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May 23, 2007 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible for a 43-year-old woman to have a mid-life crisis?

For the past 6 months or so, I have felt an ever-increasing sense of dissatisfaction in practically every area of my life. At all times (but to varying degrees) I hate my house, my job, my husband, my appearance, my dog, my car and the prospect of the future, to start a short list

The housecleaning and laundry never end. Every time I turn around, it seems like someone else wants something from me. I constantly feel that I have to justify and defend any time I set aside to do anything for myself.

I have taken antidepressants in the past, but what I am feeling now doesn’t feel like that did. I don’t feel incapacitated or incapable of functioning…. Mostly what I feel is pissed off. My patience is practically non-existent (except with the kids; for some reason I’m not letting this mood affect how I interact with them). That’s a good thing.

But other people? Forget it. I’m quick to let fly with criticism, comments, and generally not keeping my mouth shut when I think I know better. I’ve never been one to suffer fools but now I just can’t stand most people and I can’t be bothered to try. I’m just over it all. It’s like I use up any restraint or “emotional censoring” ability I have in my interactions with the kids. So there isn’t any left over for anyone else, and frankly I don’t care.

I know those close to me often feel they have to walk on eggshells, but even that makes me angry- I’d rather they confront me or at least engage in some sort of interaction. I am just dreading the long weekend to come.

Has anyone else gone though this? Is it, in fact, another form of depression or chemical imbalance? Or am I just a cranky bitch?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
irritability is also a sign of depression, fwiw.

have you talked to your husband/partner about how you feel? what about a therapist? it can be just as effective as medication, if not more.

also, it's normal to reevaluate your life and sometimes it becomes obvious all at once. while you are seeking out therapy, you might want to draw up a list of things that you want to change and start exploring actions you can take.

there's nothing wrong with doing good things for yourself, and in fact it will set a good example for your kids, when they become parents.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:26 PM on May 23, 2007

I wonder how old your children are. My mother has said the years she had three young children (we were ~ 2 years apart, so there were years there we were all very little) were some of the hardest years of her life.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:26 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Of course it is possible to have a midlife crisis at any age really. I would say that many of the specific problems that you are having are possible to address, but may seem like too much to address all at one time.

Focus on small steps that you can take now and prioritize the problems in your life. If you get professional counseling (which I would recommend), it may help you understand the root issues and help sort out the feelings that you have. Eventually though, it will be up to you to follow through with changes that will make your life better.

It is evident that you are really busy and I empathize with the constraints of raising children and being a caregiver. Be open and honest about what you need from the people around you. Try to reach out in a way that will let people know that you need time for yourself. Ask for support if you are not getting it in the right ways. Be a little bit more selfish.

And exercising or even meditating for just 30 minutes a day (the key is focused activity) may be a good start to help you clear your mind and have some time for unwinding. Remember, small steps. You're going through a rough spot, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 1:42 PM on May 23, 2007

You need a vacation. Take one.

You obviously are extremely conscientious and put your children's needs first. But just because it is both necessary and one of the most fulfilling things in life does not mean it is not a lot of pressure, especially when your kids are small.

Maybe you think you just can't leave your kids for a selfish reason, that they would feel abandoned. Well, your kids can tell you are not happy. Your kids can see the tension between you and your husband and everyone else. They need a happy mommy.

Unless you are breastfeeding, there is nothing you do for your children and your home that your husband cannot find a way to get done for 3-4 days. Maybe your mom or his mom can come to stay? Or maybe he can just roll like a single parent for a few days -- after all, many of us work full-time and take care of our kids single-handedly.

Do what you have to do to recharge. It's the best thing you can do for your family.
posted by Methylviolet at 1:55 PM on May 23, 2007

I had to laugh out loud when I read your question - it's so honest - it sounds just like me a few years ago!

First of all, you are ridiculously normal. Every single one of my girlfriends in their 40s have gone through this. And who would blame any of us? Let's see, we've spent years of our lives working frantically, then we rush home and the second job starts. Then, we have to worry that we're getting old because our butts are getting scary when we look in the mirror. Added to that, everyone NEEDS us all of the time- "where's my notebook? Have you seen my keys? Ashley won't talk to me! Are you going to take me shopping tomorrow?"

Yes, you may well indeed be having a mid-life crisis - that point when you look around and realize that this is what your future turned into. And it may be great on paper, but it isn't what you'd exactly envisioned. So, this is what I would do before you run off to Bali with the pool boy. Go find your most honest girlfriend, make plans to stay overnight in a hotel, and have a good old time drinking wine, bitching about your lives, and realizing that you're not alone.

Then take a deep breath the next day, and call around to find a therapist - your friends may know a good one. Make an appointment, and then tell her/him what you've told us. You'd be surprised how much better you'll feel when someone is empathizing with you.

Or, run off with the pool boy.
posted by Flakypastry at 1:57 PM on May 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

First of all, you are ridiculously normal.

Seconded. It's always worth investigating whatever issues might be troubling you with either a therapist, close family member or good friend.

Mostly though, sounds like you're on the right track. Establishing boundaries around your "me" time (ugh I hated writing that, but you know what I mean) and not being defensive about protecting it will go a long way in terms of keeping you sane.
posted by psmealey at 2:07 PM on May 23, 2007

BIG time. Recently. VERY recently. Angry at everything, instant fury.

Believe it or not, if you've suffered chemical depression in the past, this is another symptom of depression - extreme irritability. I had no idea until I met with a therapist who then referred me to a psychiatrist as well.

I am in therapy, coupled with a minimum dose of prozac, and I can honestly say that in 4-8 weeks, the difference is HUGE.

Explore the possibility. The prozac doesn't solve the problems, but it will get you to the point where you know what requires anger and what doesn't - and what it's all about.

Good luck to you...
posted by OhPuhLeez at 2:10 PM on May 23, 2007

Sounds like perimenopause to me. Not old enough to have gone through it myself yet, but my mother and a lot of her friends talked about a period of intense anger sometime before actual menopause.
posted by MsMolly at 2:11 PM on May 23, 2007

Sounds like me for the better part of this year. I'm just now getting over it. I decided to produce a short film to focus my attention/creativity on one thing. I drastically reduced my online time. I drank more but the film added stress...

I'm 43, male, married, a four-year-old daughter. I felt like I couldn't even handle my cat anymore. I was also unemployed at the time.

I'm almost done with the film and am still trying to keep up with the housework. But now I have something to show for being so middle-aged. Heh.

The worst part was the anxiety I had when I was waiting to hear back from two job prospects and a client for freelance web work.

You need to do something that you really want to do, even if you have to drop a few things for a little while.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:32 PM on May 23, 2007

Hoo boy. I was diagnosed with perimenopause (and still had a kid, go figure) after a particularly angry year at age 38. I also struggle from depression.

So, it could be perimenopause, or a mid-life crisis, or a function of the fact that you never, ever get any time for yourself.

I'm with flakypastry up there. I told my husband pre-marriage that I was going to build in extended time for myself on a yearly basis. To GO AWAY. By myself. A la Gift from the Sea. He was hurt at first and took it kind of personally that I would want to go away without him. But I told him that I needed time to miss him. And now to miss him and the kid.

It is IMPORTANT to be able to give back to yourself without a million people tugging at you. Really important.
posted by jeanmari at 2:37 PM on May 23, 2007

Oh, anon - I've so been there. I felt like I had used up a lifetime's supply of patience and I was totally at the end of my rope. For me, it had to do with taking care of everyone and everything except myself. Only when I started taking my own needs seriously, and putting myself first could I heal the resentments that were making me so angry.

Now when I do something for someone, it truly comes from a generous place - I don't do for others because I feel I must. Giving comes from a place of abundance, rather than lack. I finally have enough to give back, because I've taken care of myself first.

With little kids in the house, it's even harder to learn how to say NO, but it's an invaluable lesson for them in building healthy bounderies and relationships.

Hopefully you have support structures in place that allow you to do that for yourself. If not, start to cultivate them! You deserve it. Like the old saying goes, "If mom's not happy, nobody's happy."

And Flakypastry's got it right.

except for the pool boy part. Might I suggest an actor, instead?
posted by Space Kitty at 2:58 PM on May 23, 2007

This could be totally normal or it could be a second facet of a depressive disorder.

It was explained to me by a shrink that many of us use up a lot of energy "coping" and "being normal"-we are able to do that until we get around our forties-then our ability to hang on wears off. Whether we are dealing with hormones, chemical imbalances, or life disappointment, the forties are the decade we get fed up with it.

Yes, you need to take a vacation, or a break, or something. And do have a yack with your doc.
posted by konolia at 3:02 PM on May 23, 2007

I think Flakypastry has it. I suspect that you are struggling with unreasonable expectations of yourself as much as with the actual work. Talking to honest (as in not-fronting) friends will help.

Also, I know this is painfully obvious but maybe it's time to look at the household budget and find some money for some help with the cleaning and/or laundry. Maybe you're thinking of it as a frivolous luxury right now, when it might be more appropriate to think of it as an investment in your health, and the longevity of your marriage.
posted by teleskiving at 3:04 PM on May 23, 2007

I feel like that a lot too, and I'm only 35. Let's have our midlife crisis together! I'm actually avoiding all my housework by goofing off on the computer. Being fed-up with it all is totally, totally normal, at least among all my friends. You shouldn't have to justify me-time at all. I agree, just announce plans that you are going away for the night (a weekend would be better - how about the long weekend?) and let everyone else cope. Time for your partner to step up to the plate. You don't need to be there for every moment of your children's lives; they will enjoy hearing your adventures and telling you about theirs. Good luck!
posted by saucysault at 3:21 PM on May 23, 2007

I would say, work on going away for a week on your own, or with a gf. That may sound scary. As a husband in a long marriage, I am getting hints that perhaps you are binding yourself to your predicament. I could be wrong though.

I would hope that you would be able to talk to your husband, and get it through his head that you really need some space, then work on creating it. They'll probably do fine, and you'll have a great time, wherever you get off to.

I hope that it gets better for you.
posted by Danf at 3:39 PM on May 23, 2007

Is it possible for a 43-year-old woman to have a mid-life crisis?

what do you mean, is it possible - Isn't that exactly when the standard mid-life crisis is meant to take place? I mean, sure, these days it seems like we all go through (whatever)-life crises pretty consistently from soon after college on, but I always thought the stereotype was one's early/mid 40s, when it seems like the main path of one's life is pretty much set, and for some large portion of people, it doesn't quite match what we might have hoped it would be back when we were 22.

Is it, in fact, another form of depression or chemical imbalance? Or am I just a cranky bitch?

The line here is way less clear than most people paint it to be. Depression is not a disease the way a tumor is. It's a tendency to be sad and to get stuck in sadness. You can say it's something else because a trained professional has a list of questions to ask that makes it "clinical depression" but at the end of the day, it's a tendency toward shitty moods that doesn't seem to go away on its own (I have been on meds plenty of times myself; I'm not condemning that approach, just suggesting that treating cause before symptoms is generally preferable). It's good that we have some chemical assistants that can boost things. But it is also worth assessing the life you're living and determining what is and what isn't working.

taking a vacation by yourself to think about it all might be a good idea. What did you hope for in your life back when? What has come true, and what has been a disappointment? Are there still projects you'd like to undertake? Do you just want more appreciation from the people you care for? Have you expressed these issues to your close friends and loved ones?

You could try talking to someone, or keeping a journal to work through some things on your own. you might find it interesting or worthwhile to take up some kind of personal hobby or "me-time" activity if there isn't already a pursuit you have in mind that's not getting attention - martial arts, dance, pottery, life drawing, creative writing, foreign language, hiking, etc...
posted by mdn at 3:44 PM on May 23, 2007

Europe beckons.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:01 PM on May 23, 2007

Sounds like perimenopause to me.
posted by Lorna at 5:27 PM on May 23, 2007

When I'm stuck in depressive ruts I travel. There's nothing like it for shaking you out of a bad mindset. I'd take a really long trip - as long as possible, preferably at least a month - Mexico, Europe, wherever. When you get back, everyone else has it right - therapy and/or anti-depressants and/or re-evaluating your life and whether you really want to change it. Figure out if it's just a phase or a deep and lasting dissatisfaction with the way things are.

And I have no doubt that you and what you're feeling are totally, totally, totally normal.
posted by walla at 6:41 PM on May 23, 2007

Not to minimize what you're going through, but how are you doing as far as eating and sleeping are concerned? Missing meals and missing sleep can really exacerbate the kinds of moods you're describing. (And of course, when you're really stressed out, sleep and food are often among the first things to go.)
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 7:22 PM on May 23, 2007

I think it's interesting that this phenomenon is so widespread and yet we diagnose it so individually. While I'm sure that hormones and your personal idiosyncracies play a role, but I think there may be more to it than that. We live in a media world that caters to boys aged 18 to 29, we are told that the next purchase will always make us happier, and, despite the tv's constant gloating that feminism is over because it's just not needed anymore, we live in a pretty sexist society today.
Betty Friedan's Feminine mystique describes a world most of us no longer live in, but while sexism may clothe itself in today's cultural flows, the role it plays in our lives and ways of thinking continues today. The second shift, the absence of strong women (and the occassional woman who does speak up is derided as a bitch), and the invisibility of women over forty (and how many famous women over forty get surgery to look younger). This doesn't just matter for women, of course: when men are told that we only matter when we're sleeping with younger women (how many actors over sixty have co-stars thirty years their junior?), guys who're getting older can begin to feel that their value as a man is withering away and deflating.
I don't know the specifics of your life, but maybe improving your mental space will mean thinking through your place (read some adbusters and Bust) and figuring if there is a way to plug into some collective action that could change your whole outlook. Good luck and rock out.
posted by history is a weapon at 9:38 AM on May 24, 2007

I would say start by treating the symptoms: no more laundry, no more housework. Get hubby and kids to do it, or hire a maid.
posted by footnote at 10:08 AM on May 24, 2007

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