A Man’s midlife crisis has been documented over the years, symbolized by a flashy sports car and a new flair for life. A woman’s midlife crisis has been given much less attention, to the extent that when a woman is in fact experiencing such changes, she isn’t too sure about what to expect and therefore how to handle it.
Succinctly put, a female midlife crisis can be described as a crisis of self-identity and self-confidence. I wish I could tell you all about a woman’s midlife crisis in a 500 word essay but it’s just not possible. I can however outline the two major causes and the tell-tale signs of a crisis, so you don’t feel so alone. Yes you read right, there are two very different stressors that make up a midlife crisis. Firstly, according to best-selling author Joe Dispenza, both men and women experience a disillusionment with worldly things at around the age of 36-38 in women and 40 onwards in men. At this crossroads the soul starts to wake up, if you’ve read the The Forty Rules of Love, Elif Shafak goes into why 40 is the golden number of spiritual awakening. And of course, Prophet Mohammed received his calling at the age of 40, so yes, it is very significant.
The second cause of a woman’s midlife crisis is a sudden drop in estrogen, which can cause a medley of symptoms. A drop in estrogen happens as the body starts to move towards menopause. What is often overlooked is the fact that you may start experiencing drops in estrogen up to 10 years before menopause.
So what are the symptoms of a midlife crisis in women?
1 || Something Doesn’t Feel Right
Almost overnight many things that you have known, and relied on to make your life comfortable and meaningful, cease to be fulfilling. Due to the spiritual awakening that takes place during this phase, you start to ask yourself deep questions about your existence and calling. According to Dispenza, we start to realize that fulfillment can only come from our inside, turning our material world upside down. The major issue we face is that we are unable to reap satisfaction from our material world, but we have yet to explore the spiritual world, which leaves you at a difficult and empty crossroads. Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of this phase is how confused and hurt your loved ones are by your sudden change.. At the end of the day, you seem to have changed but they haven’t, and they can’t seem to make things right.
2 || You Feel Confusion
In addition to the fact that you are now at the crossroads of ‘this doesn’t do it for me any more, but what does?” You may be experienced the additional symptoms of estrogen withdrawal which will make you feel lightheaded, forgetful and unfocused. All of a sudden you can’t concentrate, you feel like you are in a daze, and you don’t know what to do to get out of it. This can make you feel flustered and quite angry actually, it’s just a very uncomfortable feeling.
It is also important to acknowledge the fact that are the 40 year mark, your life milestones that you have been actively engaged in for over 15 years may be coming to an end. Be it your thriving career that has plateaued, not through any fault of your own, but due to the fact that as you climb the corporate ladder, the positions become less and less. After all there can only be one CEO and one CFO.. Additionally, your children may start to become more independent, no longer in need of you as much. There may also be a looming expiry date on your marriage, that is staring you in the face. All these possibilities add to the feelings of upheaval and discomfort.
3 || You Feel Anxiety and Jealousy
Well, if you feel uncomfortable it is most likely that this will result in anxiety, which is fear-driven, due to a loss of control of your life as you know it. Also, it is common to start feeling resentful and jealous of others that you perceive as better off than you. These feelings have a lot to do with the fact that as we reach ‘middle age’, we realize that life is passing us by and we are hit by a case of panic that manifests itself in irrational and erratic behaviour. Many of us will start experiencing signs of aging for the first time as well, which is highly inconvenient. You spot your first crow’s feet around your eyes, overnight you stop seeing in the dark, and of course you may be feeling curvier than usual. As weight gain is often connected to a drop in estrogen. Additionally, at the start of every decade your metabolism goes down as well, which could again lead to weight gain.
4 || You Feel Boredom and a Sense of Loss
Reactions differ as we go through the bumpy road of our midlife crisis. Some of us become defiant, kamikaze in our behaviour, exploring options that may or may not be reasonable. ‘Why can’t I be a stripper by night?’ you seriously ask yourself. Others go through a mild form of depression, where they become despondent, almost grieving their life as they knew it. This sense of loss, is partially disappointment for what you may or may not have accomplished in the first half of your life. Some people just don’t have the energy to consider a new career, and instead fall into a bored slump that is unfortunately quite hard to get out of.
5 || You Make Rash Decisions
All of the above points lead to a single word: discomfort. A horrible feeling of confusion, anxiety, physical changes and very likely also a lack of sleep (again due to a drop in estrogen). It is understandable therefore that we would want to relieve ourselves of these symptoms as soon as physically possible. This unfortunately leads us to draw significant life-changing conclusions which are often incorrect or irrational. How many women do we know that have left their husband’s for the younger landscape designer, or quit their jobs and moved countries in the blink of an eye, or worse yet, undergone some serious plastic surgery that has resulted in an attractive yet fake look. The clearer we are on what we are going through.. the more understanding we can be of our feelings, which we hope will result in less dramatic decision-making.