Life Hax: I have PTSD at 63 years old. Am I too old for therapy?

by DGO Web Administrator

I’m a woman who has had PTSD for 28 years after being raped and beaten. I’m now 63 and it seems to be getting worse. Am I too old to go for therapy? Should I just resign myself to living with this for the rest of my life?Feeling Old

“Too old to go for therapy”? Are you also too old to take medicine when you’re ill, or go to the ER when you break something?

You were grievously harmed. You would seek care under any other circumstances, presumably, so please recognize that and do so now.

All of us have just one job, when you think about it: Live the best life we can at any given stage. To each his own definition of “best,” of course – but none will last long if it doesn’t involve taking care of ourselves.

For you that means getting (back) into treatment when something triggers your PTSD symptoms. I’m sorry this happened to you.

I hope in addition to treatment, you’ll also seek refuge in affirmations of life – nature, art, humor, kindness. They’re always there when we need them; just sometimes we have to look.

I terminated a pregnancy recently due to medical reasons. It was a planned pregnancy with unplanned results. I need to talk about this. I know I should see a therapist, and maybe I’ll call today, but my husband doesn’t want to talk about it and I do. It’s been four weeks today and the only thing he’ll engage on is the medical bills (painfully low five figures with insurance), although it’s still up to me to figure those out too. I need engagement, let alone intimacy.Talking About Loss

I am so sorry for your loss. I am also sorry you’re so alone in your grief – which might even feel harder to deal with because it’s not the result of “medical reasons” beyond your control.

So, yes, please call a therapist today. Also try, which offers online support and therefore has a much lower barrier to entry; you won’t have to wait till there’s an appointment available.

There will come a time when you want and need to address the fact that your husband is … unable? unwilling? ill-equipped? to be your partner as you grieve. Finding a healthy emotional dynamic when things go wrong is as essential to your family planning as insurance and finances and health and whether and when to try again. But the more immediate issue is for you to find the support you need to heal. As your strength returns, clarity likely will too. Take care.

What does a person do if after 30 years of marriage, they aren’t the most important item in their spouse’s life? The kids are now grown and gone, but his career is still his No. 1 with his parents being No. 2. Is it too late to move on and start over?Anonymous

The concept of “too late” doesn’t make any more sense to me than “too old” does. This is the only life you’ve got regardless of how much you have left.

You could have far more of it left than you think, too – or far less. Same for your husband, your husband’s parents, your husband’s job.

You can only weigh your options, choose the certainties you like best, then leap into the uncertainty of everything else. Would you rather be on your own than stick around as your husband’s No. 3 priority? Can you afford to be on your own financially? Will leaving your marriage cost you your kids’ loyalty? Your friends? Your home? Would these or other unintended consequences cost you more than you’d gain by leaving? Would it make more sense to reset your priorities to suit your life right now?

Your husband, you seem to be saying, is all about work and his parents and then he comes home to you. So you, too, can be all about [blank] and [blank] and then come home to him.

I wonder if you have already lived a version of this without realizing it: Before your kids were grown and gone, isn’t is possible they were your Nos. 1 and 2?

Maybe before you decide the future of your marriage, it makes sense to think carefully about your future, period. About your purpose. About what’s achievable (more than you think) and makes you feel useful, focused, good. It’s not a perfect solution, certainly. But any decision you make after a thought process like this will be far better than simply resigning yourself to slog through the rest of your days – which is all “too late” really means.

This week I was in a discussion with a bunch of other third-grade parents about what our kids know about sex. The vast majority of these parents said their children were “clueless” and they wanted to maintain their kids’ innocence. I was one of the few people who had even had conversations with my child about reproduction, consent and puberty.Most were taking the “I’ll talk about it when my child asks” approach. I don’t go out of my way to raise this subject with my daughter, but I do look for appropriate opportunities to initiate these conversations. I don’t know that a child always knows how to bring these topics up.We have talked about inappropriate touching and rape but also the fact that adults engage in certain activities because it feels good. We have discussed internet predators and the fact that I have an IUD and why. We’ve also talked about what she might feel when puberty begins.I’m such an outlier – have I jumped the gun?Too Young?

No, you did not “jump the gun.” Kids are certainly not now and have rarely ever been “clueless” about what adults try to keep from them. Especially now that so many kids carry around the entire internet in their pockets.

And if you’re a parent who feels exempt because your kid doesn’t have a phone, or you’ve used all the parent controls, you’re not exempt. The filters are tissue paper and your phoneless kid mingles with phone-equipped kids every day. And they rarely resist nosing into anything their parents treat as too embarrassing or taboo to talk about.

Please tell such parents their kids ARE absorbing information, they just aren’t asking adults. They’re learning from bus-stop Bobby with much-older siblings and checked-out parents.

Denial is not the answer. Your approach is: Talk openly with kids about their world, early enough and often enough and unflinchingly enough that you set a precedent of being the safe place to bring their difficult questions. It starts when they’re 2 or 3 and they ask you where babies come from – and instead of freaking out and deflecting, you give facts commensurate with their ability to understand. Deborah Roffman’s books are excellent on how to do this.

Even then, eventually kids will Google more and ask less – but when they apply diligence and openness and a minimum of self-delusion, parents can at least minimize what their kids feel they have to hide. No topic should ever be off-limits, especially not one a kid raises.

Carolyn Hax is a syndicated advice columnist for The Washington Post. She started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. Email her at [email protected].


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