Mid Life Crisis

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 OldGeezer 03 May 2022

Seems like I'm not the only person today having issues. So, I have registered under a new account for anonymity. Regular user.

Unlike the younger person who is also having a moment, I am fast approaching middle age. I have a family, home,  lovely wife. I'm reasonably financially secure, have a few savings, a pension and my mortgage is all but paid off and I have no other debts. To the outside world everything looks great.

But I detest my job, feel utterly unfulfilled and cant see a way out. Problem is, it's a well paid job, but a very stressful job, in a specific sector but I've been doing similar roles for 30 years or so and the last couple of years have been terrible. I wasn't furloughed, thankfully, and am able to work from home,  but every evening I dread the next day, and I fear I am creeping back in to depression. I have had bouts, some severe, of mental health issues over the years.

I then look at my skills and see nothing of value to anyone else and thoughts are emerging that I may end up on the scrap heap pretty quickly. I was in a great job until recently but the company was acquired - I dont think I ever got over it. I then moved to a new job but my role was changed and I left about a year ago. The company I joined was in meltdown, which I didnt see from the research I did and so I joined a new company in December. This new role, on the face of it seemed great, but on joining has again not turned out as expected. I know no job is perfect but I cant see me staying and I fear my CV might start to look bad, and then there's the new, younger generation who will start to look more attractive.

I just cant get my head sorted and have become irritable, withdrawn and starting to think the unthinkable as a way out. I spend hours in a daze, eat badly, have zero motivation for anything and exercise has dropped off a cliff. I am also losing sleep.

Has anyone got any pearls of wisdom to help get an ageing mind back on track?


In reply to OldGeezer:

As my previous posts, I'm an unqualified random internet weirdo, not someone with reliable advice. Caveat emptor!

If you can finish your mortgage, could you then survive doing something else like garden clearance, demolishing sheds, light tree work (not big arborists stuff) etc etc, Sure lots of other people can do work like that but are all of them as polite and diligent as you could be?  Swap your car for a truck and get on with it.

Oh, and start having the occasional "adventure", many of these are stupid ill-conceived and absolutely excellent fun and can be done in a day or weekend with others or solo. I don't want to give any examples as that'd either be things I've done that I don't want to admit to, or things I plan to do but don't want to burn my bridges or end up incriminating myself

EDIT: if you've been working 30 years you aren't approaching middle age you already are [physically] well inside middle aged, whether you are mentally middle aged is the more interesting question

Post edited at 12:10
 WhiteSpider88 03 May 2022
In reply to OldGeezer:

Here's a few a ideas from a random bloke which work for me in hard times.  Think about some of this stuff, but remember proper help and support is available from professionals.

Remember you are not your job, we often attach our identity to what we do during the day, it is part of the status - labelling thing we do in society.  Separate yourself from the work, turn up, gladly take their money, but keep a big part of YOU for yourself.  Don't give them everything.  Identify with yourself though a hobby, climbing or playing an instrument for instance.  Compartmentalising life is a strategy I use when things get difficult. 

Try to focus on rebuilding friendships, the last couple of years have taken their toll on everyone's social life and support networks, get out there and talk to people, I'm always talking to strangers and often I find it uplifting. 

Don't compare your life to other people, most people are secretly suffering over something, it is how we deal with the pains which defines us.  Don't rely on others for validation, when it doesn't come you may sink.  If you can provide your own reassurance when times get hard, then you will have a powerful strength.  Years ago I did an exercise with a sports psychologist to build my confidence before a Commonwealth Games, on a blank sheet of paper we drew a big wall with huge bricks, in each brick I wrote an achievement in my life that I was proud of, all sorts of random things but it worked and my confidence grew, he called it my "Power Wall"!   A doctor friend of mine was recently struggling, so I showed her the exercise, and she was surprised at what she had achieved in life despite her feeling worthless beforehand.

Eat better food, turn off the devices and find activities that remind you how you felt when you played as a child.  Try to do something immersive, for me I like to spend time in my garage workshop making things listening to classic FM. Do more gardening, be creative. 

If you are still struggling, get out of the job, if you can't get your head right, ask for proper help.   I often believe that people are unhappy due to external factors, don't internalise it, you are the ok one, the outside stuff is what grates.

I found Twelve Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson quite enlightening, you could have a read and see if you can get a new perspective. 

There are lots of options out there, life is a big blank canvas, stay strong mate, you can do it with the right perspective.  From what you have told us about yourself, you are successful and a devoted and caring husband, the world is better place for you being around, be kind to yourself.  Good Luck!


 stubbed 03 May 2022
In reply to OldGeezer:

I always said that I hated corporate life and wanted to leave as soon as I could pay off the mortgage. Then I was made redundant and the decision was taken for me. It was a like a weight had been lifted. I should have resigned years before.

My ex-employer paid for me to see a wealth management consultant who basically made me add up all my money and see what I would have in retirement. If you can do this and live on the money then you know - you can leave your job now and do something else. Think of all the jobs that sound interesting to you (for me I could see myself happy as a librarian, for example, or a florist) and then you can start to plan what you need to do to get there.

 Flinticus 03 May 2022
In reply to OldGeezer:

Are your children adult and is your wife working?

If so,do you need all the income you're getting? Just how much pension have you already accrued?

I ask as my wife hates her job (whereas I simply dislike mine 😀) so she's put in to drop to a half working week. We don't need her earning more and she's lucky to have a modest final salary pension accrued. Got the mortgage paid off already. Sure we could always find ways to spend more but why at the cost of mental wellbeing and life? Give me a few more years then I'll do the same.

In reply to OldGeezer:

No real advice, other than you're by no means unique. Pretty much everyone I work with in their mid fifties and upwards feels like this (myself included).

Have you mentioned this to your wife or a trusted colleague at work (if you have one)? I was feeling very similar to you at the end of last year, and talking about it has put things in perspective - even if the underlying issues are still there in the background. Don't internalise these feelings or they'll start to badly affect you.

You've not been in the new job long, and it takes me ages to get past the "What have I done, can I handle this, people will see I'm useless and a fraud" stage (years in some cases). Your feelings could just be a combination of this and other significant events. It certainly sounds very much like depression, based on personal experience.

I've found the "It's only a job, I don't enjoy it at all, but I'm doing it as well as anyone else despite this, so don't dwell on it and just keep taking the money" approach works for me. I'm too old to embark on a career change (and it would be as stressful as staying put as far as my reaction to change is concerned) so just hanging in there until things improve (or I can afford to retire) works for me.

Obviously that's personal to me, and more motivated and optimistic people would be aghast at that. It's whatever works for you.

 duchessofmalfi 03 May 2022
In reply to OldGeezer:

Long term stress is a bummer. 

Post edited at 15:28
 Rob Exile Ward 03 May 2022
In reply to OldGeezer:

Just another random poster, but still...

Personally I think there's few things more debilitating than being in a job you don't enjoy and/or take pride in. In my case, most of the last few years have been pretty much a write off (even though it was my business! It's complicated) but that's behind me now.

From what you've written I would think you are possibly better off than I was at your age... So, do you really need  another career/management type job? As suggested above, why not honestly tot up your assets, (including the possibility of downsizing) and, if the numbers add up, become a house husband and keep an eye open for part- or full-time jobs that you do for fun and social contact as much as money. I know a banker who's become a plasterer, a teacher who's become a delivery driver, an optician who's become a receptionist... and they've all loved it.

 henwardian 03 May 2022
In reply to OldGeezer:

How much money do you need to make? It sounds like your kids, if any, might be at uni or already out in the workplace? Do you have any incredibly expensive hobbies like cocaine or high-class ladies of the night?

People get into a way of thinking where they think they can't get by on any less money than they are currently making. Even folk on a 6-figure salary have complained that it just isn't enough on it's own (didn't some politician famously claim this?). It's very, very hard to make the jump from the known into the unknown but personally I'd say most people wait for things to get far too bad before they finally bite the bullet and start looking at where to leap (metaphorically!!).

If your mental state makes it hard to identify strengths, get your wife to identify them, I'll bet a dollar to a dime that she can lay out a goodly number of transferable skills and personal qualities which would make you ideally suited for any number of jobs. She and your friends can even have a look for possible alternative jobs that are not in your current highly specific area.

Applying for jobs is something you can basically do for free - it doesn't cost you anything and there is no need to even tell your current employer. You can get right up to the stage of being offered another job in another industry before you even have to decide whether to take it or not.

I once spent a summer cutting grass on a ride-on lawnmower for the council, it was absolutely great, I got to drive around like a ralleigh driver power-sliding round corners in huge areas of grass. Sure the pay was pitiful but it was a lot of fun and when I applied I just straight up lied about my prior experience. Always worth remembering that you can tell lies about prior experience with stuff if it would be very difficult or impossible for anyone to check and they are not highly-complex skills that you will come unstuck over later on.

Also, avoid any reading/listening to the news and turn your phone totally off whenever feasible and, sorry to say this, stop reading threads on UKC too!

Or you could go into your managers office and pull a Fight Club move!

 henwardian 03 May 2022
In reply to CantClimbTom:

> I don't want to give any examples as that'd either be things I've done that I don't want to admit to, or things I plan to do but don't want to burn my bridges or end up incriminating myself

Why not?! Running back through the flames on burning bridges when you realise the horrors that lay on the other side is a perfect adventure in itself isn't it?

 colinakmc 04 May 2022
In reply to OldGeezer:

Sounds like quite a negative place to be. My story - the vol org I used to work for went from being a positive, optimistic, teamwork-y place to a nest of vipers (all it takes is a couple of key changes in senior personnel who then surround themselves with brown-noses). A couple of years of undermining and bullying followed - before I decided enough was enough and got a part-time senior social work job with a council. I quickly realised that my breadth (and length) of experience gave me an advantage over most of my peers - I had under-sold myself going in at the level I did and fairly quickly got another promotion. Five reasonably happy years followed before retirement. 

My point is that your skills and experience are like things you wear, you’re not necessarily aware of their worth when you’re in a negative situation. Why not try talking to a recruitment consultant. Or as another post suggested, try something completely random like pool cleaning or librarian. You’re probably reaching an age where pensions can become part of your calculations too.

You’re not what you do, but you deserve to be valued at work and a depressing number of CEO types seem to be oblivious to that.

 kmsands 04 May 2022
In reply to OldGeezer:

Something I'm considering in a similar situation to yours, (but aged 49 with a few years of mortgage to run) is negotiating a 4-day week with my employer. Friend of mine who did this said the difference between a 5-2 pattern and a 4-3 pattern does wonders and the drop in income would be tolerable, I think. The plan is to use the additional day on stuff I'm always postponing (writing / publishing / archive research projects; teaching refugees English; perhaps the odd climbing trip).

Also if it is shading into depression / anxiety, do talk to your GP, referrals for short courses of CBT on the NHS are available, although there are waiting lists.

 Offwidth 04 May 2022
In reply to WhiteSpider88:

A counter-view on your book recommendation (that I would tend to agree with):

In reply to OldGeezer:

There will be loads who say follow your dreams, do what you love etc. Don't ignore them but do treat such advice with a pinch of salt, it is you not them taking the hit.

Ask yourself, is it my work or working for a living that I am objecting to?

I will make some assumptions which may well be incorrect. 

You are approaching an age where you can access your pension (probably 55 for you?). 

You are in good health, with a good life expectancy. 

You are approaching your lifetime max earnings in your current role. 

Your company has a beneficial sickness absence policy. 

Consider sticking with what you have, funnelling additional contributions into savings and pensions for an early exit. 

Consider dropping hours and going part time. 

Consider using your sickness policy, you are clearly suffering. See a doctor. Don't make life changing decisions when your head is not in the right place. 

All the above lead to working less and create more time for you and whatever you may wish to do. 

Beware of trading in a good salary for a min wage job, you could be swapping 3 years fte for 15.

Take whatever opportunities you can within your current role to develop yourself and try to change the job to more fit you. 

Your post has me singing "clash city rockers" 

 Uncle Derek 04 May 2022
In reply to OldGeezer:


> I just cant get my head sorted and have become irritable, withdrawn and starting to think the unthinkable as a way out. 


Stop right there, that is not the answer, please please speak to someone, now, Samaritans, Friend, Wife, Family, help is a phone call away.  You are not on your own, and this can all be sorted and this low point will pass.

 Dave B 04 May 2022
In reply to OldGeezer:

After paying off our mortgage, I have up teaching and am training for a new career.

I actually enjoy going to work each day. 

There are days when it's challenging, and I find the study hard to learn new things 

I'll never be rich and even when qualified my salary will be half. I have a reasonably good pension to look forward to at 60/67 that I paid 15%of my salary into for 20+years.

I'm generally a happier person than I was on the grindstone of the previous job.

It took about 5-7 years to make the change from first thoughts to finding something I wanted to do. 

 birdie num num 05 May 2022
In reply to OldGeezer:

Hey Old Geezer, take some wisdom from an even older geezer.... You're not approaching middle age any faster than any other geezer, including the younger ones.. currently wasting their youth on being young. 
I've picked out the only bits of your post that fundamentally matter, and it doesn't include your lack of self esteem, or your dissatisfaction with your career.....

I have a family, home,  lovely wife. I'm reasonably financially secure, have a few savings, a pension and my mortgage is all but paid off and I have no other debts. 

 WhiteSpider88 06 May 2022
In reply to Offwidth:

How does any of that opinion help our struggling OP.  JP has helped millions of people gain strength and a healthy rational perspective of life.  

 Offwidth 06 May 2022
In reply to WhiteSpider88:

It helps the OP in my view as I think some of JP's wider views can be toxic to men who are struggling. The main headline advice in the book is broadly OK if you support old fashioned folksy self-help, rather than a more modern psychological approach. Yet some of the discourse blames JP's usual targets and it's poorly grounded and unscientific.  Worst case people can end up going down an alt right rabbit hole to an unhealthy bubble of culture war aggression.

If JP's book had really helped millions it would be a miracle of mental health and wellbeing publishing, as almost 1 in 2 books will have had a significant effect. Your assertion simply isn't supported by evidence. Parts of the book have been criticised by the psychology and mental health establishment.

I'm not denying the book is incredibly popular and has received some very positive reviews and hundreds of thousands claim it has significantly helped them. JP would (and does) blame the scientific reception on a liberal conspiracy and his fans are free to believe him. He is notoriously thin skinned with respect to criticism.

Post edited at 08:20
 Rob Exile Ward 06 May 2022
In reply to WhiteSpider88:

If his advice is so good how come he always looks and sounds so angsty and miserable; unlike, say, Richard Dawkins or Stephen Pinker?

This is not intended unseriously.

 Timmd 07 May 2022
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

> If his advice is so good how come he always looks and sounds so angsty and miserable; unlike, say, Richard Dawkins or Stephen Pinker?

> This is not intended unseriously.

Sometimes it's harder to live by the wisdom we know to be true than to offer it to others.

I'm currently having an internal argument with myself about doing some uni-work for a couple of hours before dinner with my brothers, I fancy a rest, but I'm just about capable of doing something unchallenging. I won't regret doing some uni-work seems to be the dominating thought.

Post edited at 14:25
 Timmd 07 May 2022
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

I'm apparently charitable by nature, though, so maybe he's just full of rubbish.

 wbo2 07 May 2022
In reply to OldGeezer: Jobs tend to be a p.i,t,a,, but sometimes better the devil you know than the one you don't.

I would, for several weeks at least , try to be quite harsh with my job.  No extra work, no working weekends.  Try to make some definite space for life outside work.

I'd also force myself to get some exercise, if only a walk, for an hour a day.  How often are you doing any climbing, or whatever you like? Force that into your routine.

A life of work , with any extra time watching TV, or going on the internet and seeing a lot of negative stuff is a nasty black hole it's easy to fall down.

 Timmd 08 May 2022
In reply to OldGeezer:

I don't know if sharing experiences which don't align helps much, but I'm 42, and have gone through my 20's 'with a mangled head' due to different factors, and got into volunteering in my late 20's and early 30's, then got knocked sideways by my Mum passing, and am now at uni. In some ways I could feel bad, but I've been continually learning and doing different courses while at home with my parents in my 20's, and then supported by my Dad in my own home while volunteering, and more courses before uni following my Mum, and now I'm hopefully about to launch off in my own right after my degree. 2 years to go, and to fit extra things in towards making that more possible.

I guess where  I'm aiming at, is that so much of how we view our lives can depend upon our mental state, which means that 'reality' is different when we're in a positive mood, to how it is when we're somewhat stressed, and with our toes in the edges of feeling depressed, which is what has kept me moving towards the next thing in the belief that things can improve.

You looking at where you're at currently, and feeling trapped, rings very true, but things always changed again for me. Maybe seeing a careers advisor as well as a financial one could be an option, towards getting some fresh ideas on your options outside of how things currently seem to you, there's bound to be things which won't have occurred to you, due to feeling somewhat stressed and trapped at the moment.

Good luck, and best wishes to you.

nb: I'm fully aware my life would be very different had I not had my Dad/parents there to help, all children should have that like I did.

Post edited at 13:36
 Timmd 08 May 2022
In reply to OldGeezer:

Life is inscrutable, most definitely consult other people for fresh perspectives on your situation.

Post edited at 13:45
In reply to OldGeezer:

I have found this list from the eminent psychiatrist Anthony Clare to be sound advice. You can look up what he means in detail on the web in quite a few places.

1: Cultivate a passion 

2: be a leaf on a tree. 

3: avoid introspection.

4: don't resist change. 

5: live for the moment. 

6: audit your happiness. 

7: if you want to be happy, be happy.

I used to listen to him on the radio and often, perhaps only for a few minutes, life was a little bit clearer. HTH

 cb294 09 May 2022
In reply to Offwidth:

This is a great summary!

A "prancing messiah-cum-surrogate-dad for gormless dimwits everywhere" indeed!


 Timmd 09 May 2022
In reply to cb294:

Who says things which aren't true with an air of authority, somewhat unhelpfully.

Post edited at 15:56

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