Depression helped me retire the first time, making a cluster of the entire experience.
My depression convinced me to scrap over 40 years of planning and jump into retirement with only a sketchy idea of what I was going to do. Now the upside was I finally had off on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. We flew north for an entire week around Thanksgiving.
But the nuts and bolts of what I would do and how I would do it were very unclear.
I thought I was going to expand my resume and career coaching services. Having operated as a sole proprietor for over 10 years, this seemed logical. So, I jumped into that. And as great as that sounded, I found myself scattered, and distracted. I had two online courses. Plus, I was doing weekly free cover letter webinars and podcasts. My influence had grown, and I was a guest on different podcasts hosted by some better-known career coaches.
So what was missing that sent me into the depths of depression?
My business did grow and I was taking on new clients. I found that I could reserve a conference room at a branch of our library. The room was complete with big-screen TVs. I would connect my laptop and work with clients in a one-on-one setting. Besides making me look and feel even more professional, the room was FREE. All I had to do was reserve a space and pick up the key when I arrived.
From the outside looking in, my life must have looked very sweet.
Yet, I seemed to be sliding downward. The hardest part of this was that I did not recognize what was happening. Later, I would tell people I returned to work because working by Zoom or on the phone, I missed the personal interactions.
My batteries were not being recharged by these methods.
Working in person, I spend the day interacting face-to-face with employees. I enjoy solving problems within company policy. And for 14 months, I did not do that, and I missed it terribly. And while I have been reintroduced to that personal interaction, it wasn’t the only cause of my bout with MDD.
Almost 4 years later, I am still not convinced that I understand what happened.
But I am certain that I would be in a different frame of mind if depression and I hadn’t run away and joined the ranks of the retired. The slide into the abyss only took me 10 months. However, the groundwork for this trip to the depths of nothingness began the day depression tossed out the idea of retiring right now.
Right on cue, depression also began to encourage secrecy about what was becoming our plan.
As I closed interactions with my family and friends, I gave all power to depression. Depression took full advantage of this and intensified its push for me to leave work and retire. All the years of planning just vanished. And I was left to figure out what was next. Somehow, my depression wasn’t around for that.
Around Christmas, I had two weeks where I was waking up at night and I could not breathe.
Looking back, they were most likely panic attacks. I had never had panic attacks, regardless of how bad my previous bouts of depression were. Thankfully, at the end of two weeks, they stopped. And for almost four years since, I have not had another one. But having panic attacks at night made going to bed frightening. This was a new sensation for me and for several nights, I tried to stay awake so that I wouldn’t wake up that way.
That didn’t help in the way I expected, because I even had panic attacks waking up on the couch.
So now the question of the day is, will depression return if I retire again? After hitting the depths of the abyss, I am not interested in going there again. Having a better plan for retirement may give me a bit of confidence in myself and my ability to structure a new retirement. Certainly, I am not there yet, but the thought has begun to cross my mind.
The question now is will I be able to retire again?
Can I take what I have learned and create a retirement that is free from depression? I would even enjoy retirement with a balanced life. There is a reason that I am not looking for rainbows and unicorns. I am not expecting to be happy, happy, happy. And I am not thinking that my second retirement will be without its challenges.
But I feel that I deserve some self-care time, family time, and recreational activities time.
After all, I started working just before I was 10 years old. Which means I have been working for 57 years. Many of my current employees haven’t been alive ½ that long. My earliest jobs included newspaper delivery, golf caddy, lawn mower, landscape worker, gas attendant, professional chimney sweep, and I was an adjunct faculty member teaching sailing for my college.
And then there are all my other jobs, businesses, and even second jobs when required.
I am not saying this to brag, but I think I deserve to retire without my depression crushing everything down until I feel nothing. But I do not need to retire to change my attitude about retirement. Understanding what happened the last time, I can mentally prepare for the new reality.
In the end, I have no idea what my depression will think when I retire again.
All I can do is stay aware of the tools I have learned. The resources I now have, including a WRAP plan give me confidence that I can better understand what depression is doing before I am circling the drain. On Our Own, the Change Triangle, Smart Recovery, and my blog are all avenues I am using to better understand my relationship with depression.
Most of all, I now see a team of supporters who will be there in a minute if I ever need help.
As I consider retiring again, I know that depression will be there, too. But that doesn’t mean that once again, depression will call the shots. I know so much more about my depression. I am facing it, calling it by name, and not sweeping its aftermath under a rug.