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.