It Does Get Better

by Patti
(LaGrange Park IL)

I wrote earlier in the year about the depression and anxiety I was suffering as a result of retiring on 04/30/13. It was awful. I woke up every morning with a sense of dread about how I was going to fill up the hours. I was full of despair and felt hopeless about the future. I couldn't imagine living ten or twenty more years feeling the way I felt.

Because I understand the nature of depression, I continued to force myself to get out of my apartment and interact with people. It was a battle every single time because it was always the last thing I felt like doing.

I went to an Arthritis Foundation water exercise class twice a week. I took a class at the local community college. I made dates for lunch and dinner every week. I called people up. I went on vacation with friends. I had a friend come visit me. I went to lunch with a new friend from water class.

All the while I felt hollow and empty inside. As soon as I would return home from any of these activities, the dread and hopelessness would return with a vengeance. I cried all the time. I felt like I couldn't keep going. I couldn't sleep. I was a wreck. But I just kept forcing myself to do things.

This past Monday, it started to snow here in Chicagoland. I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. Driving through a residential area, I noticed that the snow was starting to stick and it looked like Christmas.

All of a sudden, I felt this surge of excitement, looking at the snow and thinking about the upcoming holidays. I felt a little joyful. I felt a little hope. I felt like a heavy burden had been lifted from me.

It surprised me greatly, and I didn't trust the feelings. However, I slept straight through Monday night...first time in decades! Tuesday morning, I woke up without that dread feeling. It just felt normal. I didn't agonize about how I was going to fill up the time. I just started doing things. Not working felt normal. Slept straight through Tuesday night. Woke up yesterday feeling good.

During my long career, December was our busiest and most stressful month. I worked long hours. I worked every Saturday. I worked late every New Year's Eve.

This is the first time in over 35 years that I can actually enjoy the holiday season. My calendar is already full with parties and concerts and activities.

The dread feeling might come back, but if it does I know now that I still have access to good feelings....they're in there somewhere.

I am writing this to encourage others who are in despair. It can and does get better, but you have to FORCE yourself to get out and connect with people. It's extremely, extremely difficult because it's the last thing you feel like doing when just getting dressed feels like climbing a mountain.

If you're all alone and don't have anyone to connect with, just practice saying hello to someone you pass. Exchange simple pleasantries with a sales clerk. Comment on the weather to someone standing or sitting near you. It all helps because the efforts are cumulative.

Was I perfect at this? NO WAY!!! For every time I successfully forced myself outside there were double the times I talked myself into staying inside.

I felt instant relief the minute I decided not to go somewhere, but then later on looking back I always regretted the decision. I still often battle with myself....should I stay or go. GO always gets you somewhere. Stay is a dead end.

I hope this helps someone.

Comments for It Does Get Better

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Does it get better?
by: Leonora/Oregon

I understand how you feel. My husband loves retirement. He's happy to just stay at home, listen to his music, watch his television programs, work in the yard. He doesn't need other people to feel that he exists.

I'm the opposite. I volunteer five days a week. I reach out to friends for lunch dates or to go walking. And I suffer from anxiety and depression. I'm seeing a psychiatrist and I'm on meds.

I'm doing all the right things but still - I don't know who I am anymore. I'm not at home in my own life. It feels so strange to me and intensely uncomfortable. All I think about is myself these days.

I'm glad I found this community. I look forward to hearing from others. How long have you been a member?

Feeling lost
by: Cyndy E. colorado

I appreciate all the stories everyone shares on their personal struggles and experiences with retirement. I am 60 almost 61 and retired early.

Actually my husband who is 62 retired a few weeks after I did. He had planned his retirement, mine was sort of not as planned. I decided at the end of last year to also retire. We thought it would be a good time for both of us and we wanted to leave our very stressful jobs that left us no time for family or friends.

My husband has adjusted well, me on the other hand not so much. At first it was awesome just knowing I was leaving all that stress behind me and now I would have time for the things I wanted to do time with family and friends. Well it's been 144 days and I am saying now what?

Should I volunteer, get a part time job, relax and not jump in to some thing... all these unanswered questions.

Some days are better than others but I find myself worrying about everything! I just don't know where to go from here.

It's uplifting to read the advice and experiences of others. Hoping I will find my way soon.

It really does get better!
by: Anonymous

I, too, retired in winter - not the greatest decision. I never wanted to go back to work. The problem was that after having a regimented schedule for so long, I felt as if I was freefalling.

However, I am so pleased that after 1-1/2 months, finally, retirement is so much better. I'm more relaxed, and the schedule is evolving.

I've joined the Y, and am trying to exercise every day. This helps since it gets me out and seeing people.

I do enjoying doing (or not doing) what I want when I want.

by: leelee

The first night after I retired I awoke having a panic attack. I could not believe I would never be able to just show up at work anymore. I was a nurse for 27 years, ahd it IS my identity. I knew I had to find myself but I have struggled every week now.

I can't sleep, lonely long nights.

Had energy the first 3 days to organize and clean my house. Now I feel so what if my house is organized? I have a ton of time to clean it. Suddenly life has lost its meaning.

I am glad to hear I should pass through this, but I was very surprised when i developed such anxiety and now depression.

by: Jayna

I retired from teaching this past June with 30 years. I was going to wait until 2015 but there were some changes in STRS that made it fiscally smarter for me to retire.

I did not make the decision until May.....think that may have been a mistake because I did not have a year to plan. I didn't get depressed until October.

[I guess that's when it really hit me that I was really lacking a purpose in my life. ]

I had taught second grade most of my years and LOVED my job. I am thankful that I retired before I got burned out and never felt that I was that old teacher that nobody wanted. I guess because I loved the job and the children so much and I felt so valued and loved by those little ones and my staff, that is why I am struggling.

Started having some physical pain that I suspect is all related to this stress. Have been to more doctor appts. than in my whole life. Am talking to a counselor and may make some med changes. But I really think that meds are not the answer.

I have done a little subbing, but it sure isn't like having your own class.

Again, physical symptoms (bladder) are really affecting my emotions - making it even harder to go out. Having a test done next week, but I won't be surprised if the Dr. finds nothing. Am seeing a counselor and that is helping. Need to push myself to get out and volunteer also.

[Please tell me this will get better.]

Just wish I knew how long it will take to adjust. I am a Type A person and not very patient. First grandchild due in March - know that will definitely add some joy to my life.

Wendy: It will get better. The problem is nobody knows how long as we are all different, right? BUT simply being HERE, reading other stories and reaching out will definately help as it has others!

Really good comments
by: Nancy

Forcing myself out of the house was the best thing for me as well. I knew lying on the sofa and reading and watching TV was not good even though I wanted to.

I liked what you said about saying "Hi" to someone you don't knew. Starting a conversation with a salesclerk. All those things made me feel better. Thanks for sharing.

Better things ahead!!
by: Sassy

Hi Patti
I had very similar emotions, I would cry so easily in the beginning. I never thought I would have such an emotional time while in the transition of retirement. I never gave the trasition process much thought. I thought I would retire and be happy as a lark.

I agree with you about going out when you still feel "punkish" (uncertain, emotional, empty) about no longer working. Once I am out, even if it is to go do errands, I feel so much better!

I find when I am with people I start to feel my
fun loving self. I also have times when feeling
punksih comes and goes, but I am starting to return to a better form of myself!! Yes, the process of transition is slow, but I know in my heart there are bigger and better things waiting for me.

My advice to the new retirees, take it slow, feel your emotions and I promise it will get better!!!!

Retiring soon - January 2014
by: Patlyn

I will read this over and over. January is always a tough month for me so what did I do this year - retire in January. I think it was to test my metal on getting on with a new life. I am so ready to leave my job - that is good; but afraid of how I will fill my day!

I am ready and scared all in one.

I have scheduled taking a class - but end of January before it starts. I need to exercise more, lose some weight - and if I lose some weight - which I have not in years - I think it will be a positive thing for me.

LET you know how I do. Thanks for the words.

Enjoying the moment
by: Anonymous

Hi Patti

Thanks for your encouragement!! I am a newly retired healthcare worker. I,too, worked in a fast
paced job.

I find getting out of the house is very helpful for me. I also experience feeling empty, not belonging to the work population anymore. I miss being part of a team.

I have starting exercising and slowy meeting new people, teaching myself to live in the moment.

Thanks again for your comments-I will continue to reinvent myself. I am still floudering, however,
I am having more enjoyable times and not missing
the work structure as much.

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