Retired And Going Crazy! Find New Purpose and Thrive


man and woman eating veggies trying not to go crazy in retirement

Will veggies become the reason you’re retired and going crazy?

The joy of retirement. Or retired and going crazy?

“Fulfill your dreams,” they said.

“Golden years,” they called it.

So why oh why did it all come down to… vegetables?

Let me explain.

My husband and I both took early retirement from jobs we had come to find incredibly stressful. We knew it would decimate our pension but we reasoned we could deal with that. What we couldn’t deal with, as we got older, was the stress.

Something had to give.

So when we were offered an early retirement package, we grabbed it with both hands. This was it — our ticket to the good life! No more early morning commutes! No more stress! Just late morning lie-ins, doing what we wanted, when we wanted. Travel. Free time.

Our new, exciting, retirement life.

At first, it was exactly that. A feeling of freedom. It was as though we were on a vacation that was never going to end!

woman eating a carrotUntil the veggies snuck in. It happened slowly, at first. Just a simple question one morning from my husband.

“What veg would you like with dinner tonight?”

It wasn’t something I’d ever really thought about before. We used to get in from work — often quite late — and grab whatever was in the fridge. Or get a takeout meal.

“Um… maybe carrots?” I suggested, a bit tentatively…

And gradually, it happened. Every day started with that same question.

“What veg would you like with dinner tonight?”

I mean, really? We had both held responsible jobs. We’d dealt with risk, day in, day out. Made literally life-or-death decisions.

And now he couldn’t make his own mind up about what veg we’re having with dinner?

That’s when it struck me. Retirement is not all it’s cracked up to be. And neither of us had really stopped to think about the psychological effects it might have.

Two people. Both worked for 35 years. And suddenly — no work. No structure to the day. Or the mental judgment needed for important decisions (except about the veg, of course). No colleagues, just each other. Lots of free time — but to do what? The dishes? Cleaning the house? Planning vegetables ten hours ahead? But now we found ourselves retired workaholics and going crazy!

It wasn’t that, like some retirees find, we disliked each other. Far from it. But the dynamics had changed.

So after those first few weeks of “vacation,” retirement was not quite what we had in mind. One or both of us was going to go crazy.

Something had to give.

Retirement Planning and the Family

The family had our retirement all planned.

“We’re so glad you’re retiring,” they said. “You’ll have so much more time to spend with the grandchildren.”

husband and wife in a car talking about being bored in retirementWhoah! Just wait one moment… Grandchildren? Well, nice to see them and all that. But filling the days with grandchild-sitting duties? Picking up from the nursery, dropping off at school, watching endless videos of steam trains and dump trucks? No thank you!

It may be exactly what some love to do, of course. Nothing wrong with that. But we had done our bit with children. Retirement was not the time to start again.

And then there was the “mother factor.”

My mother viewed my retirement as her happy time.

“It’s why I had children,” she merrily chirped — “to look after me in my old age! And think of all the money I’ll save, not having to pay for someone to do my laundry and cleaning and shopping any more!”

The very thought turned me white with fear. Elderly she might be, but stupid she definitely is not. And she clearly had designs on turning her eldest daughter into a mother-serving machine.

Retirement excitement was quickly turning into retirement blues. We were retired and going crazy.

Something had to give.

Finding Yourself After Retirement vs. Finding Yourself Retired And Going Crazy

So we turned to a retirement coach.

man meditating on beachYou know the kind of thing. Those “gurus” who can tell you how to fix your life.

Here’s a list of the things we discovered we should do if we were struggling with the transition to retirement — you’ve probably seen similar

  • Get another job. Really? Didn’t we just retire so we wouldn’t have a job?
  • Stay in shape — get a gym membership. Seriously? You want me to spend money to put my overweight, 60-something body on show with all those fit, slim, in-their-prime 20 year olds?
  • Redefine your budget — stop buying clothes except from the pound shop. Um — no. Just no.
  • Take a course, find a hobby. Not bad advice — but I’ve had my fill of courses. As for a retirement hobby — could I really take up stamp-collecting? Even if I could, would that fill more than a couple of hours a day at most?
  • Start a book club. Or a coffee club. A board game club. Or maybe a cooking club. Old men (and I mean seriously old, which I am not, yet) meet in our local pub and play dominoes. Is that the kind of thing? Do people actually do things like host board game clubs? Every day?
  • See a doctor. I quote directly, here: “Your doctor may opt to prescribe medication for you, or he may choose to refer you to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional for assistance.”

Really? Is that what retirement holds?

We began to feel a bit lost, to be honest. It all seemed a little bleak. None of these things were a fit for what we needed: a sense of purpose. A way of staving off the very real possibility of depression after retirement. Not being retired and going crazy.

Something had to give.

Retired And Going Crazy!

Mental Health and Happiness After Retirement

A lot’s been written about depression post-retirement. The rates of clinical depression, even suicide, go up. The initial euphoria disappears, along with the dreams. It’s like grieving for a life we’ve lost, even though it may have been by choice:

“We usually associate grief with death. But we can grieve many life changes, like when a home burns down, or when we lose a job, or a family member, even a pet. We can also grieve when we retire… the loss of work identity is huge.” Wendy Fisher, Retirement Online

So what’s the answer? In my experience, it’s all in the mind.

Learn to Wear Purple

when I am old I shall wear purple quoteI’ve always loved Jenny Joseph’s image of growing old outrageously…

Finding meaning in retirement is a bit like that. It’s about redefining the purpose of our existence, mentally and physically. Finding the fun in life — disgracefully.

It’s about transforming the way we look at ourselves. Like this.

  • I’m in my mid-60s. Women who reach the age of 65 can expect to live until they’re about 89. So I’m not in “God’s waiting room” just yet. But that’s a long time to be depressed. Or to be asked about veggies every night. So something has to give.
  • I’m not going to think of myself as elderly, no matter how ancient my nephews think I am. Instead, I decided to think of myself as an elder. A wise person (well, sometimes). Experienced. Knowledgeable about some things. Well traveled. Someone who’s made mistakes, and learned. And a bit “bonkers,” as one of my nephews once described me to his friends.
  • If my (or your) sense of self has been tied up in work for such a long time, I need to find an identity that is more to do with me. My “bonkers” self.
  • And, as a member of Wendy’s retirement community puts it: “I don’t want to do things to fill the day, I want to fill the day with things I want to do. Those things are things that make a difference. Things with a purpose.”
  • I don’t want to be retired and going crazy (nor does my husband).

How to Stop Being Retired and Going Crazy

I have just one question for you: what does wearing purple look like for you? And please, no mention of aubergines (eggplants). I’ve had enough of veggies to last me several lifetimes.

For me, once I’d got my head around being a “bonkers elder,” as opposed to a doddery auld woman, what worked for me was finding a purpose in starting an online business after retirement.

Which sounds pretty deep. Weighty, even. Substituting one job for another, even?

I prefer to think of it as a transition, from one career to a completely different one. I was fortunate to find a company that recognized the difficulties of retirement, the need to find a second “career” with a purpose.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, that was the best start I could possibly have had.

And my “weighty” business?

It’s about raising chickens. I mean, seriously, who would have thought… It’s hard to take chickens seriously. You just have to look at the ridiculous way they run. Mini dinosaurs.

woman holding a chicken raising backyard chickens retirement hobby

So I’m known as “that crazy woman with the chicken site” (some even add “who drinks a lot of Prosecco”). It’s my version of wearing purple. Some may see it as me actually being retired and going crazy.

I see it as having created my own work from home job after retirement.

And my business is definitely serious. Serious in the sense that it does give me a sense of purpose. It makes me smile. Every. Single. Day. And people who have a sense of purpose post-retirement are known to have a 15% lower risk of death. That suits me just fine.

(It also gives me a hefty income, but that story is for another time.)

Whether you’re planning for retirement or you’re right in the middle of it now, ask yourself that question:

What does wearing purple mean for you?

What would make you wake up with a smile, every day? Or give you a sense of purpose? What might stop you from going crazy, and at the same time allow you to be a little on the “bonkers” side?

Maybe it would be organizing a board game club. Great! My idea of hell, your idea of heaven — with a smile. It really doesn’t matter to anyone else. It just needs to matter to you.

With one caveat.

It will matter to your family, and possibly to your friends. You won’t be conforming to their perceptions of what your retirement should look like.

After ten years, my mother still calls it “playing on that blasted computer.”

Are You Retired and Going Crazy?

Going “crazy” is fine, if it’s the right kind of crazy. The kind that makes you feel like you’re having fun again. The kind my nephew called “bonkers.”

veggies on a scaleIf you start to hear the veggie question, though, it’s not the right kind. It’s time to think. To find a balance between the need to use retirement as a time to rest and finding something that stretches your mind and engages your emotions.

So plan ahead. Take charge of your retirement. Plan how much time, if any, you want to devote to family and friends. And how much is your time.

And when they tell you, as they will, that wearing purple isn’t fitting for a person of your age, be ready with your answer.

Because your age and your retirement are, with the right mindset, just the beginning of those golden years of dream fulfillment.

Retired And Going Crazy! Find New Purpose and ThriveRetired And Going Crazy! Find New Purpose and ThriveRetired And Going Crazy! Find New Purpose and ThriveRetired And Going Crazy! Find New Purpose and Thrive
Cath Andrews

Cath Andrews

Having taken early retirement from work in social care, Cath Andrews describes her "day job" – her online business, Raising Happy Chickens – like this: I spend my time doing what my mother calls “playing on that blasted computer all day” – and I love it. Having started from a nil knowledge base and now able to share my knowledge globally to people who really appreciate it gives me great joy. And that’s as important to me as the money the business makes.