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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - August 2011 

It could be you ....

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor in private practice after 20yrs with Relate, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet as we pass our half-way markers. 

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column. 


 

IT COULD BE YOU...

Retirement is an anti-climax

Dear Maggi,

I’m fifty nine and generally pretty fit, but in recent months have been feeling less able to do all the things I’m used to taking for granted.

I’ve reached a point where I just feel so low that I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. My husband says we took early retirement to do things and I’m wasting our opportunities to enjoy our new leisure time. I taught for most of my life and as teaching changed in nature and the paperwork load grew out of control, I gradually grew to hate the thing I had loved for so many years. I dreaded Sunday nights, finishing all the marking and that sinking feeling on Monday mornings.

At first we were so happy to be released from the slog of daily routine but now I’m feeling depressed and am noticing all the aches and pains that were hardly there while I was working. On my last visit to the doctor she confirmed that my joints, especially my hands and my knees, were developing arthritis but there was no need yet for medication apart from the occasional pain relief with over-the-counter drugs.

So now, not only do I feel miserable, I get really frustrated by not finding it easy to be as active as I want. Our long walks are an effort. If I do go I slow my husband down and he strides off into the distance in a grump. I ache for a day afterwards and so then can’t keep up with gardening or other activities.

It is the small things I find hard to accept, like opening jars, weeding, painting walls, and my beloved embroidery. My hands just stop doing what I want them to. So when my husband starts telling me how disappointed he is that we aren’t getting all we expected out of retirement, I feel it is all down to me being lazy.

I just end up feeling the same as I used to on every Sunday or Monday when I was working, but with the added difficulty of my marriage becoming more stressed just when we thought it would ease.

What on earth can I do?

 

Maggi replies:

I can’t help thinking this husband needs a bit of a shake. He has taken early retirement to have more time with his wife. That’s great. But has he asked his wife what she needs in the way of help? Has he noticed that she is struggling with a few things and could do with a bit of support here? I think the reply would be ‘No’.

The situation isn’t that simple of course – it never is – so let’s look at the separate strands to the problem.

You have become much more aware of the signs of early arthritis since you retired. Luckily you have noticed it early and can do much to ward off symptoms with the help of :-

a) good advice on the do’s and don’t of exercise from a physiotherapist. Ask your GP to refer you to a joint care clinic
b) a few handy gadgets
c) good diet and food supplements to help maintain the health of the cartilage which cushions your joints and,
d) most importantly, the understanding of your husband.

Teaching has become a very different job from when you started 30 plus years ago. The paperwork involved has dismayed and discouraged many an excellent teacher and I admire your tenacity in staying in the profession for so long. Freedom beckoned you but you find that the actuality is disappointing and this is one of the contributory factors in what sounds like a mild depression. That is not an unusual reaction to a major change in life pattern. Your routine, established over years of working to school terms, has gone. There seems to be nothing firm to replace it as yet and it is likely that you are missing the security – even though it was a hard slog in later years – as well as all of your colleagues. The school staff room is no different to the factory floor or the office in that it is where support is shared, class problems are aired, communal groans and/or humour are bandied about and friendships are forged. That is no longer part of your life and you need to give yourself permission to miss it and time to gently let go of it and adjust.

You will need more than long walks with your husband to fill the gaps left by teaching. An active social life is one way of compensating for the loss of your daily staff-room interactions. If you are a joiner of groups then seek out what your area has to offer and make new friends. If you’d prefer to be of service there are organisations which can help you find somewhere to be a helper, visitor or mentor. I have included two at the end of the article.

Your husband seems unaware of your worries or the discomfort you are experiencing from your joints and I wonder if you have told him clearly how you feel and what help you need from him. Sometimes a spouse finds it hard to accept their partner is having difficulties and their worry can manifest itself as a diminishing of the problem. This, naturally, makes a small problem a whole lot bigger. He needs to walk with you. Talk to each other about worries as well as plans for your future.( I have added a link to check-list I prepared for BBC Radio Lancashire recently.) Make it clear that his attitude has a direct effect on you but bear in mind that he might not be altogether clear how you are struggling, so you will need to be explicit in asking for things he could do to ease your difficulties.

Enlist his help in seeking out some of the brilliant gadgets there are on the market to make day-to-day tasks less stressful on your joints. In the 1980’s I bought my mother a sort of rubbery cone she could use to get a better grip on jar and bottle lids. After she died my father used it. When my brother died I found it in his kitchen drawer and it is now so useful in my own kitchen, like an old friend! There are plenty of places that sell these items now, kitchen or plastics shops especially.

Many people find taking glucosamine and chondroitin helpful and Goldshield or Higher Nature are very good brands which can be ordered on the net, but all supermarkets, chain chemists and healthfood shops will sell something similar now. But beware if you are diabetic or have a shellfish allergy, not all of the mass market versions are suitable. A product which promises to be even more useful, on the market already in capsule form but about to be released this month (August) as a sachet to sprinkle on food or in drinks, is Litozin. The active ingredient, Gopo, is derived from the dried and powdered seeds and husks of rosehips. It has shown in trials to not only improve joint mobility but to reduce inflamation and therefore reduce the need for pain relief. It is also safe for those with diabetes or allergies. All these supplements take 3-4 weeks to take effect.

Diet is crucial for joint problems and if you eat to care for your joints you’ll find you feel energised and better nourished all round anyway. The combination of supplements and super nutritious fruit and veg will help slow down the loss of cartilage and bring down any inflammation so that your mobility is not only improved but, with gentle exercise, is preserved for much longer. Foods that tackle inflammation are the flavinoid rich berries and cherries, sulphur rich vegetables like garlic, onions, Brussel sprouts and cabbage. Turmeric is a spice known for its anti-inflamatory qualities and ginger is wonderful for the joints. It can be finely chopped into a casserole or stir-fry or whizzed up in a smoothie or milkshake. Essential fatty acids, especially Omega 3, can be found in oily fish, seeds, oils and avocado.

I have a feeling that if you are able to make a few key changes you will soon begin to feel you have taken control of your new life and will go from strength to strength.

www.csv.org.uk
Community Service Volunteers
www.navca.org.uk
National Association for Voluntary and Community Action

 


You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


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