Archives for category: Menopause

I got home from work feeling fairly committed to writing. No idea what to write about, I tell myself as I cross the threshold after the usual hair-raising commute home in the late autumn darkness. I’ve arrived feeling cross and rather out-of-sorts. The commute? Reason enough, I suppose, but no.

My day started pleasantly. Comfy cute sweater, autumn weather, “good hair day”, pretty nice mood. I am missing my Traveling Partner’s company on his birthday, but when I check in, it sounds like he’s having a pretty good birthday, so I fairly easily let that go. It’s not that, then.

I take a few minutes puttering around the house, ignoring my feelings (maybe they’ll just go away…?) and moving things from here to there in the kitchen, without obvious purpose. I think about making dinner. Choose not to. I fuss a bit more. Consider watching some video, or reading some book. Choose not to. I manage to kill almost an hour that way, just… dithering. Shit.

I pass by my reflection in the patio door, meaning to gaze out at the holiday lights on the houses of not-too-near neighbors. I inadvertently look directly at my own reflection, catching myself in motion as I approach the glass patio door. I lose my smile briefly, my mouth trembles at the edge – a micro expression passes over my face. Distaste? Disgust? Disappointment. I’m fat. I’ll be frank about it. It’s not “just a couple extra pounds” – unless I’m pointing at just the most recent couple pounds, which, I don’t even know where to start. I am feeling a bit discouraged, and a lot frustrated, by how hard this is. Being fat, I mean. I’d like to either be much better at it – meaning, taking really great care of my physical and emotional well-being in the context of good health, without regard to weight, or doing something altogether different than being fat. I’m not there, in either case. I am, in addition to being fat, both unfit and also in health that I struggle to describe as “good” (“fair”? maybe that’s more accurate).

Let’s get this one thing out of the way right off the bat; I’m not saying I don’t have a fuck-ton of ability to make better choices with regard to fitness, health, diet, exercise – all of the things – because I totally do, in spite of pain and other health concerns. I’m just struggling to do all of those things well enough to… to…  to do what exactly? Fuck, why am I doing this? Do I even know?

I’ve realized (a couple times recently) that this has been a sticking point for me. Why am I doing this? Well, and … “this“? What/which “this”, precisely, do I mean? Losing the weight? Is it that? Just that?

I’ve got some health issues that make “losing weight” exceedingly difficult. I also understand that the number that is “how many pounds do I weigh” is not the whole story of my health, fitness, longevity, or desirability. It’s a number, and used in series with a bunch of other numbers, similarly gathered, in comparison or in contrast with each other, or plotted on a graph, it has some potential to provide me with a better understanding of something being measured. Weight loss, itself, is no difficult thing, looking at the math involved; more calories burned over time than calories consumed results in weight loss. Done! So easy. Only… it’s not. It’s not easy. It’s hard. It’s hard, and I’m angry with myself, and I’m frustrated and I feel discouraged.

I’m not much in the mood for “being positive”, and I give myself a few minutes to wallow in a shallow sea of foul temper, frustration, sorrow, self-pity, and general aggravation. I can’t avoid understanding this is “doable” – and I can’t afford to overlook that the doing of it is not going particularly successfully at this particular point. I find myself starting to make excuses, and somehow, rather fortunately I think, found myself “making corrections” – returning my thinking to basic practices that have worked well for other grievous wellness-related concerns in the past couple years. New tools, meet old challenges.

I find myself having some really honest moments with myself about how hurt I was that just at that moment of being past a milestone goal (just a couple years ago) and discovering that the reward I had counted on (in the form of a particular person’s affection) just wasn’t available for me. I’d put in all that effort, all that work, the commitment, the discomfort, the constant fucking fighting myself… and… found myself unnoticed, also unrewarded (and unhappy), when I’d been counting on delicious sensuous intimacy, appreciation, closeness – and validation – I found myself basically alone. It was a hard time. That was just about when I’d started working on letting go of attachment in therapy, necessary, … still hard. Necessary work. It’s taken almost all of my attention, and most of my time, for a while now. I still need to practice, too…

But… as painful moments go, I could have dealt with that one better, and more promptly, instead of letting it fester for years. I didn’t really know how. I avoided dealing with it for… yeah, until like four weeks ago, and then just picking at that scab, until it finally started to percolate up into my mood unexpectedly now and then. I’m dealing with it now. Honestly. Because I can. Because my actual life may depend on it. Because it matters. It matters because it’s hard to pretend I don’t wonder if I am “too fat to fuck”, when I’m interested, but a partner isn’t. Seriously. Still a mammal. Real talk.

…I’m still fat. lol If I want that to change, I’ve got to work “harder” (more diligently? with greater care? with more commitment? something… there are probably a lot of verbs about to just fucking land on me like a cartoon piano on a sidewalk…). I’ve got to work smarter, too. I’ve got to be utterly honest with myself, and more self-aware than is likely to feel at all natural – or comfortable. Vulnerable. Honest. Authentic. Is it going to get any easier? I seriously doubt that it will – but for fucks sake, I should at least be ready to go to my grave confident that it wasn’t a lack of will, or a lack of healthy practices. Not now. Not after all the rest I’ve learned, right? (Does that sound like desperation? I think I’m there.) I have tools.

So. <shrugs> Next steps? No idea – and I may not discuss it in much detail. This is a fairly intimate topic, and in some ways more personal even than sex. I can, though, at least begin again, a bunch of times, and I can apply a number of things I have learned over the past couple years – certainly with greater skill than I have been – and, I suppose this will make some sense – where I am standing now, in life, I’m no longer struggling (at least for now) to be certain whether I want to live at all (pretty confident that I do want to live)… which seems well-timed for this sort of endeavor, more so than while waiting to die, yeah?

Have I been here before? No excuses. Just study, effort, will, practice, failing, beginning again, being, becoming, showing myself compassion, and relying on the woman in the mirror to be doing her best. It’ll have to be enough. 🙂

I don’t suppose it gets easier for a really long time, I’m afraid I’ll fail, but, I’ve got (another) starting point – as good as any – and a new (is it?) understanding that why I’m doing this matters a great deal – enough to change my chances of succeeding at being fitter, healthier, more comfortable, stronger… and yeah, not so fat. Maybe. My results, so far, have varied. I guess I’ll begin again… right here. In this now. Because it matters to me.

I woke three times, all three times feeling well-rested, the first two also entirely able and willing to return to sleep – so I did. 😀 It is Saturday, and I have succeeded in doing the one thing I did plan to do today; I got the rest I needed. 🙂

Good self-care is critical to my wellness. (Yours, too, probably.) I used to suck at it completely, always over-compromising what it takes to be well and feel good by grabbing onto other experiences and choices, for…well… reasons. Reasons that seemed to make sense in the moment, but more often than not were excuses and rationalizations for “doing whatever I want” – or, actually, whatever someone else wanted. The cycle of exhaustion, meltdowns, and poor outcomes was so predictable that for many years I simply called the entire mess “hormones” and put that shit on my calendar without any particularly successful effort to mitigate or improve any of it (because… “hormones”… well… that shit can’t be fixed, though, right? Right??) (Actually, no. It turns out that conflating hormones, mental illness, a lack of emotional intelligence, poor self-care, and plain old-fashioned inconsiderate shitty behavior, assumption making, and personal bullshit leaves quite a lot of room for improvement… so… maybe rethinking your inconsiderate bullshit, at a minimum, is a good place to start? 😉 Just saying.)

I am watching, from a distance, as two relationships in my social network struggle with a partner’s mental illness. Both have been deeply committed loving relationships of decades of mutual affection, support, and shared family life. Both are struggling with the challenge of making love work, while also supporting a mentally ill person’s personal challenge with finding wellness, and juggling all the other elements of family life: work, kids, bills, grocery shopping, and even the assumptions of strangers and the well-meaning “help” and support of friends, sometimes less than ideally helpful, no doubt. (Been there.) It’s fucking hard to be mentally ill. It’s fucking hard to love someone who is mentally ill. The coping skills and rationalizations that allowed these relationships to succeed and perhaps even appear functional before mental illness finally prevented that from being a thing at all are reliably breaking down now that these mentally ill friends are seeking (and getting) treatment that may actually result in wellness. Their partners may not be much help at this point, and in fact, their hurts, anger, resentment, and emotional wellness concerns are reliably welling up and becoming problems that need to be managed. It’s when a mentally ill loved one begins the journey to wellness that everyone else’s rampant crazy bullshit comes to the forefront – along with the rationalizations, excuse-making, justifications, chronically incorrect and untested assumptions, and refusal to respect new boundaries and changes of behavior. It’s ugly and it’s hard. There are literally no “good guys”, and as soon as “the crazy one” begins to practice things that are more sane, the crazy on the other side of the relationship becomes apparent – often accompanied by utter refusal to acknowledge it, be accountable for it, accept it, or change it.

When people who are mentally ill seek treatment, find it, and begin their journey toward wellness, the first set back is often because within their once supportive network of friends and family (“I’m here for you!”) are people who are suddenly not so willing to “be there” if “there” turns out to include being aware of their own bullshit, and their continued commitment to a status quo that it turns out has favored them, and met certain needs that must now be met differently – in, oh, hey, some new healthy way. It’s hard. It’s hardest, frankly, on the mentally ill partner now responsible not only for staying focused on treatment, but now this mentally unwell person struggling with their situation is suddenly also forced to have to provide support to the adult in the room who turns out to be less than ideally adult (and sometimes fully unwilling to even be aware of that).

It’s a see-saw, people. When we love someone with a mental health challenge, over time, we make room for some weird and possibly damaging bullshit that changes who we are, ourselves, a little at a time. When someone we love who is mentally ill seeks help, and begins to make real changes, on purpose, with the intent of becoming well – our own crazy is going to well up and fight back, and our failure to be observant and aware, and also take the very best care of ourselves, for real, is likely to be the first step on the path to seeing that relationship simply end. It will end in screaming tantrums, outrage, defensiveness, accusations, and generally – a lot of needless yelling. The cause I most commonly see as obvious and avoidable is that instead of partnerships fighting mental illness together, partners become adversaries and basically forget all about the actual issue being someone who is sick, and not able to be at their best, who needs help, support, consideration, and compassion.

Reminder: getting a diagnosis does not suddenly make someone who is mentally ill magically able to not struggle with mental illness. They can’t just point to a page in their handy “So you’re depressed?” handbook or their “The basics of living with PTSD” guide and go down a list of steps to “make it all better” for some other person. Fuck you. That’s sort of one of the limitations of being unwell; there is a fairly commonly implied inability to do all the things.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying it’s fucking hard. I’m saying a great many relationships that end over mental illness don’t end because a partner is mentally ill – they end when that person seeks wellness and messes with the stable status quo that has allowed the “well” person certain… sanity privileges, that they must now give up in favor of dealing with their own unaddressed bullshit. No one in a relationship recovers from mental illness alone; everyone must deal with their bullshit. Everyone has bullshit.

When I hit that wall in my own relationship(s) I was fortunate. I chose to move into my own living space, and make a significant lifestyle change for a variety of reasons that overlapped in a useful way. I live alone. Sure, there’s bullshit, and I definitely trip over it frequently – and it’s all mine. My bullshit. My issues. My limitations. It’s also my home, my rules, my way; the failures are mine, and so are the successes. I was able to let go of my attachment to “being heard” by my partner(s), and able to comfortably take time to be heard by the woman in the mirror – because I could recognize, in the silence of solitary space, that this was in fact where the issue rested, for me. I was able to begin to sort out my bullshit from the bullshit in my relationships that wasn’t mine, and let go of trying to fix other people, or a relationship dynamic that was unavoidably damaged by my issues, and work on practicing healthier practices that support my own mental wellness… and having gained a measure of wellness, emotional resilience, and stability, then I could begin to tackle the complex challenges of “making things right” with emotionally hurt partner(s). Please note: I am not recommending my choices to anyone else. I am this person here, and my needs are what they are; I thrive living alone. You are likely someone else altogether, with different needs, and other choices may be preferable for you, personally. I’m just saying – achieving wellness may very well destroy existing relationships, and not through any failure of the mentally ill person, and in no way directly caused by their illness, but totally because they attempted to get well – and wellness did not meet the needs of that relationship. It’s totally a thing.

Prepare for change. Seeking mental health changes things. It’s a thing people know about.

Are you a “bad person” if you can’t stay in a relationship with someone who is mentally ill? I mean, you wouldn’t leave if they broke their leg, right? It’s a complicated question. Just as complicated as “Am I a bad person if I can’t stay in my relationship because my partner won’t respect new boundaries and changes in behavior as I improve my mental health?”

Helpful friends don’t feel any more comfortable than anyone else in the context of watching lovers struggle with mental health concerns. Everyone has their “good advice” to offer. People take sides without ever seeing the entirety of the dynamic. Also hard.

Every bit of all the hard stuff is 100% hardest on the person who is mentally ill, who is trying their damnedest to find emotional wellness – they are the one who is sick, people. I’m just saying. Seriously? Find some fucking perspective. Be there for a friend. Listen more than you talk, and refrain from making assumptions. Be encouraging. Be considerate. Be compassionate. If a relationship is struggling with mental illness, everyone is hurting, everyone is injured, everyone is struggling – and no one is the good guy; we’ve all got our own bullshit to deal with.

Two different relationships, two different sets of circumstances. I find myself fairly certain one relationship has already failed, and wondering if the other might manage to survive this; it’s in how they treat each other. In both cases, I see the mentally ill person doing what they must do to become well.

I notice that I have finished my second coffee, and my playlist just ended. It is a lush rainy Saturday, and I’ve got some important self-care to take care of; it’s been a long week, and I find that my own emotional wellness is very much tied to skilled self-care. 🙂 It’s time to get started on the practices that keep me well. Doing so, and staying committed to them, has changed my world, and also my relationships. I swallow one last bite of oatmeal, grateful my relationship with my Traveling Partner has endured my changes. Love matters most.

I went to bed feeling sort of moody and irritable, and in a lot of pain. I woke smiling. No particular reason, although I suppose sleeping well and waking rested is reason enough. I have learned, over time, the value in enjoying what is enjoyable – and making a point of it – even something as small as waking comfortably with a smile is worth pausing to appreciate the moment. 🙂

I spent a precious hour or so in the company of my Traveling Partner last night. By the time I returned home, I found myself wondering moodily why it didn’t occur to me to invite him to stay over? I miss him greatly. It feels like a long summer ahead of missing him greatly. lol I will surely appreciate his presence even more when autumn comes. 🙂

It’s definitely been “summer” this week, so far. The apartment was hot when I arrived home last night – hotter than it was outside. I remind myself to ask my neighbors to give me a hand fitting the A/C in the window… then I second-guess myself, recalling the burglary in November; the one window this A/C unit will fit in is the studio window facing the park. The window through which a burglary relatively easily gained access to my apartment one rainy November afternoon…so… Do I really want to remove one pane and replace it with a piece of acrylic secured by a tight fit and taped in place, on a window that faces a public park lacking any impediment to the approach of strangers? How much risk is comfort worth? What would stop someone stealing the damned A/C? How annoying that I am even having this mental conversation? lol More consideration seems required.

I sip my coffee and watch the sky lighten with the approaching day. I start my playlist with a track my Traveling Partner shared with me yesterday. As I often do, I find another version that I also like, and prolong the joy another couple minutes. Somehow I wander into live videos of favorite DJs at huge venues, filled with huge crowds, light shows, all of the everything. lol I lose about 20 minutes before I realize I’ve been pulled in; a favorite track follows, and I am crying. I don’t know why. Heartfelt tears without any particular cause, perhaps just celebrating the strange sometimes fragile beauty of love and missing the company of its manifestation in flesh, over my morning coffee. I have emotions. I ride the roller-coaster.

It’s cooler this morning. The breeze through the open window quickly dries my tears; I’m not actually sad, and the tears didn’t last long. The playlist, and the morning, move on. It’s a good moment to move on, and time to begin again. 😀

Hey – good morning. 🙂 Thank you for reading my blog. Have I said as much recently? I actually really appreciate each of you who make time for me, however often that may happen to be. Thought I’d say so, and make this sort of about you, for a change of pace. 😀

I start the morning with music, this morning, beats breaking on the shores of my waking consciousness just about the same moment the sun breaks through the cloudy dawn sky for the first time. I’m smiling and feeling pleased that I remembered I really wanted to say “thanks”. I would write, trust me on this one, even if no one at all read these words; I know this because I’ve kept a private journal since I was quite young. My earliest recollections of asking to make some government-green fabric-covered blank book my own for that purpose suggest perhaps as early as 9 or 10 years old, although I only clearly recall doing so since I was about 13.  So… the words in my head flow like spice on Arrakis. I’d be writing, regardless.

I stopped writing privately, more or less completely, for a couple years…late in 2011, until early in 2014, because I had turned my words on myself as some sort of self-destructive weapon of peculiarly insidious self-harm, and it was so completely damaging that silencing myself was less painful. Without words, my painting erupted in a fierce period of production in acrylic – and emotion. I was a fucking wreck, and I was “coming undone“. I’d hit a wall by December 2013, and a period of bleak and despairing self-reflection suggested it was time to call it, to fold, to walk away from the game.

“Broken” 14″ x 18″ acrylic and mixed media with glow.

I started this blog in January, 2013. I wanted to write. I was rather afraid to just write my own words privately to myself, anymore. I was pretty sure that bitch in the mirror wasn’t looking after me, and I wasn’t sure I even cared… but I was scared of what I’d find in the privacy of my own thoughts, alone. My relationships were in tatters, one of them absolutely abusive on a level that was doing me acute immediate emotional damage daily, the other quite precious to me and promising things I could not reach or make real, because I didn’t even know how to try, or how to “hold up my end”, and I was pretty certain I was, myself, laying waste to the hearts of everyone who got close to me. Possibly on purpose, but I didn’t even know how to sort all that out. I was on the literal bleeding edge of finally going through menopause. I was at the tail end of detoxing and recovering from psych meds I may never have actually needed at all, and that had wrecked my health and poisoned me. It all sucked very much.

“The Price We Pay” 14″ x 15″ acrylic on canvas with glow, mirror, and ceramic shard details, 2013

I went down my list of things to do before I checked out. It mattered to me to attempt to minimize any collateral damage. The first thing on my list was to update my will. The last thing on my list was to see a therapist… one more try, right? “Due diligence.” I don’t really know for sure why I started this blog. I don’t remember. Perhaps in part out of resentment of a moment of cruel and annoying discouragement in a failing relationship (“Well, don’t expect to be able to keep up on something like this every day…” she’d said smugly, “I‘ve been keeping a blog for awhile, and you will probably just lose interest in a few weeks, and don’t expect that anyone will read it…”). It was not, initially, intended in any way as a lifeline – not on purpose. It became one, because somehow it added people who matter to me to my experience of life – and to whom I might matter, in return. That, itself, mattered. It mattered a lot, as it happens. 🙂

If you’ve been reading since the beginning, you probably know about a lot of this, if not explicitly, then by inference. I’m still here. I have real joy in life these days. I live a life built on contentment, sufficiency, perspective, and mindfulness. This journey, this blog, these words, are all part of that – part of me being here, now. There have been days since that dark December full of madness when the thing that kept me tied to life itself has been this blog… and one person I could not bear to let down. So… thank you. Thank you for being here.

Most specifically, thank you for your occasional comments. I’m surprised how often they come on just the right day, observing something that is astute, insightful, meaningful, and cherished long after the day the words are typed into a text box, or shared as a private message via other means. Thank you for being authentically you. Thank you for sharing. I’m delighted when I discover that someone dear to me, that I know in real life, is also reader – I don’t assume anything specific about who reads my blog; I still write for me. I am incredibly moved each time I discover that among you are people I actually know, because I know that you know more than what is written. We have shared some very human experiences, and more than likely if you know me in real life, you have those odd opportunities to see me before/after writing some particular blog post, or understanding just a bit more about the context, the subtext may be far less subtle, the metaphors blunt and obvious – and still you’re here. Holy fuck, that’s… wow. And if you don’t know me in real life, that’s no less profound for me; you read past my spelling mistakes and are never cruel to me about them. You value my words for what they are, and lacking the hints of what is going on behind the curtain still find value in my words. I am moved. I appreciate you.

Anyway. Today – just this for you; thank you. I’m glad you are here. I think of you often. I wonder how your day is going, and whether there is some way I can speak more clearly to some moment we share, in the abstract. I consider you, every time I sit down to write; it’s part of what has saved me from myself, actually. It’s you I consider when I consider my words. I seek to be authentic and real, without being hurtful or unkind to you. You have helped me learn to be kind to myself. 🙂

You matter to me. Namaste

It could be that some of my challenges will be part of my experience for as long as I’m experiencing things. It sucks more than a little bit to dwell on that, so I move on with my thinking as quickly as I can, but without cruelty or dismissiveness. I am human, after all. This morning I woke, and quickly found myself reduced to tears…over… nothing. Nothing whatsoever that has any substance in this moment, I mean. Emotions. Dreams? Maybe.

"The Nightmare City" 8" x 10" acrylic on canvas w/glow

“The Nightmare City” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas w/glow

I woke feeling angry with my traveling partner, which is odd; one of my challenges is feeling safe about, and comfortably expressing, anger in my closest relationships. (It’s baggage that isn’t about my traveling partner, but he’s had to endure me lugging it around all this time.) I woke feeling angry that in our first years married, illness held him back from doing a lot of cool things; we stayed home, a lot. Now he’s well, and feeling fully himself, and he lives a busy life of adventure, going, doing, experiencing new things… and we no longer live together, and these are not our shared experiences. The anger I woke with quickly threatened to become a tantrum, a storm of unrelenting strong emotion knocking me off-balance with hurt feelings, and regrets. The anger became grief and sadness as soon as I let myself feel my feelings with compassion, and recognized the simultaneous feelings of resentment, sadness, and insecurity. My heart cried out “what do we have that is ours?” and I couldn’t answer it – not because there is nothing with which to answer, but because I can’t easily find the answer (through tears, through heartache, through the fog of just waking up, before my coffee…) without considerable thought. I let the tears come; it would be a genuinely sad thing to share nothing with one’s lover, and were that the case, there would be no failure in these honest tears.

It's okay to put some of that down, for now.

It’s okay to put some of that down, for now.

Later, I sip my coffee aware of the authentic feelings at the root of my difficult waking moments. I’m deeply in love with this particular human being I call my traveling partner, and at least for now we live very separate lives. Sometimes that is a painful experience. Sometimes it holds some relief that this human being so dear to me doesn’t have to struggle under the weight of my chaos and damage full-time. Right now, in this moment, I just miss him and find myself wondering rather hormonally what value I have… (Fuck you, Menopause, I’m supposed to be past having to deal with hormonal bullshit!) It’s rather foolish. It’s very human.

Love matters most.

Love matters most.

Seasons change. Over the long summer I’ve come to miss him greatly, after enjoying living with him through the winter. I’m eager to enjoy the autumn and winter months together, celebrating holidays, enjoying the company of friends… but… there is something real here that may want my attention, and getting past the tears I’m aware that most his “go” and “do” activities in the past 2 years have developed in other relationships than ours. We spend very little time together; he’s busy elsewhere. (It’s quite possible the time we do spend together fully meets his needs. I’m not sure I’m ready to ask that question…) I woke up hurting over it and wondering what value “we” have for him. It’s not something to stew over – that’s a fast track to misery. I’ll just ask when I see him again, and he will tell me, and then I’ll know. I’ll be back to work soon… there won’t be time for fussing about how little time we spend together, then; there won’t be time left in the days for it. The time we spend together will be limited to the time we have.

My calendar is very full for the next several days. Appointments. Brunch with a friend over the weekend. Friday night with the guys from my previous work team. My last week of leisure will probably be filled with “getting ready to go back to work” activities. It’s not likely that these will be days filled with sadness or passing emotional storms, there’s too much to do, and life to be lived. I feel some regret that my traveling partner wasn’t available to enjoy more of this time away from work with me… but it was time I took for me, as it was, and it has been well-spent on healing, growing, and practicing good self-care. Worthy endeavors, good outcomes. (So, hey, Brain, stop being such a bitch to me, please?)

A gray dawn greeted me so gently I barely noticed it had become day time while I wrote. I’m not crying now, or even sad really. I’m sipping my coffee, listening to music, and feeling a contented smile tug at the corners of my mouth. I think about other friends. Other loves. Other moments of great joy – or great sorrow. Impermanence is a very real thing, and change is, too. I smile thinking about my traveling partner’s good times to come, and his journey here and there. I’m already eager to hear about it – and he hasn’t even departed. lol He’ll take approximately no pictures at all, but my imagination will fill in all the details in the telling. 🙂

Today I don’t opt into loneliness, and once my tears have dried it’s another lovely morning, heading into another day of living a life built mostly on contentment (and bits and pieces of chaos and damage). Today is a good day to begin again. 🙂