WHAT TO DO WHEN THE WHEELS COME OFF

Panic not. Maybe you need different wheels. Or hooves. Or a hover board

Pretty much every woman I have interviewed about midlife self-reinvention has first undergone a major life hitch – or several. These are hard to dodge. In some cases it’s raining hitches, and it’s rare to hit this stage of life without loss or grief or disappointment. Like losing a friend or parent or job. Or marriage. Maybe longed-for children just didn’t come along, or they did but then grew up and moved away, leaving a void. Health gets iffy, life didn’t go to plan, or it did but you feel disappointed.

Hopefully you haven’t experienced too many of these but it’s safe to say that this is the phase of life when suddenly nothing makes sense anymore. The wheels come off your happy little life.

This can be pretty devastating and frightening. You find you wake up one morning – or every morning – knowing for absolute certain that living this way just isn’t working for you anymore.

Losing your bearings and that sense of certainty about your direction in life that you’ve always relied on suddenly going AWOL can be genuinely terrifying. Knowing you have to make a radical change in order to feel happy is not a comfortable thing. We’re all far too at home with the familiar, the routine, and this makes us cling to it when we feel our peace of mind is under threat. But it’s the routine that we have to break – however hard that may be.

“How do you know you’ve reached crisis point? Negativity abounds.”

You may find you keep retreating from change, only to find your nose pressed up against the door marked ‘get me outta here’ again and again. Because the problem – this sense of discomfort with your life – is not going to magically go away.

This can go on for years, with much soul-searching, much to-ing and fro-ing, until you reach crisis point. How do you know you’ve reached crisis point? Negativity abounds. You can’t stop thinking about how unhappy you are. Thoughts can range from “Why am I even doing this?” to “I hate my life” and “I want to change – but how?” to “I’ve got to get out of here” and “What went wrong?”. “Why is everyone else happy except me?”. And even “Why me?”.

No one can tell you what the answer to your life angst will be. The process of working that out can take time and may involve a few false starts. This is normal. Let it take time. Talk it through with someone you trust who genuinely has your wellbeing at heart. If you don’t have someone in your life you’d feel comfortable sharing these thoughts with, invest in some sessions with a life coach, or maybe a counsellor if your problems are deep-rooted.

“Don’t think small – think big.”

If you can’t find the answers immediately, keep talking. Try dabbling in a few different things that may or may not ultimately lead you down the right track, without making too much of a commitment. Don’t think small – think big. Research online, investigate courses, try some coaching, talk to helpful people, read relevant self-help books. Allow yourself to explore the options that appeal to you, to find out what they would really entail, and keep checking with yourself whether they still appeal.

You may well find your brain is extra busy right now, ruminating over your problems and throwing lots of negative thoughts your way (thanks, Brain). Write all this down in a journal, daily if you can, to help you get them out of your head and see if you can spot any useful threads of thought worth pursuing.

You will get through this, and you will find the answer(s). If the wheels of your life come off, don’t panic – they probably needed replacing. What you choose to replace them with so you can move forward is up to you, and you won’t get the answer in an instant. Take your time and remain calm and curious about what the end result will be. Prepare to be amazed.

Words: Marina Gask