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.

San Francisco Part 2: SFMoma, Sausalito and the Ice Cream Museum

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On my second day in San Francisco I decided to go to SFMOMA. I’m not really a museum person but I want to be. Sometimes I get overloaded on art, kind of like hanging out on Pinterest all day and before you know it you have no motivation to be creative at all because everybody else is way more creative than you’ll ever be. I almost do better in a vacuum. BUT! I do love art so off to the art museum I did go!

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I paid an extra ten bucks to see the Warhol exhibit and I’m glad I did. I’m not a super fan or anything but I learned a lot about him and found myself relating  to him. That’s always a good thing. Andy Warhol was a graphic artist first, like me. I can see that now but I never knew that before. He also was super awkward and decided to flaunt his flaws instead of try to cover them up. That’s something I could learn a lot from.

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People feel conflicted about him and I can definitely see why (borrowing others’ talent to stay relevant etc…) but I cannot NOT love the floating helium pillows room. I mean, come on. Is that not the most brilliant thing ever and he did it way back in the 60s! I think we need more floating helium balloon rooms… too bad helium is going extinct. I wonder what it will be like when helium balloons no longer exist. That will be a sad sad day.

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I wandered around listening to my headphones about his life and funny quotes performed by an actor pretending to be him. It’s really nice to go to a museum by yourself because you can take as long or as little time as you like. Sometimes I went fast, sometimes I went backwards and looked at things more than once.

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But what I really like is watching people at a museum. I could could make a coffee table book of photos of people staring and interacting with art but I’m not sure anybody would actually have time to look my book if I made it. There is just so much to look at these days. I miss being bored. Is that what growing up is? Not ever being bored anymore?

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It was pleasant. Lots of clean lines and open space. Everything feeling very peaceful and zen. Maybe too zen.

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I pondered and took pictures of my favorite pieces. I wandered. Then an instagram friend suggested I visit the fifth floor for a coffee and a sweet. Once that idea was in my head I had to head straight there of course!

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There nothing nicer than sitting outside by yourself on a perfectly sunny day with a perfectly aesthetically-pleasing coffee and a pastry. Well, maybe all that AND a friend to chat with but then you are so busy talking, you gobble down your snack too fast and you don’t get as much time to watch the people around you in the courtyard. I guess I do love being alone sometimes.

Before I knew it Payam was pinging me saying his work day was over so we met up and headed off on some touring together. We decided to take the car out of super expensive valet parking and see some further away sites. Starting at Lombard street of course.

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Man, what a crowded mess that street is with all the tourists. It was fun poking down the hill with the rest of the cars but there were no good angles to take pictures without getting out of the car and that was impossible too because parking was non-existent. I didn’t care that much since I’ve been there before but it was fun to go just to say we did.

Then we headed to the Gold Gate Bridge. Le sigh…

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We took an early exit and discovered The Presidio. I think I’ve been here when I was a kid but I don’t remember it clearly at all. I didn’t know there were so many bunkers and hideouts to explore. I would have loved to explore more if it wasn’t so freakishly freezing cold. Why is San Francisco so arctic all the time? Thankfully I’ve been to this rodeo before so I know not to pack summer clothes in the summer but still, man, it’s just COLD.  I had to wrap up in a blanket that we keep in the car for picnics just not to go crazy.

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We walked and talked and chattered our teeth.

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I found this new suicide prevention construction really sad. I’m glad they are doing it to save lives but it just makes me even more sad that so many people are that sad. I’ve had suicidal thoughts myself before so I cannot judge. It can happen to anyone.

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Then we ran back to our car and warmed up. Brrrrr! It was freezing. Seems nice now that I’m back home in 83 degree weather but at the time it was not. Southern Califorians are such pansies.

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Payam wanted to show me the neighborhood he lived in when he first came to this country. He was born in Iran but came to the US when he was three. They lived in Tiburon and it was nice! We definitely did not grow up on the same side of the tracks, me and him. I couldn’t really see his house because you can only see the garage from the street so I didn’t take any pictures. But everything seemed really pretty and right by the water. Great views all around.

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Slowly, Karl, the fog made his way over to this side of the bay and we decided we better head back to our hotel before we froze to death. Just kidding. We are wimps.

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The next day I had tickets to the Museum of Ice Cream. I know I told you I was officially done with pop-up museums but this one was literally just down the street from us so I forced Payam to go with me. And guess what? It is probably the best one I have been to! I mean, yes, I am Over them with a capital O and I don’t need to ever go to one again but this one was really really cute. If you have kids I say definitely take them. If you are just trying to make your instagram feed more colorful then you’ll feel very unoriginal. Pop-up museums are so 2016. (Queue eye roll as If I know anything about anything.)

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It was just super sweet and cute. They called us campers and we tried camping related treats… s’more ice cream, orange-cicle frozen pies… It was adorable and fun.

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And you know what I love about Payam? He acted like a kid and had fun too. We can all be child-like more often I think. Right? Why take everything so seriously?

Do you know what Payam screams for? Kale. Screams in fear or anticipation of a tasty treat? Both I think.

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We interacted. We went the distance. We slapped robot hands and dove into a pool of sprinkles. And then we exited through the gift shop and bought pink plastic magnetic letters like the big fat consumeristic suckers we are.

Yay summer vacation!

Most of all we missed the girls. They would have loved it. Or not. They might have just rolled their eyes.