Forties, Vision, and Moodswings

Yeah, so if you’re like me, somewhere around the late thirties, you started to hold the restaurant menus a bit further away to read them. Same thing in the supermarket. And you started to joke about it with your friends -“Oh my God we are getting old, we gonna need glasses soon!” And you eventually did get the glasses that you didn’t use much, and left lying around, and grumbled that they were never where you needed them.

And then one day you realised that you couldn’t read anything without the glasses. Actually couldn’t. Everything was blurred. Remember what a shock that day was.

Well, here’s what. Apparently mood swings also take a turn for the worse in the forties. It has happened to me and some of my friends. Our evidence is anecdotal, but it’s worth watching out for. The change seems to take place somewhere between about 42 and 46.

Here’s what happens – the manic episodes get shorter and more infrequent, and the depression episodes get longer. There may be less time between the depression episodes as well.

If you are like me, and your habit is to use the manic episodes or the normal periods to make up for all the stuff you didn’t do in the depression periods, this change in the mood swings will create havoc. There simply isn’t any time or energy to make up for the lost depression periods.

Like vision, this problem also sneaks up on you. The depression episodes don’t seem to get worse or deeper, they just last longer. You are aware that you are spending more time in depression and that you aren’t catching up as before, but at any given point, it doesn’t feel critical. It just feels like stuff you’ve been experiencing before, just a little worse. You might even tell people that, yes, things are a bit worse than normal, but still under control. Because it feels that way.

Even when you realise that that you are starting to lose ground, there may be no obvious answer what to do next. The patterns I had used to stabilise my life were precarious enough without experimenting and changing them. I mean, the situation was not going well, but experience had shown me it could be a lot worse.

It took me about a year to even realise that my life was ever so slowly spiralling downhill again. Then for another 6-8 months I just left everything as they were in the hope that my old manic / depression patterns would reassert themselves. Which of course didn’t happen – the increase in the length in the depression periods  / decrease in the time between them seems fairly permanent.

Once I realised my life was slipping downhill again, I kept telling my friends I would become a grumpy old man with sixteen dogs, screaming ‘ger orf my lawn!’ to the neighbourhood boys. It was a kind of a call for help, or as I thought of it, an accurate extrapolation of my situation if I couldn’t find a solution. I started trying to find alternatives for my old habits, but it was hard because the depression episodes made it impossible to be coherent and logical about what might work and what might not. Or I just didn’t do anything because I was depressed. You know.

Meanwhile my life fell apart again, just as much as it did during my massive meltdown when I was 31. Just this time I was aware of what was happening and it happened in slow motion. It’s had the same level of fascination as watching a bullet pass through a water balloon in slow motion, and pretty much the same level of destructiveness. I’m currently on part time work. One good thing is that my family has been very supportive.

The blog has been at a standstill for a while because I have been trying to find a solution. I’ve been trying new drugs, and new habits, and new ways of thinking about work and daily habits, and well, something seems to have worked. Or maybe a few things. I’m not entirely sure. Heck, I’m not entirely sure that anything worked, and it’s possible I may be in one of my ‘not depressed’ phases. But my current feeling is ‘whatever’.

Anyway, so much for self pitying monologue. For those of you out there,

  • Your mood patterns may change when you enter your mid-forties. Not a lot of evidence here yet, but it’s worth looking out for. Check to see if your depression episodes are getting longer, or that you are starting to have a more difficult time keeping up with your day to day activities than you did in the past.
  • Can I solicit the experience for those of you who have passed through your forties. Is my experience unusual, or did you go through something similar. Comments please.
  • For those of you in your forties, fifties, or more who did go through what I described, how did you cope with it? If you made it through this period with your job intact, and you didn’t become a recluse, then you did better than I am doing. Could you share your experiences, advice, tips, please.

Much appreciated.

4 thoughts on “Forties, Vision, and Moodswings

  1. I’ve been depressed all my life. The odd time I’d feel on top of the world, like I could achieve anything..my only achievement was a depleted bank account then a profound guilt. Before I knew what was happening, depression had me in it’s grip.
    At 58, I was emerging from another round, saw that my sleep meds had run out, and I went without sleep for four days. My doc couldn’t see me right away so I went to the ER..and was seen as drug seeking..well hell. Back home where I saw fleas in the carpet and people tryng to get in, absolutely impossible!! I called the cops who thought I’d better be taken back to ER..the gist of this is that I had a psychotic break. Things got worse, had a bad reaction to Celexa/welbutrin this past winter too much seritonin then I told my doc nuff be nuff, get me a Pdoc NOW. Craps is I was right all along.
    Serious advice? My dad was miserably depressed, he hid it from everyone and had no one to turn to. There comes a time to turn to help but my dad took his life at 49, altering forever the lives of my two younger sisters. All he needed was someone to talk to, find meds that worked and lived a life full of hope and promise.
    If this story is read by those looking for answers, PLEASE gettingo help is the first step.

  2. I am not in my forties but my psychiatrist told me that the pattern you’ve described is common for many with bipolar. Apparently the more times your mood cycles, eventually the longer you will spend in depressive phases. My psych didn’t cite research evidence but there might be some out there, I will ask him. I have likely had bipolar since my late teens but it took me 10 years to get a diagnosis! Now my psych thinks that we need to focus on getting both the hypomania and the depressive episodes under control as as enjoyable as the hypomania can be, in the long term letting it happen will lead to worse outcomes, in his opinion.

    P.S I’m so glad that I’ve found your blog! I have just been through a phase of rejecting my diagnosis and coming off medication, only to become unwell again. I am slowly beginning to take Quetiapine again (just PRN currently) until I see my psychiatrist again to develop a plan. It’s a struggle accepting a bipolar dx and the fact that I have a condition that I will need to manage my whole life. Your blog is helping me feel less alone.

  3. It’s 2:05 a.m. in England (United Kingdom) and I have been awake all night, but I’m not the one with bipolar – my partner is. After 5 years of being together, he packed all his stuff and left. On 31/10/15, a couple of weeks after his 44th birthday. Things had not been great between us for a few months before that, but I didn’t see that coming. He had been crying a lot whilst I was at work…I tried to be there for him as much as I could…in hindsight I should have persuaded him to go and see a psychiatrist sooner, but I didn’t because I thought he was unhappy with me, with our relationship…I thought he didn’t love me anymore…so, one day, I told him that if I was making him so unhappy, maybe he should leave me…and he did…I didn’t realise that it was the depression side of the bipolar who was making him so tearful and upset because, in the 5 years we were together, he had never been so unhappy for so long…however, looking back, I can now see that his moods were becoming darker and darker by the day, but at the time I thought that ‘I’ was the cause of his sadness. After all we had been having more arguments lately, about silly things, and we had also unconsciously started to drift apart…I wish I’d realised that at the time, but I didn’t, and now I feel like I have let him down. We’ve been texting each other every other day since he left, and we’ve also spoken on the phone three times since then, but anytime the conversation becomes ‘about us’, we cut it short because of the emotions involved. He says he loves me. I know I love him too but I’m struggling to go on like this. Last night he told me that he’s made an appointment to see a private therapist later on today. He said that he intends to tell the therapist that he has moved out. He asked me if I agreed with this course of action (of course I said yes – I mean he needs to say the truth for the therapy to be effective, right?), but I worry that the therapist will only have one side of the story (his, not ours). He promised me that he would let me know the outcome of his consultation, so I guess I just need to wait until I hear back from him, but I am worried to find out…hopefully the therapist will know about ‘Forties, Vision and Moodswings’, because your blog explains it perfectly…I also wonder if my partner realises that, whereas the therapist is there to help, there are no emotions involved for them…please help…

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