I lay in bed for the third night in a row, staring at the clock radio blinking the seconds of my life away. What’s going on with me? I should be on top of the world. After dreaming to be a veterinarian since I was 7-years old, I now had my own practice, was well respected in the community, my brother and I had recently purchased a piece of investment property in the elite College Hill area where I was now living and managing the other apartments.
What’s going on? Why aren’t I happy? Why am I so bored with my life? After lying there for another hour, I finally went to the kitchen, got a beer and used it to wash down a couple sleeping pills.
That was over twenty years ago. I was 36 years of age, and what I didn’t know was that I was on the verge of a midlife crisis. It would be another couple of years before the crisis festered to the point that I started contemplating suicide — two years of trying to numb the emotional pain with alcohol, drugs and staying frenetically busy.
I recently learned that some professionals consider a midlife crisis to be a normal part of the maturing process, but I can tell you from personal experience (and from working with a lot of folks) that when you’re in the midst of such a crisis, it feels anything but normal.
Oh sure, we all experience some emotional turbulence as we transition through life, but for a growing number of people this turbulence can escalate out of control.
And some of our common strategies end up only making matters worse. We may try to ignore the pain, or numb it out of existence either with drugs, alcohol, excessive work, frenetic busyness, or over-indulging in TV and/or video games. Yes, there are a wide number of ways we can avoid dealing with the issues that can escalate into an emotional meltdown of a midlife crisis.
Heading it Off at the Pass
But with a little self-awareness, it is possible to catch yourself beginning to head down the slippery slope of a midlife crisis and thus, minimize the pain and discomfort. It starts by identifying the warning signs such as:
* Boredom — life seems to have lost its luster including the people, activities and things that used to bring you pleasure.
* Unhappiness — perhaps the life and lifestyle you’ve worked so hard to achieve just doesn’t seem to be it anymore. You may feel like you should happy but, alas, you’re not.
* Unrest — Not only may you find yourself awake at night ‘wondering what it’s all about (Alfie), but you feel like there’s no fun or adventure n your life.
* Confusion — You’re no longer clear about who you are or whether what you’re doing really matters, which often leads to…
* Questioning your choices and decisions. If you’re in a relationship, you may begin to doubt that you’re with the right person, and the urge may be strong to chuck it all and start over.
Could There Be Nothing Wrong — Just Something Missing?
As you begin to notice these early warning signs you may also begin to realize that this time of transitional angst has something valuable it’s trying to tell you.
While there is no panacea for all the ups and downs that you may experience as you go through your life, I believe there is something that can help the healing process in many if not most cases. And that healing process begins when we realize that a midlife crisis is a crisis of meaning.
A crisis of meaning can happen before midlife, during midlife or after — whenever we lose our sense of self and purpose. My crisis of meaning ended up with me lying on my bathroom floor in that apartment in College Hill ready to end it all….but it doesn’t have to get that bad. It really doesn’t.
Consider this. There’s nothing wrong — nothing wrong with you or with life. Perhaps there’s only something missing, the presence of which could make a tremendous difference on the road to recovery.
Next time we’ll explore some effective ways to head off a midlife crisis before it reaches ‘crisis stage.’