A few years ago, I confessed to some friends something that I’d been keeping to myself for quite a while–I was having an early midlife crisis.
For months, I’d tried to convince myself that I was NOT having some type of insane identity crisis.
I had just turned 36. I had an awesome husband. Great kids. A nice house. Nice car. A loving extended family and close friends.
But even with all of this, inside I was a mess.
Slowly, the evidence of a midlife crisis had been building, but like most people who experience this, I was in denial.
Taking a hint from the quarterlife crisis from my 20s.
Now, the quarterlife crisis and the midlife crisis are two different beasts, but it was helpful for me to draw from the only other crisis I’ve ever experienced.
One of my college classmates, Kenya Jackson-Saulters, wrote a book and gave an amazing TEDx Talk about her journey through the quarterlife crisis she experienced after college (check out her TEDx Talk here).
Reading her book and listening to her tell the story live at the TEDx Talk really made me think about my own experiences.
I could totally relate to what she had to say.
After getting my masters degree, getting married, moving to a new state, and trying to kick-start my adult life, I experienced my own quarterlife crisis that was triggered by:
- Lack of job stability
- Lack of job happiness
- Less expendable funds
- College debt
- Regret for my career choice
I was plagued with issues that many quarterlifers deal with. And it absolutely SUCKED!
Eventually, I overcame the issues that I faced during that time.
After a helluva amount of resistance, I finally settled into my life.
I never, EVER wanted to feel that way again!
Life moved forward. Jobs changed. More money flowed into our accounts. Babies were born. I was momentarily content.
Then I hit 35…and something happened.
At 35, I started experiencing a ton of unexpected emotions.
I looked around at my life, and despite having an amazing husband, two great kids, a beautiful home, luxury cars, and more stability, I felt a growing sense of emptiness that I could not understand.
It felt like I could feel time passing me by faster than ever before.
The idea that I had wasted at least a decade of my life NOT living my purpose crept into my thoughts and I could not shake it off.
Constant mood swings, feelings of extreme introversion, sudden feelings of regret about past decisions, feeling like I was stuck — These thoughts became a part of my everyday life and it was becoming unbearable.
Related Content: 7 Signs You’re Having an Early Midlife Crisis
What the heck is wrong with me?
I asked myself this question almost daily.
I’m the woman who writes about positive thinking and encourages optimism for a happier life.
Not the woman who has a negative rebuttal for everything.
I’m the woman who overcame her quarterlife crisis and found happiness in a place where she thought it could not exist.
Not this crazy, mega-b*tch, sulking around in her pajamas all day, thinking about how miserable life is.
Who was this woman having anxiety attacks and crying in the shower and feeling hopelessness and losing herself?
Surely, not me. Not the real me. Right?
My first thought was that I was having a breakdown.
Then, one day it occurred to me that maybe I was experiencing an early midlife crisis.
The idea seemed ridiculous at first.
C’mon. You’re waaay too young for that to be happening.
Or so I told myself.
You can’t have a midlife crisis in your mid-30s. You just can’t!
The midlife crisis is reserved for white guys in their late 40s who subsequently deal with these emotions by splurging on luxury cars and mistresses.
Yes, yes I know this is a ridiculous assumption. But this is seriously the picture that is conjured up in my head when I think of a midlife crisis.
A woman, let alone a black woman, in her mid-30s shouldn’t be experiencing one of those, right?
This is what I told myself.
But after months of dealing with these feelings, I knew something had to give. I decided to do a little bit of research.
Why You Don’t Hear Much About Women and The Early Midlife Crisis.
From doing just a little bit of research online, three things became clear to me:
- I’m not alone in experiencing these feelings
- It is entirely possible and more common than I thought to experience this at 35
- A woman’s midlife crisis is often much different from that of a man and often dismissed
Of the many articles that I read, one that really stood out to me was The New Midlife Crisis by Ada Calhoun.
Ada mentions the fact that part of the reason we don’t know much about women’s midlife experience is that for so long the focus of the term was directly applied to men and only men.
In the article, Ada goes on to say this,
“The complaints of well-educated, middle- and upper-middle class women are easy to dismiss as temporary or not really a crisis or #FirstWorldProblems.”
I can’t tell you how many times I felt shameful for feeling unhappy given the fact that I had so many opportunities that many others are never afforded.
It felt like I had no right to be experiencing these feelings.
I felt as if my emotions were invalidated by society and the perception that I was living a perfect and rosie life.
As it turns out, there are a lot of women in a similar situation as me — women who made drastic life and career sacrifices for the sake of their families — and that it’s not uncommon to begin having feelings of emptiness and loss of control years later.
Ada’s article also includes the stories of many women of different ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, and backgrounds who are going through their own version of a midlife crisis.
Simply reading their stories made me feel less alone and less guilty for feeling the way I do.
Their stories helped to validate my feelings and gave me hope that I am in control of what I do in response to these feelings.
What steps can you take if you believe you are experiencing an early mid-life crisis?
- Confide in someone you trust. The feelings you are experiencing are real. Keeping them bottled up is a very lonely experience that only leads to more frustration. Tell someone how you are feeling. This can be your spouse, your best friend, a co-worker, or even a therapist.
- Do a little introspection and decide what’s really important to you. What you valued 10 years ago, may not be the same things you value in the present moment. It’s so cliche, but this is a great time to ask yourself, “What brings me joy?”
- Push reset on your personal goals. If your personal values have changed, it’s likely that your personal goals have changed as well. After you take a long, hard look at what you value in this season of your life, you can build goals around those values. Don’t worry about outside influence of friends, family, society, or anything else. Make a step by step action plan to go after the goals that bring you joy!
Instead of a breakdown, think of it as a breakthrough.
What I’m learning from my reading and research is that my feelings are in fact very valid and that it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
Recently, I read an Instagram post by Leonie Dawson that said,
“So often we think that we are having a breakdown when we are really having a breakthrough.”
I’m now making the decision to view this whole breakdown experience as a breakthrough.
It’s a wakeup call.
An opportunity for me to embrace change (once again) and transform accordingly (and as I see fit).
I am happily starting my journey to a more purpose-driven life.
Part of my journey is sharing my authentic story in my unique voice.
I hope to inspire more women to do the same.
*Please note that I am not a medical professional and this post is not meant to be medical advice. I’m simply sharing my positive experience with you. Always do your own research and seek advice from a qualified licensed professional.