Archives for category: Menopause

Today’s emotional weather forecast seemed sunny, clear, and breezy. Forecasts are not always accurate. Reality is not always according to plan. Moments are what they are. This moment? Me, now? Partly cloudy with hints of storm clouds on the horizon, which is to say, I’m in kind of a shitty mood. What is most aggravating about that, at present, is that there is no real reason for that to be the case, that is at all obvious to me. I’m feeling rather cross, and I’m not up for bullshit, today. :-\

I had a lovely walk. It was hard, though, to focus on the surroundings; the trail was rather crowded, and with a lot of families and children. So, while the healthy exercise was… healthy… it was also unfortunately very “people-y”, as well, and thus not at all what I was going there for. My ankle ached the entire distance. My headache joined me about midway, and has been loyal to a fault ever since.

Yeah, buddy, I get it, I really do.

I arrived home after some errands, and my walk, and enjoyed a bite of lunch with my Traveling Partner. He didn’t hang out with me very long, and although I “feel fine” in every practical respect (aside from this aching ankle, and my persistent headache), I guess something about my vibe just feels off, from the vantage point of trying to hang out with me. I didn’t fight it. He headed to his shop. I ran another errand, came home, and had a pleasant shower. Still have this headache. Ankle still aches. Back has started to ache, too. All quite “within specifications” for my day-to-day experience of wellness and relative comfort, and there’s nothing much to do about any of that. I take a handful of ibuprofen and assure myself it’s got to do something. My partner had pointed out that I sounded “stuffy”, so I take some allergy medication, too. Whatever. Maybe something will help somehow.

…I honestly just want to relax…

Tears well up in my eyes. I don’t know why. I’m suddenly hit hard by a surprisingly visceral awareness of loss… the people who are gone… why now?? I am, for a moment, too aware that I’ll never send my mother a birthday card again. Never pick up the phone and talk to my father, or grandfather. Never grab a beer on a weekend with old buddies, now long gone. Never “get closure”… oh, so many fucked up things fit in that bucket. What a weird, hard, sharp, fierce, painful emotional moment this one happens to be. What the fuck?? Tears begin streaming down my face. This would feel like “hormones” if I were not 8 years past menopause. What kind of problematic nonsense is this shit??

I get it. I’m grieving. It’s been in my dreams, too. I don’t really know what to do with it, honestly. The timing is most peculiar, and detached from any relevant experience now. Maybe the pandemic and it’s weird vast isolation and distancing is working on my mind – maybe I just feel “lonely” in spite of being so fortunate as to spend the pandemic with my partner, loved and loving? It could be that. Wouldn’t that be enough?

…I don’t even like spending time around people all that much, so…um… whatever this shit is? Not okay.

I sigh out loud in this quiet room. I really just want to sit down and write my Mom or my Granny a long letter about oh so many things, and maybe even tucking in some photographs (remember when those were a physical thing, to hold in one’s hand?), or some small sketch or trinket or pressed flower. There’s no one to receive that letter…

And it’s time to begin again.

…Unexpectedly, just at the point of typing that period, my Traveling Partner calls to me through the closed door, “You should come out to the shop!” I reply “Okay”, and as I open the door, we meet in the hallway. His warm brown eyes scan my face attentively. I don’t recall if he explicitly asked how I was doing, but I do remember saying “I’m in pain, and I have a sad” and a handful more words, and a few tears, tumbled out. I remember saying something about “my bullshit” and “please just ignore it” (I’m too familiar with how it can spiral out of control with any measure of authentic kindness being shown, and I’m really not going for that.). I remember his hug. His reassuring presence. He shows me his finished work, and how well the CNC is working. It’s pretty cool, and a definite mood-lifter. After all… what are new beginnings for, if not to connect, to share, and to find real joy? So… yeah. I’m trying to put my bullshit aside, and enjoy these moments. There really isn’t any reason not to, and so many reasons to embrace every bit of joy life provides. I’ll guess I’ll go do that. 😉

An emotional storm of unexpected magnitude blew in from deep within the darkest recesses of lingering chaos and damage. Maybe it’s my “fault” – it nearly always feels like it must be. I am, after all, the broken one in many interactions. It is, at least, how I often see myself. It feels, in such moments, as if “it” (meaning my experience of self in the context of my own life) is inescapable. An ugly tantrum. Hurt feelings all around. Yelling. My explosion of emotion. My tears. My apologies.

…This shit again??…

I can’t seem to hold on to the slippery recollection of how rare this really is these days, post-menopause. I’m reluctant to point to “hormones” as a root cause (can’t I do better than be a slave to biology?), but in acknowledging a recent rare use of HRT, I find myself wondering.

It’s frustrating. Small issues blow up and become seemingly larger than life. A moment of frustration develops into a cesspool of futility and despair. I end up weighed down by baggage I thought I’d set down a long time ago. Fucking hell.

Breathe

Another coffee. Another moment. A break to stand in what remains of the morning’s sunshine, watching the storm on the horizon approach as if to mock me. Nah… It’s not that bad. I’m okay right now. I’m fortunate to be in a partnership with someone who loves me even beyond moments of tears or madness. It’s fucking hard, though. Having to apologize, again, while sweeping up shards of emotion, and mopping up tears… it’s not on my list of favorite experiences. I could do without it. I don’t mean the act of apology or experience of remorse and contrition – I mean having put myself in a position that earnestly requires it. That sucks. It’s very human. I still don’t like it.

My Traveling Partner doesn’t bullshit me when he’s angry, or hurt, or cross. We’re pretty real with each other. We find our way to a more comfortable place, emotionally, pretty quickly. He understands the trauma history, and the lasting damage. He has his own. We’re in this together, more than many people understand to be. It’s enough, generally, and fairly often it’s far more than enough. Doesn’t make a difficult moment less difficult in the moment, sometimes, although we do both try.

My tears dry. The ringing in my ears left over from my … whatever that shit was… will likely last the day. I mean, the tinnitus is always there, it’s just a bit worse right now. That’ll pass. So will this gray fog of ennui and anhedonia. I remind myself not to confuse these states as having any sort of permanence, and to allow them to pass as if clouds on the horizon. I remind myself they are only the chemical aftermath of strong emotions, and not to be taken personally.

…We begin again.

Strange day. Quiet, slightly sad “celebration” of moments, as I packed up all the Giftmas decor and put it away for the year. Uneventful. Fairly routine. It’s been a generally pleasant day spent on “endings”; most new beginnings are preceded by an end of some sort. It’s a thing.

I feel a certain heaviness and sense of ennui. I’m a little bit blue. I’m okay – and even okay with my emotional weather. It’ll pass.

It’s a gray, vaguely wintry day, chilly without quite being cold. Cold enough to be unpleasant to stand around outside. Nonetheless, I did spend some minutes outside on the deck, puzzling over rebuilding my garden after the scorching and neglectful summer. I fed the squirrels. Tidied up a bit.

The afternoon has turned quite gray and dismal, but I’m not certain that’s truly the weather, today, or just the weather I’ve brought along, subjectively. I would nap, but I’m not tired. lol I feel preoccupied, and also lacking in content. Or contentment. So human. As I adjusted the lighting more for evening, I firmly and purposefully (without intention) stubbed my toe on the floor lamp (has a foot switch) that I broke my toe, shearing much of the nail from the nail bed. I created some brand new obscenities for the occasion, never before uttered. lol It is still painful and throbbing some hour later, and has turned a rather amazing shade of deep violet, almost black.

My foot is cold from the ice pack resting on it. I consider the fragility of toes, and how amazing it is that so often we can still walk on the affected foot, even put weight on it. I guess, easily breakable toes are less bothersome or deadly, if one can still get around on them.

I continue to sit with my elevated foot, iced, laptop precariously balanced on my knees. The foot isn’t hurting so much now. Now it is more obvious that the impact also jarred my (bad) ankle. Shit. That’s likely to hurt more longer. I let go of worrying about it; it doesn’t help with anything. I give the evening ahead some thought, and begin again. 🙂

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.