Woman of a Thousand Worries

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When summer hit this year I started studying about Menopause. I had a blood test done earlier in Spring that pretty much confirmed my worst fear: I am menopausal. Not even peri-menopausal but menopausal.  It was hard news to take at 46. I thought this was something that happened in your fifties. It’s not like I’m looking to hold onto the “young mom” label and have more kids or anything but I wasn’t officially over that stage of my life yet.  It was kind of rude that my hormones decided this for me. Much like getting your period when you are twelve. You don’t ask for these things, they just happen.

I admit I grieved. It was really hard to look at middle age right in the face and realize that it’s only going to go by faster and faster. Old age will be here sooner than I ever thought. All those dreams of living happily ever after? That’s right now. I am living my happily ever after and it’s changing every minute.

A few months went by and I adjusted. I found my optimism. I looked to older women I admire and dreamed up what a fabulous older lady I would be. Grandma style here I come! I yelled. I’m gonna rock it I decided.

And then summer hit and the hot flashes rained down upon me like clouds of heavy dragon breath every fifteen minutes. When they hit I feel almost like a panic attack is starting. No heart palpitations or tightness… just a sense of heavy claustrophobic heat and a desperate need to get outside to cooler air (or inside to cooler air) right away. It’s been awful.

When I talked with my OB about these recent changes she said their usual plan of attack is to do nothing unless symptoms are unbearable. I hate taking any kind of medication so I decided to grin and bear it. Surely there was a way I could manage this holistically. And so my research began…

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Unfortunately for me research turned into anxiety. I never knew how many more things I could worry about until I listened to “Menopause Confidential” on audiobook while I walked my dogs. Micro-fractures! Osteoporosis! Vitamin D deficiencies! Skin cancer!  (I was already worrying about that one) Drooping Eyelids! Dry Vaginas! Ack! I thought puberty was bad. Is it all bad news? I wondered.

I haven’t really talked about having anxiety here because I thought it was something that I should keep private. I’m sure most of my readers already surmised that I’m a bit of a nutcase. I’m sure it leaks through my words and in between sentences. I am a master worrier. When I turned 46 I started anti-anxiety medication. I had to. I was having so much anxiety I was starting to have suicidal thoughts. I thought I was losing my creativity and had no value anymore. I know that seems preposterous since I have a pretty great life but somehow the darkness crept and told me lies. My very own brain lied to me.

I am very thankful to Payam (and Isabel from alpha mom) for comforting me through this and finally convincing me to get help. I thought I was tough. I wasn’t. I thought I could muscle through. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to have some privileged white woman’s disease. I figured I could just force myself through it one step in front of the other but it got to a point where I couldn’t even socialize because I cried too much. It wasn’t until I was bawling my eyes out on a psychiatrist couch that I finally realized that maybe not everyone saw the world the way I did. Maybe I needed meds. Maybe it was okay to finally give up on being tough and cheat a little. I resisted them my whole life but at 46 finally gave in.

At first it was great! I snapped back to my happy self in a few weeks. I was amazed. Having a new base-level of serotonin was bomb! My creativity came back, my enthusiasm for adventure came back, I was more organized with work, I got more done, I was more calm with the kids, I was better at everything! It was great.

Until June Gloom hit and my anxiety came back. The crying came back. I went back to my doctor and she upped my meds by half a pill and told me not to worry, this happens to everyone this time of year. It wasn’t quite enough though. I was better but still a mad list-making fiend who was constantly yelling at myself inside my head for not juggling all of life’s responsibilities better. I should work out earlier, I should work more hours, I should diet more, I should have better relationships, I should cook better food for my kids that they actually like, I should have better kids…. the lectures at myself we’re relentless. It got so bad that I started forgetting things. I became absent minded and huge patches of my memory were lost.

Add to this the fact that my relationship with Bug has changed. She’s still a great kid but I can’t really blog about her anymore. Her life is her own and she documents it herself now. It makes me sad (because who doesn’t want to take pictures of a cute teenager doing amazing things) but I respect her wishes. Things are ever-changing.

Some of those changes are hard. Another tearful doctor’s visit was in order and now I’m up to two pills. It’s still a relatively low dose but I feel so much better. The nagging voices in my head have stopped. I don’t get mad at myself (as much) anymore. I don’t get mad at my kids (as much) and if I do, I keep the anger out of my voice. It’s amazing. I feel a sense of calm I have never felt before. I didn’t know I was broken until I got fixed.

I’ve learned that taking medicine to manage your serotonin levels is more of an art than a science. I know my hormones are all over the place and I will probably have a lot more ups and downs but I’m really happy that I have a really super sweet doctor who really listens. I really like feeling calm.

I was so afraid that “fixing me” would make me not creative anymore but it hasn’t at all. If anything I feel more creative with better direction. I don’t feel as overwhelmed. I’m not chasing my tail. I’m still coming up with great ideas but now I’m actually executing them better. I’m really relieved about that part.

It’s still a little early to be claiming I’ve solved of my life’s mysteries but I wanted to share anyway. I’m sure there are other people out there fighting the menopause blues with me.

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And speaking of menopause blues… let’s talk about going to LA in the super hot summer! Hah! Can you feel the hot flash creeping up your neck?

I feel super silly posting a picture of me sipping on a margarita right after I talk about my mental health. We all know sweet alcoholic drinks are very bad for you, especially when you are battling hot flashes. But I wanted to share some photos of my trip to LA this weekend with Payam and I think my sweaty face pretty much sums it up.

It was a total whim trip. I love total whim adventures.  We hopped on the train and headed for downtown. Only problem is, it was HOT. Hot and sweaty and full of hot flashes. So here I am in a Mexican restaurant having the best chips and salsa and sipping a super sour and delicious skinny margarita, though between you and me it didn’t taste all that skinny.

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Then we rode Angel’s Flight, which is also super sweaty and hot flashy on a hot day. Not a good idea for the menopausasaurus. Phew!

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As the angry, relentless sun crept slowly behind the buildings, giving us glimpses of shade and relief, I remembered the glass slide experience I’d seen on instagram so I looked it up and we headed on over. We were just in time too! Golden hour is the best time to ride up 70 floors to an observation deck to watch the sunset. It was amazing. Except for maybe the 200 other tourists doing the exact same thing. Thankfully, the crowds were restless and we managed to find a seat by the glass for some sighing and photo-taking. It was really lovely.

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I should mention the slide too. It was meh. It’s a really cool idea but the slide itself is only one floor and it goes by so fast you don’t even get a chance to look down. This is good for me since I’m afraid of heights but I did feel a little bit gypped since it cost $33. We didn’t even have drinks in the bar either or it could have been hundreds of dollars. So do visit because the view is amazing and you’ll probably want to try the slide too (it’s $10 worth of the $33) but don’t get your hopes up for any great thrill.

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After that we hustled back to the train station and headed home. It was a good day. Which was really nice after a few weeks of bad days.

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In other news: I am working on a web design for brendaponnay.com. Right now it’s home to my invitation business that is very badly neglected. I’m excited to make secret-agent-josephine a little more personal (ie: talking about anti-anxiety medication) and move all my professional book-related business to a new site. I’ve always been averse to having two websites (something along the lines of loving one master and hating the other) but I think it’s time. I’m excited too. Lots of great things happening on the books front. I will definitely keep you posted as that gets closer.

In the meantime, thank you dear readers. Thank you for being with me all these years. I have no idea what is coming next.

25 Comments Woman of a Thousand Worries

  1. Anna

    Thanks for sharing Brenda!! I’m only a couple of years older than you, but I’ve been dealing with peri-menopause for years. I go through bouts of hot flashes, night sweats and other stuff, then it stops only to return again. I wish I could just turn it off and say, thanks, I’m done.

    I haven’t been allowed to talk about J for a while online, I get it, you want to share, but it’s their life now. Doesn’t make it easier for us though.

    I love that you are spinning off the books, I think this is fabulous!

    Reply
    1. Your favorite cousin *jk*

      Every event I put on, painting, crafty project I get my self into… I think of what you would do. You are such an inspiration and I enjoy how you write.

      Reply
  2. Gingermog

    Hi, I hear you, I’m listening and nodding along to what your saying and I love you.

    Menopause is a BIG deal, and it effects us in all sorts of ways. I haven’t had a blood test to see where I am but I’ve been having signs of Peri-menopausal for a few years, delayed periods, mysterious aching in my joints, raging hormones when normally I’m quite calm, overwhelming anxiety. So much so I was having regular panic attacks a few months ago and making some erratic decisions. At the moment I’m hiding out at the farm not reading the news and feeling much better.

    I am so sorry to read you have had such a rough time but really glad you are sharing it with us. We are your cheer leading group. You have blossomed so much as a creative artist these past few years and are a beautiful woman. We admire you!

    You know what irks me, is why we are not taught to celebrate our achievements. I know what you mean we have a criticism voice all the time we should exercise more, earlier, eat better, be more successful, look this way… heck I don’t even have a proper beauty regime… the various potions on the market that will apparently erase my crows feet confuse me and oh and I know used be doing facial yoga to prevent the jowls that are developing, but that’s yet another thing to add to the growing list of shouddas. This nagging voice really can suck the joy out of things. Do men have it? Does it nag as loud?

    When we are old ladies lets go painting together, I want to grow old somewhere warm … be a tiny old lady with crazy hair painting massive colorful paintings.

    Have you ever heard of the red hat society ? I remember in the early 00’s during a trip to Canada, seeing a group of ladies wearing red hats having lots of fun together … (probably drinking Margaritas as life is for living :), my cousin said it was a society for women who had reached the menopause and celebrated it. Does mention that on the front page of their website but here’s the link.

    https://www.redhatsociety.com/

    We are great!

    Reply
  3. Elaine C. B.

    Oh friend, don’t be too hard on yourself! You are tough! You can be tough and still need help and medicine, and it’s actually super strong of you to recognize, admit, and keep putting one foot in front of the other and get assistance. It’s also okay to have a great life and still be anxious and/or depressed. The body and brain are amazing and weird, and it’s terrible when they start to trick you. Just know, we are all out here in virtual-land cheering for you! Thank you for sharing. Cheers to the next chapter with the new website! And good luck with the dang hot flashes.

    Reply
  4. Cathy

    Wow, I see so much of myself in this post – you are certainly not alone. Whoever invented menopause really had a sucky idea! The hot flashes that icky feeling that precedes it are the worst and oh I hate being so moody. I’m really sorry that you’re having a tough time experiencing this -totally get the “It was really hard to look at middle age right in the face and realize that it’s only going to go by faster and faster. ” this feeling, paired with my father passing a few years ago has really been giving me anxiety as well. So has researching health & diet – I recently googled “worrying about worrying” hah.
    No wonder there are post menopausal clubs (as gingermog mentioned) -I think we should be The Sisters of Perpetual Commiseration” :)
    Hang in there, girl, you’re doing a great job. You didn’t even mention all those fabulous dresses you’re sporting.
    PS. I will miss the Bug posts dearly, I hope she will make a few exceptions sometime!

    Reply
  5. Susan

    I feel you on this in so many ways…the hot flashes were relentless. I would go into a patient room (I’m a nurse) and sweat would drip off my nose or pool under my eyes. I couldn’t take the sleeplessness. Went on a hormone patch. Changed my life.
    You keep doing what you do best and I’ll keep reading.

    Reply
  6. Rose

    I’ve been reading for years and this is my first comment. I also struggle with anxiety, and being snappish and angry at my kids. I had a melt down in June which led me to sign up for a dbt skills group. It has helped me immensely and I can’t recommend it enough. They teach coping skills in a group setting, which doesn’t require sharing trauma stories or anything like that, but there is a collective sense of wanting to get better, and sharing stories of practicing skills. Check out Kati Morton’s YouTube feed for videos about it if you’re interested, or for any other mental health topic- her videos have also helped me a lot. Thank you for sharing all these years!

    Reply
  7. Beck

    Oh B, I relate to this sentence so much: “I didn’t know I was broken until I got fixed.”

    And I’m still finding ways to be fixed.

    I’ve been on anti-anxiety meds and they probably saved my life. I’m not now but as time goes on I feel like my anxiety is getting more creative about how it presents itself and I get new and different symptoms. It’s like whack a mole. Best of luck to you. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply
  8. Kimberly

    “Thank you for being with me all these years. I have no idea what is coming next.”

    We all grow old together. That’s what. :)

    I’m turning 47 tomorrow. A week ago, the palpitations started.

    Reply
  9. Todd

    When on earth did we get old? LOL! Texas T-bone here. My better half is enjoying* her hot-girl summer with similar symptoms. Some days are better than others, but it is a milestone we weren’t quite ready for, either. Hang in there – I’m pleased to see you appear to be doing well overall – always there are challenges, but you’ve got this.

    *not enjoying – at all

    Reply

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