Dear Fiona: ‘I’m 50 and feel like life is passing me by’

Counsellor Fiona Caine encourages a woman to go easy on herself but to get out and about when she’s ready.

The problem …
“Last year was dreadful for me and, so far, this year isn’t looking any better. Aside from all the effects of COVID, which left me feeling very down, things were made much worse when my dad caught it and died. The fact we couldn’t even see him at the end, and then his funeral was limited, made it harder still to bear.

“Then I had to have a hysterectomy – which took me some time to recover from – and in the middle of all this, my kids decided it was time for them to leave home. It was something I’d been expecting, as they’d both been due to leave before COVID hit, but I enjoyed having them around. I wasn’t expecting to feel so lost without them, and it coincided with my hitting 50, which really brought it home to me how life is passing me by.

Read: Ask a counsellor: ‘How can we get the spark back?’

“It would be a great opportunity for my husband and I to get out and about and do more with our lives as a couple, but my husband seems utterly content to do nothing. I, on the other hand, have hit a point where if I don’t do something soon, I will scream! I used to dream about learning to sail, writing a book, travelling – now I can see nothing in the future but a dull life and boredom.

“I can read about other people leading exciting lives, so why don’t things happen to me?”

Read: Nine hobbies that will help you live longer

Fiona says …
“You’ve had a huge amount to put up with over the last few years, and a great many people are experiencing depression when it’s not something they’ve felt before. Coping with a pandemic, losing your father, major surgery, a shake-up of your home life and a significant birthday are all life-changing events. Most people only have to deal with one or two of them at a time – not the whole list!

“That said, the people that lead interesting, exciting lives are the ones who don’t sit back – but go out and MAKE things happen. You ask, ‘Why don’t things happen to me?’ Well I’m afraid they won’t just happen. Sitting around dreaming doesn’t do it (although letting off steam can be healthy!) – you have to get out and get involved.

“I suspect that you are actually quite depressed at the moment, which isn’t in the least surprising – but you don’t have to suffer without help. Talk to your GP – even a short course of counselling could really help.

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“Whilst they might not seem like it, some of the other things you mention could be turned into positives – as you mentioned yourself. Without your kids at home, you now have freedom to be yourself and not just ‘mum’. You’ve hit 50 – a great point to make changes to your life, so why not make them?

Read: Here’s how to solo travel the world

“If you want to learn to sail, find out where you can go for lessons. If you want to write, take a creative writing course. If you want to travel, learn a language, and start saving for a trip. You say your husband is content to do nothing, but if he sees you fired up and making changes to your life, it might re-energise him too. If he really is content to stay at home though, then take off on a trip on your own, or with a like-minded friend.

“You could easily have another 50 years ahead of you, so instead of expecting things to come to you, go out and get them.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

– With PA

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