Archive for the ‘age’ Category

Loneliness In Middle Age: Myself In The Third Person

March 26, 2017

Loneliness In Middle Age
By Louise Mils

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Loneliness is often portrayed as a condition of old age. Little attention has been paid to the kind of loneliness that afflicts the middle aged. However, recent research has shown that an increasing number of the middle aged are reporting feelings of isolation, despair and loneliness. Some say it is reaching epidemic levels. In spite of this, they are a group still relatively low down in the hierarchy of concern.

Contrary to popular opinion loneliness is not a trivial condition and its impact on our lives should not be underestimated. According to the British Medical Journal, ‘Loneliness and social isolation are risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke’. It also puts us at greater risk of cognitive impairment or decline. It can be a threat to both physical and mental health. Many are reluctant to admit to loneliness so it tends to be a hidden problem which can make it all the more debilitating. Although loneliness is not, in itself, a mental illness, it can lead to disorders such as agoraphobia, anxiety and depression. Pre existing mental illnesses are also exacerbated by loneliness.

So what makes the middle aged peculiarly vulnerable to loneliness? Several contributory factors have been identified. Middle age is often the part of life in which people are forced to confront their own mortality for the first time. It is often an an age when people lose their parents.

Melanie Dunbar, a 43 year old sales advisor, says: ‘This was the year in which both of my parents decided to die. I was orphaned in my 40s. Another blow came when a friend of mine who was only seven years older than me passed away after a short battle with cancer and that’s when it hit me: I am no longer young. I am also unmarried and childless which intensifies my feelings of isolation.’

The loss of our contemporaries in middle age leads to a precarious sense of self and causes us to question our connection with the world. The sense that we are part of the cycle of life is disrupted. We realise there are no certainties, there are no guarantees. Youth takes much for granted, including life itself. The middle aged can no longer afford to do this. Experiencing loss at this time of life can also lead to fears about one’s own health. For the first time we see our contemporaries succumb to life changing illnesses. We realise our time is running out, that middle age is a prelude to old age. Youth is over.

We are all failures in some way, even the most ostensibly successful. There are always things we should have done but didn’t. The childless regret their state and those of us with children are facing a dramatic change in status as our offspring fly the nest. Empty nest syndrome afflicts women in particular.

We are running out of possibilities. We become more self critical. It can seem that there is no escape, that our lives are over, that there is nothing to look forward to. That this is all there is and all there will ever be. There is no possibility for change.

We become more self conscious, more acutely aware of the way in which those around us perceive us, especially the young. ‘When I was in my twenties  I barely noticed the existence of anyone over forty. Apart from my parents and they were frequently the objects of mockery,’ says Sarah Grossman, a 47 year old financial advisor.

Loneliness in middle age can hit some harder than others. It drove Pattie Gilbert, 49 and unemployed, to the brink of suicide. ’At the moment I am trapped in a vicious cycle. I am imprisoned in my flat, alone. I have lost all of my friends and lack the capacity to make new ones. I lead a relentlessly solitary life. I cannot go on like this but I don’t know how to break the cycle. I need help but I have no idea how to get it. I feel an overwhelming sense of fear. I feel like I have lost too much of myself, like I have forgotten how to live.’

‘It is as though I am mentally and emotionally paralysed. It is the future that terrifies me the most. Sometimes I feel that the only thing I have to look forward to is death. I wake up in the morning and want to go straight back to sleep again, my dreams being more colourful and interesting than my everyday life. They say life begins at forty. I am yet to be convinced.’

‘I think about suicide frequently. My death would be a relief, not just for me but for the people I am so parasitically dependent on – my family and my mother in particular. My death would set them free. Some say suicide is a selfish act. Right now, it seems like the opposite.’

It is at this point that many are tempted to turn to social media to fill the void in their lives. According to some it can only be a temporary fix. According to Dorothy Baker, a community psychiatric nurse, ‘When we switch off the commuter and unplug ourselves from the internet we are catapulted back into an unsatisfactory reality. There is no substitute for face to face contact.’

There is a temptation to withdraw from the world.  Dorothy urges us not to succumb to it. ‘It is all too easy to allow yourself to be sucked into a cycle of self pity. We need to recover the capacity to operate once again as fully functional human beings.’ There are many ways of achieving this goal. Often a little imagination and energy are all it takes to turn your life around. It is never too late to embark upon an exercise regime and maintain a healthy diet. Improvements in physical health can lead to improvements in mental health. Keeping a diary and reading are also immensely helpful. Hobbies and interests should be nurtured. Dorothy has some encouraging words: ‘Remember the best thing about growing old is that you do so in such wonderful company.’

Forgetting many things but most of all myself

March 2, 2015

Bella_In_a_Box_by_bellarie

 

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You Know What They Say About Brevity…

September 3, 2011

I was wondering when they would get around to this:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2032960/PM-attacks-BBC-riot-coverage-Stop-making-excuses-looters-says-Cameron.html

Worth the license fee ten times over and almost makes up for the Jonathan Ross debacle.

This is what Our Esteemed Leader has to say: ”We all do stupid things when we are young’.

Indeed. I couldn’t agree more. One thing I didn’t do though was regard smashing up expensive restaurants as a rite of passage.

I’ve no doubt we’ll soon get a missive from The Greatest Doctor In The Entire Universe explaining why there is no moral equivalence between lower class feral brats rioting and upper class feral brats rioting.

Addendum: Criminal damage is criminal damage. And it’s against the law. Could members of the Bullingdon Club still be prosecuted for their actions?

Now that would be interesting.

Not Just For Teens

August 29, 2010

There is a widespread belief that eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are confined solely to women in their teens.  In the popular imagination once the sufferer had left his or her teens behind his or her symptoms miraculously disappear.  Sadly, this is not always the case.

A very good friends of mine, Liza O’Neil, is a twenty five year old example of someone whose eating disorder did not cease when she reached her left her teenagers years.  After a brief period of anorexia when she was in her early teens, Liza developed bulimia.  Liza says, ‘My problems with my body began when I was about twelve and people made comments about the extra weight I was carrying.  In hindsight I realized that I was never clinically overweight just carrying a little puppy fat but I was made, as a result of the insensitivity of others, to feel as though I was elephantine.’

Liza has oscillated between anorexia and bulimia for most of her adult life. She is now on the borderline between anorexia and bulimia and is clearly deteriorating rapidly.  And there seems to be nothing we can do about it. Just stand on the sidelines and watch her decline.  And the hand with which she reached out to the medical profession for help was simply brushed aside.

Fading

September 22, 2009

These two creatures – one human, one feline, are probably the only living beings keeping me tethered to the world at the moment.  And one of them is fading from view and fast.  Last Monday I met Nobby at his front door. He stumbled towards me into my arms. I could not support him.  He was too heavy.  I held him while he fell as gently as possible to the floor then I turned him over into what I vaguely remembered was the recovery position. He lay there barely conscious as I ran across the sitting room and, with trembling hands dialled 999.  I was speaking to the operator  when Nobby made his ‘miraculous’ recovery’.  He staggered in.  He was weak and pallid but he pulled the receiver from my hands and spoke to the operator himself.  He told her that he was not ill (even though he very clearly was) and that he did not need an ambulance (even though he very clearly did). He put the ‘phone down and leaned back into his chair, all colour drained from his face.

I was besieged by a mixture of emotions.  I had hesitated.  I had not known what to do.  Had I overreacted?  Would the staff at the ambulance station right there and then be having a laugh at the melodramatic, hysterical timewaster they’d just been forced to devote valuable time to.  How should I have responded?  I have had (admittedly very limited) first aid training and I never envisaged myself behaving as I did when faced with the situation I had just been confronted with.  You imagine yourself to be cool, calm, focused, but I simply panicked.  ‘Get help, get help,’ said the voice in my head.  And so, acting purely on instinct, I called an ambulance.  I surrendered to my own hysteria.  I acted like a drama queen, or like one of those time-wasters so despised by members of the emergency services everywhere.

I am so angry with myself.

Nobby is 92, btw

He is holding on and is a million times more courageous than me.

GhostCat: Where are YOU?

January 7, 2008

There will never be a perfect time to have a pet. I am being bombarded by offers from my friend Andrew who works at a cat sanctuary – He has found a lovely little affectionate cat called Bounce. I don’t even feel like visiting. I am so tired. I don’t think this will be a good time to bring cats into a still grieving home.

Bella has been my (almost) constant companion. For a decade she has been by my side. (Apart from my trip to America and Europe when Bella stayed in Birmingham with my parents). But I thought about her, I dreamed about her.

But Bella was a stubborn little Madam and would make me endure lots of silent treatments when I returned which were resolved when Bella felt that she had made me suffer enough. She wasn’t nicknamed ‘Bratcat’ for nothing.

I know I will never find a cat like Bella again. One night, back in 1996, I opened the front door to let a friend out and, as the friend left, this little white cat invaded by apartment. She slipped through the door and let out a piercing miaow, a miaow that said ‘I’m here and I’m here to stay’. And stay she did for eleven years. A lady downstairs had one more cat than she needed. The youngest(Bella -6) was being bullied by the Top cat. So, she came to live with me. Melissa, her first rescuer, told me that she’d been wandering Mill Road – emaciated, with no fur on her back legs – when she found her. She took her back to her flat and was surprised to find that she was house trained. She had also been spayed. My neighbour nursed her back to health but cats can be fickle creatures and Bella began to explore other flats in a bid to find herself another home. Bella had made up her mind. Every night she stood outside my door calling for me to let her in. I did. And every night she came. I made an agreement with her human who found it difficult to have to deal with night after night of hissing, spitting, snarling.

So she surrendered and brought Bella to me. She sat perched on my chest that night and the purrs she emitted soothed me into a sleep devoid of dreams. She became a permanent fixture in my life, almost to the exclusion of everyone else. And she was loyal to the end. She died in her sleep. Next to me. The best way to die some say. I’m not so sure. Doubts are setting in

If anybody’s interested Bella was 17

More Later

Against the Tide

September 14, 2007

She always swam
Against the tide
She never compromised
She was never pulled under
She refused to go down
She did not drown

And now she is standing
On some strange shore
There is nothing left
There is nothing more
She was once the woman
All men adore

She blazed, she amazed, distinguished
Until her flame was extinguished
For old age was a destination
She never believed she would reach.


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