How Anxiety Affected My Retirement Experience


After years of working — sometimes three different jobs at one time — I was able to retire. I had visions of spending lots of time with my grandchildren, taking trips and enjoying life with my husband. Unfortunately, this did not happen!

I have experienced bouts of anxiety off and on for most of my life. It has made it difficult to get close to people many times, and it was always a black cloud hanging over my head. I have taken meds off and on, gone to counseling and participated in many treatment options. I worked very hard at keeping it hidden, though. I considered it my “big secret.”

For the most part, no one knew that I struggled with anxiety. When I would have episodes, I would just take a step back and “deal” with it. Because I experience chronic pain due to many health issues, my family just attributed my “off days” as just having another bad day with pain. That became easier and easier as I got older. Retirement changed all that.

I went from working a very busy full-time job, actively volunteering and trying to be an involved wife, mother and grandmother, to not being able to leave the house without a full-blown panic attack. Sometimes being stuck in the house for months and months at a time. Or going out with my husband and gritting my teeth so hard I would give myself horrific migraines. And, what felt the most humiliating to me was when my claustrophobia had to make an appearance to the point my husband would have to sit on the toilet seat cover and talk to me so I could take a shower with the shower door open.

I don’t remember any of this being part of my retirement plan. The saddest part is I was talking to women I had met standing in a store and they were talking about not being able to get out of the house, and I asked to join the conversation. To my surprise, we were all three newly retired and experiencing similar episodes. The first thing that jumped to my mind was I don’t remember seeing anything about this in the barrage of “getting ready for retirement” mail and solicitations I had received. Nor any warnings from my friendly neighborhood physicians!

How many of us are there out in the “Congratulations, you are now retired!” community? I thought life would get easier in retirement, not more difficult.

So, I make appointments with myself. I set a date on the calendar, the same as I would for a medical appointment and leave the house. Even if it’s just to take a walk on our 60 acres, I make myself leave the house.

Easy? No!

Needed? Yes.

My husband is beginning to understand what is happening and the guilt I have for not being able to be the “fun wife” walking into retirement with him. This has felt unbearable at times.

So I take my anxiety meds, make my appointments and work at trying to deal with this. But I know now I am not the only one. I can think of at least two others!

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Thinkstock photo via mheim3011.

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