Last week, I was suicidal, and today I woke up feeling “OK”. Not great, not even good really…but OK. OK enough that I could feel the trees and the birds and the thunder. When depression makes it hard to feel anything good, anything that connects me to wanting to be here, I still feel the very worst stuff. The dark, deep, aching pain that seems so TRUE and so REAL.
It is such a tremendous relief when I can feel the good things, too.
Things Change – Always
Last week, just 3 days ago, I was sitting on the edge of my bed, rocking back and forth and back and forth, hammering on my thighs with my fists so hard I left bruises. Pulling my VERY short hair…hard. As hard as I could, given that I can’t really get a grip on it because it’s so short. I had to get the overwhelming angst OUT…somehow. I imagined throwing things, destroying things, breaking things… but I didn’t want to deal with the clean up. I know – it seems ironic that I can know that there will be an “after”, but still not be able to let go of that destructive energy in the moment.
Today, I woke up and wanted to be here. I left the house, even, and went to a park. I watched a mama Killdeer with her three chicks, and I could feel them. I felt love and joy and awe and amazement. Not a lot of it – let’s not get crazy – but enough. Enough that it made me say “awwww”, and stop and watch and take delight in the way they moved and the way the mama kept track of her babies.
Today, there was thunder, and it felt like it reached into me and loosened up my diaphragm and I could breathe. I haven’t felt like I could take a deep breath for over a week. It feels like over a year, but I do remember that I felt “OK” a week or two ago…so I think I must have felt like I could breathe then, as well.
Did Someone Say “Change”???
So I got to thinking today about what is different, lately. The last year or two, why has my depression and anxiety taken on such power? It’s been getting worse and worse over the last 5 years or so, but this last couple of years – just WOW. There are definitely some real life things that have happened, and certainly those are playing a role.
But real life today is exactly the same as real life was yesterday, and today I want to live, and yesterday I wanted to die. So it’s not ALL about what’s happening in real life. In fact, I would wager that real life has very little to do with it.
So, what has changed? I think my age, and what my brain and body are going through at this age. I think it might be… shhhhh… menopause – dun dun dunnnnnnn – or peri-menopause, anyway. So reality has changed in this way: my hormones and my brain chemistry are linked, and it’s not working out so well for me.
Oh. THE Change. Ugh.
My whole life, I’ve suffered from pretty severe hormonal trickery connected to my menstrual cycle. It’s part of why I thought I could never have kids (doctors told me NO WAY would my very messed up uterus and ovaries and hormones ever bring a life into the world – just shows you what THEY know). But that’s another story.
The story related to mental health is that hormonal fluctuations have always messed with my mind and emotions in a very big way. I learned fairly young to identify when that was happening, and how to cope and deal with the worst of it. Things to NOT do when my mind was clouded by the toxic soup that flooded my brain around my period. However, at my age, a monthly cycle becomes MUCH less predictable. It becomes difficult to suss out what is going on. I might be up and down and back up again within a day, or a week…over the span of a month, it’s beyond impossible to keep track, at this point.
Now, however, my body is trying, FINALLY, to stop all that. I’m edging toward the end of needing my uterus. I mean, in real life, I’ve not needed it for over 20 years, but Mother Nature wanted me to keep on keepin’ on for the last 20 years…just in case, I guess.
What I didn’t know, and haven’t seen talked about a lot, is what happens when you are already mentally ill, when you already suffer from Anxiety Disorder, or Depression…and then your body goes into “WTF????” mode while it tries to shut down the baby factory.
I mean, that shit will drive normal, sane women crazy! Oh, sure, the movies talk about hot flashes and women getting a little more assertive and direct because they just don’t want to take your shit anymore… It doesn’t talk about what all of that can do to an already messed up brain.
Research Says It, So It Must Be True
So I did a little research (*gasp*…I know – it’s a shocker, but I did).
Yep. Apparently, we’re basically teenagers again, only without all of the energy and youth and ability to withstand the angst. Women of a certain age, hear me now: Mother Nature is a BITCH and she is just fucking with us all over again.
Like being a teenager wasn’t hard enough the first time around. Remember how important and life altering every emotional storm felt? How HUGE were our problems, and how misunderstood we were?
How we were going to change the world, but also, OH MY GAWD there’s a zit and I will NEVER leave the house again!?!
Take all that, compress it into a super charged atom bomb that is planted in our uterus and set to go off at THE most inopportune moment…and then add a dollop of mental illness and chronic pain. Mother Nature’s recipe for MY early 50’s totally SUCKS.
So. This IS My Life, For Now
I’m not alone, either. Most women experience various degrees of emotional upheaval during peri-menopause and menopause. Not only has my exhaustive research of asking my 5 closest friends told me this – but so have many, many articles on the internet. So many that I don’t even think I need to credit any single one.
I will though: I found this article on PsychologyToday.com to be particularly interesting. I read some stuff on the Mayo Clinic’s website, as well as a few other medical websites, and all of them agree that hormones and depression and anxiety are linked to a greater or lesser degree depending on the individual – but linked, nevertheless.
I’m not even a little surprised. This isn’t new information for me. I have experienced every version of emotional hazards associated with hormones, from PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder – or PMS PLUS), to postpartum depression, to now what appears to be “just end your life now and get it over with” syndrome associated with menopause/peri-menopause.
The Change Will Change
Here’s the good news. Supposedly, it gets better. Some day, my hormones will quit going UP and down and UP and down…and normalize. I will go back to having depression and anxiety that I can cope with…sort of.
Lots of experts have lots of advice, most of it related to controlling the hormonal roller coaster in some way. Hormone therapy is not an option for me, for reasons I won’t go into here. Anxiety and depression medication MIGHT be, but I’m afraid to go there again and it might not be worth it, if this is going to end soon.
However – it could last for years. In fact, it HAS lasted for years. It might last for MORE years. The question is whether I’ll survive it.
Hurry Up and Change, PLEASE
My depression lately has gotten larger than life – literally (yes, LITERALLY damnit! – proper use of that word be damned this time!). It looms over me and threatens my existence. On my bad days, anxiety has me convinced that everything is scary and horrible and I am scary and horrible and scary and horrible things lurk around every corner…leaving nothing worth living for and death as the only hope for escape and respite. Depression and anxiety gang up on me and have me huddled on the floor just waiting to die on a semi-regular basis, lately.
Except, not today. Today, I can feel the trees, and there was a breeze, and the thunder made me happy. That’s my normal. I can tell when depression is bad, because I can’t feel the trees, and a breeze just doesn’t matter, and the birdsong affects me not at all, and thunder can go take a flying leap for all I care.
Those are the days I have to hide and wait it out.
I really do wonder what Mother Nature had in mind. Intellectually, I believe that if I (and others like me) had lived a different life – stayed connected to nature, in rhythm with her cycles, accepting of the ups and down, led a less busy and toxic life – I might not be experiencing her wrath right now. I don’t believe nature has it out for me, or seeks to punish me.
Planning For The Change
I do think the life I’ve led, whether by force or by choice, has put my body and mind into such a state that hormones and brain chemistry create a perfect storm of “HOLY SHIT THIS SUCKS”.
So if, like me, you are a woman of a certain age, and you have noticed that you are more anxious, or more depressed, than you used to be, consider that it might be hormones, and act accordingly.
If you are a younger woman who suffers from anxiety and depression, just be informed. Know that your struggles may have a hormonal component, and that may increase when you reach your 40’s and 50’s. Be informed, and prepared, so it doesn’t take you by surprise.
Depression and Anxiety are lying, whoring thieves. They attack us, beat us up, and rob of us of the good in life. They tell us things are so much worse than they are, or they show us ONLY the bad parts. They tell us that it will always be this way – or worse. When Depression and Anxiety decide to have a friggin’ tea party with their moaning neighbors (hormones – hormones are the neighbors, just in case you missed that part), they get super powers.
But – you are stronger than they are…WE are stronger than they are – even when it feels like they are winning. All we have to do is survive…last. Plant our feet and weather the storm, and take action as soon as we can to mitigate the next attack.
Feel the trees and the breeze and the thunder while you can, and then batten down the hatches when you sense the next squall about to hit. We can survive this. Women have been surviving it for a very long time. Those of us dealing with mental illness on top of menopause just have more to deal with – but we’re used to that. We can weather this storm…we have to. Because it could actually get better, and wouldn’t it be great to be around for that? To tell those stories to the next generation of women who are going to have to go through this crap???
Or to last long enough to just cackle like witches getting high at a bonfire when our younger sisters hit menopause and find out that THEIR boobs are going to sag, too!?!