Today's Episode


Welcome to this latest podcast episode. I am super excited to welcome back Trisha Mchale, um who is going to chat to us today about empty nest, rediscovering yourself, navigating identity shifts as your kids grow up. And Trisha is a psychotherapist and supervisor working in private practice in Galway since 2006. In 2019, she went into partnership with mind and body works who operate two psychotherapy, three psychotherapy and counseling centers in Dublin in Wood Quay in Galway and there's a new center now opened on Dominic Street in Galway.

They have a team of over 50 psychotherapists and psychologists who offer counseling to adults, couples, adolescents and Children. They offer a wide range of therapies including C BT E MD R and art therapy. They also operate a low cost counseling service which is provided by mature trainee therapists in their final degree or masters. Year of training, they are supervised by accredited and experienced therapist to ensure they work ethically and professionally.

And if you'd like to contact Trisha at mind and body works, you can call her on 091725750. Or you can email galway at mind and body works dot com or if you're in the more Dublin area info at mind and body works dot com, but I'll put that on the show notes. So, um and I'll remind you guys when we're over. So I really enjoy, I really hope you enjoy this podcast episode. I'm super excited to talk to you about it,

Trisha. What a brilliant topic. Thanks, Jessica. Yeah, it's my favorite, my favorite topic. It's my favorite, I guess uh area of, of uh work um working with women and working with women in midlife and, and all of the associated stuff that goes with being a woman at this stage of your life. Um And great, great. Just just before you came on there, I was um looking at some studies and there was a study published in frontiers in psychology. I found that 39% of empty nest adults had symptoms of depression and it's worse than women. So, because all our listeners are women, we're going to focus on women today. And, uh, will we start off, do you think with identity? What is an identity? Will we start there if we can just kind of start from there and then go on. Yeah, I mean, if, if we're talking about empty nest, I guess we're, we're generally talking about women from kind of early forties upwards and who are in a space in their lives where their Children have left home.

And we're kind of like the, the way we, we would look at kind of parenting. The two most difficult stages, I guess for parents have been when your Children transition from primary school to secondary school, that's a really difficult place for, for mothers, particularly in terms of that, you know, once they're going into secondary school, they're kind of moving away, they're separating as they're meant to and they're also going through their own hormonal changes which can make it, uh, doubly difficult to be a parent. Um, but when we get to kind of, when we're talking about empty nest syndrome and like everything they pat pat pathologize everything to do with women is pathologize. So everything that happens to us is called some kind of syndrome.

It's not a syndrome. Um, but it is a time in our lives where there is a big like, you know, and a lot of the reasons that people start to feel a lot of the feelings they feel about it is because it's a time in our life where we, our identity is shifting. So a lot of times, you know, our life can take the normal path of going along, not reflecting too much on where we are doing. I guess what we would consider the, the norms of society, um getting married, having kids, maybe working or not working and bringing your kids up and creating your life in that way. Once you get to that place in your life where and your identity is, is being a mother, it's being a wife or a partner or a single mother and being a worker, whatever way you term yourself in terms of your job. So they're your kind of identities.

How, how do you identify yourself in the world? You know, um you, you no longer say like I'm Trisha, that's enough. Like it's like I and I have this amount of kids and I'm married or I'm single or I have this job and we put labels on ourselves constantly to identify ourselves. And I guess once we get to a stage in life where things start to shift, um generally in midlife where our kids start to move away from us, they start to separate now and again, we're not talking about uh as most of us know the boomerang generation that they go and then they're back again.

But for a lot of us, our kids go and they're gone and the way, you know, in society now our kids go and they go to Australia, New Zealand, Canada. And so we're not like we're no longer talking about the empty nest where somebody moves out for a while, but they come home for Sunday dinner. You know, you're talking about a big shift for a lot of women in terms of the Children moving away and the shift in identity then of being that hands on mother, that, uh, person who's continuously available, um, who has a role, um, whether that's knowing who all their friends are dropping them here, there and everywhere, uh, you know, listening to how they are checking in with them, fighting with them, whatever it is, we have a role in their lives and that is an identity for us, you know, as women.

And I guess once that shifts and the feelings that that can come with, you know, so again at that time, it can very much coincide with, you know, our parents getting older, maybe our parents dying, friends dying, um, marriage issues and, you know, er, menopause. So we're going through our own shifts, uh, just in terms of normal life and, and so identities shift and not being able to hold on to that identity can be a very fearful and a scary time. Like if I identify myself in that way, it can be so scary and So um anxiety provoking to say now, here I am and I'm Trisha. And uh what, who am I, I guess, and a lot of, of a lot of work that I would have done with women in midlife and on myself is who am I?

So who am I when I'm not a like, I'm always a mother but who am I when I'm not a hands on mother, who am I when I'm not a hands on daughter, who am I when I'm not a hands on partner? Um Where, who am I in myself? And I guess that can bring around huge feelings of loss and, and depression and anxiety and then worry, um you know, you're worrying about them when they're at home, but you're also worrying about them when they're away. And so I guess that kind of when you're talking about identity, shift, that shift of identity of how, how do I, I guess in a way label myself or how do I identify myself in the world? Who am I when I'm just back to me before I ever had these kids. I ever had a partner. I ever had this job. Um who was I?

And I guess a lot of the struggle for women is trying to find their way back to that sense of self and sense of, am I enough in the world if I'm just myself and I'm just being rather than doing, you know, and it's a it's a very, very difficult shift for women in midlife at the very start of that journey. They're, they're really tough emotions. You just described like fear, anxiety, worry. Wow, that's, yeah, it's, it's, it's, you know, if you're to look at it a lot of time, you know, we spend, I guess, um being anxious by things that are never going to happen. Um but there's a comfort in being anxious and it makes it, it allows us to be in control.

It allows us to worry about our kids to check in on them to make sure they're ok to get them to check in with us to and make sure they have their stuff for school to make sure that they, everything is going ok to, to, to check in around the friendships to, to kind of constantly keep an eye in order to kind of feel more comfortable internally ourselves. So as long as my kids are ok and as long as my kids are getting on ok. And you'll hear that saying, you know, you're only as happy as your unhappiest child. And that is the truth for most mothers. You know, if our Children aren't happy, it's very, very difficult for people to be happy to kind of feel like, you know, so we put so much time and energy and nurturing into our kids that when we don't have that. And, and again, you know, if when your kids separate and move away from home.

It really means you've done a really good job because they actually want to move on and go. Um, and you're allowing them to separate and live their lives. But it is a huge loss. Like, it's a huge, huge loss. It's, it's a, it's a negotiation internally of what do I do when I don't know what they're doing and where they are and where they're at and you can feel, you know, like this person has become so separate now. They have new friends, they have a whole new circle, they have a new job. They have a life that you are not involved in after being so hyper involved for like 18 years or however many years.

And suddenly you let all of that go and there is a huge loss in that for people. Definitely. Um how do you like for people listening in now? And they're at the beginning stages, how, how, how would one go about starting to deal with those emotions? Well, I, I guess for me if I was to look back on my own journey, like preparation would have been good. I didn't have any kind of um understanding that, you know, I was kind of anticipating feeling a lot of relief.

When my kids moved on and in a way, I didn't anticipate that there was a bit of relief, there was a bit of space, there was a bit of time, but then the anxiety was, what do you do with all that space and time? Like, what do I actually do? And do I have anything to do? And do I have any hobbies, men seem to much better adjust to just carrying on. And, um, you know, and I think women find it very difficult to find that because a lot of our lives have been around not creating space for ourselves. So, when you have a load of space, what do you fill it with? Um, and therefore what do I do when I don't have people to look after? And what do I do?

Then when I have to look if I have a partner over at that partner and think actually, uh do I have anything in common with that person? What do we actually do and what do we do when we don't talk about our kids or there's no kids to talk about and all of those shifts, um, can be very, very, uh shocking when they come on you suddenly. So I would be, be suggesting to people, um, you know, to myself as much as anybody like that preparation piece about how, you know, in hindsight, preparing a little bit more to say, what can I start doing?

And I guess anybody that, you know, is, is in inspire fitness has already started on that journey of more, more looking at self care, you know, looking at how they can start to mind themselves, take care of themselves and join a kind of community of women who are doing that. So I think it's very, very powerful what women are doing here in terms of that building a community of people who are all in their forties, fifties, sixties who are kind of saying I'm at a stage now in my life where I can actually start to fit in time for me and, and building your life in, in, in that way.

So that you start to build more things in, you know, which is modeling for your kids as well as anything. Um modeling to say, you know, women have a right to take space in the world, to take space for themselves and not looking at it as something selfish.

And, you know, we can be hypercritical of ourselves. We can also be hypercritical of other mothers. I think societally that's a big, big, you know, competitive parenting. Who does what, you know, how do you, how do you mother your Children who's better mother if you, you know, if you never leave your Children, if you never go away, if you never take space for yourself. Um You know, we, we tend to compare um ourselves with people and have very, very high standards and women have very high standards of themselves, but they also place very high standards on other women.

You know, and that again, that judgment comes from fear. You know, what if I'm not good enough? What if I'm not doing good enough mothering. And so that piece about standing back and reflecting, you know, what can I start doing for myself? Now? What can I start uh putting into my own life to set myself up as a person in the world who's a model for my kids to see. Actually, women, particularly women need to take space, they need to take time, they need to look after themselves and starting that journey early.

So, and, and having the lines of communication open with your kids where if you're hyper anxious, I guess about where they are and what they're doing that, that even something as simple as just saying, maybe we'll have a call on a Sunday night or something like that. Something that isn't pressurizing on them, that something also that doesn't make them feel, oh God, I hope mom is going to be ok now that I'm gone and that kind of pressure. I, I better go home or I better, you know, ring my mother. You know, we all know when our mothers used to ring us, you know, you'd see coming up, you press on the phone and, you know, and just, just kind of allowing them the space so that you're not constantly, um, you know, that they're not feeling pressurized into keeping contact with you, you have your own stuff going on and you're, you, you, you're not setting up expectations for them so that they feel guilty and you are making them feel guilty.

I love that so much that there's nice. It's, it's nice and organized. There's a bit of structure there. Yeah. Yeah. I also love the idea of starting early because I know I was thinking there's a lot of women out there that by accident have isolated themselves. There's a lot of people that, that have loads of friends and, and then there's a lot of people that have no friends because by accident they cut themselves off. Yeah. But it, but it's so easy to do. Like you can get so wrapped up, like having energy, like in your forties and fifties and sixties to actually maintain, like to, to maintain a relationship, to maintain a relationship with your kids.

And just the day to day if you have a job outside the home, cleaning a bloody house, all the crap that people have to do and then to have the energy to, to, to, to phone people in the evening to arrange for meet ups. It just, it's just impossible. And particularly, you know, if you're going through menopause and your energy is low and you're not feeling great and you're, you know, you're not feeling anxious and then also you may just feel, oh, you know, friendships kind of transition as well.

So you may feel, oh, that person that I used to have such a great crack with. Now, I feel I'm just a listening ear for a lot of moaning or a lot of this. So you can start to find yourself in a place of pulling back a bit and then finding yourself. Oh, actually if, if the kids are gone and if I don't have a great relationship, um, even if I do, maybe I don't, I don't want to spend all my time with that person.

And, and what do I do for myself? Yeah. So, I think that, that starting before they leave in terms of looking around and thinking, could I create something more for myself? Could I meet people in a different way? Could I join something? Um, could I reach out to people, you know, and, you know, the way you organize the hikes or the meet ups and, you know, is there a way of kind of people connecting with each other with the kind of common interest because sometimes our interests just diverge, you know, people that we were friendly with, uh, when the kids were younger, maybe we were just friendly because the kids were friendly and, you know, maybe we don't have that much in common and, you know, is there a space that I can look at? Well, what are my interests now? And how could I meet people through my interests?

That's amazing. Um, so if somebody's listening in right now and they really feel at rock bottom, um, do you think that's like connection is a really good place to start connection? Yeah. But I think the best place always to start is connection to yourself. So a lot of um you know, a lot of what you're doing around reflection and thrive time and all of that, that part about taking space and time to reflect. Um you know, when people come to therapy, they, they're, it's, they may feel initially that they're coming for, you know, I have a specific problem and there's something specific going on in my life. But actually allowing yourself the space and time to just connect to yourself, to just say, who am I? What were the things I used to love? What used I love as a teenager. What used I love in my early twenties.

What used I love before I had kids before I went down this road. Like, you know, because often times again, we have kids without reflection, you know, sometimes we, you know, it can be very difficult for people to have kids and it can be a long journey and it can be, but sometimes we just have kids because we have a partner and we have kids. So again, what's the reflection piece about? Where am I in my life? How can I stand in myself now and say I choose? This is what I choose rather than this is what's expected or this is what happens. You know, this is the way life goes when I stand in myself and go, I choose. Then what do I choose? Do I choose to meet other people. Do I choose to stand in my power, not be a victim of life, stand in my power and say, what do I choose for myself? Connecting with people new hobbies.

And you know, I'm not saying any of that is easy. I'm not, you know, so I love that so much and it sounds like actually just to go back to the therapy point that therapy can save you loads of time because initially I was thinking, oh, yeah, connections start there. But then no, you have to connect with yourself first because if you don't connect with yourself first and you could rush out, do all these things you don't want to do then feel bad that you don't like them. However, if you get therapy and you're able to work through slowly what you want, then you can slowly make the decisions better. Yeah. And I'm not even, it doesn't even have to be about therapy. But like a lot of, a lot of start the start is reflecting myself.

Do I want to go back into the same kind of friendships that I used to have? Do I want to go back into that role in friendships where, you know, was there a reason why I backed away from the friendships I had and do, I would, I like to create something different to move out of patterns of behavior to start thinking, maybe I'd like to meet up with a different kind of people, maybe people who to go to the cinema or the theater or go for a run and, you know, people who don't have kids. So we're not talking about kids. Like maybe, you know, what, what choices do I make now for myself and standing in those choices. Yeah. So the reflection piece we can all do by ourselves. I mean, therapy can speed it up in a way because at least you're getting a solid hour of reflecting again. You're taking space. So, but any time you take space for yourself to sit back and reflect is a good time. And I love that. What you said. It sounds like an affirmation in the making about stepping into your power sounds really good as well. And owning it.

Yes, because I think uh the unharnessed power of this generation of women, like the, the wisdom, the knowledge, the, the life experience that they have. And unfortunately, when we could be changing so much in the world, it's a time when we tend to shut ourselves down and say, oh, well, I'm in my fifties now. So that's, you know, I just ride on into grand parenthood or whatever, rather than saying, actually, I have so much life experience. Now, I've, I've done so much, I have so much to give and it's a really unharnessed power I think for, for women at this stage of their lives, you know, and menopause and everything gets in the way. But getting on top of, of those, you know, menopause with whatever way is right for you, uh exercise, meditation, H RT, whatever is right for you. But getting back in control of yourself and like all of all of the women in the group are doing really taking stock and getting back in control and then really looking at God, I have so much power, so much power in the world that is unharnessed.

I have so much ability, so, so much that I could give. Just to myself first. Again, it's not about giving. You spent the last 30 years giving. So it's, it's about what could I give to myself now, Tricia? Thank you so so much and thank you so much for coming on to the show and I'll have it in the show notes. However, if you're listening in and you want to contact Trisha, you can go to Galway or info at mind and body works. Isn't that right? Info, mind and body works. Body works dot com is our Dublin Dublin email. Great. And for Trisha Galway at mind and body works dot com and that's oh 9172575 oh oh 9172575. Oh, thanks, Trisha. Thank you so much.

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