Women who fall into Generation X (GenX) have hit an all time overload point, and it is costing them more than they may know. There is no explanation needed as to why this army of latchkey kids, who have grown into women, are amazing at suffering in silence. We are hiding behind our SUV's, killer LinkedIn profiles, social media highlights, botox and plastic surgeons, power outfits and shoes, all in the hope that all of it will make us good enough. This is the how and why cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women, and that is not often discussed in real world terms without judgement. There have been major economic events, combined with the obvious pandemic, that have made this situation even worse for GenX women. In this article I will share my personal recovery from having a body unable to regulate itself, so grab your tissues and a pillow you can hit in rage. And I will share what I have found that works to stop, and even reverse, some of the physical toll it takes.
Let's look at some data;
- According to Experian the average GenX in America has $125,000 in combined debt (including home, car, credit card) which is the $36,687.00 more than the average American adult who has $88,313
- Between 2000 and 2015 death rates from liver disease for women aged 45-64 increased my 57% according to the CDC
- According to Inhersight 73% of women want to change careers because of issues women face in terms of gender based salary discrimination, wanting to work for a company whose mission matches their own, or because they have been burnt out. (There are many more reasons, but these are the top three.)
- Thinkadvisor reports that the average retirement savings for GenX is $50,000, and less than half of this generation has done anything to plan for or educate themselves about their needs for retirement.
- A major reason why GenX is not saving for retirement is that since 2013 the cost of housing has increased faster than salaries and the cost college education has also sky rocketed.
- The cost for looking the part is also higher for women. A Groupon study recently found that women spend on average $70 more a month on their appearance than men.
- While we may be throwing pennies into the fountain of youth, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that in 2019, of the 7,916,448 minimally invasive cosmetic surgeries performed in the USA, 51% of them were performed on women between the ages of 40 and 54. So, if you feel like you are suddenly looking older than your peers, it may not have anything to do with you.
- And while we might cheer on our friends for owning their bodies and doing whatever they need to feel empowered under the knife, the other surgery that we undergo is a loss that is not clearly acknowledged and often not well understood. Hysterectomy may be on the decline, but in 2019 the CDC reported that 37.5% of women over 50 had their uterus removed. The loss of the organ that is powerful enough to create life can not be equated to the removal of your appendix. Not to mention the complications of adhesions, prolapse issues and the need for pessaries that begin around this time.
- One in seven women report hiding purchases from their spouse.
- The rate of GenX who identify as unaffiliated with religion has increased by 8% between 2009 and 2018/2019.
- By 2000 only 10% of GenX lived at home, but in 2016 15% of millennials were living at home.
- GenX is wedged between caring for our parents and grandparents while having our children live at home longer.
- The Health Survey for England reported that while GenX is living longer, the years that they are gaining are predominantly spent in poor health; especially for men. One of the largest financial crisis women face is when their partner or spouse is no longer able (or willing) to support them.
- GenX women felt the sting of seeing their parents divorce and are less likely to file for divorce, but are 40% more likely to cheat on their spouse than the previous generation.
- Women who work before, during and after their marriage have a 20% decrease in their income, as reported by the The Atlantic in 2016. And the average divorce costs women between $15,000 and $30,000 (with the extreme range of $8,500 to over $100,000)
-Indicators of despair -- depression, suicidal ideation, drug use and alcohol abuse -- are rising among Americans in their late 30s and early 40s across most demographic groups. It was explained by a unique triple-punch of worsening employment prospects, accompanied by a declining perception of socioeconomic status, and an erosion of social supports for this group. The study, The Depths of Despair Among U.S. Adults Entering Midlife, appears in the American Journal of Public Health.
So what do we do with all of this? For most of us we seek support from our wine, coffee or chocolate. GenX women suck it up and keep going because you are amazing! American women are not alone as the graph above demonstrates, this information was published in March of 2019 and is a comparison of member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). So what are the physical impacts for living with such high levels of stress?
In the image below, I have outlined how the body's ability to regulate itself changes over time, and with cumulative stressors, like the ones listed above, build and build. Normal allostasis is seen in animals too and is a vital piece in species survival mechanism. For example, during periods of drought, when food and water are scarce, an animals ability to adjust its metabolism for a period of time is vital. The difference between animals and humans is that animals will leave a geographical area that produces allostatic load. Humans, on the other hand, do not seem to be able to remove themselves from the stress.
If you feel that you relate to any of the disorders related to allostatic overload, it may be time to meet with a doctor that you are comfortable with and share your level of stress and to investigate your cortisol levels.
Taking good care of your mental health is very important. I encourage you to consider taking the ACE assessment to see if working with a therapist would benefit you. If you live in the USA and have mental health insurance, PsychologyToday can you help you find a therapist. You can search by zip code, insurance plan, therapists' sex, and specialization. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE INSURANCE OpenPath Collective can also help you to find a therapist in your area. Lifetime membership is $59 and prices range between $30-$80 per session for couples and family sessions.
As for my story, my alcohol consumption increased steadily with the decline of my marriage. I was not drinking at a rate that stopped me from working or being an active Mom. I drank strategically around those responsibilities; a skill I watched my father perfect. Nobody spoke truth to me about the slippery slope of going from "Mom juice" to liver damage. Well, not at least without being condescending, shaming, judgmental or controlling. I was under constant stress of my ex-husbands repeat illnesses and brain surgeries, the stress of the divorce, the guilt of leaving Australia for a marriage that ultimately failed (i.e. I failed), and the constant fear of losing my job.
My employer had told me in 2014 that he had hired me as married woman, not a divorced woman, and that he expected me to follow in the footsteps of his Aunt who was a single mother who raised 4 children on her own and never missed a day of work. (Her husband died, so she was a widower whose husband had served in WWII with an Army pension, who lived in the same town where she was born and raised, who was a school teacher, with an army of friends and family support.) His Aunt was not working in car sales, on the opposite side of the world from her family, working 6 days a week and 12 hour days. Meanwhile, another manager had asked me about my health, and I told him that my doctor had said that I needed to cut out alcohol. He asked me if my doctor understood the stress of car sales and that drinking was a job requirement?
While I was on medical leave for my cervical dystonia, I reached out after I had not been paid, to which the my employer responded in an email "You are lucky that you still have a job." I was removed from workplace committees for getting divorced, and after returning from my medical leave of absence my demo car that had been a ruby red 2013 Ford Fusion, was changed to a 2007 Ford Focus with over 100,000 miles. I didn't have the time to look for another job, I needed the money to pay my rent, my attorney, and for my kids ballet classes. I was dependent on commissions to make it all work.
During that time, my now ex-husband falsely accused me of domestic abuse; as a non-US Citizen at the time, were I convicted, I would never be able to become a US Citizen, and may even face being deported as a result. Have you experienced something like this? Just as your worst nightmare happens, things go from bad to worse, and there's nothing that you can do? My Fitbit would show my heart rate staying above 150 beats per minute for days at a time. I showed up at the ER probably 6 times over a 5 year period with rapid heart rate and chest pain, without any evidence of a heart attack. On my birthday in 2017, I was admitted to the hospital due to food poisoning. I remained in hospital for 9 days, and I lost 16lbs in the first 4 days. What I did not understand until 2020 was that my body could not cope with one more thing. I had gone beyond allostatic overload.
Making the changes needed to bring my body back to a healthier place has not been easy. There have been failures and set backs, but also victories and important milestones reached. If this could happen to me, what is happening to other women out there? In my new life as a Coach, I meet women who are struggling with all of the same guilt and shame that I had felt. And as if it isn't hard enough maintaining friendships though marriage, divorce, children, and careers, covid has made us more isolated than ever. So I have developed and am getting ready to launch my first group training for GenX women called Dare Mighty Change. The 8-week Group Coaching program will take a tough look at where you are at; create new awareness and opportunities for positive growth and change.
Dare Mighty Change will allow you to generate healthy changes that will improve your overall quality of health. And while there is some mindfulness techniques and tools to be learned, you will also be encouraged to get in touch your Bitter Betty, P'd Off Patty, Fed up Frannie or Anxious Anne alter ego!
Because I believe in the need for this course I am launching a one week intensive version of it for FREE on Facebook March 29th.
Is it you or someone you know that needs to Dare Mighty Change?
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