Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Mid-life emotions

Even at the best of times, I have always been an emotional creature (thank you Eve Ensler for recognizing that and writing about it).  Girls and women, we have moods. We have hormones. We have ebbs and flows like the moon, tides and cycles.  We go up, we go down.

When I was in University, I decided one day to try and chart the way my mood went. What I found out surprised me. If I started the day happy, in a good mood and upbeat, by the end of the day I was usually feeling the opposite.  If I started out blue or down, by the end of the day I was feeling more upbeat. Later, when I was trying to get pregnant in my thirties, I was charting my temperature, not my mood. Every morning, the basal thermometer tracked the heat in my body, whether ovulation was happening or not, whether we could conceivably conceive. Hormones and emotions, highs and lows.

Pregnancy and giving birth - well, even more extreme emotions and moods, highs and lows. I was mostly happy and healthy while pregnant (after I got over two miscarriages). My body loved those hormones.

By the time I hit perimenopause, or at least by the time any symptoms started showing I was forty-nine, and my kids were hitting puberty. Ever heard of the hot flash clash? That's when both you and your daughter are cycling at the same time, with PMS and extra flashes of emotional energy hitting each other and bouncing off the walls. She wrote me a card once that said, I love you mommy, in spite of your mood swings!

For some reason, probably my upbringing and the family I was born into, expressing emotion is not easy for me. When I am hormonal I burst into tears easily, but other than that, nada. It used to hit me by surprise a day or two before my period would begin - I'd cry for no apparent reason, then realize two days later, ah yes, the precursor to the period is the crankiness or the teariness.

What is it about emotion that scares us so? We're trained to keep a stiff upper lip, to answer "fine" no matter how we're feeling. Only our nearest and dearest see how we are really doing, and then sometimes they feel the brunt of our excess stress and worry.  At mid-life, the emotional rollercoaster was my biggest symptom of the 'Change'.  I didn't get so many hot flashes, but angry outbursts and weepy moments were legion.  Some of the time I was in a slough of despair - not so bad that I couldn't get out of bed in the morning, but there was lethargy and lack of motivation galore. Swampy terrain, upside down feelings. Not sure of anything except the need for rest, the need to withdraw, the need for lots of down time repairing the overwhelmed brain and emotions. Tuck me in at night, would ya? I'd be in bed at 8:30 pm.

If this is anything like your journey through mid-life, know that the healing is in the feeling. I got lots of help - from a family counsellor for anger issues, from a homeopath, naturopath and Reiki therapist for overwhelm and stress. From an osteopath for shoulder pain. I discovered a gluten intolerance and cutting out wheat improved my mood and fatigue considerably. I began taking iodine for a low functioning thyroid. I'm still working on some health and shoulder issues, but my emotions appear to be more stabilized. More joy is creeping back in, more laughter, more enjoyment and relaxation, less angst. Kids are growing, leaving the nest too.

I highly recommend journal writing as well as talking with your women friends, if you're feeling the pressure. Find out what you need more of, what you want less of. Give yourself permission to rest, take a nap. Pay attention to the signposts on the journey - to your emotional barometers. Keep optimistic and hopeful, it's temporary. Above all, listen to your intuition, and let yourself feel what you feel.


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