So, at the age of 48 I became a statistic. How? Let me count the ways….
- I am now the 1 in the 1:9 women who has had breast cancer (June ’09).
- I am now 1 of the 3:4 households in the US that has had a “close encounter” with downsizing (August 2009).
- I am now the 1 in 1:4 women) whose husband has had a midlife crisis (2009)
- I was 1 of the 1:6 Americans affected by H1N1 in 2009.
- I was one of Farmville’s 80 million monthly users – 60% of whom are women, with the average player in her forties with a professional income (Summer/Fall 2009)
- I am now 1 of the 2:5 women whose husbands have had affairs (October – November 2009)
Lucky for me, the cancer was treated easily, and I recovered quickly. While my department and some of my co-workers were downsized, the administration decided that my skills were valuable and simply moved me to another department. My husband’s midlife crisis initially manifested itself in an obsession with work and a personality disorder I thought was unique to him but have since discovered is called Irritable Male Syndrome (self-centered, snappy, growling, stomping, cabinet door slamming).
While none of these events turned out to be life threatening, they did lead take a toll on my immune system, and in the late summer of 2009 I had one of the 1st reported cases of H1N1 in my area followed by pneumonitis (something usually contracted only by farm workers) and then a serious case of bronchitis, which led to weeks of exhaustion. I managed to still get things done at work, but due to surgery and illness I had fallen behind on my doctoral work, and I never managed to catch up…and I just seemed to get further behind. My husband was more and more grumpy, obsessed with work, and worried about his dad’s and our daughter’s health. He didn’t really have time or emotional energy left over for me or my feelings. By the fall of ’09, I was seriously depressed. I started tuning out anything that seemed like a rant, especially about his work.
Instead, I concentrated on Facebook’s Farmville – a universe where I seemed to have a little more control. Turns out that this made me another statistic. My husband complained that I cared more about the game than I did about him – that I wasn’t really listening when he was speaking to me because I was engrossed in the game. Even in this spiral, I realized that curling up in a chair and planting raspberries and harvesting fruit every evening instead of interacting with actual humans was probably not healthy, especially after I actually called my daughter when I was out of town and asked her to log on as me and harvest my crops so they wouldn’t wither and die.
I made an appointment and went to see a counselor, who quickly diagnosed me as depressed and suggested that an anti-depressant would help me regain my balance and recover more quickly. I started an antidepressant later that same day, and within a week started to feel more like my actual self.
Since I was feeling more alive, I started trying to address the out of control areas of my life. My work situation was still in flux, my daughter’s health was still unpredictable, and my husband’s grumpiness had become a way of life. I had developed a pattern of ignoring it if at all possible, but it just seemed to be making it worse. And then the final statistic. His father’s declining health and my breast cancer led to one last symptom of the stereotypical mid-life crisis – the affair .
If I had to be a mid-life crisis statistic, I would have rather been married to the man who bought the little red sports car than the one who had sex with the blue-eyed blond that he had dated in high school and reconnected with on Facebook while I was recovering from breast cancer and depressed (Seriously – could he have crammed any more stereotypes into one stupid action???).
Ironically, at my first appointment in October ’09, my counselor asked about the state of my marriage and I assured her that it was fine – that my husband was just really busy and stressed about work, my daughter and his dad. A week later he slept with an old girlfriend, had a 5 week long distance affair and then spent the next 3 1/2 years dribbling out the details, leaving me constantly confused and off balance. In the midst of the early confusion, my counselor suggested I try writing everything down – what happened, my feelings, questions, everything. I’ve written for over a year and I think I am ready to see if it is possible to put the story of the last 4 years into some sort of coherent order….
Note: Names and initials have been changed to protect the guilty.