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Midlife Wisdom for Men Issue #007, March 31, 2004
April 15, 2004
Midlife Wisdom for Men - Helping Men Navigate Midlife Transitions.

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Written by Noel McNaughton
Midlife-Men.com
(c) copyright 2004 midlife-men.com

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If you like this e-zine, please do a friend and me a big favour and forward it him. If a friend DID forward this to you and if you like what you read, please subscribe by visiting Midlife Wisdom for Men. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

April 15, 2004 Issue #008

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An Older Man's Letter to God

A Word on Depression

So You've Been Appointed Executor

Got something to sell? NEW - FREE classifieds section

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An Older Man's Letter to God

Perhaps you have noticed, as I have, that as you/I get older we have an unpleasant habit of having opinions on all kinds of things, and feel that our opinions must be heard. I have noticed this in my Dad's generation, and do not find it endearing!

Here is a letter that addresses that very thing, plus a few others. It is from the Spiritual Letters section of LibraryOnline Inc., a website that provides hundreds of letter templates that can be modified online and then printed or emailed to friends and colleagues. This "letter to God' is one of the samples available at www.libraryonlineinc.com. I first saw it in the April, 2004 edition of Harper's Magazine,

Dear Lord,

You know better than I know myself that I am growing older and will some day be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but you know Lord that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains...they are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.

I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of other's pains, but to help me endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.

Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally, I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a Saint - some of them are so hard to live with - but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of evil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected people...and give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.

AMEN

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A Word on Depression

Here is a statistic I find interesting: Approximately 40% of men in the forty to sixty midlife age range will experience some degree of depression.

When I was going through my own andropause (midlife transition) I had what I now recognize as a low-grade depression (technically called dysthymia) for several years. I did not seek treatment for it, as I did not consider it a health risk (I could be wrong about that! See below...), and it seemed an integral part of the process I was in. Many of the men I have talked to about their own midlife struggles have mentioned symptoms similar to what I experienced.

Here is a portion of a letter I got from a reader recently. He went through a painful separation and divorce recently. He found himself in a serious depression this winter, but is now coming out of it...

"January, and I suppose most of February were my worst months. and of course the cold weather didn't help.

"I never thought I would feel better. I kept wondering, why can't I shake this, what is wrong with me. I am 56 years old, get on with it. But, after having gone thru it, and reading about it, and being told about it in divorce support group, and at the retreat this weekend (ed. note: the retreat Rick mentions is a divorce adjustment retreat he attended recently) , what I went thru was not unlike anything other people have, and will. One of the facilitators at the New Beginnings retreat was depressed for 3 months. could hardly make a sandwich. You can't go around, over or under it, must go thru it, as difficult as it is, and is best not to try to put it off.

"I learned you just have to let it take its course. I was so lonely at times, but called friends, locally and long distance, and talked to them, using up $20.00 7/11 phone cards. Just going to the mall, or coffee shop to be around people was good for me, I got out, and saw there was life out there. I did resent people who were happy, and didn't seem to have any cares, and especially couples. Being invited for supper, or over to people's places was so cathartic, just to be around people, and in a different setting. I hated to come home, but had to. I don't even have a pet..."

Rick

Rick's depression was largely triggered by his separation. And as he says, you can't go around, over or under it. This kind of depression, attached to an event such as separation, will usually subside with the passage of time. However, if you find yourself in such a depression, do things along the lines of what Rick did... make yourself go out, and talk to your friends. Holing yourself up makes things worse, and can lead to suicide (see stats below).

I just finished reading an excellent book on depression in men: I Don't Want To Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression by Terrence Real. Real is a psychologist who has worked with many depressed men. I found his case studies particularly interesting.

Wondering whether you might have a bit of depression?? Here is some information about depression in men from a University of California website:

Symptoms of Depression include:

* Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells.

* Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns.

* Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety.

* Pessimism, indifference.

* Loss of energy, persistent lethargy.

* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness.

* Inability to concentrate, indecisiveness.

* Inability to take pleasure in former interests, social withdrawal.

* Unexplained aches and pains.

* Recurring thoughts of death or suicide.

* Loss of interest and enjoyment in life.

* Pervasive "low mood."

* Decreased interest in sex.

In one person's words, "A colourful world gone to black and white."

Experiencing five or more of the symptoms listed above for two weeks or longer indicates a major depressive episode. Experiencing several of the above symptoms in a less acute, but longer duration can indicate the presence of Dysthymia, a chronic, moderate type of depression in which people are able to continue functioning but experience frequent irritability and vulnerability to stress. Recent research studies indicate that among the general population in the United States, 80% of those with symptoms of depression are not diagnosed and treated. Additionally, new research indicates that depression is often experienced differently in men than in women and that among men, prolonged symptoms in the form of excessive anger, aggression, alcohol & substance use, working or eating excessively, and anti-social behaviour can all be indicators of depression. Risk factors commonly associated with depression include:

  • Primary risk: suicide.
  • Secondary risks: low functioning, poor interpersonal relationships, unhappiness, low productivity, long term self-esteem issues.
Among men there is a connection between heart disease and depression:

  • Men with depression are more than twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who are not depressive.
  • Symptoms of heart disease typically occur 15 years after the first episode of depression, suggesting that untreated, depression can have an insidious effect on general health not unlike that of unremitting stress.
  • Men with depression have a 71% higher heart-disease risk, and are 2.34 times more likely to die of heart disease than their non-depressed counterparts.
Other facts about depression and men:

  • Although 80% of people with depression who have sought help will find relief through therapy or medication (or both, combined), fewer than one in three people who are depressed actually seek help. Because many men grow up believing that depression is primarily a women's illness, and perhaps a sign of weakness, men are much less likely to admit to depression or to seek help for it than women.
  • Men are not as likely to show the typical signs of depression either. They do not usually cry, show sadness, loss of will, or verbalize an intention to hurt themselves. As a result their depression is hidden from those caring friends, family, partner or associate who might insist they seek help. For this reason, according to unpublished Center for Disease Control reports, men in the U.S.A. are about four times more likely than women to kill themselves via suicide.
  • Men who feel like they no longer "measure up", who feel physically weaker, sense that their outlets for pleasure are reduced, or who have experienced a personal loss are at risk for depression.
  • Men who experience the loss of a significant supportive relationship are also at serious risk for depression. This type of loss can be either a romantic relationship or, as is often the case, the loss of a father who has been particularly supportive of them throughout their life.
  • Job loss is another trigger for depression, as is physical illness such as cancer, heart disease, and low thyroid function. The link among these that relate to the onset of depression is a feeling of loss in terms of earning potential, virility, strength, control, and self-definition. For example, of the 33,000 people who committed suicide in Japan in 1999, one half was unemployed.
  • Age: suicide (the most extreme expression of depression) in men peaks in the 20s and again in the 60s and 70s. Whereas men complete 20% of all suicides in the U.S.A., the suicide rate triples in midlife men and increases seven times in men over age 65. With a history of depression, the risk of suicide increases substantially.
  • Alcoholism, much more common in men than women, leads to suicide in 10% of affected people.

You can get more information about men and depression here: http://menanddepression.nimh.nih.gov/infopage.asp?ID=1

A search for 'depression in men' on the internet will find you lots more information.

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So You've Been Appointed Executor

The majority of us will see our parents die when we are in our fifties or sixties. It is just one of the things that comes with the territory. That means along with the grief, we may also find ourselves Executors of a parent's estate. This is no small task!

When I was younger, I thought being chosen as executor would be kind of an honour. Maybe it would mean you are seen as the most responsible of your siblings. Or maybe you are 'the favourite' after all! (A fantasy I think most children have at some point.)

What it might really mean, of course, is that you are the youngest, so statistically most likely to still be alive when your parents die. I have learned that being executor is also a large and sometimes onerous task.

You are responsible for everything from dealing with tax issues, to handling bills and debt, to preparing an inventory of the deceased's possessions (doesn't THAT sound like fun), to preparing an estate sale.

You are also responsible for shepherding any financial assets until they are dispersed, and if they lose value while in your care, you can be held responsible for making up the difference!

There is too much to cover in an article, but if you are named executor in your parents' (or anyone else's) will, I strongly recommend learning about your duties before you have to carry them out.

My friend Tom Carter, a lawyer and teacher of law here in Edmonton has written a book on being an executor, aptly named: So You've Been Appointed Executor. If you are not a Canadian, check your library or local book store for self-help books on being an executor.

And speaking of executors, you do have a will, and you have appointed your own executor, right? Did you know 40% of adults do not have wills? Isn't that amazing? Most people don't want the government intruding into their personal lives, so why would they invite the government to decide who gets their stuff after they die? (That's what happens when they die without a will.)

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NEW! Free Classifieds

Friend Roger suggested I add a classified section to my newsletter, so I decided to do so.

Here's how it works. You got something to sell? Send me a note with a description and your email address. I will put it in the next newsletter. Anybody interested can contact you.

Same if you want something... send me a note, and I'll put it in the newsletter.

There is no charge for this service.

I'll kick it off with an item of my own:

FOR SALE: Brand new D-Link ADSL Modem. Never been used. I bought it a little more than a year ago when I was getting ADSL (High speed internet through my telephone company) into my house. I thought I could install it myself, but the house has a security system, so I had to get a technician, and that meant I had to rent the telcom's modem. I didn't take this modem back to the store soon enough, so couldn't get a refund.

Original cost: $70 CDN. Special sale price: $15.00 Plus $12.00 shipping (ground trasnportation). email noel at noel@midlife-men.com.

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DID YOU KNOW: The Power of Visualization

I know visualizing what you want is thought to be a 'new age' idea, but it's actually been around for a long time. Here is a quote from Dr. Christiane Northrup's health newsletter for women, which my wife subscribes to:

"The famous French doctor Emile Coue was well known at the turn of the century for his miraculous cures. His method was entirely based on the Healing Law of Imaging. He deliberately set up a detailed picture of the healing in his patients' minds, while assuring them that "nobody ought to be sick."

"He instructed his patients to bring up this mental image while repeating the now famous phrase, "every day in every way, I am getting better and better." Dr. Coue taught that the subconscious mind is most impressed by pictures. He used another powerful truth: When will and imagination are in conflict, imagination always wins. So it's crucial to learn to see what you want in your mind's eye - regardless of your current reality."

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I Need Your Questions and Feedback!

Got comments? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.

Just email your suggestions and/or questions to noel@midlife-men.com . I look forward to hearing from you. And thanks.

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Well friend, that's it for now. Again, if you enjoyed this and/or found it useful, and know of anyone else who might like it, please pass it forward. And if you have questions or recommendations, I would love to hear from you.

All the best, Noel

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