Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ways to Cope with Aging... by Russ Beck

Finding the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Case Study
Ed, a gentleman in his 50’s, came to see me about a lack of energy. Ed gave a deep, “Umph” as he slid into the recliner. Looking at the floor, he let out a sigh and said, “I guess I’m suffering from depression. I have no energy and everything hurts.” He had been to see a doctor who suggested starting a trial of antidepressants.

After several questions it became apparent that Ed was in good physical health. The doctor had ran several tests to see if physiological causes accounted for his condition and when everything came back good, a diagnosis of depression was considered. For Ed, his future appeared to be one filled with sadness, pain, and pills.

As we discussed his life, Ed sounded like any normal male. He enjoyed his childhood. He was active in middle school and high school. Ed even had success in sports while in school. His children loved him, and he was currently happily married with grandchildren. He felt it cruel that at this stage in life he should be stricken with such a debilitating illness as depression.

I asked about changes in his life over the past year. Ed considered the question and told me one of his daughters had moved with her family to Seattle. Another child, a son, moved to Atlanta to attend college. He felt worried about keeping his job in the worsening economy and mentioned he'd taken on more work with no pay increase, as his company was not replacing people as they left. His parents had health problems and he traveled 60 miles to visit and help them with their home and yard work on a regular basis. On top of that, Ed had injured his back lately and had trouble doing much of anything.

Life has a way of overwhelming us at times, especially as we age and are no longer able to accomplish as much physically as we did previously. Ed felt a lack of control with the moving of two of his children, the aging of his parents, work uncertainties, and his own experience of growing older—with all the associated aches and pains. All of these challenges took a toll on Ed, causing him feelings of discouragement. A disheartened frame of mind over time will lead to a despondent spirit, digging a rut in which Ed could become stuck. He needed a reality check before happiness drifted away from him.

I asked him to consider what life would be like without his wife. With a furrowed brow and shaking his head no, Ed said, “It would be miserable.” I asked the same question about his children, and received a similar response. Then I questioned him about his parents. What was it like growing up in their home? Ed smiled as he remembered family outings and times spent alone with his mom or dad. We then talked about the aging process. Could he think of any advantages to growing older? With a wry smile he looked at me and said, “Well, I do know it’s better to be seen than to be viewed!”

Real Life Applications
Ed’s experiences in growing older are not dissimilar to anyone else’s experiences. There are many losses that can result from a death, but it's just as important to recognize there are also losses that come from loved ones moving away, or family members not being able to care for themselves, as well as our own sense of loss as we are no longer able to do things to the same degree as in the past. Also, the many aches and pains we experience on a daily basis are a constant reminder that things have changed and we’ve lost the energy and stamina of younger years.

In coping with these difficult life challenges, Ed needed to adjust his perception of life and aging.

AcceptLife is a gift. With all its difficulties and struggles, life offers us what no other thing can–opportunity. Even though opportunity can come to us disguised as hard work, it is, nonetheless, a chance to grow and be happy. Ed came to realize he had a marvelous opportunity to show love through caring for his elderly parents. He also realized he could learn to use the webcam on his computer as he maintained communication with his children living in another state.

AdaptEd told me of a dog he once had as a kid. It had been a mangy thing with only three legs. Ed explained the dog loved to chase cars, got too close once, and lost his leg in an accident. I asked about the dog’s life and Ed said the dog seemed happy and never noticed his handicap. Just like Ed’s dog, it is important to adjust to new situations, even though difficult, with a positive outlook for all that is still left to enjoy in life.

AppreciateIn talking with Ed, it became apparent he did feel gratitude for all the wonderful things he had in his life. He spent many years living close to his parents, near his children and had a loving companion by his side. This sense of thankfulness helped Ed to gain a fresh perspective.

In conclusion, even though life is filled with pain, it is also filled with joy. What you choose to focus upon determines your quality of life.

Until next time …

~ Russ

* Names have been changed.

-----© Russ Beck, 2011-----

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  1. I too wondered why I hurt and felt down, but I had 9 kids and challenges and Fatigue!!! I too have had 'pain' for years and counseling always helped me, then recently at about age 56 I found out the pain was from wheat-gluten. Going off all wheat has given me a NEW Life I never thought I'd have. Seriously you might just suggest he try that for the pain, I'm now Pain free for the 1st time in 25+ years, if I don't cheat. And my 'fog' is lifted and I feel younger and sooo much better.

  2. This is such a simplistic approach. This type of advice often makes one feel more isolated and ashamed after reading or hearing it. In the past 2 and a half years, I've had heart surgery, left the hospital and three days later went to care for my dying father until he passed away 10 days later. Four months later my husband lost a job he'd worked at for 22 years, we moved out of state to try and started a new business, while I continue to run another failing business 700 miles away, moved two more times, had a wedding for our daughter - which used up the rest of our retirement, ran out of unemployment and now in our 50's we have no retirement, nor constant income and struggle to pay our bills. My health is ruined, my children no longer believe in much of anything, I have no friends here and hate what I've become So, what do I focus on? I've tried being grateful, looking on the bright side, yet each day I struggle to get out of bed, and where there use to be tears, there's just dark silence and dry eyes. Hoping it all ends soon.

  3. There's always one good thing going for us at any given time! Thanks for the advice to stay positive and look for the good.

  4. I have to agree with ANONYMOUS. What if you don't have a loving spouse, what if you didn't have great parents? True your client had much to be grateful for, however many people don't have that. Many people grow older and more bitter and depressed because they didn't have all that, and they see that as time passes, the opportunities to have them also have passed.