Transition in Mid-Life
I was 52 years old when my life was turned upside down. I thought that at this stage of my life, things would be easier. Children had flown the nest, I had a well paid job, a good social life and a wide circle of friends. I enjoyed at least two holidays abroad each year. This essay raises many personal memories, but I have learned a lot and am able to reflect on this time in my life that was challenging on many levels. I am ‘middle-aged’ and have looked at how older people are perceived from a therapeutic point of view.
My story began in December 2006 when I was rushed to hospital and required emergency life-saving surgery.
Events after I arrived at the hospital seemed surreal to me, I was feeling vulnerable and anxious, I was not in control of anything that was happening to me, and I was in shock that this was actually happening to me. I thought I was going to die.
I didn’t die, I woke up in a ward full of pre-op and post-op female amputees, average age 75 years old. I had to force myself to look down to see if my legs were still attached to my body. They were, but not the ones that I recognised after major surgery, but the relief that I still had them was immense.
I could not walk, and found myself totally dependant on nurses for all my basic needs. I am such an independent person and used to doing everything for myself and I found it hard to adjust to this dependency.
I did not like this feeling of not being in control and feeling helpless, and I resolved to get out of that bed and into physiotherapy as soon as possible. I pushed myself harder every day and graduated from a wheelchair to a Zimmer frame to a walking stick in record time, although it would be 3 months before I could walk unaided or drive.
I had to get on with my life and deal with the situation, and started thinking about coping strategies for when I got home from hospital. I could only take a few steps, but I knew I could put things in place that would help my recovery and also give me my independence.
Progress was slow when I came home, I was still dependant on others, like nurses and care workers who came every day. I did get frustrated at times, and although I was off work for six months, I appreciated this second chance I had in life, and I resolved to make the most of it.
One thing was certain, my life would never be the same again, at this stage, I didn’t know how I was going to proceed with what I could do, what I couldn’t do, and more importantly, what would I want to do. Thinking about my age and stage of life was on my mind a lot of the time.
I had to learn to work through the transition period and prepare myself for the new life. I liked this passage and could relate to it as I see myself in the ‘second half’ of life. Bridges (1991) “The homeward journey of life’s second half demands three things of us: First, that we unlearn the whole style of mastering the world that we used to take us through the first half of life. Second, that we resist the longings to abandon the development journey and refuse the invitations to stay forever at some attractive stopping place. Third, that we recognise that it will take real effort to regain the inner “home”. The transitions of life’s second half offer a special kind of opportunity to break with the social conditioning that has carried us successfully this far, and to do something really new and different. It is a season more in tune than the earlier ones, with the deeper promptings of the spirit.
I have done this when two years ago at the age of 55 I made the decision to return to higher education, to realise my dream of becoming a counsellor. Some reactions I get are ‘what are you thinking of at your age’ ‘I don’t know how you can be bothered at your age’.
Ability to understand, apply and evaluate appropriate theory through highlighting development processes.
The historical development of counselling psychology...