Retirement, Depression, And Blogging

Hello friends. I’ve been in a funk. Haven’t published a blog post since April 30. Probably my longest hiatus since I started blogging in 2007, or since I began this blog in 2009. I’ve continued to read bloggers I follow (but irregularly) and to post comments (rarely).

I’ve been trying to adjust to retirement. Not as easy as I thought. Also, I’ve been all over the place in the past year regarding the purpose and audience of this blog. I began my first blog in 2007 with a focus on Maryland. That blog became more local when I moved to Ocean City.

I started this blog in 2009 to write about “life after sixty,” but I soon wandered into politics and economics. After retiring in 2013, I returned to my hometown, Montgomery County, and focused on local stuff for a while. I started several experimental blogs, but none of them clicked. The experimental blogs have been abandoned. Over the years, I’ve written a lot about politics, and I tend to get the most hits in the runup to elections. After the 2014 election, I was a blogger wandering in the desert.

Unable to find my bearings in retirement, I tried part-time work. Lifestyle and financial issues came to the fore. I made a conscious effort to cut back on blogging. Even though I wasn’t a very productive blogger, it seemed to consume a disproportionate amount of my time. Instead of blogging, I researched affordable places to live. Took a two-week fact-finding trip to Florida. At this point, I’m confused and undecided.

The truth is, my lifelong struggle with depression has worsened since retirement.

The cover story in this month’s Atlantic magazine, “A World Without Work,” helps explain my retirement funk. The story, by Derek Thompson, is not about retirement. It warns about the continuing loss of jobs due to computerization and robotization.

“For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?”

I’ve found that retirement has a lot in common with unemployment. Thompson points out that although leisure time offers wide opportunities, many unemployed men tend to spend most of their hours sleeping or watching TV.

I can go days without turning on the television, but I spend way too much time sleeping. Some days, I can hardly pull myself out of bed. That’s a sure sign of depression.

Any thoughts, fellow bloggers and/or retirees?

— John Hayden

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33 Comments

Filed under Aging, Blogging, Life

33 responses to “Retirement, Depression, And Blogging

  1. Sorry to hear you’re going through this John. I can only speak from my experience, but I have a tendency towards depression and when I’ve been in transitional periods in my life – leaving a job, cutting back on on volunteer work to focus on writing, it’s an opening for depression to settle in.

    It seems so much about losing one’s definition of self. Work defines many of us and without it, we’re left grasping for meaning, value, self-perception, etc. Remember that depression lies and just because we think something, doesn’t make it true.

    If I were to give unsolicited advice, it would be this: on those days when getting out of bed seems a challenge, just do one thing. And maybe you’ll want to do one thing more. Also, if depression persists, ask for help. Suffering is not the path to enlightenment.

    While I tend not to read your local reporting posts since I’m not from your area, I do read when you write on broader subjects. Writing sometimes serves as therapy for me. Perhaps it can for you, too.

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  2. Eileen

    I agree, as we are getting older, and friends and family are dipping their toes in the retirement water, I have realized that retirement is another adjustment in our lives that isn’t easy.
    I’ve often felt that the transitions in my life have come with mixed emotions. Most have been for a happy reason, so that helps the transition. I don’t see getting old as a happy occasion, so the retirement adjustment isn’t necessarily going to come easy.
    You have an enjoyment of writing, so there is a start. Finding a purpose, especially at retirement, is hard. But keep talking about it, to your circle of family and friends. We don’t know all the answers but we do like to get together and talk! 🙂

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  3. Terry Rolle

    Hey, Bernie, you may know that I have a lot of experience with depression. I can see how retirement would feel like being unemployed, but at least you probably don’t have the crushing guilt that I felt during two periods of unemployment. I take medication that helps a lot and doesn’t make me feel zoned out. If you are not now on medication I hope that you will consider it. Talking to a friend has also helped me a bunch, so I am here if you are in need and I think that I can understand how you are feeling.

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    • Thank you so much, Terry. I was middle-aged before I received treatment. But I’ve been taking medicine for some years now, and it does help. I’m glad you’re getting the help you need. So many people refuse to seek help, and that’s a big mistake.

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  4. Lift. Weights.

    Or speedwalk or run. I don’t care what really, just start the motor.

    Read John Ratey’s book “Spark.”

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    • Thanks Ms. Sled. I have been trying for 10,000 steps a day with the Fitbit, but rarely making it. I’ll look for “Spark.”

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      • The book explains in motivating detail the biochemical and neurological processes by which exercising remodels your brain. From the ground up. It is concrete and specific. Screw the Fitbit. Do something that makes you suck wind and mop sweat. Promise it will help.

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  5. John, I’m so sorry to hear you’re in a funk…trust me it may have to do with the weather or just being idle! I was in a funk yesterday and I had to catch myself from negative self talk. Fortunately, my mother was a youth pastor and instilled in me that whenever these feelings of despair or confusion find their way into my mind, I must immediately cast them out of my thoughts because it’s the Devil trying to steal your joy! I actually started yelling at the top of my lungs in my study, saying self affirmations, I have them written at work so I can read them when my mind wanders and I have a framed version near my desk at home as well.
    The weather also affects our moods, and with an overwhelmingly rainy season and too hot to want to go outside days, you’re not alone these days! Feel free to check out this link to get started with self-affirmations: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-carmen-harra/affirmations_b_3527028.html…it’s a way of tricking your mind, nutritionists say “you are what you eat” and psychologists say, “you are what you think”.
    I would hate to lose your voice, there are fewer and fewer substantive blogs worth reading these days. Your political pieces are somewhat controversial, but offer a refreshing take on the political landscape. You were a source of encouragement during my campaign and reading your blog posts made me feel like I had a virtual cheerleader, writing what I was thinking. Furthermore, the municipal races are heating up…and with the Congressional, Senate, Board of Ed and Presidential races right around the corner…there won’t be a shortage of topics to cover and analyze and share your well reasoned perspective.
    I have continued to stay active in volunteering and in the community in one form or another. My daughter is actually taking a drop-in writing class this summer at Gaithersburg Library and I’m sure they and any other writing center (MC campuses or any MCPS location) would love to have someone of your caliber teach a writing clinic or two. Furthermore, there are endless boards, committees and commissions that would also benefit from having someone like you in their midst. In addition to working my 9-5 at NIH, I am Pres of a political organization, a member of: the GHS PTA and liaison to the NAACP Parent Council for GHS, the Gaithersburg Education enrichment committee, the MoCo Community Action Board and was recently appointed to the Nonprofit Village of MoCo board. I can’t help but stay busy enjoying the things I love to do most, advocating on behalf of others and finding new ways to improve the community. My mother would often say, idle hands are the devil’s playground, so I stay busy as to not get myself in trouble ;-D
    I know I’ve said a mouthful, but this is actually Mental health awareness month, so when I hear something like this from such a caring person, it troubles my spirit. In the meantime, I’ll do what my friend did for me when I text her yesterday and told her that I was in a funk…rest assured I’ll be praying for you to find peace, purpose and guidance to see you through the funky times.
    Btw, did I mention I’ll be cutting back on some of my community work temporarily because I’m…running for Gaithersburg City Council? I’ll need your perspective and keen insight during the arduous campaign trail leading up to election day!

    MoCo needs you, let’s get to work!
    Cheers

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    • Laurie-Anne, so happy to see you here on my blog. Thanks for your comments and your prayers. I saw in the Sentinel that you’re running. Can you believe we no longer have the Gazette?!

      I attended the city council meeting this past Monday, when they had a hearing on the adequate public facilities ordinance. The council is considering raising the threshold on school crowding to allow new residential development even if the schools are as much as 50 percent over capacity!! (That last sentence oversimplifies the issue, but I’m concerned that political leaders countywide and in Gaithersburg have too much blind faith in the ability of development to solve all problems.)

      The Gaithersburg City Council has done good work over the years, I think. But the council doesn’t represent all the people of Gaithersburg. I think you would add a needed new perspective.

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  6. Hi John, I’m not prone to depression, so I can’t help with that. But I have done a lot of reading and thinking about retirement and its meanings (social aspects rather than just financial). Two books I would recommend are Robert S. Weiss’s The Experience of Retirement and Mary Lloyd’s Supercharged Retirement. Weiss’s book is based on very high-quality social science research on the actual retirement experiences of retirees. It can provide insight into which of your retirement dissatisfactions are typical and which are unusual. Lloyd’s book is based on her own experience of early retirement followed by depression. It is a workbook, full of exercises to help you figure out what you want to get out of your retirement and how to get there.

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  7. Faith

    Hi- just a few thoughts…our mutual friends often remark what a terrific person you are. Come visit them! Coffee most Sundays after church.

    I went through a particularly rough time about 5 years ago. The verse Philippians 4:8 read throughout the day helped.

    Eat a serving of plain yogurt every day. No joke. There is a bacteria that causes benign despair and yogurt may help this.

    Be thankful for something DAILY!

    It was brave of you to put your real situation online and you are to be commended. Too often we only share the happy or wat looks good. Bravo to you!

    Keeping you in prayer!

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    • Thank you, Faith. I just looked up Philippians 4:8 and highlighted it in my Bible. You’re absolutely right about being thankful. We Americans have so many advantages, and we often take everything for granted. I have a million things to be grateful for that far outweigh the depression.

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  8. Dorothy

    Lots of good ideas here already. My thoughts are: Exercise! Get up and walk for an hour or two in the early morning before it gets hot. I liked the idea of teaching or taking a class. Eat only unprocessed foods. I think you would be amazed at how that can affect your mood, and it can become something of a hobby believe it or not! And last but not least, St. John Neumann’s in Gaithersburg has perpetual adoration in their chapel. Go visit Jesus!

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    • Hi Dorothy, and thanks. Did Melissa convert you to unprocessed foods? Anna was telling me about the benefits of a vegan diet. Eat only beans and whole grains. She went to Whole Foods and bought a bunch of fruits and vegetables in every possible color. The colors are supposed to be very important. The crazy doctor who demands 10,000 steps a day also recommends the vegan diet.

      Seriously, your suggestion to get up very early and walk (for an hour or two!) is the best recommendation so far. Anyone who walks for an hour or two first thing in the a.m. should have no trouble accomplishing 10,000 steps.

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      • Dorothy

        Haha, yes she has converted me! I’m glad Anna’s getting onboard too. Now that I think about it, I think a consistent early to bed, early to rise sleep schedule makes people feel better too. What are we doing up in the middle of the night reading blogs? People don’t feel good in the middle of the night. It’s too dark!

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  9. Hi John, this is an interesting and honest post. Personally, I am not retired but I have worked with many retirees and they too have similar journeys as yours. What I do know that worked for them was keeping busy, either by part time employment, volunteering, church activities, clubs and organizations. Exercise can take many forms, from traditional such as running or cycling to maybe join a local square dance club. These type of activities not only keep you busy but also opens up possibilities for new friendships and networking. Always try to find JOY in each day! Now, about Florida, I am from out west and just never enjoyed the cold weather and the snow. Florida was the place for my family and I and we have never looked back. The weather may take awhile to get used too, but it’s worth it. Living in central Florida has so many benefits. If you want to live in a small community but want a big city moment it is just a short drive away. Where else can you go where you can see a beautiful east coast sunrise in the morning and see a stunning west coast sunset in the evening…. FLORIDA!
    It’s a nice place to visit but a better place to live 🙂

    Best wishes

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    • Thank you Margarita! I visited the Gulf coast, focusing on the area north of Tampa and St. Pete. I saw the area from New Port Richey to Spring Hill, the southernmost part of “Florida’s Nature Coast.” I will have to check out your area, the Space Coast. How’s the cost of living out your way?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi John,

        According to best places.net the cost of housing in Melbourne, Florida is 62% of the national average vs 72% in the Tampa area. For other expenses (food, utilities, transportation, etc) the costs are about the same (89.4 vs 90.4)

        Another website that is a great resource to determine current living expenses by area is http://livingwage.mit.edu/pages/about. “The living wage model is an alternative measure of basic needs. It is a market-based approach that draws upon geographically specific expenditure data related to a family’s likely minimum food, child care, health insurance, housing, transportation, and other basic necessities (e.g. clothing, personal care items, etc.) costs. Detailed description of the data used in the tool can be found on the landing page of each state”

        Specifically for the Tampa/St. Petersburg area the annual living wage (before taxes) for I adult needed is $21.9k
        http://livingwage.mit.edu/metros/45300

        For the Palm Bay / Melbourne area the annual living wage needed is $20.9k. http://livingwage.mit.edu/metros/37340

        Northern Florida has a very low cost of living and has access to many State Parks as well as plenty of coastline. Southern Florida is a bit more expensive but is home to a diverse population and many attractions.

        So in a nutshell, depending on your retirement financial situation what really will matter is where you feel it is best for your peace of mind and heart to live. Every place will have its pros and cons but if you really feel at home there than the cons really won’t matter.

        John, one of my favorite movies is The Shawshank Redemption and one quote that always resounds loudly in my mind is this one: “I don’t think I could make it on the outside Andy. I’ve been in here most of my life.” Andy of course ends with, “It comes down to a simple choice, get busy living or get busy dying.” In my opinion, the notion of “coming alive” or “waking up” to life is a common thread among many wisdom teachings. I’m not implying there was any religious implication in this movie, yet the application of the saying still holds true: most folks are “asleep” living but not LIVING. In a sense, dying slowly without purpose. We can easily go through life like this in a fog, never pursuing our true dreams or talents or seeking out the true meaning of our lives. More specifically, at retirement when one has accomplished all that was on life’s “to do” list, it would be understandable and easy to fall into a “funk” of what do I do now? Morgan Freeman’s character at the end of the movie was not doing to well. He was out of prison, but his life was a fog of fear and nothingness. To me, this saying indicates the “waking up” and pushing life to it’s fullest, which is when he decided to go seek out his friend Andy Dufresne, off on some tropical island. We ALL have choices in life no matter our circumstance. We can choose differently or we can accept what is right in front of us and remain as is. We can simply accept living in the “it is what it is” ideal and get busy dying. Or, we can get busy living by taking inventory of our life, our goals and our relationships and make the necessary changes to breath greater meaning into our lives; making it what it was meant to be. Today is another day to try again so make it a gift to your future self.” ― Anonymous

        Thanks so much for following my blog and I look forward reading your blog too 🙂

        Best wishes – Have a blessed and JOYful day!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Margarita! What a wise and inspiring comment! I’m going to print it out and read it again. Thank you for your blog.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. John you may or may not know I retired last August from work.. I retired early as I am not quite the pensionable age but at 61 this year I was ready to take time out for myself..
    I have to say I sympathise with you, and can fully relate to you feeling down and depressed..
    I launched into my creative side thinking I could do crafts to pull in my spare time.. Then I had a lull and hit a low in January which a bereavement didn’t help matters..
    I can honestly say the transition from working full time for over 40 yrs to having Free time on your hands is not as easy as we like to think it is..
    And I have only JUST this last month settled within my own mind into a comfort zone of not thinking I should be doing something..
    As you know I garden, and this has helped a lot especially in Summer.. but the winter and Jan through to spring was hard emotionally to cope with. So I can fully relate to how you are feeling..

    Take one day at a time and just learn that YOU are important and perhaps join a group where you live with interests which are yours… I found the key is not to vegetate but communicate.. Blogging has helped me on that score.. But I was spending too much time on WP.. so I took a break from visiting as often all I follow..
    And put my own time first to enjoy Summer..

    Love to you John and you will find the balance.. it just takes time to adjust xx Sue

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    • Thanks Sue. Sounds like we’re in the same boat. An interest or work that we can lose ourselves in helps so much. Gardening & blogging are two good ones. Winters have always been the worse for me, so it’s disconcerting to be like this in summer. One day at a time is excellent advice!

      Liked by 1 person

      • And John also learning that there is no rush to get things done.. My hubby had retired two years before I took the plunge he is 7 years my senior. He would be constantly telling me to sit down and stop rushing to do everything! 🙂 Its take a year to settle down into the Please myself Mode and enjoy My ME time.. But channelling our energy into a hobby or helping others etc makes us feel worthy.. Do you have any ‘Night School’ College courses for hobbies in your area? Or Dance classes LOL.. or some Literature themes which you have excellent knowledge of and could use your knowledge to help others… Until we look we do not see what is around our neighbourhood..
        Good Luck.. and Yes One day at a time.. 🙂 take care.. Sue

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  11. I think you hit that nail on the head Sue. After working frenetically all our lives it’s really hard to transition to a slower pace. Through school and employment, we learn to value ourselves only for what we produce. That’s the way the capitalistic system values people. It’s a spiritual transition to realize we have intrinsic value simply because we’re an individual person with a soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dorothy

    Another idea! Write a novel and self publish it on kindle. People can do that now, right? One topic that I think resonates with all age groups, depending on how you write it, is bullying. Keep it on the short side, with a little bit of humor to counter the sadness, and have it end well. Haha, I just finished a book just like that called “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. It was really good, you should read it!

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    • As a mother and as someone who works in the schools, you are better qualified to write about bullying. I suspect you already have a good idea for the story in your head. If you write it down, I’ll edit it for you.

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  13. Anonymous

    I “retired” in the Sun Buyout Class of 2007, and never regretted it. While I miss the daily newsroom excitement and contact, there are alternatives — keeping up with friends online, and finding news ones and new communities of interest. Since my wife is a photographer, we have become active social participants in Baltimore’s vast arts world. We attend literary readings, where we know some of the readers and become acquainted with others. We travel at times. We both have blogs (my wife posting daily as part of a 365-day project that began on her 70th birthday, and me must less often). And having edited as a temp fill-in for other papers, my circle of friends expanded in the news world as well. I guess I am a bit of an extrovert, and she has become one as well. We also attained what I like to call the status of being “independently middle class.” We are lucky to, for now, have the resources to do what we want, when we want to, but with moderation — never first class, often using credit card points for free lodging. And we meet people in our participation as hosts through couchsurfing.com and servas.org — both worth investigating. The result is we have friends all over the planet. And of all ages. We have friends ranging in age from their 20s to their early 90s… and the younger ones, in particular, keep our attitudes and interests fresh. If the right job came along, out of the blue, I might consider working again — but don’t need to. And that’s a blessing. I have found in retirement that I don’t know how I ever had time for a job! Keep busy, and keep in mind that a wonderful goal is to have too much fun. It is also a goal that is impossible to achieve, but well worth the effort.

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    • I took a buyout in 2002. The demise of the newspaper industry was clear by then. There was absolutely no chance for advancement, so I decided to get out while the getting was good. Sounds like you stuck around until almost the bitter end. Most papers like the Sun are now only a thin shadow of their former selves. Even the Post and the NYT took a hit, but are still able to put out a good news product.

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  14. Pingback: moods | the human picture

  15. Funk, that’s exactly how I feel since quite a few of my coworkers retired early. Depression is my main concern should I retire. Blogging , plenty of walk no Fitbit, gardening and stay out of politics. Pray. Pray unceasingly for I depend on God’s mercy. You received plenty of suggestions here and I am glad you voiced out your funkiness. I hope. You don’t mind should I quote one of the comments here. Blessings

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Reblogged this on Retirement Made Simple and commented:

    I want to post as often as possible on this new blog, even daily, but I’m tired this evening. As a compromise, I’ll repost this pertinent piece, which is a status report on the state of my retirement as of July 10, 2015. It seemed to strike a chord, because it generated 32 comments. It’s a more personal version of the musings on retirement in the first three posts on this new blog, which, unlike my other blogs, will focus like a laser on retirement questions.

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