Archive for the ‘amateur psychology’ Category

Loneliness In Middle Age: Myself In The Third Person

March 26, 2017

Loneliness In Middle Age
By Louise Mills


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.’

Myself: A Case Study

March 20, 2017

IMG_0257Myself: A Case Study:

This will be the bleakest blog entry for a while and for that I apologise. The breadcrumbs have been devoured by the birds and there is no way back. I have to create a new future for myself.  This is a kind of SOS.

This is actually about me but I am writing about myself in the third person. What shall I call myself today: Susan perhaps.

My diagnosis was, until recently schizoaffective disorder but the powers that be have chosen to change it to ‘schizophrenia’. Schizophrenia is a cruel disease. It attacks every aspect of your being and even after a successful medication regime has been established there are problems that may seem unsurmountable but they must be faced up to and overcome. At the moment I am experiencing residual symptoms of my disorder: loneliness, social isolation, suicidal thoughts, panic and anxiety. However, my greatest enemy is poverty of expectation in myself and in others. I find myself longing to give into the temptation to curl up into a ball and lie there forever, to succumb to a dreamless sleep.

Right now I am terrified of the future. I have a tendency to catastrophise. I am finding the world almost impossible to navigate. I am nothing, I am passive, a mere observer. I am characterless, A tabla rasa. My self esteem has been ravaged. I feel socially disenfranchised, as if I have no place in the world. I am living on the edge of darkness, huddled down deep inside myself, wondering whether I will find myself again. “it is my portion to die out and disappear.”

I need to bear constantly in mind that there is a solution to every problem. Something as simple as making a list of problems and solutions can be immensely helpful as it helps to put them into some kind of perspective. I have got to this stage and the darkest hour is just before the dawn. I will not let this illness win. I must triumph over this nameless dread. A life lived in perennial fear is no life at all. Time propels you forward. There is no turning back.



Impossible Decisions

May 9, 2010

From a selfish perspective the birth of my niece takes the pressure off me.  I have always taken it for granted that I would have children.  I am reconciled now to the fact that this will never happen.  Some people are unsuited to parenthood and I am one of them.  It’s not that I dislike children – far from it.  I’ve worked as an au pair and was everybody’s favourite teenaged babysitter.  Jobs I loved, jobs that fuelled the fantasy of one day getting married and having a family of my own.  I did not know then that I would be diagnosed with a severe mental illness, that I would develop social phobias that prevent me from going out and meeting people.  In the ‘Known Allergies’ section of the personal notes in my real life diary I have written ‘people’.

It’s a hard lessen to learn but I am not destined for motherhood.  The world would be a better place if more people reached this conclusion.  Not every biological need can be fulfilled.  Not having children is a more painful sacrifice than choosing to have them.  The state of childlessness required more maturity and courage than simply churning them out regardless of the kind of person you are.  I need to be true to my conscience and that means denying myself children.  It’s hard but that’s life.  And I must deal with it

Je Ne Regrette Rien

July 1, 2008

I don’t know why I chose to pin
My colours to your mast
For this was a war I could not win
A river in which I could not swim
Your reputation is destroyed
The dogs of vengeance are deployed
The newspapers snoop and vultures swoop
Picking over your remains, saying,
‘Go on defend her if you must
But be assured we’ll grind you into dust’
Yet I did not elect to join the winning side
I did not elect to be swept away by the tide
But still I was sucked in and swallowed whole
I dutifully played my allotted role

They say you hated her
I disagree. I saw you
Foraging for affection
On the day of my defection
You did not ask for much
But she was far too delicate to touch
As incorruptible
As a wedding dress
As pure as an ivory rose
With bright, white petals
Defying the darkness
But she was so hard to impress
Enmeshed in the webbing
Of purity, of perennial insecurity

She is somehow seductive
Gentle, subdued and soft-hued
She was the stone wall you clung to
Like creeping ivy and wandering
Through the wilderness you needed to be close
To the stillness at the centre of the whirlwind
She has never sinned
Ambivalence made no sense
And this was the consequence
The two of you are dissected, then polarised
And you are transformed in their eyes
Reduced to the status of saint and sinner
One spoilt, the other serene
One corpulent, the other lean

You are despised, she is idolised
You are sour as curdled cream
She epitomises youth and truth
A sycophant’s wet dream
She is so easy to adore
This is all that remains
A drowned world
A planet aflame
Much has been lost,
And little has been gained
But I do not regret a thing and if I had to
I would do it all again because even the devil,
Yes, even the devil
Deserves an advocate

And The Mail on Sunday…

June 29, 2008

excels itself once again. My response: (which won’t be printed)

I receive supplementary disability living allowance* for a psychiatric disorder but I’m sure those principled, compassionate journalists at The Mail On Sunday will be pleased to learn that I am saving up for a one way trip to Dignitas. Perhaps they’d like to accompany me there to see a job well done. Thanks for reminding me that I’m not wanted. The Nazis had a policy called Aktion T4. Perhaps that should be the next step. We must deal with these people. (Myself included, of course). Grab your torches and sharpen your pitchforks, people, we’re going on a witch hunt. What fun!

DLA was originally introduced by the Tories with the intention of saving money. It was also a key feature of their care in the community policy. ** It was intended to keep people out of long term psychiatric facilities. If the Mail on Sunday have their way and this benefit is withdrawn then its recipients will probably face a life in institutions which, incidentally, will cost far more than the taxpayer is currently paying.

Of course, there is another alternative: government sponsored work placement schemes but these will never be implemented because they too cost far more than DLA.

Meanwhile I cling to this:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep

And miles to go before I sleep

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
*It really helps if, on a whim, the hospital in which you are incarcerated (AKA Section Three) decide to perform an EEG on you which detects ‘abnormalities’.  Most people aren’t so lucky.
**And, my God, they’ve got a nerve.

Lost Cats and Schizoaffectve Disorder

June 6, 2008

My friend Andrew’s cat died this afternoon.  He was distraught.  He rang me to say he couldn’t meet up with me tonight.  He is too upset.  He took the Tom in for a routine check up and emerged with his lifeless body.  Andrew works in a cat sanctuary and has seen many cats get sick and die but that doesn’t diminish the pain he feels now.

I was ill last week but managed to avoid the nuthouse.  Sometimes I think I’d rather commit suicide than go back there.  I was told that I was ‘neglecting myself’ so I spent all week worrying that they would force me to go in.  They didn’t, of course.  That’s why I’m sitting here writing. (duh!)  One doctor said I put together a compelling, articulate argument against being hospitalised.  I can’t even remember what I said.  I am in a state of sheer terror at the thought of returning to hospital.  My main problem is that I have co-morbid illnesses that are rarely seen in one person: schizoaffective disorder and bulimia (I started out as a purging anorectic – now why did I feel the need to tell you that?)

When I am treated for my illness at an eating disorders facility, they do nothing to alleviate symptoms of schizoaffective disorder – heightened mood, delusions etc.  And when I am on an acute ward the psychosis is dealt with but not the bulimia.  So, as you can imagine, I’m kind of difficult to treat.  Now, I’m scared that if I alienate them they will abandon me.  I’ve seen it happen.  So, I am feeling isolated and afraid.  I woke up this morning to find I had been crying in my sleep.  I can do nothing but sit back and wait for it to pass.  But its taking its own sweet time about it.
I wonder if cats have their very own Feline Grim Reaper.

Reality Bites

March 16, 2008

Most people adopt children. I had to be different. I adopted a grandfather. It seems like he will be here forever. Like Bella. I am standing on the beach and this wave is coming towards me. A great grey wall. Unstoppable. I have become complacent. I forgot, for a moment, that time marches on. I could sit in his living room, eating his toasted hot-cross buns, listening to him recount his war stories for the rest of my days. Those afternoons are precious to me. They are essential to me. The reality is, however, that Nobby (not Nobbie) is ninety one and that wave is inching ever closer. And I turn back to Nobby and we resume talking and I am wondering what I should do to blast that image out of my brain

I don’t know whether I’ll be able to survive this one.

Apparently I have Nothing Better to Do Than…

December 4, 2007

hang out at this blog.

punter (qual res) | 12.03.07 – 9:00 am | #

Louise, (for it is you), I have avoided addressing you directly before. Not out of fear but because mental illness is your thing and I tend to avoid accusing FJL directly of mental illness. I know too little about it and it does no good because she simply denies it and throws it back.

My thing? No, I never take credit when it isn’t due. Let these people take the credit for that:…lower-a-flower/

Hmm, all those people lining up to kiss one guy’s ass. An epidemic of backache must have ensued.

But Jailhouse lawyer is not me. He, as far as I know, does not post here and has no need to, because he has his own blog, and he has no record of commenting anonymously. He may well have an ego of his own. He certainly isn’t afraid.

Message to Felicity: The next time you commit a crime, make it less serious. Don’t target the online world’s answer to the people’s princess, bash a little old lady over the head with an axe instead. (And remember to use the blunt end because that somehow diminishes culpability.)
It’s an excellent career move.

So – quoting what someone else wrote on JHL’s blog is a bit of an obscure thing to be doing here.

And I note that you commented 3 times last night and then immediately responded to the first comment here. Are you, as some have suggested, hovering over these pages?

Who has suggested this then? One of your alter-egos? I’m just waiting to see what you’ll accuse Ms. Lowde of next. Every misfortune this species has encountered since the fall? Or was she responsible for that too? That serpent was framed. On these pages it has been intimated that she is a prostitute, a holocaust denier and now this. Seriously, mate, are you trying to get her off? You know, if I were FJL I’d have started this blog myself, enticed my accusers (Victims, call them what you will) to comment on it and then induced the defence of provocation.

Please, comment under your own name and don’t assume (à la fjl) that this blog or its comments are written by JHL. I dare say he would take credit for his own work. He has done so far.

And your given name is ‘Punter’. And Shurly Some Mistake’s name is ‘Shurly Some Mistake’? Whatever.

I’m afraid you’re the one making erroneous assumptions. You may not wish to take credit for other people’s work but someone else certainly does. One of your…um…masterpieces was plagiarised on the comments section of my blog. The person responsible had Mr. Hirst’s portal on his blogroll.

If Ms. Lowde is an attention junkie, then you are her dealers.

This Jeremy Kyle Chap

October 1, 2007

I’ve been hearing rather a lot about him recently. Apparently, he hosts a daytime TV show for people that is like a new human form of bear baiting. Well, being partial to a little of that myself, I casually tuned in (as you do) and very nearly tuned right back out again. However my butler passed me the smelling salts, I steeled myself and carried right on watching. I rang the Queen and asked her if she would be prepared to give me the George Cross for this outstanding act of bravery. She thought about it for a while and then told me to bog off.

To begin with our ‘Jezza‘ presided over the jobless, the feckless, the reckless, the talentless, the tedious, feeding off their inadequacy – smug, supercilious and sneering at the centre of the stage. People have compared him to an American talk show host called Jerry Springer. There is, however, one crucial difference: unlike Kyle, Springer does not pretend to be some well-intentioned social worker out to save the world. Springer knows what he is providing: entertainment and nothing more and he is quite prepared to admit it.

Halfway through Kyle’s minions led a mother and her bulimic daughter onto the stage. The solution they offered to this girl’s mountain of ‘issues’ was to parade a group of real anorectics before her. Then Graham, the show’s psychologist (and now, apparently, ED Specialist) told her that in order to ‘shock her into recovery’ the ‘team’ would take her to a clinic where she could see end-stage anorectics ‘in the flesh.’ The girl on the stage switched off at this point. There was a ‘the lights are on but there’s no one home’ look on her face. What Kyle and his sidekick Graham didn’t seem to realize was that the message they were sending out was not the message that was being received. In her own mind she wasn’t as thin as the other young women being paraded before her were because she was weak. She was just a ‘wannabe’ and I bet she left that show determined that she wouldn’t be one of those for much longer. Such is the twisted thought process of the anorectic. What part of the phrase ‘distorted perception’ doesn’t he understand? Why does Graham, the psychologist seem unfamiliar with the concept of ‘triggering‘? The anorectic’s denial of nourishment is born out of a need for control, about the need for self sufficiency. ‘The fashion industry; and ‘the desire to be glamorous’ do play a role in this but those issues are not at the core of the illness.

As I’m a dedicated follower of fashion I’ll say what many others have elsewhere: that guy should not be allowed within a million miles of anyone remotely vulnerable. Halfway though the show he threw up his hands and said ‘I just don’t get it.’

Well, he got that bit right. Dead right.

Oh, and leave it to a judge to state the freaking obvious.


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