I’m Getting Older…Am I Still Relevant?
Only you can make yourself unhappy. That is, perhaps, a non‐psychological layman’s interpretation of cognitive behavioral therapy, the concept that while you cannot control all of the slings and arrows the outside world throws at you that may make you question your worth, only you can control how you react to them.
Most of us at one time or another question if we have value. Am I important to others? Does anyone really need me? These moments more likely descend upon us at times of personal crisis. Perhaps because of the death of my loved one, I am left alone. My partner has had an affair. My child with bipolar disorder is failing in school. I am likely to lose my job. Or my cancer is returning.
During those moments, the feelings of helplessness and even worthlessness can be all‐consuming. “Why should I get out of bed this morning?” Or worse, “Will anyone care if I get out of bed this morning?”
In a gynecology practice focused on menopause, a transition‐filled, existential time of questioning for many women, these questions often are the real substance of the visit. The reason for the visit may be documented as “a urinary tract infection” or “a vaginal bump.” Yet, these may not be the real issues challenging a woman’s life. When asked how life is in general, the truth may be revealed reluctantly at first. But, with encouragement, a full conversation may follow with the real struggles that the woman is encountering. She is seeking help from her gynecologist for emotional suffering or a quest for meaning: “Am I valued?” Said differently, “Am I relevant?”
But being relevant means many things. It might be that you work to generate a salary to pay the bills. But, it also may be volunteer work that helps others. Or, the weekly phone call to connect with your granddaughter who lives in another state. Or, even mowing the lawn for your elderly neighbor.
In our role as gynecologists, we are uniquely positioned to really listen to what a woman is trying to communicate and to provide a human response. One simple step is to ask her to make a list of events of which she is proud or people for whom she is grateful. Her first response may be, “I probably will not have anything to say.” Of course, the natural counter would be, “If you really feel that you are unworthy or have little to be grateful for, then your page will be blank.” But, every woman has something or someone in her life that engenders pride or gratitude. This exercise may
seem too basic for such a serious condition as depression. Yet, as a first step, it often generates pages of positive information that can facilitate a path to healing, not a blank sheet.
Life is brief, and the time we have has meaning, but only if we, within ourselves, recognize those contributions we have made toward it that make us who we are. We, as gynecologists, have the privilege of sharing in this search for meaning.
Dr. Woods treats patients for menopause at the Hess/Woods Gynecology Practice.
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James Woods |