“Try to be surrounded by flowers and little children; keep your trust in God when you struggle to beat middle age crisis. Don’t allow anger, depression or anxiety to rule over you”, my mum used to babble in my teens! As a teen and as a vibrant youth, I never understood the meaning of it; assumed it is not applicable until I hit my late fourties.
“We should try to handle our middle age glitches by ourselves rather than entrusting us into the hands of psychiatric medicines or counselling”, this was the advice of a former colleague. To illustrate her point, she told me about her middle age crisis. Numerous psychological counselling sessions didn’t produce any result other than emptying her savings to a great extent! In fact, the advices she got from those sessions were already known to her, but she just couldn’t practice them in real life. Finally, she decided to quit all her advisers, which resulted in finding her own ways to beat her anxieties and stresses. Being an Aussie Sikh, she started reading their Holy Book daily and pampered herself by finding personal time to watch Bollywood serials rather than spending whole of her evenings in the boring kitchen. She immersed herself in loud TV shows to avoid her pestering mother-in-law. She also managed to go for walks after work and do house chores and this in turn, made her strong enough to snub the unwanted migraines in her life.
My friend’s advice reminded me of my mum’s gab and this made me analyse the issues faced by my friends and cousins. Even though I didn’t know anything about mental health issues, I realised that it is very much prevalent among middle aged ladies and needs to be tackled. Soon, I learnt that some of my cousins and close friends had ended up in taking strong anti-depressant medicines. Some went as far as to the brim of divorce, while some ended up hurting themselves. All this prompted me to share my experience in handling middle age crisis.
When our children are in school, our roles revolve around them; as driver, cook, cleaner, tutor ….! We may be leading a superwoman’s life; working two shifts- one at the office and the other at home. We may not be even getting a chance to breathe peacefully; we sleep hardly for even four hours and often forget to call our dear and near ones due to the hectic pace. I remember a young mum’s complaint; “Can’t even have a peaceful lunch and dinner because of crying or quarrelling children around! If I need to enjoy my lunch, I need to be at my office.” And I often used to say, “I long to have a month of silent retreat in the Himalayas!”
Physical and emotional stress and anxieties will have obvious impact on our mental health, and this will be evident in our middle age. By this time, our children would have moved out for work or education and hubby may be busy in his own world; all these may suddenly make a deep void in our life which was fully busy and hectic till then.
By this time, our body tends to be weak; wear and tear happens; we feel lethargic and are unable to move as quick as before; not to mention hot flushes and gaining of weight. Our blood test starts showing dangerous signs. Weariness leads us to stress and anxiety which in turn pushes us to conditions such as irritability, memory loss, confusion, eating disorder etc. We start developing an attitude of arguing on silly things, we face quick mood swings and become stubborn. Often, as a remedy for all these malaises, we surrender ourselves to medicines and psychiatric treatments.
I now feel so sorry for our elderly aunts who were often labelled as crazy ladies. Menopause triggered anxiety disorders were labelled as lunacy in the past. Not getting even a single ray of empathy, these ladies were mentally dragged to the dark corners and they would end up in dire situations. One aunt who is so close to my family was labelled insane because she went to some psychiatric sessions. This lady was an efficient teacher. But, around her late forties, she couldn’t handle the stress especially from her husband who was making a big dent in their financial assets due to his lavish social life. Her mental strain soon led to physical weakness; often having stomach upsets and feeling giddy. These were primary signs of her mental strain. Detailed investigations by several physicians finally culminated in psychiatric treatment. By this time, even her children were treated as children of a crazy woman!
Notwithstanding the experiences like the one I just recounted, I would say the middle age crisis was less prevelant among our ancestors. The main reason I could see was that there was no free time for our mums and aunts, their lives were fully immersed in kitchen and household chores. They couldn’t protest due to the lack of financial power. Also, majority of them did not have a regular job, thus freeing them from work related stress.
Now it is time for a change! We need to discuss these mental issues openly and explore remedies. I am sure we can resolve this serious problem with awareness and determination. Awareness well before hitting our 40s would prepare us to battle against this evil predicament. Not the least, we also need the full support of our husbands.
A key element helping our survival is the availability of two or three close buddies with whom we feel comfortable in confiding our problems and struggles. These friends should have the ability to ascertain our mood swings and then should be able to give right advice. It is of no benefit, if the advice they give only accelerates our problems. Personally, I am lucky to have a batchmate from my college days with whom I can confide my worries. And, in her view, I am one with whom she can confide her problems too! Funnily though, she lives quite far from my state; but then, would distance be an obstacle for care and affection? We both are in the same boat and naturally she was the first person I asked for tips on writing this article. In times of crisis for any one of us, the other one provides a shoulder to lean on.
Meanwhile, based on my experience, I am happy to give tips for facing midlife crisis. Eating disorders, compulsive shopping, social media addictions etc. are common problems among us. When in these situations, you may try ‘dopamine detox’ routine also known as dopamine fast. Google will help you to find the details. I have found ‘dopamine detox’ a good solution to control our mania/phobia. It helps to bring back the positive attitude and bravado we had in the past.
We also need to explore our passions. Everybody has inborn talent but usually you won’t find them out unless you long for them. I had a passion for writing and had a longing for a career in journalism. But, submitting myself to my family’s wish, my destiny was a profession in Engineering. The ensuing hectic life of a working woman truly buried my passion and gradually even a thought about it stopped crossing my mind.
I used to ignore my friend’s request to publish reminiscences of our university life; nevertheless, she kept persisting! Ultimately, this led to the production of a small book about the memories from my campus life. This was published in our Alumni group. There were other welcome surprises also from within this group. One of my classmates who had never opened his lips for a line of music is now posting his melodious songs regularly in our group. Another friend who never showed any interest in literature is an instant poet, who writes even long poems. His poems are rich in high sounding words and often I need Google to find the meaning!
We never know where we will end up. Therefore, open our eyes and long for realising our dreams.
There are a range of activities we can choose and pick from. These include writing, reading, drawing, painting, stitching, singing, baking, cooking, gardening etc. I know several women who learnt dancing after the age of 40 and then became professional dancers. Try to trust in God, if you are a believer. Listen to motivational talks. Watch shows which make you laugh. Learn to watch in advance for signs of gloom, loneliness, or unwanted heated arguments. Identify these signs and tell ourselves “I know what it is and I am not going to fall into this spell.” This will be of tremendous help, I promise.
If we are confident about our own capabilities, age is not a barrier to achieve our goals or dreams. Do not brood over our mental weaknesses and issues, but aim on something positive. Positivity happens when we learn or try new things. Be flexible in mind and body. Try to be active in life than hiding in a passive life. Stand on your feet, don’t allow others damage the vibrancy of the second phase of your gifted life.