Decision Making: Part 2 (Beard it is!)

by Chloe Jeffreys · 35 comments

in Mental Health and Aging Well, Women in Midlife

As several of you pointed out on my last post, if your choice really was between being bald forever, or having a beard you could never shave off, bald would seem the no-brainer.

Bald can be hidden under a wig, or maybe a jaunty scarf.

Beard is tougher for a woman to pull off.

Unless you’re Drew Barrymore:

Bearded Lady

Metaphorically, bald looked a lot like me staying at a job that was crushing my soul, while pretending everything was okay. And for a whole year I tried to do exactly that by hiding my misery under the wig of antidepressants and this jaunty scarf I call my blog.

Antidepressants? Necessary Medication or Cop Out?

Here’s a novel thought:

If you have to take psychoactive medications simply to get through your day then maybe something is wrong with your life.

According to the CDC, 11% of Americans are taking antidepressants. Why would I risk pissing off 11% of my readers by suggesting that they might not need medication but a lifestyle overhaul instead?

Well, don’t you think it’s weird that we prefer thinking something is biologically wrong with us rather than with our choices?

Choices, we can fix; biological malfunction is out of our control. But then maybe that’s the point.

“It’s Not My Fault” and other lies we tell ourselves

What would it mean if all of my problems were my own damned fault? And if they are my fault then isn’t it up to me to fix them?

That sounds like a helluva lotta work, Chloe. Best to just take a pill and feel better now, right?

Now, before my inbox fills with hate mail because I’m judgy about antidepressants, let me clarify. I believe anti-depressants are terrific first aid for emotional ailments. If you feel like putting the working end of a revolver in your mouth then please, dear God, hie thee to a doctor and get yourself some relief!

But just as nobody wears a cast for a broken leg for the rest of their lives, I think it is likely that few people need antidepressants for life. Antidepressants were invented to be like a cast for a broken spirit while it mends; they were never meant to be a permanent orthotic device for our souls.

Emotional pain, like any other pain, indicates that something is wrong. You wouldn’t take morphine to dull the pain so you can keep your hand in a fire. You’d pull your damned hand out, wouldn’t you? If you need antidepressants then take them, but don’t ignore the pain that brought you to need medication in the first place. That pain is there for a reason. Maybe that pain is your only hint that you’re on the wrong path.

Today, antidepressants have become like a permanent cast; a cop-out that allows us to avoid addressing the underlying problems that are causing the depression in the first place. Anyway, I feared they were becoming that for me. And the reason I thought that is because it wasn’t too long before the antidepressants weren’t dulling the pain anymore. The wig kept slipping, and the miserable emotional baldness I was trying so desperately to hide kept peeking through.

Becoming a Bearded Lady

When you’re on your way to becoming a metaphorical bearded lady, the first chin hair is the hardest. You pull that sucker out before anybody sees it.

The first time the notion crossed my mind that I should just walk away from my job, and this mountain, I squashed that thought like you would a roach on the kitchen counter.

Quitting my job was no small matter. Since there aren’t any hospitals nearby, it meant getting a new job that would involve a seriously inconvenient commute to another state over a dangerous mountain pass. I’d also need an out-of-state nursing license. And what the hell are we going to do about this underwater mortgage situation?

Pluck, pluck, pluck.

But those chin hairs just kept coming.

When I returned to work after my surgery last summer, I sprouted a five o’clock shadow that no amount of plucking could control.

Since I would never call anyone a vindictive, manipulative, incompetent, pathological liar on my blog, I won’t write about the people details that made my job so freaking miserable, but what I can write about is the strange phenomenon that occurs when God starts sending you a very clear message that you don’t want to hear.

Surrender Chloe

Just as I would reassure myself that I could maintain my status quo, and tolerate the situation, something intolerable would happen. And the longer this went on, and the more I tried to ignore the message, the shorter the space became between these two events until there was almost no separation between the two.

Just when I would convince myself that it was safer and easier to stay on this crazy train, another impossible thing would happen to let me know that I needed to disembark, asap.

What’s Worth Living For?

It was pouring rain the day I knew. I’d made the decision that I needed to start looking for another job, and as I left the police station after getting fingerprinted for my out-of-state license, I carefully tucked my fingerprint card under my raincoat to keep it from getting wet. Suddenly I was filled with a sense of freedom and peace I hadn’t felt in a very long time, and neither the inconvenience of the commute, nor the underwater mortgage, mattered anymore.

What matters to me is my marriage, my family, and my integrity. Convenience and material possessions, while very nice, aren’t things we can live for. Well, they aren’t things I can live for, anyway.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan Kelly March 8, 2017 at 8:44 pm

That turned out to be a little more intense of a post than I thought, I thought it was going to be light-hearted until I got into it.
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James@Gadgetonic February 5, 2017 at 9:36 pm

This is a good read. I know this very well.. About “anti-depressants” my sister’s had suffered a lot back when she was in college, she was too emotional, and no one was there to ask her what’s going on through her life.. We wanted to help her, so we asked her if she’s cool with meeting a psychiatrist, and she was totally fine with it, the doctor gave her anti-depressants, but the second pill didn’t help get through the night, so she stopped taking it. The psychiatrist suggested it’s better that someone back at home will look after her, talk to her, because she needed someone, not just anybody, but she needed her family to be with her everyday. We listened, and she stopped taking all the pills, and she was doing better, and then one day, she woke me up and said she is now feeling happy and all, and she’s OKAY now and everything is going to be alright now. And that made us really happy that she’s back. And for your decision, you made the right choice, it’s hard, but you were able to leave, and that’s courage. Thank you for sharing this. If you were in my shoes, would you do the same thing for my sister?
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Elba Rocha May 17, 2013 at 11:39 pm

I love my job. It doesn’t pay hardly anything, but I love feeling a little competitive and having people notice that I like to do stuff I’m not expected to do. I get a lot of compliments from my challenges. The harder it is, the more I love it. I do suffer from anxiety and panic attacks in social situations though, and am considering taking antidepressants for this. Not what I really want to do, but what I am being advised to do. Would this affect my job performance? I mean, would I still love taking on challanges and feel driven to surprise people? I dont want to lose my drive, because I want to continue to impress my boss.
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Chloe Jeffreys June 2, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I clearly do not care much about impressing my boss because I quit my job and started my own business. Now the only “boss” I have to impress is me. Best of luck to you!

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Bella Gentry February 28, 2013 at 7:56 am

Chloe I just looked you up to ask if I can wear chunky heeled oxfords if I wore them in the 70’s, with a skirt.
Still hoping to do ALSO with you in Chang Mai someday. We could both wear flip-flops (not the bathroom kind in Thailand but pretty ones aer OK) so you wouldn’t have to worry about the oxfords.
Think of you often.
Bella

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Chloe Jeffreys March 18, 2013 at 12:52 pm

I think of you, Bella! Thanks for coming by and commenting. I miss those good ole days. I wonder if they really existed? I hope all is well in your world.

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Texanna H. February 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Wow, this could almost be about my husband’s current situation. He has been with the same company for 8.5 years now (longest job to date). He’s been having a *very* rough time there, for a long time. Every time he has re-dedicated to not care so much, to treat it as “just a job”, lay low, etc, TSHTF and as Al Pacino says, “Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in!” He asked people around him how they have managed to not give a shit and they’re on meds. He has the same reaction, that’s crap (shouldn’t have to). So he’s looking for another job. Praise God, ’cause I’ve been ready for this day for years. So, we’re waiting and praying for favor. And a call back. 😀 He’s had two phone interviews (two separate companies)….now waiting for the call to do a face to face.

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Stephanie February 10, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I’m glad you’ve left that bad work situation (understatement, I know). I have some experience with what you’re describing and yes, the feeling of peace and freedom is undeniable. It took three months before I was recovered; one month for every year I worked there. Wishing you better days ahead.

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Chloe Jeffreys February 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm

I think you are onto something about the one month for every year. I worked there five years and took two months off. I probably could have used another three. But I do know I made the right choice. I feel at peace.

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Tammy February 8, 2013 at 10:22 pm

I’ve always said that necessity leads to the road of re-invention. Salvation can only be gotten in risk. Something to think about. There are times in our lives when we are called upon to reclaim ourselves. I’m beyond thrilled for you that you had the courage to do just that. Thank you for sharing!

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Delbert A. Carpenter February 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm

If antidepressants don’t actually correct a chemical imbalance in the brain (the evidence is clear on that point), how do we account for their supposed benefits? Maybe they function like a sedative, for lack of a better word — numbing us out to pain we can’t tolerate, blinding us to problems we need to face. What if taking an antidepressant is like taking a pain reliever? It’s a well-known fact that, when under the influence of a major analgesic, athletes are unable to heed the warning signs their bodies give off and as a result can severely injure themselves. Maybe in taking an antidepressant, you run the same risk: by numbing yourself to your depression, one of your body’s ways to signal that something is wrong, you’re in danger of hurting yourself even more.
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Chloe Jeffreys February 10, 2013 at 5:06 pm

I never said that anti-dpressants don’t work on the chemicals in the brain. They most certainly do. So does exercise, eating right, getting more sunlight, and making the choices that are more fulfilling.

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Amber February 1, 2013 at 10:09 am

Congratulations, Chloe! Sometimes the hardest thing is the right thing.

I’m one of the 11 percent, but it isn’t optional for me. There is simply something chemically wrong with my brain…and I really do need them. For others, though, I agree it’s a crutch.
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SewWhat? January 31, 2013 at 6:07 pm

The ‘other side’ is always scary! The unknown.

Takes a lot of courage to make that jump!

Rebecca

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Raquel @ Organizedisland January 30, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Chloe, so happy to hear that you are taking the road that might not be easier, but will most undoubtedly be a better destination. Congrats on your difficult decision and good luck on the job search. Any hospital would be lucky to have you on board!
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Brenda @ MyMidlifeProject January 29, 2013 at 4:19 am

I agree with you about both the miserable job thing and the antidepressant issue. I’ve walked away from a job that sucked the life out of me. Twice. Both times I thought I could continue muddling through… Then I felt as if God pulled out the “Big Sign”, and I knew. I was gone.
I have never taken antidepressants, but I spent several years in therapy to avoid them during/after my divorce. I struggle with S.A.D. every winter, and I’ve also realized certain other meds (as well as too much wine!) can make me blue. I know someone who has been on ADs for 20 years and is finally weaning off them…. She made some changes in her life and figured out it was HER LIFE that had been the problem all along.
Best wishes to you on your New Adventure, Chloe!
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Barbara January 28, 2013 at 6:47 pm

This is a great post, and I love the analogy you presented with the beard. Kudos to you for making the changes! And good luck in your new job! I have some life/career-directional changes to make myself right now and I’m praying for a clear sign.
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Lori Lavender Luz January 28, 2013 at 11:56 am

Brava!

I needed to hear this today. I have a sense that some chin hairs are about to erupt. Some goings-on are causing me to take a good luck at what is and isn’t important to me.

Inspiring, Chloe 🙂
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Ginger Kay January 28, 2013 at 11:35 am

I agree with you about antidepressants being overly prescribed and sought. Like you, I know people who need them, but I also know a whole lot of people who would be happier and more functional if they ousted some bad situations or relationships. I believe that sometimes, our bodies and minds are telling us to take flight, and we should listen.
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Julia January 28, 2013 at 10:58 am

I’m shocked that it’s only 11%. And I think you said it well when you said that there are some people who will need them for the rest of their lives (just as there are people who need canes or crutches or wheelchairs) but that many many people take them because the options seem so much scarier. Perhaps that would mean changing jobs, churches, religions, having a faith at all, examining marriages, etc. But that is scary stuff and many people just won’t face it.

Kudos to you for facing it. Kudos to your supportive husband who encouraged you to leave the Deathstar. And thanks for writing this challenge so that perhaps someone out there thinks about facing their own scary challenges.

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Magnolia January 28, 2013 at 10:45 am

Whenever I find myself stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place, I always recall a favorite lyric from an Eagle’s song…..”Already Gone”

“Well I know it wasn’t you who held me down. Heavens knows it wasn’t you who set me free. So often times it happens, that we live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key…..”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1Zcffw76qM
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Emily January 28, 2013 at 10:18 am

I’m actually surprised it’s only 11%…I thought that number would be higher. I’ve never taken anti-depressants, but it does seem like so many people I know are on them. Good for you for getting over the hump and realizing what’s most important for you.
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Liza Lee January 28, 2013 at 10:10 am

I think that for some people anti-depressants are necessary. I’ve been on and off them several times and my doctor tells me that I should expect to be on them for the rest of my life. However, when my marriage was coming apart, I was on high doses of two ADs and I was still a mess. Once I made the decision to end my marriage, I felt that same sense of freedom and relief that you’re talking about. I’m now on a fairly low dose of just one and it’s right for me.

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Helene January 28, 2013 at 9:57 am

What a great feeling to be unburdened from the crap that held you back for too long. Now you’re on to the next chapter, undoubtedly more positive than the last.
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Haralee January 28, 2013 at 9:57 am

Behavior modification for you was changing the job. For others it may be worked out with therapy in changing their personal dynamics. On all accounts it is harder work than shaving a beard!
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Sharon Greenthal January 28, 2013 at 9:50 am

I was an early-adapter of Prozac – one evening I was sitting with my toddler son and thought to myself “soon I’ll be out of here and go home again.” I knew there was something dramatically wrong with my thinking. I won’t say anti-depressants saved my life, but periodically when I’ve needed them they’ve made my life much better.
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Tricia O. January 28, 2013 at 8:21 am

For me, anti-depressants are necessary. I remember thinking even as a ten-year-old that I was “tired of life,” and I struggled with depression and anxiety into my early 20s. Once I started taking them, my life changed, because they allow me to get to the place where I can get out of the bed and deal effectively with my problems. I still screw up, but without them, I’m a fucking mess.

However, I do understand what you mean about dealing with worry and stress over finances, shitty people, and feeling dissatisfied with a job. That feeling of relief we feel when we know we are righting our paths is so sweet, I wish I could keep it in my pocket a reminder to stay centered.

I’m so glad you made the decision to get out of a situation that was bruising your soul. xoxo
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Chloe Jeffreys January 28, 2013 at 9:42 am

Tricia, there are people who do need antidepressants for life, and as long as I live in a place with limited sunlight I’ll likely always need them at least available in the winter.

But I’m not buying that 11% of us need them year-round. I’m thinking I’m not the only person who has used them to cope with a dysfunctional situation. For me, I needed them to stay in a job that was killing me. Luckily for me, I do have choices, not everyone does. And it is a sick society that we live in that people do have to medicate themselves in order to make through any given normal day. That’s no way to live.

We think we have it so good in our modern world, but I’m not always so sure that’s true.

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Walker Thornton January 28, 2013 at 5:39 am

I agree with your conclusion about anti-depressants…for some it has become a bandaid. My mother has been on some version of anti-depressants or Valium-type drug for over 30 years. If she gets upset or has teary moments she rushes back to her Psychiatrist and gets a new fix. It’s sad really.
Some of us do need them for situational depression–I took Zoloft as I was coming to grips with my need to divorce but went off several years later.
I applaud you for confronting your pain–it’s not easy. I think you inspire others with your honesty!
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Brenda January 28, 2013 at 6:33 am

Thanks for writing about the process of Bandaid removal. I’m “stuck” on my plastic strips and really need to assess the parts of my life that I can control and change. Unfortunately, the most anxiety producing one is something that I don’t seem willing to change or it can’t be changed while maintaining integrity quite yet.

And WOW on the closer and closer events, breaking the ability of your Bandaid to cover your wounds. I see that here, too. Time to listen and prepare for my own terms of surrender.

Thanks for writing and sharing, Dear Friend.

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Smyles January 28, 2013 at 4:27 am

So glad you were able to hear the message before the wig permanently slipped over your eyes! I can empathise with the scary relief once you’d made that step, and will be cheering you along each and every inch of the way.

I’ve heard beards go well with high heeled red shoes!

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Missus Wookie January 28, 2013 at 1:20 am

Yeah for feeling a sense of freedome and peace. Enjoyed reading your writing as usual – thanks for the thinking and smiles this early in the morning.
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Enchanted Seashells January 27, 2013 at 10:13 pm

You are a brave inspiration! It’s so hard to walk away but sometimes it’s the right thing to do. I loved this.

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Lee January 27, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Sometimes getting to the decision is the hardest part, then once we are there the relief is so great it’s like we can finally breathe. I know that feeling well. I am in love with your story and you. And, not in a crazy lesbian kind of way. Okay…maybe a little.
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