What is midlife coming of age? It’s bloody brilliant, that’s what

black and white image showing Sam Harrington-Lowe wearing a Never Mind the Bollocks Tshirt and smiling

Our mid-life is mired in change and challenge, but there is hope on the horizon…

When people ask me how I’m doing, I’m usually honest, or so I believed. I would say yes, I’m okay thanks, but the last few years have been really tough.

And they have. Within the last five or six years I’ve lost my beloved dad and stepmum – brutal to lose both parents so close to each other. I’ve moved house twice, not by choice, with all the stress and upheaval that goes with that. The longest relationship of my life ended, not without its drama and heartbreak. My daughter spread her wings and left home, just when we had stopped teenage/menopause fighting. Which brings me to the joy of perimenopause, and menopause, and all the fun stuff that goes with that. That’s been in the mix too.

I tell you this, not to have a whine about how awful life has been… but mostly, that you do come out of it

But it hasn’t all been personal either. I started a business with two other people, both of whom left within a year, and left me holding the baby. We’ve had Brexit and Covid, both of which placed enormous pressure not only on the business, but on my mental health. Money has been a constant worry. Suppliers and associates have been going out of business left, right and centre. I have lost friends and family to illness, and to suicide.

There are days when I am frankly astonished that I even have a business. And on my more honest days, I’m pleased that I’m here at all. Because things have been dark sometimes. I’ve struggled with depression, through antidepressants and out the other side. It’s been a ride.

I tell you this, not to have a whine about how awful life has been – although it has, in parts. But mostly to tell you that you do come out of it, somewhere along the line.

I have been underestimating the length of my tough years though

This morning I realised that although I talk about ‘the past few years’ having been challenging, it’s been quite a lot longer than that. About ten years ago, for a period of about five years, I used to get chronic migraines. Like, proper three-day mind-bending and stomach-churning battles that happened at least once a week. It was appalling, trying to slog through the pain and debilitating symptoms, to run a business and try to be a half decent parent to a challenging teen.

…what I really ought to say is that the last decade has been a brutal rollercoaster. The hardest decade of my life

Turns out it was the pill, and I’d become oestrogen-intolerant. Stopping the pill brought instant relief – the migraines completely stopped, immediately. I quit the pill, and I’ve never had another migraine since. The relief was astonishing. I could function! But then as migraines left the building, perimenopause slid in through the back door, bringing the most god-awful periods known to womankind. Of the two problems though, the latter was definitely the lesser in terms of hideousness.

And finally, possibly the most fundamentally huge shift for me, I was diagnosed with ADHD (officially) and (unofficially by my doctor) with autism. I got medication for the former, and dived headfirst into understanding and learning coping mechanisms for the latter, and that’s been utterly life-changing. I am, however, having counselling to deal with the ‘what ifs’. What if I’d been diagnosed as a child, for example. What might my life have been like? It’s a form of grief, dealing with what feels like the loss of Potential Samantha. But I’m getting there.

So although I say to people ‘the last few years’ have been tough, what I really ought to say is that the last decade has been a brutal rollercoaster. The hardest decade of my life. I’m 54, in case you were wondering.

Continuous line drawing of cheering woman demonstrating midlife coming of age. Continuous one line drawing of woman rising hands up feeling happy and freedom. Woman feeling free, minimalism design isolated on white background.

It gets better

And I mean that literally, not sarcastically. This isn’t a huge, life-changing article full of unique revelations, and tips for making your life fantastic. But if you’re reading this and identifying with all or any of the issues I’ve experienced, I am here to tell you it gets better. It really does. There is a midlife coming of age, and it’s beautiful.

I can see it happening all around me, to my friends, and my peers, and it’s bloody fantastic. It’s actually really exciting.

There’s a phenomenon called the U-shaped curve of happiness, and even though we’ve published articles about this, I had my doubts about its legitimacy. But it’s real. The timeline isn’t the same for everyone, but by and large, at some point in mid-life, things improve. Priorities change. Attitudes change. Seismic shifts often occur, where people choose lifestyles and jobs that make them happier. I can see it happening all around me, to my friends, and my peers, and it’s bloody fantastic. It’s actually really exciting.

My own experience has been thus; firstly I’m now officially menopausal, and it’s fucking fantastic. No hormonal rollercoaster, no monthly pain and mess. I didn’t do HRT, mostly because of the oestrogen, but also because I just wanted to get it out of the way and not be reliant on anything anymore just to function. And for me that was the right choice. I feel exactly like I used to before perimenopause. Better in fact – more like when I was about 35. My brain works properly again, I can remember things. My body works. I don’t feel shut down, or dissociated, or in crazy hormonal flux. Ladies – hang in there. It’s brilliant the other side.

Your midlife coming of age brings about some good stuff

Now that I’m older, I eat better, and drink less booze, so I feel clearer in mind and body. I’m lucky and VERY grateful to be healthy and well. My body, bless it for all the shit I’ve put it through, functions well. My relationship with my daughter is wonderful. I love what I do, mostly, but wouldn’t cry if I just gave it all up tomorrow and went off round the world. That’s liberating in itself.

My body, bless it for all the shit I’ve put it through, functions well

I’m single, which makes my life less complicated. And – bear with me because this is going to sound a little weird – there’s something quite freeing about not having any older relatives left to worry about. Don’t get me wrong – I’d swap all my limbs to have my dad back, for example. But honestly? If he went on for years like a creaking gate, he would have been a difficult bastard, I know it. So there is a little silver lining. I have no elders to be responsible for. No care homes to worry about. No nursing to do. No guilt-ridden trips to medical facilities. It’s a thing, even if it sounds a bit heartless.

More than anything, I give fewer fucks. I don’t care what people think of me – although that’s never been a big thing for me, I care even less now. I have let go of wild ambitious dreams that I once had but which made me stressed trying to achieve. You’ve all read that poem When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple, by Jenny Joseph? I’m there, and it’s fabulous.

Hang in there. Man or woman, midlife is a fucking minefield assault course of a time, and we will all face a lot of similar challenge. And yes, I know not everyone will have a positive trajectory. Some of you will die too young. Some of you will not be happy. But for the vast majority – and we have undertaken our own research on this – there is light at the end of the tunnel, and a positive outcome to look forward to. Take comfort from the fact that I am here to tell you, it gets better.

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About Sam Harrington-Lowe
Sam is Silver's founder and editor-in-chief. She's largely responsible for organising all the things, but still finds time to do the odd bit of writing. Not enough though. Send help.

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