PRSD, Part II
As I began writing this, I was unsure about posting it. In doing so, maybe I’ll get feedback from others who are struggling with similar issues.
Since my first blog post I’ve written about the surprising challenges of retirement, especially for someone mildly obsessive-compulsive and mildly ADD. Well, I have an official diagnosis of anxiety disorder. I don’t know whether to be relieved, but I am a little surprised. Primary symptoms were sleep problems, shakiness and nervousness and start about midday, peaking late in the afternoon. Driving is more stressful and I’m somewhat agoraphobic. I do go out when I need to, doing errands, picking up my granddaughter, visiting friends and attending church and social functions. But the default, if I have a choice, is to stay home.
It started when I had cataract surgery in May. From then until I got my prescription, including three trips to EyeMasters for adjustments, I struggled with the changes and inadequacies in my sight. Then we took our trip to San Diego, during which I thought I might be truly ill.
I wonder how I managed a highly stressful job for 12 years. I was the public information officer (i.e. spokesperson) for the Texas Medical Board. My boss was a neurosurgeon; I worked with a board of 19 very high-powered individuals, 12 of whom were physicians. I dealt with the media, and anything I said could appear in the newspaper or on TV. A serious error could impact the agency’s legislative appropriation and/or cost me my job. I retired on good terms and helped select and train my replacement, who remains in the job nearly three years later.
I loved that job. Not every day. There were days that were boring and routine. But times when reporters called and deadlines loomed, even long board meetings and hearings, could be exciting and challenging. Being OCD and ADD actually made me good at my job! I juggled multiple emails and phone calls and interruptions and got bored when it was too quiet. I published a twice-yearly newsletter (which went to all licensed Texas doctors), something I enjoyed so much that I’ve started a neighborhood newsletter for our condo association.
How could retirement be harder than that? The main difference, I think, was that the job was structured, deadlines and priorities were clear, and I left it behind at the end of the day, with a few exceptions (yes, I did occasionally work from home on days off). Retirement is the opposite: every day is different, there are few deadlines (and most are self-imposed), and there is no boss to help prioritize. There is so much I want to do and never enough hours in the day, and I often feel I’m in a race with the clock.
The other wild card was the unexpected additional responsibility for my granddaughter. Eight months after I retired, my daughter quit her job and took Chloe out of day care in order to pursue freelance work as a fitness trainer and start an eBay business, which meant she needed a lot more help. I am grateful for the blessing of being so close to Chloe, but she is also high-energy and can be, like any child, stubborn, defiant and capable dramatic meltdowns.
I wish the new DSM V, when it’s released, would include something I call Post Retirement Stress Disorder, but I guess for now we’ll just stick to general anxiety disorder.
I know I’m not the first retiree to experience this. A dear friend had a major breakdown after he retired about 10 years ago and he has never fully recovered. I obviously don’t want to go down that path and I’m doing everything I can to get better, which is kind of funny: I’m applying the same get ’er done, in-control problem-solving that got me in this state to begin with.
I try to make sure I get enough fuel (my doctor said I was not filling the tank often enough, especially with protein), exercising, doing yoga, meditating—standard techniques for dealing with stress. The doctor initially prescribed clonazepam (Klonopin), which has helped with sleep but has too many undesirable side effects. Now he’s prescribed Prozac, while I gradually wean off Klonopin. It’s a low dose and we’ll see how it goes, but it can take weeks or months to show effects.
In the meantime I work with a wonderful therapist, who is helping me with coping techniques. She asked me how my husband might help. I know he’s been frustrated, and his responses have been along the lines of “lighten up.” Not helpful. I told the therapist that if I ask him to wrap his arms around me and tell me to breathe, he will do it, and it will help. But he’s directing a play right now and is totally absorbed. I try not to add any more drama to his life.
Even though I swore I’ve had my last tattoo, I’m considering one on my wrist saying simply, “Breathe.”
I am not totally incapable of lightening up. When my granddaughter got some new paints, the first thing she did was paint our faces.
I did not, as someone suggested, make this my profile picture, but I didpost it on Facebook.