EILE’s Andy Cast writes about how sometimes it takes a false alarm to take stock of your journey in life
One of my best friends suggested I might be having a mid-life crisis last week, and very helpfully sent me one of those ‘Are you having a mid-life crisis’ questionnaires you can find online.
Well, having duly completed the questionnaire, I am pleased to announce I only scored 5, which means (according to the best and brightest at the aforementioned newspaper) that I am ‘far too young to even know what a mid-life crisis is, let alone be experiencing one!’
Well, thank goodness for that! Not quite sure what I would have done if I’d scored higher – sought out immediate therapy I expect. Joined a support group for the rapidly declining Middle-Aged man. These groups must exist. I can imagine them now sitting, Alcoholics Anonymous-style, in a big circle in some community centre somewhere, sharing their success stories about off-loading the 5 sports cars, divorcing the trophy girlfriend, and reconciling with their long-suffering wife. At the end of the meeting, the newest member leads a cathartic ‘burning of the toupee’ ceremony…
Luckily, thanks to the quiz, I know I don’t have to worry about having to locate such a group yet. I came to terms with my thinning hair in my late twenties, and I also had a sports car at the same time. Thinking about it, I probably had the mid-life crisis early, although I think that was more due to the fact I was ‘coming out’ at that time.
Surely, a mid-life crisis is a kind of identity crisis. A time when you take stock and start panicking about all the things you do and have which don’t quite match up with the person you think you are or should be. You feel insecure and a little bit lost. It makes sense that many of the emotions and feelings people have when coming out would match those at similar points in life.
Does that mean that maybe I’m still experiencing the emotions attached to that event? For many people like me, coming out is a huge thing. Unless you’ve done it yourself, I really don’t think you can appreciate how messed up it can make you. It challenges everything you think you know about yourself, and everyone else. It’s not something you just do and never think of it again. It isn’t suddenly realising that you like broccoli, after all these years of enjoying sprouts.
Ian Thorpe, Olympic swimmer, came out last July, after years of accusations and denials. Apparently, one of the things he feared most was the fact that he had to face people, and admit that he had lied to them. I remember feeling exactly the same way, not that anyone had ever accused me of being gay and I’d had to lie directly, but the indirect lies were there. And there were some whoppers, not least the ones I told my ex-wife.
Of course, like Ian, I’m being hard on myself. Many of the ‘lies’ were told when I didn’t know any better – I was in denial. The biggest victim of the lies in many ways was me. I was being a fake, incongruent, and hiding the real me for most of the time.
I came out when I was 34, having been married for 7 years, and even when that failed, continued trying other straight relationships, so I could carry on living in denial. It’s a long time to pretend to be something you aren’t, and I’m pretty sure there has been some lasting psychological damage. I don’t like myself very much at all. I struggle with my purpose, my reason for being, and I’ve started challenging my actions, and beliefs, on a daily basis.
So I wonder if it could all be coming to a head in a whirlwind of emotion, insecurity, and turmoil. I’m having an aftershock from the coming-out earthquake, and it’s a bit of a doozy! Hold on for dear life, and let’s hope we get through to the other side!
Andy Cast is an executive coach, mediator and bereavement counsellor. He lives in Southampton with his partner Paul and their two cats, Daisy and Spike. You can follow him on Twitter via @andypetercast.