looking at me, “Have you felt stressed or depressed lately?”
I was shocked! I’d never been asked that in the pre-work part of a physical. This must be the healthcare community working mental illness into patient care, I thought! Love that, but this kind of setting and delivery won’t work. Not for me. For who?
I sat there knowing I needed to answer her. Yes, I thought. Let me reveal my emotional struggles and problems to you in this rushed moment, when you’ve already shown you are moving at a frantic pace to get to the next patient, just schlepped me onto the horrible scale (it must be a bit off!) every female #GenXer dreads, and recorded my weight.
How did I answer her? I had to laugh, then said “No more than usual!” Did she really want to hear about the trials and tribulations of a Gen X woman? Worries about parenting teens, summer logistical struggles, finding time to exercise before a 30-year high school reunion, workplace stuff, friendship drama, financial woes? She couldn’t care less, I was sure; didn’t think that was funny; and was already rushing me out of the tiny draped area and into the exam room.
This got me thinking. If I was seriously struggling with stress or depression, I certainly wouldn’t want this stranger to be my guiding light. I would rather someone close to me was checking in, saying “How are you doing?” Luckily, I have those people. For those who don’t, is this kind of exchange with the medical assistant their big great hope? I hope not.
A lot of Gen X women should be talking to someone. A recent Happiness Project study showed Gen X was the least satisfied with life. More than one in five women are on antidepressants. And, as Amy Capetta recently wrote in Woman’s Day, these 13 “midlife crisis” signs are real.