Struggling in England-Seeking support

Ronne,  Age 70

I turned 70 in January and still can’t quite believe that number. Having struggled with depression most of my adult life. It was well controlled by medication until a couple of years ago, when I had to switch to a different kind of meds, which don’t work so well for me. I find that it is now bedding in and becoming a permanent condition, which worries me. I am feeling my mortality — there seems to be so little time left — and dealing with physical limitations (arthritis) gets tougher every year.
And yet… I know I don’t look, or act, my age — people are generally astonished when they find out how old I am. And yes, “inside I feel 25!” Which makes it even more depressing that I’m so OLD!!
I am a transplanted New Yorker, living in a very small (and very dull) town in Nottinghamshire. I have been here since 1985, when I met and married a wonderful man, who happened to be British and in the RAF, stationed at a base 3 miles from where we live now. We stayed here for a variety of reasons — at first it was my job (I was phenomenally lucky to be able to continue the career I had left in New York — children’s publishing — with a major publisher who happened to be 20 miles away); then we had a son, and this was a lovely place to bring up a child. Of course, he left as soon as he could — first to go to university, then to live and work in London — but by the time that happened, hubby and I felt it would be stressful and counterproductive to uproot ourselves and move to a new area, where we didn’t know anyone. We do have a network of friends here, and my husband is in two folk bands, which mean a great deal to him and which he does not want to give up.
But I am struggling. I don’t know where I belong or what to do with myself, now that I’m no longer working. (I worked from home as a freelance for the last 20 years of my career, so that in itself is not a huge change.) I volunteered with a children’s charity for several years, and found that very fulfilling, but I had to leave when they restructured. It left a gap in my life, but it had been stressful in many ways, so I felt a bit relieved as well.
I feel that it’s all downhill from now, and when I read the positive and inspiring stories of other women here, I feel a sense of wonder: how do you do it? I am struggling to find a sense of purpose, now that most of my life is behind me. And I am plagued by fears — what will happen if my husband dies before me? What if I get a serious illness, as some of my friends have?
I realize this is a very negative story, and I apologise for that. But I’m wondering if I am the only one in this wonderful community of strong, vibrant women who is feeling this way? If there are others out there feeling this way — how are you dealing with it? I would love to hear from other women who have gone through this and come out smiling on the other side!

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24 Responses to Struggling in England-Seeking support

  1. Diana says:

    The wisdom and contentment that come with age are surely accompanied for many of us with moments of apprehension and self-doubt.

    That said, far too many of us keep our worries to ourselves. We want to be that wonderful older woman who has it all together. It takes both confidence and courage to admit that we’re not.

    Our old adversaries are still with us – whether it’s depression or poverty or loneliness. But we’re far more experienced in dealing with them at this point in our lives.

    It’s not ‘downhill’ from here. It’s different. And challenging in ways I never dreamed. I’ve opted to accept my age (ladies, I look OLD and I swear there are rainy days when I can hear my neck creak!) and that’s me. It’s okay because it’s me. And I forget things. And I get confused and flustered.

    Yet I am a rock. These past seventy-odd years didn’t just pass. I lived them. And so did you. And we’re stronger for it. And more interesting.

    And wiser.

    • Ronne Randall says:

      Thank you, Diana – what a great way to look at this journey we’re on! I do think the wisdom we have acquired along the way is a great gift. Contentment? That’s a way off, I think – but hopefully I’ll get there.

  2. Patricia is ssel says:

    Please know you are not alone in how you feel.
    I myself feel like there is little time-add some health issues, and my husbands too, and sometimes we both get depressed at the same time. That is murder. Working at home on your own sometimes has its wonderful attributes and can be sometimes a real challenge. I think my dogs speak English to me-they’re the only ones with me most of the day. I know there is more but my main problem is I feel disconnected with myself. The only thing I can recommend is try and accomplish 2 things or one each day-little things, it all adds up. Just know I am right there with you.
    I am right there with you.

    • Ronne Randall says:

      Patricia, thank you so much. It is such a boost and comfort to know there are people out there who understand because you’re going through this too. Let’s reach out and hold on to one another. Sending lovely .

      • Patricia says:

        It is not a depressing thread it is life . You make it more real.
        I’m happy you did express yourself. Think of the Frank Sinatra song That’s Life. The words are so true.
        Everyone has their own life and it must be lived the way they can.
        Your mind is the best place to start, and what feels comfortable for you and enjoyable is where you should go. You have much company. Thank you for writing.

  3. Beverly M says:

    I’d like to encourage you to find another place to do volunteer work if even for a few hours each week. If there is a library nearby, I’m positive they’d love to have you help them in many ways. Would you be interested in reading your stories to a children’s group? There are more needs than you can imagine and there’s someone out there that would love to have your help. That may help your depression as well as offer a new meaning to your life.
    I don’t mean to be sarcastic but if you keep on doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep on getting what you’ve got. Please make an effort to get out and about and help someone and that in turn will help you. I’ve been where you are and I am the voice of experience at 75.

    • Ronne Randall says:

      Thank you, Beverly. I actually did go to my local library and offer to volunteer – I had exactly the same idea as you. The woman I spoke to said it wouldn’t be possible – for complicated and boring administrative bureaucratic reasons I won’t try to explain – but she did say they might be able to arrange a one-time event around my books (some of which are on their shelves). That was several months ago, and I’ve heard nothing, which is a bit demoralising. You are absolutely right about keeping on doing what I’m doing, etc – it’s finding the new stuff to do that’s difficult, especially in the area where we live. Thanks for your encouragement – I need to keep trying.

  4. Joan Goodman says:

    First and importantly, start a Gratitude journal. Each day, write three things you are grateful for. One of those things is surely your husband. Another is, that you can walk, talk, and hear. There are many of us that do not have these things. For a few months I was deaf and for a few weeks, I was unable to walk. You have no idea how lucky you are. Concentrate on others and not yourself. Many need your help in various ways, even for a talk or a walk. Thank God every day for what you already have.

    • Ronne Randall says:

      Good idea, Joan – thanks. I used to do this, but stopped. Maybe time to start again. I have been through my share of illnesses and some years back was unable to walk for 6 months. Since then I have never taken my ability to walk for granted, even when it’s painful. Like Joni Mitchell says, You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Something to keep in mind..

  5. Pamela Duran says:

    I am turning seventy. Twenty five years with the sweetest man, no financial worries, homes in USA, France and Mexico. We take cruises to get back and forth to Europe, for the six months we spend in France. We retired ten years ago and had a great time travellng the world.
    I fell down the stairs 18 months ago and though I have recovered, I got so accustomed to lying around I now do not want to do what it takes to get up and exercise and get going. I am very bored with life. I have arthritis and an essential tremor (not Parkinsons). I still look young. I don’t care about my looks, they will go soon and it doesn’t matter. I hate being old. I read, we go out for lots of meals, we are interested in world events. I just really dread the coming years, all going to be downhill. We enjoy our friends less and less. I hope I die first, otherwise my hermit tendencies will take over. I have a lovely daughter, he has two nice daughters and seven grandsons.
    What I’m trying to say is, no matter how good your retirement life is, it is normal to feel bored and to hate being old. It just goes with the territory. So don’t believe all the helpful hints to make your life better. Just accept it for what it is.

  6. Patricia says:

    Seriously?

    • Susan Broadwell says:

      Patricia, thank you for your comment. For the last 25 yrs. I have just tried to survive financially and mentally. My husband of 44 yrs. has been disabled with severe spine degeneration for 9 yrs. and our 34 yr. old son is still living with us in 2 bedroom apt. and has anger issues. I have worked very hard to meet all the “challenges” that have hurt our family. Now at 70, I look back and see only failure of career, child raising and anything else that comes to mind. I have volunteered since the 1970’s, while working and having a family. This note may sound like “poor me” but I am desperate to be the happy, giving person I used to be. I’ve tried everything. Just to know there is someone else out there struggling helps. My anger is overwhelming.

  7. Diana says:

    “I don’t mean to be sarcastic but if you keep on doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep on getting what you’ve got.”

    Beverly, well put. I’m taking it to heart.

    Surely we all have at least one small aspect of our lives that we can change to our satisfaction.

    Susan, I hope that you too find a way to add even a little time for yourself each day.
    You’re strong to have gotten so far, but it sounds like you need a safety valve for yourself. Is there a way you can get time alone to think or walk or listen to music?

  8. Ronne Randall says:

    I feel as if I have started a depressing thread here, but I think it’s important for us to express these feelings and look at these issues, and not sugar-coat the ageing process. It’s a first step towards helping and supporting each other, and I’m so grateful for all the replies here, for the negatives and the positives. Honesty is so important, and I thank you for yours. I’m so glad I found this site – maybe that should be the first thing in my gratitude journal.

  9. Diana says:

    Ronne, your post wasn’t depressing. It was real….and appreciated.

  10. Blog Mavens says:

    Ronne hello,
    First, our thanks for your thoughtful and honest post. You have obviously hit a chord with our readers.

    You did, indeed, have an impressively productive career creating children’s books. In fact, I recognize many of your titles as helpful resources in my years of working with nonverbal and language impaired children. Where you have apparently ended that pursuit, my husband and I, now in our late 70’s, have just begun writing for children!

    Here in Texas, an author with her own books to read to kids would be a valued commodity in the schools. Not so in Nottingham?

    I find it hard to ignore your mention of the fact that your current medication is not working well for you. It makes me think that some of your worries and gloomy thoughts are treatable. I wonder if that might be explored further with your doctors. There continue to be new approaches available for depression, and a brighter outlook for evaluating this stage of life, might be possible. What do you think?

    You still have your talent with words, and probably many stories to tell. Do you do any writing just for the pleasure of it? Is that an option to consider?

    Do you visit your son in London…or travel a bit further?
    As a transplanted New Yorker myself, I know how good it feels to explore a city again…any city!

    I hope your conversations here are helpful and look forward to hearing more from you.
    My best regards,
    Jane

    • Ronne Randall says:

      Jane, thank you for that reply. I am delighted (if a little surprised!) that you seem to be familiar with some of my books. That is so gratifying.
      I did volunteer at our local junior school — not reading my own books, but helping reluctant and less able readers. However, there were problems (the teacher who was supposed to be in charge was hardly ever there, and there were massive scheduling foul-ups as a result; I put up with it for 2 years, then left in dismay). I could, I suppose, ask at the infants’ school (equivalent to grades K-2); there are bureaucratic hoops to jump through (safeguarding is a major issue — everyone who volunteers in schools here has to have a criminal background check, which I think the school has to pay for), but it’s worth a try.
      I am exploring medication options with my doctor — I see a psychiatrist every couple of months who specialises in “older adults” , and we have already talked about the next step if my current dosage increase doesn’t work — so hopefully there are still possibilities.
      Travel is a difficult issue for me – I get very anxious about leaving the comfort and safety of my home (an issue I have discussed at length with my therapist — and will continue to discuss with her), so don’t often travel very far. We do go down to London to see our son, and to see friends, a few times a year, though — and I always enjoy it when I do. And I am flying off to Denmark next week (on my own!) to visit with relatives there for a few days. I am sure I will enjoy it when I get there (I hope!), but I am very nervous — not about flying, but about being away from home on my own. This is devastating for me — I used to travel all over the place on my own, and I loved it — I left New York to start a whole new life in the UK, for goodness’ sake! — but my confidence has been eroded as I’ve got older. (Last summer I had a major meltdown that lasted 2 months — a breakdown, really, unlike anything I’d experienced before — and I had to cancel planned trips to London and Paris because I was barely able to leave my bedroom for two months, much less leave home. That completely knocked the stuffing out of me.) But I am trying to push myself (gently) to keep going, because I’ve realised that the change of scene often helps. And yes, I do like exploring cities, and enjoy the stimulation it brings. Nottingham is, I think, a rather dreary place — but I have found little corners that shine a bit more brightly: I’ve joined a writers’ organization that occasionally runs courses (yes, I do do some writing for pleasure, though when I’m depressed I generally find it difficult); I’ve found a great once-a-week art class. But I have trouble motivating myself to get out and find what else might be out there.
      I know I’m not alone. Just today I had lunch with a friend I know only slightly (a bit better now!), a doctor who retired last year at age 65. “Now that I’m not working anymore, I find myself thinking ‘What does it all mean?'” she said. Bingo! The underlying existential crisis. Our children are grown and flown; our work is done; and there are far, far fewer years ahead of us than behind us – is there any point to starting something new? It’s a negative view of life, I know. I am trying to change it — and being able to connect with women in similar circumstances is hugely helpful. I am grateful to every single woman who has responded here. Thank you!

      • Blog Mavens says:

        Ronne,

        You are certainly looking in all the right directions…
        Hard to see it when you feel depressed, but as long as you are alive, there are moments to treasure. Sharing your talents and gifts with those in need often provides two-way benefit, but finding the right situation may take a bit of effort. We elders have a vast and valuable storehouse of knowledge and experience….worth sharing.

        Your struggles remind me of a book that has remarkable appeal to those I know who are suffering in similar ways. It’s Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. Have you seen it? (There’s also one that precedes it, but I did not get to read that). By sharing her personal experience, she seems to have pulled mental health issues out of the closet, and has quite a following.

        I hope your trip to Denmark goes well!
        Jane

  11. Noel says:

    My mother used to say “I cried because I had no shoes, then I saw a man who had no feet.”

  12. Blog Mavens says:

    This is to Struggling in England.
    I too do not have any support. My husband is disabled and our 34 yr. old angry son lives with us in a 2 bedroom apartment. I have kept busy volunteering and working all my life, but am finding everything meaningless now. The election and the 2 yrs. of nastiness before, didn’t help our family. I am reaching a dangerous point now, can hardly get out of bed because of severe depression. Have tried therapy and my insurance doesn’t cover cognitive therapy, which is what helps me. I have concentrated my entire life on others, and now find myself unable to find joy in much of anything. I would love to travel, but do not want to do it alone. My husband has had degenerative spine disease for 13 yrs., progressively getting worse. We go no where, he is in pain 24/7. So you are not alone in England.
    I send you support to try to care for yourself and hope for the best.
    Californian

    • Ronne Randall says:

      Dear Californian – my heart goes out to you. You are so brave, and much stronger than you know. I am sure you’re right about the election etc – my depression took a very big dip after the Brexit vote here in the U.K. and then again after the US election – yes, so much nastiness unleashed. But I feel very fortunate, too, being in the UK – I pay for private therapy, but the psychiatrist I see (to supervise my medication) is on the National Health Service and so completely free (so is all my medication). I also do have support from my husband. He is a few years younger than me, and has a heart condition that I worry about constantly – more than he does – but is dealing with retirement and this time of life much better than I am. He has a passion for music, has formed two bands, and most of his energy goes into that. I think that’s the key. Having a passion. I don’t have any. Like you, I have spent most of my life “keeping busy” – and although I loved the work I did as an editor, I wouldn’t want to do it now, even if the opportunity was there. (Things have moved on in publishing.) I do enjoy writing and art, but they are mostly solitary pursuits, very inward-looking, and the desire to do them (and any enjoyment they bring) vanish when depression hits.
      The one thing I’ve had to learn to do that has helped is to reach out to friends – something I have always found very difficult. At least when I lived in NY, most of my friends were nearby. Having to build a new network of friends here in the UK , in my 40s and beyond, was tough. But I was amazed, when I was at my worst last summer (I had what I can only call a breakdown) and in desperation reached out to a couple of friends who live relatively close, that they responded with kindness and caring. One of them has since become a closer friend, so something good came out of a terrible experience. Do you have people around you whom you can reach out to for friendship and support? Just connecting with someone can be really helpful. Reading everyone’s replies here has been so helpful and heartening. None of us is alone, Californian. Keep reaching out. I send you support too, and wish you the best.

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