What isn’t often relayed about aging women is that The Change can turn you into an emotional wreck.
Over the past two months I found myself questioning everything: my life, my worth, my purpose, my abilities – and I had a very difficult time answering with anything that wasn’t pure emotional drivel. That’s hard to deal with at any time, but something that my logical self found incomprehensible. Where did this weepy, clingy, dingbat come from and why the hell is she living in my head space, and fucking up my life?
I honestly thought that my brains were turning to goo. I had moments of pure hopelessness and was slowly accepting near-complete loss of self worth.
Thus began my journey to put myself back on track, to figure out how to reclaim my abilities, my logic and my sanity.
I started with self-organization tactics: I employed a bullet journal both for home and for work. This forces me to stop and think what needs done and what the priorities are. I began checking items off of my to-do list. Oh, the long-forgotten to-do list! Years ago, I didn’t do anything without a list. When there are kids in the house and activity schedules to keep, it all had to be tamed and contained and managed and the lists were what kept me on track. I’d missed those lists.
Tackling my nearly forgotten maintenance items, one at a time, I felt slightly better just knowing that I was no longer sliding off into total neglect and disrepair.
So, as I waited for my vehicle tires to be replaced, I took advantage of the hour long wait. I went on a shopping excursion – retail therapy, surely it can cure anything, right? I landed at the local bookstore chain and wandered around, looking for the clouds to part and the sun to shine on just the perfect selection. Isn’t that how everyone makes reading choices?
The adult coloring section caught my eyes first. That’s an option – divert my attentions and get me to focus on something creative rather than solving my neuro-emotional grey matter mysteries. I was enchanted, as I pulled one after another from the shelf, thinking of the hours of diversion these would grant.
Then, suddenly, logical me stepped out of the shadows and shut down my little rose-colored dream state. Turn, slowly, walk away from the enchantment – and move toward the non-fiction self-help section.
I found myself surrounded by chicken soups and how-to sex manuals. Oy! About to leave, nearly giving up, it happened. The clouds parted… okay, well – ya know – my eyes lit on the title that just made sense to me. The book that might help me figure out how to explain this aging brain and help me nurture and retrain the logical side: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
You have to glimpse a bit into my SOP: years spent in near-poverty, barely making it and scraping to get by, have left me with a lifetime habit of frugality. I don’t buy NEW books. There are libraries, and there are thrift shops. I’ve never bought a book at a bookstore, unless it was a Used Book Store.
So, there I am, with THE book in my hands — but the darned thing is $16.99!!! For a book!!! And it’s not a hardback.
So, I put it back and shuffle around the non-fiction section, being ever so disappointed by the options. The humor section nearly had me sold on the Calvin and Hobbs selections, but then my logical self reminded me of my purpose. Back to the shelf, grab that book with resolve, reward myself with an adult coloring book – not the usual flowery variety, no, break some habits and grab something with some personality – Imagimorphia. Oh, another $14.99! Of course. Now, to fill in the gaps with a new fiction author. I’ve nearly worn out my favorite authors selections.
So – tossing aside frugality, employing a bit of logic, and feeding my need to cocoon and heal – I walk out of the bookstore with three NEW books. That’s one for the record books folks!
That was June 28th. I’m now a quarter of the way through the Kahneman book, and making some sense of what is being presented. I have to put it on my list though – read a minimum of two pages, daily. And often, lately, I’ve ignored it. The color book was a nice diversion – and I’ve completed one page – and the fiction was consumed immediately, followed since by three additional Kindle books. While these things have helped me stop the unchecked careening off the hill of sanity, I was still floundering. Emotions, self-worth still tottering, not quite stable. Edgy, with a chance of stormy – I might emote angrily with no advance warning. Monotone emotions – checked, but no joy, and still those tears were backed up against my eyeballs, pressuring me to let loose as pride forced them to dam.
I hate this – this taking over of my body, this insidious self-deprecating, loathing, angry thing inside me that does not accept logic or reason or boundaries.
And so, fearing the worst, as I perceived it – knowing that I had pushed my superiors to their limits at my job – and feeling that I might be fired from my job, I sat down and researched the combination of depression and anger.
- Mood swings – CHECK!
- Depression – CHECK!
- Anxiety – CHECK!
- Irritability – CHECK!
I don’t know why it took so long to figure that out?! I’ve had the physical symptoms of peri-menopause for years now. Night sweats, hot flashes, weight gain, libido – I knew that I was approaching the shutdown of my hormones. I thought myself educated.
What I forgot about, what doesn’t get near as much attention, is the emotional change associated with Menopause. And my research sheds a bit of light on that. You see, it seems that socio-economic factors greatly influence how the emotional changes will affect you – because we’re all so very different.
I’ve weathered the physical changes because they weren’t life-altering. I didn’t seek any treatments for them, as they were so easy to adjust to and accept. I thought I had this whole aging female thing whipped, tied, and filed in the ‘been there, done that’ cabinet.
No – not so fast. The emotional side is saved for those of us who have weathered the storms of deprivation – those whose past is riddled with poverty, and dysfunction, and prior bouts of depression. Oh joy that! It definitely seems like an extra little kick in the pants, that.
So, guess where I’ve been after finding that link? Did you guess correctly? No?
That’s right. I’ve been sifting through the past with a fine screen. Because that’s what you REALLY need to do when you’re an emotional mess. Pull up all of those past parts and pieces, dig them up and look them over, roll around in the shit for a little while to really get it on you and stink up the space. Feel the old pains, live the old failures, dredge up the excuses and point those shakey old fingers a bit, and question decisions and wonder ‘what if’, and just plain fucking cry that shit out!
Yes. That’s where I’ve been.
But I think I’m nearly done. Because, you see, I also employed logic. I told myself to stop making excuses. I told myself to stop blaming others from the past. I addressed what I could address from a physical standpoint. I researched how I could address my hormonal shifts with food and activities. And I started those changes immediately:
- employ those essential oils stocked in the cabinet;
- turn up the music and dance a bit;
- eat more bright colored vegetables;
- eat more nuts and seeds;
- drink more green teas;
- eat more salmon and tuna.
I know this routine, it has tamed my MS. But now, I need to stick to it and tame this emotional beast.
It’s Time for the Change.