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November 18, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Mental Health

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Over 50 and no more joy!

Question:

I married at 20. Marriage and motherhood were all I ever wanted from a very early age and while the marriage wasn't the greatest, I did love him very much. I had two sons with him. After 18 years of a roller coaster marriage, I had an affair with my married next door neighbor. We both left our spouses and married each other and had a daughter together. This was 15 years ago. I never could figure out why, but I started to gain weight steadily and now I am 100 pounds heavier than when I was married to my first husband. But my marriage to my second husband was fun, and loving and sexy. We had a grand time for many years.

Three years ago, within a three month period, my husband was forced to take early retirement. A month later my first husband, who I still loved, was in a plane accident and was burned. He died after 50 days in a morphine coma. And 2 weeks after he died, my current husband had a heart attack and almost died. He has suffered heart problems ever since. I find myself no longer enjoying life. While not severely depressed, I think about dying a lot. I no longer listen to music and dance. I just sit and pretty much have no interest in anything.

Is this a normal state for people in their 50's no matter what they have been through? Alot of my friends, the ones who are open enough to share their inner-most thoughts, speak of death and feeling like life is well on its way out. They feel that the zest for life they once had is not to be found anymore. After all, life sure does beat you down after 50+ years. Can anyone really be expected to feel excited and hopeful when reality has shown you different? I have had many friends and acquaintances die already. We all seem to be walking through life with the knowledge that there isn't much more of a future. Is this common for people over 50? It seems to be.

Pat (54 year-old woman)

Answer:

Dear Pat,

The short answer is that your feelings have nothing to do with age. My mother-in-law is 80 and full of life, making plans all the time. Physically she is very frail, but she'll beat you in a game of Scrabble. I am older than you, and still finding new challenges. I am absolutely too busy to worry about the end of my life. Even physically, I am getting stronger. I started an exercise routine last August, and my performance is improving week to week. And my main problem is that I am doing so many things, I don't have enough time for my main love: writing.

Don't get the wrong idea, I am not boasting, just producing evidence to counter your fear that you are now over the hill, and life holds nothing more for you

My dear, I'd be very surprised if you weren't feeling sad and hopeless. Those terrible feelings are a necessary part of grieving

Three years ago, you were struck by multiple tragedies. According to popular wisdom, you 'should have got over them by now', but popular wisdom sucks. IF EVERYTHING HAD GONE WELL, you could have expected to get over your grief by now, and progressed into a new phase of your life. But everything did not go well.

For one thing, your husband has continued on as an invalid. That is an extra worry and an extra heap of practical problems for you.

Second, behind your words I sense a lot of guilt, 'what if', a carried load of regrets. These kinds of feelings are the heaviest load to carry. I invite you to look at a speech I once gave on helping people who are 'stuck in grief' as I suspect you are. Go to http://anxietyanddepression-help.com/grief.html to look at it

Third, we humans are ruled by habits, of necessity. I had a client whose baby was very colicky, and cried every hour or so during the night. She got into the habit of waking just before he did... but that was 20 years before she came to me for help with insomnia. She kept waking in the night for 20 years, because of that habit she'd acquired then.

It is possible that, in a similar way, you acquired the habit of thinking like a grieving person, and this habit has persisted. If this is so, you can fight it. While you are at my site, look up the page on 'How to break a habit (any habit)'.

Here is a set of recommendations for everyone, but particularly for those who are feeling hopeless and sad:

  • Take on a challenge, though at first not a major one. Just do something one step beyond your 'comfort zone', and try something you've always wanted to do but didn't quite dare to attempt.
  • Take on a regular exercise routine. Brisk walking is great (5 mph, quite fast). At first, do only 20 minutes, three times a week. You might go swimming, or to a gym, or get a physiotherapist to set an aerobic exercise routine for you. It helps if you join a group of others doing the same thing. Exercise will in time make you more healthy, improve your body, and more important, every time you work up a sweat, you fill your bloodstream with endorphins. These are depression-killers.
  • The best way to make yourself sad is to seek happiness, the major occupation in our crazy culture. The best way to be happy is to forget about yourself and find some way of making others happy. I don't mean the martyr bit, but doing voluntary work of some kind, for example reading with kids in the local school.

    Pat, I don't know you at all, but I know you have the resources to break out of this negative cycle.

    You didn't leave an email address. Please contact me via bobrich@bobswriting.com if you read this, and let me know if my thoughts were of help to you.

    Have a good life,

    Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

For more information visit the site or contact information page on QueenDom.

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