I have not written for a long time. This is because I am a mess.
When I was in my 30’s people in their 50s told me that your 50s is the best time of your life. For me this has not been true.
When I look back, the best time of my life was my 30s. I was slim; I had great sex with men wherever the passion took me and was old enough and mature enough to manage it with reasonable aplomb and only a few bad choices. I had two of my kids in my 30s, I found “the one” and got married in my 30s and most importantly I felt I had my whole life ahead of me.
Little did I know that life ahead of me was going to mean spending my 40s fighting cancer and then the after effects of cancer. And spending my 50’s being a mess.
I have not found this wonderful place I was promised of finally being happy in my own skin. In my 50’s I have fallen apart.
Astronomically and sensationally fallen apart.
A couple of things have happened to trigger this slide into despair.
The cancer was life threatening and life changing and I never really got over its damage. The psychological damage from cancer is massive and underrated. Even if you survive and don’t get me wrong I am so, so grateful for surviving but I don’t look the same, I don’t feel the same, so many parts of me that made up me were ravaged and killed by the cancer. I lost my hair, my eyebrows, my eyelashes, my cervix, my uterus, my ovaries, my breasts and what I got was a whole pile of chemically induced weight. I was left with a shell emotionally and physically. My hair was the only thing to grow back and it grew back resentfully in tiny thin wisps that weren’t even a reminder of the enormous curly long locks I had pre-cancer.
When I told my oncologist I felt bad after the cancer, that I had trouble getting out of bed each day he said, ‘but your cured for the time being – you should feel good.’ And that is the attitude that is most expressed, once you have survived you should pick yourself up and get on, because after all there is all those people who are still being diagnosed or not surviving. This is true but doesn’t address the nightmares, the change to your personality and looks, the exhaustion from the treatment, the constant worry that every little thing wrong with you is the cancer back. I would happily have a permanent weekly spot in my doctor’s appointment book to check the ache in my little finger and the new freckle spot on my toe.
So I took this cancer baggage with me into my 50’s and in my 50s’ further trauma struck. I was monumentally wronged by a woman who sued me for something I didn’t do and when we were just getting back on our feet from the cancer this cost me a huge amount of money and emotional stress to defend myself against her allegations. The lawyers won out. I spent many days in tears worried about my ability to emotionally and financially survive.
But again I survived and was just getting back on my feet again when I was attacked in my workplace, by a massive bloke, who punched me in the head and tried to kill me with a 25cm pair of scissors. I truly thought I was going to die in that moment. So this was the second time in a decade or so that I faced imminent death.
I stood there as he plunged at me with the scissors, aiming for my heart and I thought this is the place I die – this is what my life amounts to – dying here at the hands of an idiot.
I lost my job because the threat to my life continued and I was no longer safe in my workplace. And he got a one month suspended sentence and I became a mess again.
I know this all spells Post traumatic Stress.
Is Post Traumatic Stress real? Insurance companies think not and it’s hard to prove you have it.
How do I explain what it feels like to not be able to walk out my front door or if I do walk out the front door its even harder to come home again. How do I explain that I spend most of my waking time thinking about how I could kill myself in a way that seems natural and won’t destroy my family or that most days I can’t answer my phone or look at my emails because I expect it to be bad news of a catastrophic type. How do I explain that I am constantly shaking inside, a shaking that just never stops. And what can be done about it anyway?
On top of all of this I am in my 50s’s. This means I have become invisible. I get served last in shops and the sales people don’t bother to make eye contact with me, men don’t see me at all, younger women have started calling me love and darling and speaking to me as if I am an idiot, the clothes shops are not for me, the advertisements are not for me, the world is not for me.
I have reached the age where people make jokes about people my age having sex or passion and make ooh sounds that are of the oooh gross type rather than the oooh sexy type.
I am a woman who is 50 therefore I question if I have value in the world.
So what to do? I have long believed we are responsible for our own happiness. So I think the answer is obvious and practical. I need to change my life. I need to ignore the fact I am in my 50s. I need to find that place that I was told about where I don’t care for the gazes of men or the recognition and approval of others.
I need to get physically healthy and mentally sound. I need to take responsibility for my own happiness. Today is day 1.