I never thought I’d grow old. As someone who struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life, aging was something I never really worried about. I remember sitting in PICC during my graduation and looking down at my diploma thinking, “What do I do now?”
While I never actively tried to kill myself, I never thought I’d get past my early twenties. My entire life, I had a single goal: to graduate from college. I dedicated all of my energy and effort to that diploma. In my head, there was no life after graduation. I didn’t even really care about picking my course, I just knew I needed to graduate.
When I finally did it, I was at a loss.
Like most fresh graduates, I accepted the first job offer I could get my hands on. I wasn’t particularly passionate about it. It was a marketing job, the lowest on the rung, but I had a job. Then things started to get worse.
Marketing was not my favorite thing to do. Working in a high-stress environment with screaming clients and other terrified employees made my unaddressed mental health issues worse. After being berated almost non-stop for two weeks, I turned my resignation in, packed my bags, and went home to Cebu.
I finally decided to seek help from a therapist, who diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Facing new truths
Recovering from mental illness is complicated. It’s not like waiting for a broken leg to mend or waiting for post-op wounds to heal. Physical illnesses have a baseline for recovery. Mental illnesses are a case-to-case type of thing.
My first year in therapy was tough. It was a lot of talking, crying, and making sure I drank my medication on time. At several points in the process, I thought I’d never recover. I’d be depressed, anxious, and directionless for the rest of my life.
Something most people never tell you about recovery is that you don’t feel it until you feel it. My therapist once told me that people who have suffered from depression for long periods of time don’t understand or realize the feeling of happiness.
Aside from the foreign strangeness of happiness and the huge gap depression left behind, I also had to contend with new truths.
If all went well, I was going to grow old.
Society is unkind to women. It is even worse towards women who visibly aged. Ageism is still very much a thing, with women and people in general doing everything in their power to hold on to youth. Creams, balms, serums, surgeries, full-fledged marketing campaigns, and industries are targeted at women, telling us to keep ourselves young and fresh.
If pretty privilege exists, so does youthful privilege.
Youth is something we’re all programmed to chase after for our entire lives. Vitality and youthful beauty are valued above all else (including being skinny), and I wasted what society would regard as my “prime” in the pits of depression.
After crawling out of my depression hole, the full truth of aging hit me. One day, I was going to be wrinkly. My breasts are going to sag, my hair is going to gray, my skin will freckle and pock, and my body will weaken and turn into dust.
Somehow, though, I was thrilled.
No matter what anyone says, aging is a gift. And it was a gift I finally realized could be mine one day.
Countdown to sixty
As much as I value and currently enjoy my youth, the thought of reaching my golden years is something I’m completely jazzed about. Being in your 20s is figuring things out. According to older friends, your 30s is when your life starts taking shape. According to my parents, your 40s and 50s are when you devote your time and energy to your family and career.
Your 60s though—I’d like to think of it as a second coming of age. Much like Donna in the smash-hit broadway musical, “Mamma Mia!”
If you have a family, your kids are grown at that point; maybe even with families of their own. You and your partner have an empty nest, but that’s an opportunity to be newlyweds again. If you’ve chosen a more independent path, you get to have as much fun as you want with the money you’ve made in your younger years.
If there’s one thing everyone above the age of sixty flexes, it’s their senior citizen card. You get deals and discounts on pretty much everything, and boy do I love a good deal and some discounts.
What excites me the most, though, is the wealth of wisdom I’ll have by then. I’ll be older, hopefully a lot wiser, and still kicking. Depression programmed me into thinking I won’t have many things—no marriage, no kids, no retirement fund, and the illusion of eternal youth due to early expiry.
Living by the train tracks of death and despair has taught me just how valuable life—and by extension aging—is. The laugh lines, gray hair, and wrinkles are the tracks an accomplished and full life has left behind.
When I’m older, I envision myself by the sea on a very sunny day. I’ll be wearing a white sundress with a bikini underneath, firmly in the prime of my senior citizenship. Surrounded by family and friends, we’ll drink and dance to the full lives we all lead with my favorite toast from the smash-hit movie-musical “Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again!”
“May the rest of our lives be the best of our lives,” because life still goes on after sixty.