I’ve never been overly concerned about my age, or aging in general.
It’s true. A lot of people have something of a rude awakening when they turn 30. Not me. I was fine with it–it was just another year in my life. The same was true at 40. So, for me anyway, age and aging hasn’t really been much of an issue.
Over the last few months, something has changed with me. My mind isn’t processing things the way it used to. Specifically, it’s not dealing well with the now undeniable truth that I am getting older. My normally nimble cerebral cortex has become a cloddish, lumbering, sometimes even doddering lump, completely disoriented by what’s happening around it.
Most days lately, I just don’t feel like me anymore.
I don’t think it’s necessarily my age, though. I turned 48 in November–not really one of those milestone ages. But, even before my birthday I had begun to notice that something just wasn’t right. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin, a fact I found terribly disconcerting because I’d only started feeling comfortable in it about 10 years ago.
Yes, something definitely changed this year, and I’m now more aware of my age, and of the aging process, than I’ve ever been. And now, unlike before, it bothers me.
A few weeks ago, I found myself standing in front of the bathroom mirror, looking at a face I thought I knew, but one much less familiar to me. It was at that particular moment when it dawned on me–an idea I’d always eschewed as an excuse for bad behavior was coming to fruition in my own brain. . .
I’m having a midlife crisis.
It was a bit of a whirlwind. So many thoughts and emotions cropped up all at once and without warning. It felt something like that scene in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles when Steve Martin and John Candy have no idea they’re driving the wrong way down the interstate until they’re face-to-face with two semis barreling toward them. Their car goes between the trucks, both of them scream bloody murder, lightning flashes, sparks fly, Martin becomes a skeleton, and Candy becomes Satan. . .
Yeah, it felt something like that.
But, like I said before, it’s not just my age. And in that moment it wasn’t just my furrowed brow, the crow’s feet next to my eyes, my receding hairline, the hair in my nose, the out-of-control J.R. Ewing eyebrows. No, it wasn’t any one of those things. It was and is all of those things, and so many more things, some of which I can identify and some I just can’t. Yep…I’m definitely having a midlife crisis.
I wasn’t at all prepared for this, and I am an extremely detail-oriented person who likes to plan for things. I don’t do anything without a plan, but this…no, there was definitely no plan for this, and that bothers me as much as the fact that it’s happening.
I began to ask myself some serious questions: how does one go about having a successful midlife crisis? How long should I plan on this crisis lasting? What will life look like on the other side of this crisis? These are all worthwhile questions, but regrettably I found, questions for which there are no answers–at least not easy ones anyway.
I can remember hearing people talking about men having midlife crises when I was a kid. Most of those men ended up cheating on their wives, buying expensive cars, or getting some sort of plastic surgery. That’s all well and good, but for me there are a few problems with that:
- I’m not married, and even if I were I don’t think I could bring myself to cheat.
- I just bought a used Toyota Camry–I can’t afford a Corvette.
- I didn’t even want them to operate on me to repair a broken arm; do you seriously think I’d let someone peel my face off my skull just to stretch it back?!
No, those things just are going to work. It looks like I’m just going to have to muddle through the crisis as best I can without all of those accouterments. I will just have to settle for a plain vanilla midlife crisis. Sorta boring, but on the bright side, I won’t cost as much.
So, I’ve compiled a list of 10 easy steps to help you have a successful (and economically friendly) midlife crisis:
1. Become middle aged (this might actually be the hardest step of all…)
2. Lose hair in places you want it, grow hair in places you don’t
3. Start waking up at least once a night to use the restroom
4. Stop sleeping when it’s bedtime, start sleeping when it’s not
5. Have mysterious pains on/in various parts of your body
6. Get at least one new medicine from your doctor when you go for a check up (and require a pill-keeper to organize them)
7. Have at least one new test run during or after each doctor visit
8. Listen to your doctor say, “You’re at that age when…”
9. Make the self-help section your first stop in your local bookstore
10. Become acutely aware of all the ways your life has not turned out at all like you planned it
While I am purposely presenting this with a bit of levity, it is very much a front burner issue for me right now. All of those 10 things have happened or are happening to me even now. Standing in front of the mirror that day, I was flooded with a sudden awareness of the passing of time. I’m getting older; I’m changing; people I care about are getting older and changing; the world is changing–nothing looks even remotely familiar to me anymore, and it scares the hell out of me.
Being the predominately left brained person I am, I started doing some research on midlife crises, their causes and implications for men. I didn’t find a lot of answers to my questions, but I did find a lot of confirmation for the way I’m feeling now.
In a 2018 article titled “Midlife Crises Affecting Men and Families” by Dr. Lynn Margolies, in mid-life, “We are faced with loss — loss of youth, previous roles and opportunities. Midlife transition often is associated with a shift in our sense of time, leading us to reflect on our lives so far, decisions we’ve made, and the future.” This is an uncannily accurate description–at least for what I’m experiencing now. I am keenly aware of the things I’ve lost, the passage of time, and I constantly second guess decisions I’ve made or am faced with.
Although midlife crises happen in both men and women, men experience them much differently than women. For men in mid-life she writes, “Men in midlife crises feel hopelessly trapped in an identity or lifestyle they experience as constraining, fueled by an acute awareness of time passing. Finding themselves in a life that feels empty and inauthentic, they feel pressure to break out, and may desperately grasp at a chance for vitality and pleasure.”
Empty. Needing to break out. That pretty much sums it up.
But, this is serious business. According to the American Society for Suicide Prevention, men are over 3 times more likely to commit suicide. In 2017, there were, on average, 129 suicides per day in the U.S., and men accounted for almost 70% of those. Suicide rates were highest among middle aged white men.
Let me be clear, I’ve never been suicidal and I’m not now; but, I can understand why these thoughts, emotions, and massive changes that I’m experiencing now could lead someone to consider taking his own life. Despite how they are portrayed in the media, they are, at times, overwhelming and not curable with an affair or a new car.
1,300 words into this blog post, six months into this midlife crisis of mine, and I still don’t have any answers to the big question. . .
What the hell am I supposed to do with this?
The truth is, I don’t know if there is an answer. All of the literature I’ve read assures me that this is only temporary; that it will pass; and that, for the vast majority of people, midlife crises are followed by what Dr. Margolies describes as, “an upward trend in life satisfaction.”
God, I hope she’s right?
So….what say you? Can you relate? What’s your experience with midlife crisis (or midlife in general) been like? My hope is to start a meaningful conversation about a serious issue that is, all too often, ridiculed.
I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, there is hope to be found. You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)
As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!
- If you or someone you know is in immediate danger to themselves or others, please call 9-1-1!
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
- Teen Line: 1-310-855-HOPE (4673) or 1-800-TLC-TEEN (1-800-852-8336)
Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!
Margolies, Lynn. “Midlife Crises Affecting Men and Families.” Psych Central, 8 Oct. 2018, https://psychcentral.com/lib/midlife-crises-affecting-men-and-families/.
“Suicide Statistics.” AFSP, 16 Apr. 2019, https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/.