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A challenging few weeks

22 Sep

11:10 am

I just wanted to check in to say, hi, howdy, hope all is well with everyone!

In brief, I have been suffering…from pain, like, full body pain. I’ve gone from being an athlete who stands at her desk most of the day, walks the dog (well, with no more dog, I walk myself), AND goes for a jog or swim/soak every day. SURE, that’s a lot, and I do have probably above-average aches and pains. BUT, since last week, the symptoms of achey joints and malaise that I wrote about all the way back in late July–and have only kept getting worse since then–took a turn for the much worse!

Last Tuesday was the last day I could jog–or walk–without pain. I also had some weird neurological stuff going on Friday through Sunday, but thankfully, that’s gone. (I had headache; cognitive difficulties; changes to vision, hearing; anxiety–um, happily, living through many years of active alcoholism and ridiculous hangovers prepped me well to endure feeling like I was losing my mind for a few days!) It is scary and it sucks! I have been trying to not take anything (no pain meds, no CBD) and see how I feel, but every day, I wake up feeling a burning ache in my entire leg muscles, lower back, and joint pain pretty much everywhere.

I thought it was that my old chikungunya infection (from 2014; it comes back now and then, with mild symptoms) had resurfaced, but, that usually doesn’t last for more than a few days; and, this leg muscle pain is definitely not how that feels. I have a hunch/obsession that this is all due to the estrogen patch–strangely, the same week I put my first patch on is the week that these pains started. But, I don’t know. I mean, how can one know? Maybe THIS is menopause and I need more estrogen (higher patch dose). Maybe this is the patch side effects–and I just need to give it more time? I’ve been on it for about 10 weeks, and the pain has just increasingly gotten worse. I don’t know.

I am starting what I would call my “diagnostic odyssey” on Wednesday by going to see a general doctor to rule out some of the obvious–Covid, Lyme’s, maybe some common sources of bacterial or viral arthritis, possibly some common autoimmune diseases, like, RA and lupus. Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions? I am SO new to this menopause and hormone replacement stuff that any ideas would be welcome. All I know is, this cannot be my life for the next 40 or (hopefully) 50 years.

Otherwise, things are going pretty well! I’ve been working steadily since the start of this month, and while I haven’t gotten paid yet (gotta love contracting and/or freelancing!), it’s coming. As for the Covid, we’ve re-opened a little bit here, with restos at limited capacity, some establishments open; bars are still closed, and there might be a universal mask order put in place soon (meaning, masks all the time, everywhere). I have been too busy and in too much pain to really do much in the outside world the past week, but, that’s what I’ve heard/read is going on.

I hope everyone is doing well. I have to say, after joining a few menopause Facebook groups, you guys a refreshingly SANE bunch–so, thank you for being part of my world!

More like my dog

8 Jul

1:14 pm

During these dogs days of summer–I can’t believe we’re well into July; it’s been a steamy one here, too–I’ve been watching my dog a lot. And, man, I wish I could be more like my dog. She is fierce, endlessly patient with herself and her limitations; she is never mean, always loving, and keeps trying and trying, adjusting to every new normal as if it’s no big thang. If it’s sunny, she’s resting peacefully in her spot outside in front of the door; if it’s raining, she wants to be out there, too, getting wet and inhaling the breezes, more alive than ever as she stands guard against enemy dogs who might try to take advantage of the dark wet night’s cover. She never, ever complains; when she is unhappy or depressed about her condition, she gives a nod that she wants to be left alone, and then sleeps it off. Oh, boy, I wish I could be more like my best girl!

Me, on the other hand, I am not patient; I try to take my transitions in stride, but, usually, I let them get the better of me. This past week has been hard, with my hormones not quite right–major heat, constant heart palpitations, anger. The other night, my night heat got the better of me: after about 1.5 hours of sleep, I was jolted awake by some freaking intense heat, burning up head to toe. I turned the a/c down, cranked the fan up, and decreased the temperature setting on my chiliPAD (it’s been a lifesaver these past few years; Google it!). I rushed out to the kitchen, literally gave myself a bath at the kitchen sink, and overheard myself whisper-screaming, This is a living hell; this is truly a living hell. (One more week, then an off-week, and then I start the estrogen patch–we’ll see if it helps.)

My dog just rolls with it at night, which is her worst time, too (panting like crazy, hurting from the day). When I get up at night, she just looks at me like, what? I pet her, smell her ears and feel her fur, and it all just makes me feel better. She helps me get through the nights, which are “dark, and full of terrors”–she’s my best friend, mainly in that she knows more about my nights than anyone can or would want to know. And, still, she loves me!

I am trying to just embrace the days and live free. I’m still off Facebook–and it feels great. I got off in April, didn’t go back on until June, and then went on two more times last night and this morning…which was an excellent reminder that I’m so much better off without it, at least right now in my life. I can’t speak to Twitter or the ‘gram or any other social sties, as I have never been a big user of these platforms.

I do miss certain things about Facebook–I miss my “on this day” feed, which is kind of like a journal that reminds me of the cool things I’ve done on this day in years past; I miss my groups; and I miss certain people, mainly those people with whom I don’t have typical friendships (like, folks I met while volunteering abroad, locals who live in those communities). Most of the other posts fill me with a sense of, this virtual reality is not only not real, but it is designed to keep people stuck in it, wasting time, wasting their actual, in-real-life energy! Increasingly, I see it as a tool to remind me of MY life, but not as a way to actually interact with others. Only took me a decade to figure this out!

I had a job interview yesterday, and I think it went well. The huge plus of job searching as a remote employee looking for remote work is that…everyone is now open to it, if not at least initially. I have been working remote for a long time, years and years; every time I interview for a job, though, it feels like a piece that requires explanation and justification. Not now! And that’s a wonderful relief–it’ll allow everyone to finally focus on the job, not the logistics or politics, you know? We’ll see; it’s one of those jobs that will require a long interview process (at least two more people and then a panel video interview with, I’m guessing, three to six more people), but, it will be worth it if I do land the gig!

It’s a beautiful day here, so I am trying to embrace the wonder; the past few days, I was just angry all day (thanks, hormones), and I took it with me–on my walk, around my boo, maybe even toward my best girl. Today, I’m just trying to be more like my dog: patient, taking it as it comes, and accepting all of things, good, bad, and in between.

Insomnia is a mental illness

8 Jun

11:40 am

And, actually, it IS! According to Medscape:

The DSM-5 defines insomnia as dissatisfaction with sleep quantity or quality, associated with one (or more) of the following symptoms: Difficulty initiating sleep. Difficulty maintaining sleep, characterized by frequent awakenings or problems returning to sleep after awakenings. Early-morning awakening with inability to return to sleep.

What I mean, however, is that insomnia causes mental illness (and that is part of its definition, too, in the DSM). For me, personally, that means anxiety, depression, and relatively speaking, “suicidal” thinking (i.e., what’s the point, everything sucks). I had one of my nights the night before last, and it took almost the entire day for me to rebound, to feel like myself again–to come out of the depths and to be able to think positively.

Honestly, it feels WAY too much like a night of blackout drinking and the next-day hangover from blackout drinking: you’re in and out of sleep, you’re having nightmares, you’re angry–oh, boy, does insomnia make me irrationally angry–and you’re delusional. It truly is horrifying, doubly so because it is like a replay of one of the MILLIONS of blackout-drunk/next-day hangovers I’ve had over the course of my drinking career (which gratefully ended when I started this blog eight years ago). It really does feel like I’m hungover the next day, too: intense anxiety, forcing myself to get out of bed, depression, this sense of darkness around my world and goals, the inability to think clearly, the list goes on and on.

Usually, I experience nights of insomnia caused by perimenopause–sometimes, I can’t fall asleep because I am burning up or otherwise wired wide awake; usually, I wake up after three or four hours sleep and can’t fall back to sleep. This time, however, it was because my stomach was cramping all night long (I have been toying with going on the keto diet; however, I am definitely crossing eggroll-in-a-bowl off my list of things that I can eat–LOL). I had some crazy nightmares, too: one was, the brother who wrote me off (after a bad blackout verbal assault!) was attacked by Trump supporters; the other was, our house, with floor-to ceiling windows looking out onto the ocean, was being flooded by HUGE waves that we could see come crashing down on our roof…and inside was a friend who ghosted me in 2017 (she just stopped emailing and texting, after 11 years of friendship, and I have never learned why). God, it was a dark night!

The next day, yesterday, I gave myself what turned out to be a gift: I went to our local Humane Society and spent the morning walking dogs! It felt really good to get out of my head, outside myself, and just help others, even if those others were fur-balls! Later in the evening, I went alone to our closest beach and took a sunset soak. It gave me the chance to remember how many times volunteering my time, helping others, actually saved me from myself. Getting outside myself has been what has saved me more than once from depression, anxiety, and everything that comes with too much self-focus.

It’s Monday, and while the protests are still going on and the COVID is still going on, I have to get on with my life. Which means, rebooting my (professional) writing portfolio and starting to send out ye olde resume. I don’t necessarily believe I won’t get my job back, but…it’s good to consider the possibility that I won’t.

I am eight weeks Facebook-free today, and I feel pretty much great about that. I do miss my actual friends’ posts, and I know that I am missing out on some events and “in the know” activities; however, for the most part, I believe I am not missing anything and I feel better about myself, calmer about the pace and progress of my days. I keep thinking of a few friends especially, wondering how they’re doing; otherwise, most people are simply not on my radar in that way (and, I would venture that most of anyone’s friends on Facebook are not really their friends, per se, people whose lives they’re actually interested in keeping up with). Anyway, I will keep going with it; I might not deactivate as I said I would, but I’ll probably stay off for a while longer, at least. The benefits are just too good!

Our dog is hanging in there; it was a bit sad to walk such fiesty pups at the Humane yesterday and come home to our “old” girl, barely able to hobble around for a few minutes outside. On the bright side, she IS still able to get herself up and down, and she IS still able to walk outside to pee–all good, right? I have come to accept her aging, the process of her aging, a wee bit more with every passing day. It’s part of life; I just wish it wasn’t part of HER life–haha.

Blessings, all, for a good week. Stay strong (or not); either way, you got this.

Craving carbs!

1 Feb

6:21 pm

All I want is bread.  And cake.  Chips, bread, cake, all the carbs!?  All.  The.  Carbs.

Yet, I know I can’t do that.  And, I know I’ve been working WAY too hard these past years, literally, to lose a few pounds around my waist–way too hard to let it slip away with a few untimely carb binges.  But, I want.  I want, I want, I want!  Gah!

It’s been about five months since I started on a low-carb diet–well, let’s be honest, a “less carb” diet; an ATTEMPT to eat LESS carbs than I have been eating (at least since I got sober!).  And, by carbs, I mean specifically bread (I’ll allow wheat bread once in a while, but it’s an arbitrary distinction), white pasta, and well, sweets, like actual sweets (cookies, cake, etc.) but also “sweets,” like anything that is a high-carb bomb (juice, fruit, um, pretty much everything that is not a vegetable and/or comes in packaging, it seems).

UGH.  It is making me cray cray, this CRAVING for bread, carbs, all the carbs!?  Bread and butter–YUM.  And, it seems, the more I try not to eat carbs–and it’s been five months of intentional cutting back–the deeper the craving gets.  Last night, I gave in and ate pita bread and white rice and like, four freaking oatmeal raisin cookies (and, of course, the topping to the rice, which was homemade chana masala–good stuff).  Only to feel like a wobbling, dizzy baloon before going to bed and well, the same after waking!  And, today, it’s happening again:  I cannot stop eating all the things, especially chips.  I got the yeast out and was trying to decide between making naan or regular white bread when I was like, gurl, what are you doing?

The reason I started on this whole low-carb thing was because, last year, I went away on a trip for about 10 days, during which time I was sort of forced to drastically change my diet–and my perimenopausal night heat (burning up, dry chills, no sweating) went away!  I mean, I stopped the bread, the pasta, the snacking, and the sweets; I only had one small cup of hot coffee in the morning with my breakfast (which consisted of eggs and rice and fruit)–and, no night heat!  For the first time in like, years.  SO, I tried to keep that up when I got back to the States, and I thought the craving would get less as time went on, but…it seems to be getting worse.  Like I’m in a carb deficit and the sinkhole just keeps getting bigger and bigger, pulling me under…!  Haha.

I gained weight years ago after quitting drinking–um, I started eating instead of drinking–and it’s been a struggle to not dive into every sweet, carb, or boredom-filling whatever since then.  So, it was a great feeling when I went away last September for a week or so, to not only feel better but lose weight.  Now, it seems, the cravings for carbs are stronger than ever–it’s almost painful, actually, like my belly is a yawning chasm, like my mind is in a constant state of semi-anxiety over not having carbs in me.  I mean, I do have carbs once in a while, but really, the pasta is out since it makes me feel bloated now, and the bread and cookies and cakes and juice, and all that–I am trying to minimize it.  UNTIL…I just cannot and I binge.

I’m convinced that the severity of my perimenopausal night heat is made better by not eating carbs (which cause inflammation and other stuff, I have to assume, related to hormonal fluctuations).  And, well, not eating after a certain hour.  Like, if I eat dinner late, or eat in the middle of the night (out of anger or anxiety that I can’t sleep!), I feel horrible the next morning, like that food has not budged!  I try not to eat late anymore, but that doesn’t always work out.  I TRY not to eat carbs, but as you can tell, that isn’t always easy.

Anyway, feeling pretty good today aside from that.  Any other ladies experience the same (or different) off carbs?

Quiet on the outside…

19 Jan

6:36 pm

…but raging on the inside!  Haha.  Not really.  Though, I thought this year was going to be it:  the year of easy days, no mood swings, no overthinking, no dreading my work or sweating the process of it all.  I can’t believe we’re 19 days into the new year!  I usually feel pretty good, and motivated; past few days, not so much.  Such is life.

Our dog is still going strong, though, her back legs and hind area are definitely weaker than they were a few months ago.  For now, she’s managing, maybe even thriving a bit more (we are tapering her off the high dose of gabapentin she was on, and I think it’s helping her to feel stronger and more alert, more like her old self).  She peed in her sleep last night, though, and that sucks; we’re used to her not being able to control where or when she poops (she just can’t move that well or that fast anymore), but not this.  We’ll see; I hope it was a one-time thing…

Past few days, I’ve been angry, and feeling sensory deprived.  I am pretty sure my anger is simply related to the progesterone supplement I take–I feel angry after I take it a few days in a row (and, well, um, the fact that I have this night heat, and I am in this state of flux/confusion/not knowing who I am or who I am going to be, and I just don’t appreciate it).  I think that is the number one reason why perimenopause is not talked about:  society won’t let women age, but also, for me, I don’t WANT to let people (even other women) know that I am aging, that I can’t take the heat (literally), that I am anything BUT who I used to be, which is young, sexual, productive, I guess.  I don’t want to let it stop me from being me, to change me that much.  And, the further along I go, the more I see just how little attention it gets (even my supposed menopause-specialty gynecologist was kind of like, gurl, it happens, as she ushered me out–two years later, and three meds later, I am still burning up every night).  I don’t know what I want or expect from others, but I do know that this night heat is no joke.

I have to admit, the burning-up-at-night thing is getting better.  And, I’m rarely brought to my knees anymore over it–haha.  I just accept, and exhale, and move on, shivering and feeling oh, so pained!  It’s getting better, though; I mean, it’s not as intense as it was two years ago, or a year ago, so that is something to be extremely grateful for.  It still lasts from 8 pm to 3 am, or longer–I burn all night, I don’t sweat, and it is not a “flash”–but it’s not that bad.  Maybe I’ve just gotten used to it; I have definitely learned to curtail my reaction to it, to embrace it as somehow normal–that goes a long way toward making it seem better.  It’s all relative, I guess.

Anyway, I could go on and on about that, but it really is just a passing phase.  I get the sense that my symptoms are WAY better than some women’s; then again, I don’t know if I had or have brain fog, or had or have abnormal mood swings–I lived through at least a decade of mind-bending wine hangovers, so, my “normal” was brain dead; my “normal” was like, psychotic-break-level mood swings.  When I stopped drinking, I was like, omg, maybe I’m not bipolar.  And, when I started taking the pill for my perimenopausal symptoms at the end of 2016, I was like, omg, maybe I didn’t have to suffer through 30 years of crazy PMS mood swings (I got my first period when I was 12; I never took the pill until I was 42).  How I feel now is always going to be 1000 times better than how I felt the past decade of alcoholic drinking!

Anyway, that’s that.  Anger from the meds or just general impatience (I am still working on that, believe it or not–haha).  I feel agitated toward my “calling,” which is writing.  I like having written, let’s put it that way!  The blank page does not bother me as much as it does others, and for me, editing small quantities of writing is not bad.  It’s planning, structuring, implementing long documents that gets horrendous–there are writers of books, I guess, and then there is everyone else. Writing is also extremely analytical, and, you’re doing it in a state of sensory deprivation most of the time (I love nature, the sights, sounds, smells of the world around me; writing is not that!).

And, so, it’s for these mundane reasons that I have been thinking of drinking:  I want to feel something; I am bored; my mind hunts for new terrain.  And, that’s when drinking-thinking comes in, to fill that desperate void:  Well, why are you doing this to yourself?  No one cares if you drink; everyone ELSE gets to have fun, to relax, to refresh their minds with wine (or drugs)!  But, for me, I know it would not be just one glass–still, after all these years, I know this–and, I think having a hangover and being unproductive the next day would just boggle my mind and make me feel worse than I can even imagine.

So, onward we go, plugging toward the goal, the light, the future perfect (that’s a tense!).  But, nothing is ever going to be perfect, or in place, or without struggle; so…finding the joy along the way, and the ability to let go of what does not serve you, which is anger and perfectionism and the desire or need to control the bad feelings; I guess that’s what the real lesson is, for me anyway, this year (this life).  I guess.

Making assumptions

9 Jun

12:20 pm

You know how everything in years past came back to drinking and getting sober?  Well, these days, everything seems to be coming back to perimenopause–and you know what?  I am no longer going to be afraid or apologetic writing about it on this blog.  It’s a HUGE reality for me, for women in general, I have to think; and that means it occupies a lot of headspace and takes its toll in many areas of one’s life!?

Perimenopause.  Menopause.  Getting older.  Women’s bodies.  HORMONES.  Of course, I GET it, I get why people are afraid to talk about it!  Women’s issues are taboo, women’s bodies are not our own; we’re not supposed to talk about them lest we start asking questions and become, oh, I don’t know, advocates for our own health!  Really, I get why everyone, women included, are afraid to broach the subject in public forums.

What I don’t get is why they won’t talk about it even in private!?  I mean, do women have THAT far to go that even women themselves won’t talk about it, as if it’s something to loathe, be afraid of, be ashamed by?  You know, it’s not just my own gynecologists, who have brushed me off or implied that I should just get over it, get on with it; it’s my women friends who have gone through it or are going through it, and they either don’t want to talk about it with me/at all, or they try to pass it off as something that isn’t, well, kind of, sort of horrible.

I mean, you are fucking breaking out into a cold sweat before my eyes, and you’re still smiling as if it doesn’t bother you?  I get being positive and all that, but what about being real?

Beyond the physical changes, it means you’re getting old–and, I refuse to believe that I am the only woman who primarily associates this (at least at first, until I get a grip on getting older), with losing my sexuality and losing my youth and all that that entails in our culture!?  I really wish that were the case, actually; I am used to my own paranoia, and it’d be great to know that I am, indeed, the only one who feels this way.  BUT, I really, truly doubt it.

See, I refuse to hide the fact that this is driving me a bit crazy and angry and mad and frustrated and sad; that I’ve wondered if this night heat is THE THING that is worth starting drinking again over (it would be much easier to pass through the three to five hours of night heat if I was drunk); that I’ve always known that the pill offers relief but that it’s SO FAR from matching what is usually happening in a woman’s body that it might well be partly causing my lack of optimism and sometimes-paranoia.

Lately, I feel like I have become a bit paranoid.  For example, I wonder if my coworkers don’t like me, or are annoyed by me.  I am chalking it up to things beyond my control, and to politics–I don’t truly believe that my work is not good.  At home, I have been wondering if my love no longer likes me as a person–again, or course, I truly don’t believe that, and I know that he’s going through some tough transitions now, as am I…

I don’t want to make assumptions anymore, though, about what people want to hear about or talk about–if you’re still reading, that means you do want to hear about this and I’m glad!  I partly attribute this sometimes-paranoia to my hermetic lifestyle–making assumptions involves getting inside your head and not coming out for reality checks, which is usually helped by interacting with friends who normalize your tendency toward outlier (extreme, probably unhealthy) thinking and behavior.  I need more friends.  I need, in a word, to get out more!

I won’t assume that you, my awesome readers, don’t want to hear about my thoughts on perimenopause.  I won’t assume that my man doesn’t like or love me because he told me not to step in horseshit yesterday on our hike (haha–it sounds funny now).  I won’t assume that my coworkers don’t like me because one or two of them have personal issues and are using my writing to play politics in the workplace.

Onward, toward clarity and optimism, I hope.

(I have to say, my burning up at night has gotten a lot better after starting a new pill, with higher dose estrogen, and after making it through the first 10 hellish days on the pack.  I hope that it just keeps getting better from here on out.  I do turn 45 this week–a part of me realizes how young I am, while another part just wants this phase to be over with!)

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