Dear Sisters,

I have not written for a long time. This is because I am a mess.

When I was in my 30’s people in their 50s told me that your 50s is the best time of your life. For me this has not been true.

When I look back, the best time of my life was my 30s. I was slim; I had great sex with men wherever the passion took me and was old enough and mature enough to manage it with reasonable aplomb and only a few bad choices. I had two of my kids in my 30s, I found “the one” and got married in my 30s and most importantly I felt I had my whole life ahead of me.

Little did I know that life ahead of me was going to mean spending my 40s fighting cancer and then the after effects of cancer. And spending my 50’s being a mess.

I have not found this wonderful place I was promised of finally being happy in my own skin. In my 50’s I have fallen apart.

Astronomically and sensationally fallen apart.

A couple of things have happened to trigger this slide into despair.

The cancer was life threatening and life changing and I never really got over its damage. The psychological damage from cancer is massive and underrated. Even if you survive and don’t get me wrong I am so, so grateful for surviving but I don’t look the same, I don’t feel the same, so many parts of me that made up me were ravaged and killed by the cancer. I lost my hair, my eyebrows, my eyelashes, my cervix, my uterus, my ovaries, my breasts and what I got was a whole pile of chemically induced weight. I was left with a shell emotionally and physically. My hair was the only thing to grow back and it grew back resentfully in tiny thin wisps that weren’t even a reminder of the enormous curly long locks I had pre-cancer.

When I told my oncologist I felt bad after the cancer, that I had trouble getting out of bed each day he said, ‘but your cured for the time being – you should feel good.’ And that is the attitude that is most expressed, once you have survived you should pick yourself up and get on, because after all there is all those people who are still being diagnosed or not surviving. This is true but doesn’t address the nightmares, the change to your personality and looks, the exhaustion from the treatment, the constant worry that every little thing wrong with you is the cancer back. I would happily have a permanent weekly spot in my doctor’s appointment book to check the ache in my little finger and the new freckle spot on my toe.

So I took this cancer baggage with me into my 50’s and in my 50s’ further trauma struck. I was monumentally wronged by a woman who sued me for something I didn’t do and when we were just getting back on our feet from the cancer this cost me a huge amount of money and emotional stress to defend myself against her allegations. The lawyers won out. I spent many days in tears worried about my ability to emotionally and financially survive.

But again I survived and was just getting back on my feet again when I was attacked in my workplace, by a massive bloke, who punched me in the head and tried to kill me with a 25cm pair of scissors. I truly thought I was going to die in that moment. So this was the second time in a decade or so that I faced imminent death.
I stood there as he plunged at me with the scissors, aiming for my heart and I thought this is the place I die – this is what my life amounts to – dying here at the hands of an idiot.

I lost my job because the threat to my life continued and I was no longer safe in my workplace. And he got a one month suspended sentence and I became a mess again.

I know this all spells Post traumatic Stress.

Is Post Traumatic Stress real? Insurance companies think not and it’s hard to prove you have it.

How do I explain what it feels like to not be able to walk out my front door or if I do walk out the front door its even harder to come home again. How do I explain that I spend most of my waking time thinking about how I could kill myself in a way that seems natural and won’t destroy my family or that most days I can’t answer my phone or look at my emails because I expect it to be bad news of a catastrophic type. How do I explain that I am constantly shaking inside, a shaking that just never stops. And what can be done about it anyway?

On top of all of this I am in my 50s’s. This means I have become invisible. I get served last in shops and the sales people don’t bother to make eye contact with me, men don’t see me at all, younger women have started calling me love and darling and speaking to me as if I am an idiot, the clothes shops are not for me, the advertisements are not for me, the world is not for me.

I have reached the age where people make jokes about people my age having sex or passion and make ooh sounds that are of the oooh gross type rather than the oooh sexy type.

I am a woman who is 50 therefore I question if I have value in the world.

So what to do? I have long believed we are responsible for our own happiness. So I think the answer is obvious and practical. I need to change my life. I need to ignore the fact I am in my 50s. I need to find that place that I was told about where I don’t care for the gazes of men or the recognition and approval of others.
I need to get physically healthy and mentally sound. I need to take responsibility for my own happiness. Today is day 1.

10 Responses

  1. Yes, yes and yes! I understand how you feel completely and I wish you nothing but the best. I’m 55 and I can tell you you CAN make it better for yourself!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind supportive response. I do sometimes get a bit of hate mail from men who are raging about womens rights and basically how they shouldn’t exist (so I went into hiding which is why it has taken me so long to respond to you – I am sooo sorry). Its so lovely to get some positive feed back. You are right we can make it better for ourselves, we can’t change other people but we can always change what we are doing in our own life and how we respond to what happens to us. Your letter was wonderful to receive and thank you so much for taking the time to respond. Again I am sooooo sorry it has taken me so long to write back but receiving your response has filled me with a great feeling so thank you. Love Robbi.

  2. Hi Robbi,
    This is a response to “make your own happiness” from February.
    As usual your absolute honesty and your ability to express your fears (and therefore the fears of many) is so freeing and helpful to read.

    One thing that has really helped me bust my concept that aging is taking away my sexiness, elegance and vitality was googling the gorgeous, bright-eyed Daphne Selfe. She is wise, outspoken and so beautiful…even sensual in some pics. Does yoga, modeling and well basically whatever she wants. She is 87 years old.
    I keep pictures of her and adive she gives around my spaces….like the toilet wall (lol)
    Sure helped me, anyway.
    If you’re in the mood….see what ya reckon.

    Lisa 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for writing to me and I apologise so much that it has taken me four months to answer you. I think I have been in hibernation and have just come out to breath the fresh air. There are really inspiring people out there and I also think the old saying that I grew up with is helpful too which is that if you look around there are always people worse off who need your help and there is nothing like helping others to take your mind off yourself. There is an old lady at the Gym I go to who is in her eighties, she arrives at the gym with her walking stick and then does weights – such an inspiration. I have taken a long break from writing (though I have written a draft of my 3rd book) but now my head is full of writing and I am ready to start and your letter is one of the things that has made me feel really good and really eager to get back into it. So thank you so much for taking the time to write to me. love Robbi

      1. Oh wow Robbi, you’re writing again!
        That is so awesome. What’s the name of your second book? And while we’re at it….is it my lack of skill or are all the copies of Sunday Best in Australia already bought? I’m really keen to buy some, but I could only get one copy online in Australia so far. I’m hoping for about 10 copies…..please help! Many people relate to your story and your writing style is just so authentic it allows one to face his/her own demons by simply reading your precious, uninhibited, personal account. You are the definition of an artist. Thank you on behalf of myself and everyone else who you have connected with – often without you even knowing.

        Am also wondering how you went with your workplace ptsd case? I’m a GP and quite a few of my patients have workcover cases of ptsd and have been getting paid/supported for years…it most certainly is a diagnosable illness so I’m not sure why they’re not on board? Let me know if there’s anything I can do.

        Robbi, thank you so much for writing back. I’m not sure if I’ve answered in the right spot but my first attempt obviously worked, so it’s worth a shot. Sadly I can’t work out how to attach a photo to this…I was going to send you a quote with pic from Daphne Selfe…my heroine as you know.

        Maybe I will master technology to that extent next time…:

        Love & gratitude,
        Lisa xox

  3. Dear Robbi, I hope you are feeling better. I have almost finished reading “Sunday Best” and I am just in awe of what an amazing person you are. My mum raisied us in Ballarat living as a single mum in poverty. She went without so often, I wouldn’t even know how often to be honest. I know she sacrificed and worked so hard to raise us 3 children and your story could almost be ours. I hope you are feeling better compared to when you wrote this blog, you are still so young. I know that society may not see it that way but when I talk to people in their 80-90s I know how young I still am and how young my mum still is even though I am nearing 40 and she is nearing 70. But it sucks feeling like this. I know it too well. Thank you for sharing you life in such a real, entertaining and purely honest way. You are beautiful. Xoxo

    1. Hello

      Thank you for your wonderful kind letter via my blog. I am feeling better and trying to move back to Ballarat as I am totally home sick but I think I may have to move to Ballarat via Townsville for a year or two as my youngest daughter is off to do Veterinary Science there and she doesn’t know anyone so we are going to move there for a short while to settle her in. I still have a son Asher in Ballarat though and its where I want to be living. I actually miss the cold.

      Your letter was so kind and supportive – it really made my day (and made me want to catch up with you in person for a coffee). I am hoping to get to Ballarat next year in April so maybe if your interested we could.

      I have just sold my third book to Mira Press. This is a novel set in Ballarat (of course).

      I am sorry you and your family had a hard time with your mum being single and struggling to make ends meet. But I think all my true happiness in life has come from my family, from my kids and the time we spend together and my kids assure me the poverty never hurt them one iota. They remember the wonderful times we had together and I am sure its the same for you and your mum.

      Thank you again for your letter which really was such a thrill to get, thank you for searching me out.

      Love Robbi

  4. Robbi, i just finished After Befoe Time. I think you are amazing. Warm sensitive, generous with your heart and spirit. I wish the fellowship of the Old Girls for your future. My wife is 63 and is having soe major health issues. I am next to useless to her. I want her to understand how strong I think she is. I can have mature conversations without the competitive one upmanship of younger people. We know there are no easy answers. She (and you) have seen a bit of the World an shaped some imoprtant corners of it to.
    I still think she is incredibly sexy, though she hates me saying it now, which is another travesty. And sexy in a whole new way as well.
    Your sharing of the stories of Alice ans Elsie and Elaine….. their lives will not end in silence now. You have drawn us into their significance.
    Can I ask you to keep sharing stories. Share your own. You are a builder of lives.
    God bless you
    With love

    1. Dear Paul

      Thank you so much for your lovely letter. I know the Old Girls were glad their stories will live on for future generations and they wanted to share them with indigenous and non indigenous alike. They were and are kind and generous people. I hope your wife gets through her health issues. Thank you so much for your kind generous letter and I am deeply sorry I have taken so long to reply – life has got in the way of me looking at my blog – moving house, earning $ etc.
      With love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.