On my weekly “Ask Beatty Show” on the Progressive Radio Network, (airing live every Monday afternoon, 3–4 p.m. ET), I open every show with a “How Am I Doing” segment, where I ask listeners to do an honest, in-depth, self-assessment, where they can evaluate a number of areas in their lives. The assessment includes an accounting of one’s mental health, state of one’s relationships and sex life, friends, business associates, early traumas, lifestyle, money, work, sleep, physical health, diet and possible addictions to prescription and over-the-counter medications, alcohol and recreational drugs. I hope that you will consider making this self-assessment a regular part of your life too. Some of your answers may surprise you and may explain how well or how badly you are doing in your life and relationships.
As we try to navigate our busy lives, it’s easy to lose sight of whether we’re living in ways that are in our best interest or whether consciously or unconsciously we are engaging in destructive, self-destructive or self-sabotaging behavior. It takes a lot of courage to be willing to acknowledge, address and resolve, as best as we can, the things that may be getting in the way of our being able to live a healthier and happier life. And even though we can’t change our history, we have an opportunity every day to reboot and become mindful of the things that we can and need to do (and not do) to nurture ourselves. This process enables us to live the best possible life.
I recently received an email from a woman who is trying to figure out why, despite seeming to “have it all,” she is feeling depressed and discontented. I hope you will find it helpful in giving you an idea how you might proceed with your own self-assessment.
I am not exactly sure what’s wrong with me, but I have been feeling depressed and lethargic for about a year. I am 54 years old and have a fairly good marriage. I have two children, 19 and 20, who are both off to college and doing very well. I am fortunate to have good health, financial stability and a close circle of friends. I also spend half the week volunteering at a women’s shelter.
Despite all of the good things in my life, I walk around feeling lonely and disconnected. I feel that I am “performing” most of the time and it’s only when I am alone, that I am able to really acknowledge how badly and empty I feel.
I actually feel embarrassed and guilty writing to you, since I think that most people would give anything to have the life that I have. Can you help me figure out what’s really going on?
Helene G., East Hampton
I am sorry that you are struggling and am impressed that you have reached out to me and are willing to take an honest look and discover what’s really bothering you. I am curious if you can identify what happened about a year ago that seemingly caused you to feel depressed and lethargic. One of the possibilities that comes to mind is that your home and raising your children, which naturally occupied so much of your time, love, commitment and energy for so long, has now become an empty nest. As happy as we may be for our children moving on with their lives, their leaving home is an enormous adjustment for parents. I know how difficult it was for me when my own daughter left home to go to college. Have you been able to talk about this new stage of life with your husband or friends? No need to be stoic!
You also mentioned that you have a “fairly good marriage.” Certainly, no marriage or relationship is perfect. However, are there issues (big or small) that are bothering you that you feel that you want to talk about with your husband? Your sex life? His health? Your lifestyle? Retirement? Remember that keeping your concerns or feelings inside will not change or help your situation. Have you had an annual physical recently? It’s always important to rule out any physical/hormonal issue that may be affecting your mood. Are you getting enough sleep and exercise? Do you have some unfinished business with family or friends that you have been reluctant to deal with?
And finally, ask yourself three important questions:
1. If you could wish for anything at this stage of your life, what would you wish for?
2. What would you like to change?
3. Now that you have some answers, are you willing to take action?
It’s your time for some serious soul-searching and, as I constantly remind people, you don’t need to navigate this journey on your own. Please let me know if I can be of further help.
Beatty Cohan, MSW, LCSW, AASECT is a nationally recognized psychotherapist, sex therapist, author of For Better for Worse Forever: Discover the Path to Lasting Love, national speaker, national radio and television expert guest and host of the weekly “Ask Beatty Show” on the Progressive Radio Network. She has a private practice in NYC and East Hampton.