Today, I am 65-years-old – and my feelings upon reaching this milestone?
– I don’t feel old. I actually feel better than I have in a long time.
– I have actually learned some things along the way, but was it hard-earned knowledge – much harder than it needed to be.
– My life is so different than I imagined it would be now.
What I thought was an ending to the most difficult part of life is turning out to be something entirely different than what I had always imagined. Rather than the relaxed and carefree existence I had hoped for, it has turned out to be a time of great challenge.
I want to share some of this with you, and have you share your experiences with me.
When I stopped working, the loss of self-esteem was massive and devastating. It was like a direct hit by a train that I never saw coming. Honestly. It was, and I know that there are many out there who are experiencing the same thing.
I want to talk about lots of issues that retirees face – the shocking loss of identity, the financial change (and ways to alleviate that), health and beauty issues, cooking, art, DIY, alternative ways to alleviate pain and stress, crafts, music, and my passion – animal rescue, dogs in general, and more.
In the past 10 years, my husband and I have lost jobs, had to spend all our retirement to live during the lean times, almost lost our home to foreclosure, filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy, been through multiple illnesses, surgeries, addiction, and major depression/bipolar problems. Mostly me.
How did this happen? We both worked since our early teens, never lived lavishly, saved. We paid our taxes, followed the law, voted. We even recycle, for heaven’s sake!
Well, it did happen. I have spent 4 days on life support during a respiratory coma, had gastric bypass resulting in the loss of 260 pounds, I have been hospitalized for suicidal depression. Those are just a few of the standout lows of the past decade. Make no mistake, I fully admit that some of my troubles are due to some poor decisions on my part.
I tell you all this because I know that there are many out there, suffering, struggling, sometimes unable to take action.. I call this the black hole. The best way I can describe it is to say that when you are paralyzed with depression, and if someone came to you and said that if you could have anything, anything at all, no matter how fantastic, no matter how impossible, you could not name one single, solitary thing that would make you happy. I get it, and it is soul-destroying.
There is hope, and there is light. You can feel better. You can worry less, be more engaged in life, be involved, and discover new interests and passions. You can develop talents you never knew you had.
As I write this today, I can say this with every fiber of conviction in me. I truly believe that if you are alive, you still have a spark within you. You still have the will and you still have the fight. You can pull yourself out of the darkness into the light. That said, we all need a little help.
Once you make a call, whether it is to your general doctor, clergy, your community health service, a friend or family member, a hotline, your local hospital, you have taken the first step. Yes! Now the hard work begins.
I will be talking about how I fought my way back to having a life with meaning, to having dreams again, to not only enjoying things I used to, but finding new interests to pursue.
It is a lot of work – hard, sometimes overwhelming work – but, it is so empowering, and so, so worth it.
I hope you will join me in sharing, and in having a few laughs along the way. In closing, let me quote the great Bette Davis who said, “Getting old is not for sissies.”
Bette knew what she was talking about.