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.

sunshine and fashion

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It’s been super foggy and gloomy in Southern California where I live lately. It’s mostly because we live 15 minutes from the beach (poor us) and the marine layer likes to creep up out of the ocean when it’s hot inland and hover over us for months. I hate to complain about it because well, it’s not like it’s real weather or anything. I’ve never been in a snow storm in my life. But you know what? It’s getting me down! This stupid gray fog is the pits! I thought I was pretty tough but give me three weeks of foggy gray gloom and I feel like crawling under a blanket and ceasing to exist. I know. That’s pretty drastic but it’s really what has been going through my head.

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I went to my doctor, (I see a psychiatrist for anxiety) and I was so prepared to tell her I was fine but within minutes I was bawling my eyes out over climate change, of all things. I never know what’s going to set me off. It’s like my brain is playing some kind of lottery and whatever thought bubbles to the top is the fret-and-obsess-over subject du jour. It’s been pathetic.

Needless to say, she upped my meds. Only until August. She says that lots of people get really depressed in June  in our local. It’s a well documented fact. So, if you are feeling down, it’s not you! It’s the weather.

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I had dropped Bug off at my parent’s in the desert for a week for “Camp Grandpa and Grandma” and I went out this weekend to pick her up and guess what? It was gloriously sunny out in the desert where they live! I soaked up that sunshine like it was my last meal. It felt soooo good.

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I took Joon with me and we all spent some happy hours in the pool with my parents and lots of sunshine.

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I love seeing Joon laugh like that. They are both going through their hormonal teenage years so seeing them act like kids again instead of sulking around with their noses stuck to their phones is always a welcome sight.

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My mom recently hurt her Achilles tendons in both feet. She had been going to her local gym and taking water aerobics classes and apparently she was a little too zealous with all the jumping around in the water and hurt her tendons. This is a huge bummer because she was on a roll with losing weight and getting healthy. Now she’s stuck in her chair most days and doing minimal physical therapy with her doctor. She can’t do as much as she usually does and unfortunately that leaves my poor overworked dad doing most of the housework as well as his many gardening jobs. So I decided that I need to go out and visit them once a week and help them.

This seems like an obvious solution but it took me a while to come to it. Googling deep-cleaning house cleaning services that cost more than $200 a week because they live so far out in the sticks kind of sealed the deal. It will be an adjustment to take such a long drive weekly but it’s not like I didn’t use to do it back when I lived out there and drove Bug in to see her Dad weekly. I’m just super thankful I have the job flexibility and a reliable car to do it.

And that means I’ll get a healthy dose of sunshine weekly!

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While we were out there this weekend, the girls let me do a few photoshoots with them in the beautiful surrounding desert. I’m not sure who was prettier, the desert or the girls.

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I really love my new camera. I need to start booking more professional gigs so I can get it to pay for itself. I’m super lucky that I have built in models who love their photos taken.  Of course as a photographer I love, love, love taking photos of them but I have to make sure not to exploit their beauty and keep the photos wholesome and healthy. It’s challenging!  They ooze (innocent) sexuality and they don’t even know it. Thankfully, I’ve been around the internet a bit and I’ve been teaching them to protect their vulnerabilities for a long time. desert-beauty-2

Bug is interested in fashion these days. We all knew that was coming. Actually, she has always has been into fashion. It’s nothing new. You remember her crazy three-year-old style choices.  Anyway, lately she’s picked up my love for thrift-store-shopping and has been buying loads of clothes and altering them to suit her. She embroiders jeans, crops skirts into mini skirts…. really I should say she manipulates my mom and I into embroidering and altering for her but I’m not too upset about that. I’m just happy she can be so creative with fashion and not involve me taking her to the mall and spending bazillions of dollars!