When Positivity Goes South
Even optimistic geezers get the blues sometimes.
Let’s be honest: Do you wake up every day excited to be alive, eager to greet the day, itching to take on challenges, and practically shouting to the world, “Thank God I’m old!”
Or is that only most days?
No need to be embarrassed if some days you feel being older is a colossal pain in the butt. Because sometimes, it just is. I mention this because I know how it feels. I have days like that myself.
They happen even though I’ve made it my mission to be an advocate for positive aging (without, I hope, being obnoxious about it). Sometimes that comes easily to me, because there are plenty of positives in these post-employment years, beginning with the fact that they are post-employment. I am delighted to be healthy enough to enjoy my freedom from schedules, bosses, and rush hours.
Enter Depression, Stage Left
But - true confession time – some days positivity is just not possible, even for me. I blame it on my own internal chemistry. I have this condition called dysthymia. It’s low-grade but persistent depression. Before I received treatment for it, most days felt like I was bobbing in the ocean, my head just above or below the surface. On the bad days, I fully submerged into the dark depths.
I have probably been this way my whole life, but I didn’t know it until I was in my 40s. I realized something was wrong when I broke down crying on the kitchen floor late one night because the hyperactive puppy was more I could bear. I sought professional help, and I’ve taken antidepressants ever since. I will take them for the rest of my life if I can afford them. Both meds and therapists have made my life infinitely better.
But not perfect. Antidepressants help, but they’re not happy pills. On meds, life is more like bobbing in the ocean in a flotation device that keeps my head above water most days. On the rough days, I don’t descend as deep or for as long.
Depression is not tamed by meds alone. I have a daily practice of meditation, affirmations, daily exercise, healthy eating, and prayer. I abstain from alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. When I need a mood booster, one thing that often helps is a long walk. Being in motion seems to open the brain to fresh solutions for mental blocks. Another helpful practice is gratitude. When I count my blessings – in particular, when I consider all the love that comes into my life – it helps dispel negative thoughts.
And when those don’t do the trick, I declare an emergency, break the glass, and pull out my happy music. My personal rescue kit, for what it’s worth, includes Van Morrison, John Prine, and early New Orleans rock ‘n’ roll.
Why am I telling you this? Just to say that when others our age see nothing good about being older, I get it. I’m there sometimes myself. It’s hard to be as perky as hot coffee when everything looks like cold oatmeal.
I still believe a positive outlook on aging is the best, healthiest way to face it, but let’s keep it real. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive all the time when you don’t feel it. Just do your best and keep breathing and try again tomorrow.
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