“The minute you believe that the past was better, your present becomes second-hand…” -Karl Lagerield
My body changed when I was in my early 40’s. Maybe I’d buried my head in the sand; maybe I should have expected it. But I didn’t. So, when this change arrived, it scared me.
It began when I was 14. I was diagnosed with a serious problem: my body makes too much insulin. Spikes in glucose levels in my blood stream were then being met with dangerously prolonged spikes of insulin production that rose too high and lasted too long.
The resulting black outs, incoherent state of mind, mood swings, and frequent need for daytime sleep left me confused, lethargic, and afraid. After some time that seemed much too long, my doctors diagnosed the problem. Then they helped me manage this health challenge by isolating triggers, reading the warning signs, and taking healthy steps to prevent episodes or manage them when they sometimes inevitably arrived. This gave me a sense of control over my health and my life that lasted for three decades.
When mid-life came, however, I had not considered the impact that the related physical changes would take on my health. My body’s changes meant that different events now triggered episodes and, unlike my past experience, I had much more difficulty reading the warning signs and preventing or managing episodes. Suddenly, I was floundering again.
The middle-aged future unfolding in front of me began to look scary while my past seemed to contain the best years of my life. These trials began mounting and taking a toll on my health and my sense of security.
My past seemed brighter while my future seemed very bleak. That’s when I found myself living in a prematurely vintage state of mind. Time passed fitfully while middle-aged life unfolded as if in a slow motion car crash.
Then, on one seemingly ordinary day, I received a call that changed my course. Annie, a German Shepherd medical alert service dog, could be trained to sniff and warn me when insulin levels were going too low. I packed my bags right away.
It was love at first sight. Annie was a sweet and intelligent dog who quickly learned to help me. She quickly became my devoted companion who protects my health and brings much happiness to my heart.
In time, I realized that my connection with Annie and her attachment to me also changed how I saw the past, how I experience the present, and how I imagined my future. I am no longer a prematurely vintage individual living in a vintage state of mind. The best of life is no longer behind me; it is in the present moment and in the unfolding future, a present and future now shared with Annie.
As a psychotherapist, I know that most everyone who walks down the hallway to my office -- past Annie’s impressive array of squeaky chew toys and plastic balls -- may also be experiencing some version of a “vintage state of mind.” Maybe they’re afraid that the best parts of life are behind them too, or worse, afraid that the best parts of their life will never arrive. Maybe the present seems bleak to them. Usually these beliefs are tangled up in feelings of profound sadness and loneliness, bleak feelings that can consume our ability to consider or take steps to move out of a vintage state of mind.
From where I stand now, I want others to join. If, for reasons uniquely your own, you should find yourself in a similar state of mind, if your past looks better to you than your present or your future, please do not accept this state of affairs! Hope and help may be just one connection away. Reach out to a trusted colleague or friend and make a connection.
But if the answer is not found there, please consider connecting with a caring and compassionate psychotherapist, one who can share your experiences with you, who can join with you, taking steps alongside you until, together, you find that switch for shining a hopeful light on your present that will positively change your future.