Cecilia Ford, Ph.D., is a clinical psychological is Manhattan who specializes in body image, weight control and eating disorders (and a member of WVFC’s Medical Advisory Board). She and we felt that this letter below, and Dr. Ford’s sage response. needed to be heard by all of us.

Dear Dr. Ford,

I am a 50 year old woman who just lost her job on wall street.  I was a middle level executive in the back office operations of one of the major banks that failed. I had been at this bank for 20 years.  I have some savings and investments that survived the failure of my bank, I own my New York City apartment but I have to reinvent myself quickly.  There are no jobs in my area of expertise.  I have a BA in history from an Ivy and a MBA.  I have no children and am not in a relationship.   My parents are both dead and my only brother lives on the west coast. I worked so hard that I didn’t even have time for a cat.  I do have collagues and friends but they are mostly in the same boat.  We feel overwhelmed and hopeless.  I don’t know if my reaction is depression  or a reasonable response to this crisis.How do I know the difference and how do I start over again?


Dear Elizabeth

There is no question that feeling overwhelmed and hopeless is a reasonable and natural response to this crisis. It’s understandable that you would feel betrayed as well, regardless of where the blame lies for this ever widening problem of job losses in your industry. Unfortunately, the normal mourning and grief that you and your colleagues are experiencing at this time can evolve into real depression if a feeling of helplessness develops and persists.

Many studies have shown that helplessness can lead to depressive symptoms, even in animals. In any case, it will help if you take steps to gain control of this professional loss as soon as possible. I recommend this even if at first your efforts are not directed toward finding a job.  For example, perhaps your colleagues and you can join or form your own support group.  Certainly there are many things you could work through, and together you can trade ideas about possible solutions.

You say there are no jobs in your current area of professional expertise. The menopausal transition is a time when women often chose to reinvent themselves, and since it sounds like you may have no choice but to find a new career, life may well have given you a clear opportunity to do the best thing for you at this stage anyway!  It occurs to me the life you were leading in this job was not well-balanced and did not leave you much time to pursue other interests. You could wind up with a much more full and happy life in a new, less stressful career as a result of this transition.

I know this may sound difficult when you know that there are so many other people out of work but I want you to carefully consider this idea.   I recommend that you visualize yourself as someone who has been given an opportunity that you may never have taken time to fully evaluate or appreciate in the life you were living.  See yourself as someone who has control of your destiny and try to seize it.
In closing I do want to answer your question about how to recognize when a clinical depression takes over. Signs to watch for are frequent crying, inability to find joy in those activities that were joyful before this event, sleep and appetite disturbance, withdrawal from friends and family, or change in hygiene.  If you experience two or more of these symptoms for more than a week I suggest that you contact a mental health professional. Depression has a much greater chance of quick remission when treated early on. When treatment is early, the recovery is often easier.  Left untreated depression can become entrenched, and for many people, dangerous.

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