About 18 months ago, I found myself swamped with a new and surprising level of anxiety. It didn't have an obvious trigger - unless you count moving from Texas to Florida, starting a new business, the US Presidential election, watching my husband semi-retire and moving onto a fishing boat.
Fair enough. That level of uncertainty is a sure trigger, but this still felt like something deeper.
I'd walk my dogs early in morning, as the sunrise turned the sky dusty pink, and hyperventilate in a freakish, one-woman meltdown, begging God to deliver me from:
Relentless mind chatter
Devastating thought loops
My new habit of catastrophizing everything.
And guess what?
The only way out is through.
I learned three things from this experience that I want to share in case you're in a similar position:
Thing One: When God swoops in and resolves all our suffering, we don't grow very much. The Bible says suffering produces perseverance and that produces hope - which I need.
"If it takes suffering to produce hope, sign me up," said no one ever.
But seriously, look back on your life at your biggest growth spurts, in your faith, your development, your hope. Where did they occur?
Usually in suffering.
The trick to surviving it is to accept yourself in it, and stay loose and surrendered to the process. That would have been a really good idea for me.
Don't go it alone.
Thing Two: The mistake most of us make in suffering is isolating ourselves.
We don't want to spoil anybody's vibe or attract more negative with our negative, so we stay home with Netflix and sink deeper into the couch. Adding to the suffering, the depression, the anxiety and the feeling that none of this will ever change.
Here's the trick: Find one person. Just one. Probably a friend rather than a family member, someone you can really tell the truth to who will simply listen. No advice. No outrage. Just listening.
Call them up and say:
"I need someone to tell the truth to."
Does that sound radical? It didn't use to be. It is now. However, there is nobody on earth who doesn't need a safe listener. Trust that. It's true.
This may just be midlife.
Thing Three: The worst part for me was the lack of an external crisis I could point at, to explain the malaise. So then I just felt like a big, selfish jerk.
Newsflash, that's not helpful and believe it or not, there may be other explanations.
Recently, economists discovered a dip in life satisfaction for people between the ages of 45-50. It's reliable and statistically obvious and even appears even when contributing factors like unemployment or divorce are removed. It shows across cultures and even across species.
It's called The Happiness Curve and Jonathan Rausch wrote a book about it.
So what if you're not broken?
What if you are just rolling around in the bottom of the happiness curve like a marble in a pothole? Or maybe you're going through a big life change.
Did you just get divorced? Did your kids move out? Are you planning to retire soon? Did your estrogen pick up and leave the building years ahead of schedule. That will jack you up.
All of these things can make you feel like you are losing your mind, your life, your whole identity - and the reason for that is: YOU ARE.
But this is how you fly.
As that stuff stirs up massive uncertainty, inertia, anxiety, fear, jealousy and comparison, it also offers us an opportunity for hope.
Just like the worm has to disintegrate to become a butterfly, this is your time to die to the old wormy stuff and become something entirely new.
Doesn't that feel hopeful?
Do the work.
Swimming this moat has been the hardest thing I've ever done, but guess what, I'm a very strong swimmer now and I know where the alligators are.
I've begun talking more about my own experience with the midlife dip and other perils in my private Facebook Group - The Meaning of Midlife.
As you know, I'm all about getting women unstuck and on purpose, and frankly, midlife is the perfect timeout. Sometimes we call it, sometimes God does, but it's where we can stop and consider how to craft a vibrant, intentional second half.
So that's what we're doing.
If this resonates, join us.
You've got this.