Mine was a classic midlife crisis. Waking up in the middle of the night, head pounding, thoughts racing, terror.
During the day, dull, worrisome thoughts that I was getting old, over the hill, nothing left. Gradually I withdrew from life and my world became narrower as my mood became consistently lower.
This went on for a few years.
In March of this year I finally wrote a post in a supportive facebook group for midlife women about my feelings. I got some wonderful support, felt much better and got on with my life. I completely forgot about the post.
Quite by chance, three months later when someone commented on what I’d written, the post popped back up again and as I re-read it I could hardly believe what I was seeing. It was as if I was reading of someone else's plight and I realised in amazement, I'd come a long way, quickly.
So this account is some of the steps I took from doom and gloom to genuinely enjoying my life and feeling positive and hopeful about my future. This sort of journey is always such a personal one but if you're in a slump yourself, I hope there is some comfort or inspiration that you can take away from it.
Slow steps forward
When I wrote the post, I'd already begun slowly taking action to improve my life, What triggered these steps, I’m not honestly sure but together they very slowly helped me feel more positive.
Reaching out again to others
Part of the angst of that time had been caused by shutting myself away and withdrawing from friendships. My journey back was to find support and fun again in those around me and despite my initial scepticism, I became involved in an MLM business that gave me a much needed community and focus.
I got physical
I’d always enjoyed exercise but at this point, I made swimming and the gym and long country walks a priority and I noticed that this also helped my mood.
I made my own happiness a priority
Having my daughter at the age of almost 41, I realized that I’d made looking after her my priority and over the years, had stopped doing the things that gave me pleasure. Gradually I gave myself permission to start doing things I enjoyed again, without guilt - coffee and a good book in the afternoon or a rug on the lawn if I felt like it.
When I wrote my “I’m feeling down and need some help” post, these actions were only just starting to take effect but they had given me the courage to write about how I felt because for those years when the thoughts were just swirling around in my head, I’d not been able to look at them in any objective way, nor had I spoken to anyone about them.
Their power over me had been absolute and I’d felt helpless.
But in writing out my feelings in a post, I also gained support and advice from others that made me realise I was going through something that wasn't a reflection on my unique inability to keep things together. Others had gone through similar and most importantly, come out the other side.
And whilst the earlier steps I’d taken had already imperceptibly started to improve my mood, writing the post was the start of gaining momentum.
I kept reading, exploring and searching for answers.
Trying to find answers and more guidance, I read anything that sparked an interest - NLP, spirituality, personal development and finally I reached Michael Neill’s books The Space Within and The Inside-Out Revolution.
Here, it all got really interesting!
Up to this point, the climb out of my midlife slump had been slow. But reading these books and the 846 related books in rapid succession afterwards (I exaggerate but only slightly!) led to massive transformation and this is what I discovered.
The fast route out of my midlife slump.
I became more aware of the nature of my thoughts and quickly their power over me decreased.
Thoughts come and go, some good, some difficult or upsetting.
These thoughts are 100% responsible for how I feel. I may think what happens to me is the cause of stress and anxiety - having a row with my pre-teen daughter, an unexpected large bill arriving in the post. But these aren’t the root of my unhappiness. My feelings aren’t a reaction to the world and life events, but a reaction to my thoughts about these situations.
I’m living in the feeling of my thinking. So my feelings are never a direct, objective reflection of my life but a reaction to my interpretation of what is happening to me.
My midlife insight and "ah-ha" moments.
The downs I’d experienced were due largely to believing my thoughts, thinking they were reality, a true reflection of my midlife worth and future life prospects.
But these thoughts were never the truth.
When I finally deep down “got” my feelings were due to believing my faulty, inaccurate thinking.
That was huge.
I realised the feelings these thoughts generate, come and go.
Thoughts about my age, the menopause, midlife, come and go. Some days they're focused around the new opportunities that I can now see surround me. Other days, my mind is crowded by preoccupations about what’s being taken away (smooth skin, youthful looks).
Now sometimes, yes I still worry about drooping and sagging body bits and regret past opportunities but I know these thoughts and feelings will pass. And if it's a useful thought about needing to take more exercise or eat less chocolate, I take action without letting the thoughts run me down for days.
We all have up moods and down moods – that’s part of being human, not a reflection of how great a person I am or not. And when a bad mood strikes, I don’t need to try and think my way out of it, just simply let it be and pass in it’s own time.
Finding my own inner guidance system
My thoughts are not who I am, I’m someone far richer and deeper than this.
As I listened less to my thoughts and took them less seriously, my mind became quieter. And once this happened, something miraculous took place. I found I could tap into the deep part of me, a place that was always available for inspiration, always doing fine no matter what crisis /drama showed up in my life.
To realise that I don’t need fixing and to become aware that within me lies a foundation of emotional and mental wellness that I can draw upon, a guidance system that's there whenever I need it.
This was significant and life changing.
Into the midlife sunshine
To overcome my midlife crisis, I haven’t needed to leave my husband and daughter, travel the world and dye my hair orange (although the last two are still interesting possibilities).
It's taken an internal shift, a fundamental change of how I see my reality.
A huge burden has been lifted off my shoulders and in the end, it didn’t require effort or work. I’m feeling more peace, contentment and without wanting to sound too smug zen my awareness of my ability to live happily in the present moment has taken root.
And now I know I’m finally free to start creating an exciting future, one that offers more possibilities than I could ever dream of five years ago.