I find myself paralyzed after four major personal losses in the past 18 months. I was divorced, my mother died (father died two years ago), I had a terrible falling out with my best friend, and I was laid off at my job.
When I lost my job last month that was the final straw. I “took to my bed” and haven’t been able to do anything since then. I rarely leave the house, I have stopped my exercise program and I haven’t even started looking for another job, probably because my mom’s estate was large enough that I won’t have to work again if I don’t want to.
My daughter Katie is very worried and is threatening some sort of intervention to get me out of the house. I just want to be left alone. I’m starting to think I will never recover from the multiple impact of all these troubles and I’m having a hard time imagining a future for myself. Katie reads your blog and suggested I write to you. How can I move past all this unhappiness and plan a future?
Congratulations on having a daughter with such great taste in advice blogs.
The name you chose for yourself says it all, and with everything that has happened to you in the past few months I am downright impressed you are still able to draft a coherent plea for help.
Thank you for sharing some additional information with me on the phone last week. The first thing I want to do is strongly advise you seek help from your doctor. You have not suffered from depression in the past so we can probably guess this is “situational depression,” also known as “when life gets fucked I get sad.”
Whether or not your doctor chooses to prescribe anti-depressants for you on a temporary basis is outside my area of expertise, but he or she can certainly refer you to a good therapist. You’ve gone though 20 years of pain in such a short time that I think a professional counselor could help you process it all and identify healing methods you can use to embrace life again.
Now that I’ve avoided liability by advising you seek a doctor’s help, I’d like to share a few thoughts with you that may help motivate you to take part in your life again.
1. What you are doing by taking to your bed is very normal, for a time. It’s normal, but it’s not helpful, and after a month the time is nigh that you get out of bed and shake hands with life again. Or French kiss life, for all I care. Whatever you do, it’s time to move past this phase, lest you get bedsores and gain 50 pounds.
2. You told me you were considering retirement anyway and that you and your husband had a very amicable divorce which was desired by you both after years of an unsatisfying marriage.
I hate to take away 2 of your 4 catastrophic life events, but it’s my blog and sometimes I have to make those difficult calls. We will henceforth refer to the divorce and job loss as “life changes.”
3. Losing both your parents in such a short time must have been very rough on you. I don’t think it matters how old we are when they die: when we lose our parents we lose our sense of place in the world and your urge to hide in bed may be a subconscious effort to return to the warmth and security of your mother’s embracing womb.
But you can’t, because she’s gone, and also because you wouldn’t fit in there anymore. That’s the bad news. The good news is: they left you money! Whoop whoop!
4. You were open enough to share with me the size of your inheritance and it is very true you do not have to work again. I think you should take some time off to have fun: travel, date, do new things and volunteer. Eventually you might want to work again, but for now pamper yourself and enjoy the first free time you have had in years of working full-time and raising a family.
5. As for the friend you no longer have, that wasn’t a friendship, at least insofar as you described it to me. She was a selfish user who only called you when she needed something and was utterly indifferent to your struggles, even in the past 18 months when things were falling apart in your life.
(Toilet friends: it’s time to flush!)
Once again I am hearing from someone reluctant to declare dead a friendship largely because of the years that have gone into that friendship, even though the other woman (and it’s always women) brings more unhappiness to their life than happiness.
Sometimes the only way we can grow and prosper is to shuffle off people and things that only serve to encumber us, not raise us up. These friendship “deaths” are as normal a part of life as death itself, and free us to embark upon fuller and more meaningful relationships.
I read recently that if human cells didn’t die and slough off as they do, we would all weigh 500 metric tons by middle age. What a perfect and beautiful and disgusting analogy, right? You need to lose dead friendships to keep going and remain emotionally healthy.
6. Time to get back in the romance race, sister. You told me you were worried that at the age of 54 you are too old to date again. Are you kidding me? You are still very much in the game.
You sent me a picture and I don’t want to sound shallow, but you look hot for any age and especially for 54. I doubt you will have trouble finding men who want to date you. It’s not like you need to find a life mate right now, so just have fun!
Depressed, here it is in a nutshell: Help yourself. Today, not tomorrow. Just start by going for a walk for 30 minutes. Schedule an appointment with your doctor. Whatever your workout schedule used to be, get back on it.
Your depression is likely exacerbated by your sudden departure from your daily workout and accompanying endorphin rush. This may be a chicken/egg question but let’s just assume the reason you are having trouble getting out of bed is because you are more depressed from lack of exercise, which makes it harder for you to get out of bed.
That’s a merry-go-round of fuckery and it’s time to jump off.
Engage your daughter Katie because she is clearly worried about you and it will help get her off your back. You’ll need her to cut back on her meddling ways after you take my advice and start getting laid again on a regular basis. In other words, make sure she knows to call first before she stops by…
To alleviate your sadness over the loss of your “best friend,” also known as “Loser User Friend Abuser,” make an effort to reach out to other friends and to make new ones. Make a lunch date with a friend who has always stood by you, and start taking inventory of your relationships.
Finally, don’t think for a minute that just because you are 54 and have been through some very tough times recently that it’s ok for you to tuck into your covers and wish the world away. Even cut branches will blossom for quite a while before they die.
You’re cut – you’re not dead yet. Get out there and start living or give in and start dying, because there ain’t no in-between.