Menopause? More Like Mental-Pause!

Menopause? More Like Mental-Pause

I often start my blog posts by validating the content and this is no exception. It has been a challenging one to write and brow-furrowingly difficult to actually tap the ‘publish’ icon.

And only because of my ego!

I frequently struggle with justifying the publication of my writing; is it too personal or will other people think I am just self indulgent or navel gazing. However, I have decided that if it only benefits, inspires or motivates one other person then it is worth the risk of ridicule, resistance and even rejection.

After all, I have been that person who benefits from someone else’s courage to share difficult stuff more than once.

Not life threatening but threatening my life-style

So, at last I have a diagnosis; well, less of a diagnosis and more of an explanation. (Don’t panic – it’s not life threatening, more ‘life-style threatening’.)

It is hard to write about as I am not used to having ‘anything wrong with me’ and have always believed that I can keep my body and mind performing well with sheer hard work. Nor am I a girly girl with girly problems. I don’t even really understand how all that stuff works. Nor do I care.

I can strip a chainsaw and put it back together – I had to, to get my chainsaw ticket – but I would struggle to explain the purpose of estrogen, progesterone and even the process of the monthly cycle. I would struggle even more to enjoy it and yet I paid to learn how to strip a chainsaw!

You are by now probably beginning to get a hint of my ‘diagnosis’.

Those who know me and/or have read my autobiography, Barefoot and Before, will know that I am no stranger to angst, self analysis, mild depression and heavy ponderings. My mother was diagnosed with bi-polar when I was 11 years old. Ever since, I have had a healthy regard and respect for the mind and it’s motives. This has inevitably led to extensive research, self analysis, reading, questioning, wailing and wondering.

The Black Dog or is it a Wolf?

I have always felt that I am consciously keeping one step in front of the Black Dog. And that’s fine. A dog of any sort is a good companion and I actually quite enjoy my melancholy bouts – they are reassuring and creative. I actually think those who don’t get depressed now and then are insane. But that is the secret – now and then. Like a typical black Labrador, there were numerous times that my Black Dog chose to sleep whilst I went about my life. We weren’t together 24/7. Just now and then. And that was OK.

But then about 12 months ago, my Black Dog was joined by a Black Wolf. A very different character. Not content to sleep; not content to let me get on with my life. Instead, demanding, constantly nipping at my heels, purposeful, vicious and very dark.

External aspects of my life altered at about that time too, so I put my increased flux down to readjusting and learning new behaviours to accommodate new opportunities. Maybe the Black Wolf had come along to shepherd me into this new ‘field’.

But he didn’t go away; he became more aggressive and all-consuming.

Amid my preoccupation I was also becoming clumsy, forgetful, irritated – really irritated, I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t recognise my reactions to events, didn’t like the person I was becoming and I was numbingly tired.

It’s depressing not depression

Now tiredness and me are old acquaintances, we go back a long way, I know what tired looks like. But this was different; this was a hollow tiredness, the 4×4 of fatigue. Even my yawns threatened to engulf me. I was yawning like a donkey. And I was consumed by exhaustion.

I had to address it.

I worked hard to address it. I am passionate about personal accountability and I fine-tuned my already healthy diet, reviewed my exercise regime, researched more, consumed books, embraced positive thinking and micro-managed the thoughts that were left.

Nothing changed.

All my research looped back to depression. And that motivated me even more. I knew I wasn’t depressed – well not clinically depressed, climatically depressed maybe. I reluctantly accepted that I had an awful lot of symptoms associated with depression but of course I did – the whole ‘circus’ was depressing me. But I also knew there was something before the depression. I was not prepared to stop at the ‘depression bus-stop’ – the greater part of the journey lay before that particular stop. I needed to go back to the depot, the source.

Depression was a symptom of what I was experiencing, not the cause. I accepted that. I knew it. But I couldn’t get to it.

Reluctantly I went to the Doctor’s for blood tests. They tested for thyroid problems and anaemia. They came back clear. I was told my tiredness and general lack of wellbeing was due to ‘my age and my lifestyle.’ And then the ‘d’ word was mentioned; I stood up and left.

I have always worked hard, I have always known what tired feels like (and I also know what depression feels like), but I also know what being well feels like and I knew something was ‘out of sync’. With ‘depression’ flashing in neon lights, I continued the research and reviewed the facts.

‘Tried’ becomes ‘tired’

I didn’t want to get up in the morning.

I didn’t want to get up in the morning because I was still TIRED. I felt more tired than when I went to bed. How could that be? The nights were becoming more exhausting than the days. Maybe I was going mad.

I felt as though I was in a fog and ‘detached’ from people and life.

I was TIRED. T-I-R-E-D. In a fog of tiredness.

I was clumsy

TIRED

Forgetful

TIRED

Tearful

TIRED

Lacked direction

TIRED

Lacked clarity

TIRED

Frustrated, irritated and irritable

TIRED

Withdrawn.

TIRED.

I had become increasingly withdrawn through the winter months. I work outdoors, it had been hard. Too hard to socialise as well. I prioritised work – and paying the bills. I love where and how I live and take full responsibility for sustaining my lifestyle. It is not an extravagant lifestyle but the running costs don’t ever slow to a walk.

As I came out of the winter and the days lengthened I could no longer blame work and the harsh climatic conditions for my continued symptoms. I couldn’t cut my commitments any closer to the bone. Neither could I research any further than I had. I was going around in circles.

It’s good to talk

I admitted that I was struggling, as casually as I could, to a friend who I both trusted and respected. An intelligent, articulate, successful and self-sufficient woman, well known in the media and in her early 50’s. She responded by effortlessly reeling off a list of emotional and physical symptoms. It was the same as my list – but I hadn’t shared my list. This was her list, her experience.

“It’s the menopause,” she concluded. “You are menopausal. It’s a bastard. I know so many intelligent, successful women who have been brought to their knees by their fucking hormones.”

She is also gloriously outspoken.

So I have had more blood tests – and she’s right, I am indeed menopausal. There, I’ve said it.

I hate it. All of it. The symptoms, the admission that actually I am not super-human after all, the connotations and even the bloody word itself, which is why I used ‘mental-pausal.’

‘One of the boys’

I have never had any time for PMT or any other womanly/girly rubbish (as I deemed it) – I have been used to working on building sites and in male oriented environments. You don’t talk about girly stuff, you talk about laddish stuff – like chainsaws. It’s why I like working in that environment. I don’t do make-up, nail varnish, dresses, high heels or hormonal hysteria. Period. (Sorry, couldn’t resist it). In my world, ‘womb’ is a noise a V8 makes. Hymen is a greeting. And ovulation? I have always wanted a standing one!

I am having to accept otherwise. As a woman, I have all of the above – apart from the V8 and the standing ovation. And I have hormones. And as the ‘wise woman’ continued to reassure me, ‘hormones are responsible for far more than your womanly bits! If they’re fucked up, then so are you.’

So now at least I also have some understanding. Understanding of my mild madness, tearful tiredness and debilitating detachment. And I know what I’m dealing with. I am still not sure how exactly to deal with it but I am exploring, investigating and progressing. And that feels good. Well, better anyway.

I cannot be responsible for what happens to me but I can take responsibility for how I respond to it. I have of course chosen to take action but after a very dark 12 months, I have also chosen to ‘lighten up’ and accept that I am amid the murk and mire of the ‘mental paws’ (I obviously caught it from Yogi), but that something positive and empowering will emerge from it all. Despite all the unnerving and unfamiliar feelings, I already feel noticeably more comfortable in my own skin – there is a notion of ownership.

And as Nietzsche said, “No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

It is now a whole week since I wrote this blog without having the courage to post it. But today I have accepted that I have somehow woven a reputation of having the courage to address awkward subjects and of being authentic, therefore I have finally decided that despite already feeling discombobulated and vulnerable, I have a stronger desire to help someone unravel the mystery that is their own menopausal mayhem than to protect my ego.

I will also continue to blog the journey that ensues, so please feel free and brave enough to get in touch or comment if you want to!

 

 

 

17 Comments on Menopause? More Like Mental-Pause!

  1. Thank you for putting into words what I haven’t been able to express. I am hopefully coming out the other side at 58 but it hasn’t been an easy journey. Thought I was losing the plot many times!

  2. Haha! You actually make me look forward to this chapter, rather than fear it when it arrives, which I never thought I’d hear myself say! You have the genius of making everything seem like a new journey to be taken & conqured & I know with you taking those intrepid steps ahead of me, I will have an ally & hopefully a handbook to hold my hand & see me through Although God help me , I’m emotional & clumsy enough as it is!

  3. I wonder at its name…MEN o pause…is that some kind of warning we should emit to any poor sod who dares to approach our ranting, raving, sweating, hormonaly burdened selves at this less than joyous time of life? Also, I wonder whether the whole ‘never having had children’ thing makes the hormone symptoms more difficult to recognise and come to terms with…I only say this because every pregnant woman I have ever heard men talk about…and I’ve heard many throughout my similarly male dominated work environments…always say “their bloody hormones are raging again”, so I assume an increased level that as a non child bearing female, I am previously entirely unfamiliar with. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on this one Lynne.

    • That’s really interesting – and not something I had thought about. I have read a lot about fit/active women having a harder time with their hormones but not having had kids may also make a difference. Though if I had kids, I’m sure I would have been an emotional wreck a long time ago! :o)
      I will be following this blog up as the journey unfolds.
      Thanks for commenting – and thoughts.
      Lynne.

  4. It’s ironic that I fell on this post at stupid o clock in the morning, unable to sleep…again. I went to bed at midnight, tossed and turned for what seemed like an eternity then heard my daughter yelling “mom stop the car” I couldn’t see anything in front of me – was I blind? But instinct told me I was being chased, by the police. I felt really frightened and suddenly awoke in a sweat.

    This is the latest thing to happen to me, nightmares. I’ve had no tests but weeks away from the age of 50 I feel suddenly somehow different. My confidence gets up and leaves some days , I sit at my pc trying to do a piece of work, sometimes for hours and find myself only 300 words into it because my brain has frozen. I ache a lot and socialising seems too much of an effort.

    So, yes…Thankyou for sharing. I know I’m not going insane, at least that is until my next tearful episode where I’ll cry because the fridge needs cleaning or there are too many dandelions in the garden. Lol the joys.

    • Sam, that really touched me and I do empathise. At least you have awareness and acceptance, by the sounds of it (and a sense of humour!). That’s all powerful stuff.
      Be kind to yourself and take care.
      Lynne.

  5. I have spent my early hours watching rubbish on tv praying to drop back to sleep before I have to get up for work which is a godsend but my confidence has taken a bashing over this long process I very often take myself off to the toilet to give myself a good talking too and convince myself I’m being silly but I have realised that I’m in mourning for the person I used to be , I’m working on liking the new me but it’s taking time and I’m not sure I like the new me so the plan is I will make the new me what I want to be, as soon as this hot flush, lack of confidence, tears streaming incident is over

    • Several other women made similar comments Aileen – and they assured me that they actually liked the person they became more than the one they used to be! It’s tough during the ‘mad moments’ but keep going – to have the awareness, acceptance and courage you have is awesome!
      And thank you so much for taking the time to get in touch – I really appreciate it.
      Be kind to yourself … and be yourself, no one else is better qualified to do the job! ;o)
      Lynne.

  6. Found and read this by chance …. And you tick all the boxes of how I’ve been feeling !!!! Now I know I’m not going mad .

    • By chance? :o)
      I love the synchronicity of these things! And I have read that we become far more intuitive and ‘tuned in’ as a result of the mental pause …
      Thanks for taking the time to comment Margaret.
      Lynne

  7. The way to give yourself peace is to embrace the changes.
    A page of life has been turned by an unseen hand and now a different pace of life has emerged.
    Embrace the new opportunities it brings!
    I have, and now a whole new me is emerging!

    • Wise words Catrina – I agree. Once you have the awareness and acceptance then embracing it is so much easier .. and definitely the way to go!
      Thank you for your comments.
      Lynne

  8. Brought me to tears. and No – its NOT the hormones I’m. Talking about. It’s the simple fact of knowing I really am not alone in this God awful struggle. That not liking myself, my odd actions and re-actions is *normal* (for lack of a better word) I do wish I could get a better grip on it however. I mean it is literally ‘work’ to monitor every little negative spark of a thought and ‘turn that frown upside down’. I’ve been ‘Fakin it to make it’ and It just isn’t working like it use to. I lost so much the past couple of years. SO MUCH. I would have never imagined that extroverted,happy go lucky me who had swarms of friends aND a silver lining in every cloud would one day be introverted, isolated and neck deep in the storm cloud that I don’t even bother looking for the sliver lining -’cause I just KNOW it doesn’t exist.

    From being so communicative – finding it so easy to explain to someone how I feel to not being able to make those closest to me understand. And the loss. How I’ve secluded myself from a lot of my loves to wake up and find they are done. Done and gone. Do I blame myself? Or this evil monster? I’m done wondering where it came from and WHY I’m stuck with every s$&t symptom that there is hovering over me. Blame doesn’t help me understand who I have become. Nor does it help others understand what my struggles are. Blaming the pause isn’t going to bring back the loss I’ve endured (or brought on??), or help me understand it any better. It’s a process. It’s a one-day-at-a-time, one MINUTE at a time process of being gentle with myself. With forgiving myself for the unpredictable me. The unknowing, impatient, FORGETFUL, clumsy, negative, exhausted, complaining, emotional me. The self centered, self loathing me that I could have NEVER imagined I COULD Nevermind WOULD become! I have to forgive myself and repeat ‘this time too shall pass’ even if it’s out loud in the busy checkout stand. ‘THAT girl is CRAZY!’ I hear them whisper’ and yes. Yes I agree. THIS girl IS crazy! And I forgive her – for this time too shall someday pass. I cant lose much more. I cant beg or plead with those I loved and cherished so dearly that just couldn’t handle crazy me anymore.Those who couldn’t see this time will pass. Those who had enough of my self centered, forgetful (insert the 17 other gross characteristics here) ways that years, even decades, of friendships I so relied on -that I so needed – that I felt kept me sane. I thanked God for everyday because I knew I was exhausting. So exhausting I could barely stand myself! I never, NEVER dreamt these supports of mine would ever leave me in this black abyss. Somehow they could see ‘this time shall pass’ where I just couldn’t.

    I thanked the Lord above every dreadful tear- filled, confused day for each one of those beautiful souls for believing in me. That I would be okay. I was clear headed enough to know I’m not the friend they had come to know. Who was there when they needed support. To be pulled from their dark days. Bless each of them for their strength – their comfort – their ears and shoulders. Every day.I never forgot to count my blessings for without them I would surely wither up. Thank God they’re patient and believe in the ME that is stuck somewhere deep inside. They believe she will be back. The gal they knew, the gal who they loved and cherished. I had no idea how heavy I was. How heavy the ‘MENTAL PAUSE’ was on them. For it was all a dream. They all left -one by one. I was kidding myself. And as they crumbled and I mourned each one (and still do) I MUST believe. I HAVE to believe that I WILL come out of this. I will learn. I will gain strength. For as dark as this side is is isn’t dark enough for my self centeredness to see no light. I’ve had selfish days and ways but I will not -I CAN not – leave my daughter or granddaughter with that legacy. I must endure. I must endure without my supports. Without my cherished friends. So here I am. To figure this out on my own. To push my deep dark mind aside and dig deep for others who’s struggle are the same. To open doors as plenty have closed. One day – one hour- one minute at a time. There is no other option. I’ve come this far – there’s GOTTA be a reason – and while I search for that reason, I tell myself that this time of unknowing. Of uncertainty, of loneliness “it all shall pass”. Thank you Lynne. For the courage to publish your story. For it has found this one person whom it has helped immensely. For giving me a place to type this insanity – to get it off my shoulders for the first time in years! For this therapy I thank you. For feeling like I’m not alone.

    I will figure out how to keep this blog of yours so I can visit it when Im in need of a friend. Of support. Of a positive spin or a good cry. Thank ALL you gals for commenting here. Someone in this small space of my world – I feel like I’ve found support for the first time in a very VERY long time. Bless you all and thank you for sharing..

  9. Do you know what Daphne, the ‘mental pause’ is turning out to be a bloody (pun intended) blessing! I am not being ‘Pollyanna’ or trite – but it really has opened up the most amazing channels with some extremely strong and fabulous women – yourself included!
    My turn to ‘do a bit of a cry’ when I read your message – it completely resonates and you have shared many things that I didn’t even get around to mentioning – which is why these comments are so important. Thank you so much for that.
    I am continuing my ‘research’ enthusiastically and am turning up all sorts of great stuff, now I know what I’m dealing with – and some shite of course! :o) So I am going to be sharing that as soon as I can process it all (in my head!)
    I have been through some tough times in the past (shared in my autobiography) and have always been determined and lucky enough to get to the point of acceptance, then awareness and then actually being able to embrace them and this is unfolding in the same way.
    It is the lack of information, and therefore understanding, that makes the mental pause such a bastard – even the strongest, most self-sufficient and gregarious woman have shared that they have turned into someone they just don’t know … and worse, don’t like. And I would go so far as to say that it is actually worse for women who have a reasonable amount of self awareness and self accountability because they don’t just ‘drown out the madness’ with alcohol, drugs, affairs or other destructive distractions. We are constantly trying to grasp a tiny bit of comprehension amid the chaos and sadly usually arrive at self blame.
    Trust me – this can make you even stronger, more aware and more special than you are (and that’s not ‘shelf-help’ spiel!) But more importantly TRUST YOURSELF! This is a new phase of your life (I read that so it must be true!) – walk alongside the madness and embrace the magic!
    You are already at an elevated level of awesomeness by sharing what you have! :o)
    And do please keep in touch – we can all help each other along this hormonal highway!
    Bless you for your courage for taking the time to share. x

  10. I have just read your blog and having experienced similar issues – it is great to read that I am not alone!! I agree that this is just the beginning of a new and exciting phase in our lives. We have the opportunity to embrace and enjoy our learning which will increase our confidence. I have started to look at all the avenues I have yearned to follow and never had the chance – I want to write, I want to explore meditation – so now I have the perfect excuse. I am on the cusp of starting my own business. The tears are not over – but at least appreciating the cause does help. Thank you for sharing yours!

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