Emotions vs. Chemistry…

Being a woman can really suck at times, hormones are usually my main culprit and as I am aging words like ‘perimenopause’ and ‘menopause’ keep cropping up more often.  Men don’t quite get the prison that hormones can be.  Post-partum depression, hormones shifts, etc. just throw one on this wild up and down roller coaster and you’re sitting there thinking what in the hell is going on with me?  Why do I feel like this?  Why am I sad when I should be happy?  We reason it away.  “I have so many wonderful things in my life, why do I feel so rotten?”

Depression can do this as well, which is brain chemistry rather than hormones.  Mix the two together and it’s like, well a hellish ride on a rollercoaster without any brakes.  It just keeps running up and down, around, loops and back, repeat.  Not to mention it is all unpredictable, there is little you can do other than wait it out sometimes.  To fight depression, I ride my bike, a lot, because the medications just turn me into an utter and complete zombie complete with drool (do zombies drool?).  Eating better and trying to get enough sleep (which can be erratic when one is depressed) helps as well.

Therapy can also help depending on what is going on with me at the time.  Usually it is just one session, which I think of as a ‘checkup’ in which my therapist listens and nods, makes a few suggestions but both of us know I already know what is going on with me and it’s not as bad as I thought it was.  The second opinion always makes me feel better though.

Hormones however, at age 45, with hot flashes striking in the middle of the night is another story. It just signals that everything is going haywire.  Hormones to me are like prison.  You’re just stuck behind the bars of swaying estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.  I’ve talked to my gynecologist about it and just get told if it gets so bad that I can’t function, then they will look at doing something.  I guess hormone replacement isn’t the magic bullet.  It’s just a fact of life that I have to bear through.   This is also something men find incredibly funny, that is until I give them the death stare and then they quietly step away.  If they had to bear through this, there would be some magic cure I am sure but since I am a woman, it’s like buck it up honey and don’t complain too much, it’s not acceptable.  Sigh….

Then throw in genetic tendencies of being highly sensitive and highly emotional.  After many years of being estranged from my male cousin on my dad’s side, we’ve reconnected through FaceBook and usually have a running commentary of texts between us.  Like me, he grew up with his mom and my dad (siblings) being quite dysfunctional and alcoholic.  Except when my parents divorced when I was 13, I was separated from my dad (he moved back to Missouri and I didn’t see him again until I was an adult) but my cousin, he remained with his mother.  We’ve both struggled with relationships, overcoming the fallout from our childhood, probably read dozens of books, sought different therapies, etc.  We’ve worked hard to overcome our upbringing because though separate, we had both decided we would not carry on the family tradition and be abusive.

As we catch up on each other’s lives, we find eerie similarities both in our struggles and our personalities.  I’ve found myself several times saying, wow, we are so alike, know it makes sense why I feel, do, think this way.  He will say things to me and I’m like “Aha!  That makes sense, that’s why I am this way” and this knowledge takes away the mystery of some of my feelings and actions.  I think he feels the same way.  We can reflect different things back and forth and give different viewpoints that help both of us make sense of ourselves.  The other day, my cousin was having a rough patch and we both tend to blame ourselves, or come down on ourselves for our feelings.  I was driving to work and thought with all we have talked about, I think we fight more with our body chemistry (and hormones in my case) than anything.

The crazy thing about my hormones is one day I can be perfectly content and the next day, I am completely restless and unsettled.  Nothing has changed, my life is exactly as it was the day prior.  Then the next morning, I wake up and everything is sunny again.  I’ve started tracking my monthly cycle on an app and sure enough, a lot of my swings seem to happen around the same times each month.  Well duh, that makes sense.  Depression is genetic as is other mental illnesses.  My dad was diagnosed schizophrenic later in life (I don’t know if he was always this way or his alcoholism brought it on) so I’m always watching myself for anything that would even remotely resemble this but mostly it’s just a little depression and hormone shifts.  It’s amazing though how this affects my thinking.  And when it does, you take this as gospel. “My life sucks, I’m a failure, I’ve done nothing with my life.”  Logically I know this isn’t true but whatever is swirling around in my endocrine system makes me feel this is gospel truth.

People don’t understand sometimes why people commit suicide.  “Oh they had it all, a wonderful family, job, house.  Why would they kill themselves?”  Well when you are severely depressed, none of this matters.  Sometimes suicide is brought on by a deep depression, a chemical imbalance in the body or a medication can cause suicidal thoughts.  I’m not a suicide expert, I’m sure there are many more reasons but in my research and reading on depression, etc. I’ve come across this many times.  In some of my deepest depressions, I was made aware of how easy one could feel like ending their life when on the outside it appears they “have it all”.  You don’t just “snap out of it”.  It’s not so simple.  Just like when you are diagnosed hypothyroid, getting medication doesn’t help you lose weight.  Your body has been altered and the medication just stems the tide of the symptoms, it doesn’t ‘fix’ the problem.

My lesson learned over all this is when I have those mood swings, I have to just take a deep breath and do the best to take care of myself.  That I have to remember this day will pass and most likely tomorrow or the next day, I will feel better.  And to exercise, eat well, get as much sleep as I possibly can as well as just be patient and not come down on myself.  Being kind to myself, having an understanding of what is going on with me helps tremendously as well.  I’m hoping once I reach menopause, this hormonal prison will abate.  From what I have read, it does, so menopause really isn’t something to dread and it doesn’t make you ‘old’ it’s just backwards puberty.  We all know we felt better before puberty hit with its crazy mood swings and other lovely effects.

In closing, I know my emotions may run high for no reason but really it’s just my body chemistry playing havoc with me.  Just take a deep breath and go on with the day.  It will pass.

Chasing Ghosts…

I hate moving.  I really, really hate moving and in fact I haven’t moved for fifteen years.  As a kid, my parents moved us every few years, my father in chase of the next big thing certain that life would be better here or there.  However, moving did not prove to be the magic bullet to overcome my father’s demons and alcoholism.  Then I married and my first husband was much like my father leading us to move nine times in seven years.  When I finally bought my current house in 2000, I was done with moving.  So done in fact that when my current husband brought up moving out of town, I was adamantly against it.  I had moved enough.

Moving would cost us so much more money, a bigger house payment, we would have to sell our current home that still needed some work to make it more marketable.  Plus there are all these years of accumulating things.  My attic, basement and house are stuffed full of just general buying shit, inheriting more shit and just plain hoarding things I think I may use one day.  As soon as we started looking at homes, we started the process of cleaning out the house.  We are now on a first name basis with the volunteers at the mercy mission and they are always grateful for everything we give which makes me feel good.

The other morning, I was up early as my husband goes to work at 0530 on his day shifts and I could not go back to sleep.  I got something in my head where I needed a tape measure except they were all in the garage which is at the end of our lot and not attached to the house.  So I slipped on some flip flops and slipped out into the dark cool morning to retrieve the tool.  There was a quarter of a moon in the west sky and the faint light of the courthouse clock below the moon.  I stood there for a moment and was overtaken by memories of my life as it has passed since I moved into this house.

I married, divorced and remarried while living under its roof.  For eight years I raised my two step-children full-time.  My girls finished growing up here.  Three high school graduations, one college graduation, numerous proms and homecomings.  A swingset that evolved into a firepit area.  Trees that have matured where there had been few when I moved in.  Egg hunts, barbeques, decorating for Christmas, all the plants I bought with my mom or she bought for me as well as hundreds of hours and dollars spent in my gardens.  A messy divorce, a home break in and many years of a bad marriage that finally ended in 2008.  I stood there next to the lamppost with the autumn clematis from my mom’s yard snaking up the black metal pole nearly ready to bloom its white star flowers and felt the ghosts of my former life dancing around me.

Chilled, I forced myself out of paralysis and into the garage, snatched the tape measure and all but ran back into the house, turning on the alarm behind me as if it was a protection against the past.  My life has changed drastically in fifteen years and stayed much the same as well.  I am on the cusp of a new chapter of my life, the one they call the empty nest (though I hate that term).  My second act which is how I prefer to see middle-age.  Everything is changing and as I snuggled back under my blankets for a moment before the alarm would remind me I ned to get ready for work, I was grateful that my husband pushed to move.

One of his main points for wanting to move was there were too many memories in our house, most were good but for me, since he had only lived there seven of the fifteen years, he knew I had a bad marriage and that still hung over the house.  After losing my mom, I was holding onto everything familiar and safe so he had his work cut out for him.  But he was right, we need a new, fresh start.  A place where this next chapter of our life can unfold.  Our closest neighbors are 0.20 miles (I know because I measured it with my truck odometer) to either side with no one behind or across from us.  At least for now.  The sky is open and we can watch the sunrises and sunsets from our back yard.  No more peering between houses or building to watch the sun go down.  It is quiet and peaceful.  Healing I think.

I have no idea what the next chapter of my life will bring.  I plan on when things settle down to start writing more seriously, exploring entrepreneur ideas for side businesses as I always loved working for myself.  Find more ways to show love.  Or just read a book curled up in my recliner while overlooking the quiet fields.  We can start new family traditions, have more space, the kids have room to entertain their friends or boyfriends without all of us having to be on top of each other.  Maybe I will find a quiet nook to write.

Sometimes we have a tendency to burrow into what is comfortable because leaving is too much work.  It’s easier to stay put, stay where we are.  But I am glad my husband pulled me, albeit kicking and screaming, out of my quiet safe burrow.  I needed to be out in the light again, pursue a dream that I had many years ago of owning a colonial home out in the country.  Reminded me that we can own nice things, not that my current house isn’t nice but we really needed more space for years.  I was too afraid of going into to debt to take the risk of owning my “dream” home.  But then I also remembered thinking when my mom was dying, why didn’t she spend some of this money she had saved and saved?  You definitely can’t take it with you.  

So I took the leap of faith that my financial world won’t come crumbling down around me with a bigger house payment and signed the papers for a new house.  I think sometimes we reach points in our life where we need a big change to shake things up, to get us cleaning out the clutter and in a way banishing the old ghosts of our former life.  Ghosts that chase you down the sidewalk early in the morning in the moonlight, the ones you push back into your subconscious as you try and forget.   Or you can be bold and take a new step, start a new chapter, move into a new house, start a new career, whatever it is that speaks to you personally.  

Change isn’t always bad.  Sometimes it’s just, well, necessary.  You come to a fork in the river and you pick a new direction. Here’s to moving… God help me, I own a lot of shit!  

Smart Phone Zombie

Hi I’m Laura and I’m a Smart Phone Zombie.  

The other night, my husband and I went out for a casual dinner five minutes from our home.  Two minutes into the five-minute drive, I impulsively reached for my iPhone only to find the pocket in my purse empty.  A moment of panic hit me until I remembered I had been charging the phone on my bedside table.  The phone wasn’t lost but I felt as if had left my arm at home.  A limb was missing.  Once my heart rate and breathing returned to normal, I thought that is a ridiculous response to something I had once not even owned.

There was life before cellphones, I remember it.  Where people left you messages on a machine that took tiny cassette tapes.  The internet was something in the future and not the lifeline it has become.  So I took a deep breath and thought it’s only for an hour.  Dinner with my husband without my face in my phone was relaxing.  I wasn’t trying to split my attention between him and the cute cat videos were on Facebook.  After dinner, we got ice cream and took a drive out in the country as the sun was starting to set into a perfect summer night.  Since we bought a house eight miles outside of town, we like to drive out to see it, oh about every night.  As if stalking the place will convince the current residents to get the hell out so we can move in earlier than Labor Day weekend.  But mostly because we are trying to make the transition real in our minds and well, we like looking at our future abode.

I opened the car window and let the warm air rush in over me.  Closing my eyes, I could determine the different crops in the fields by the smells as we drove past.  Hay, corn, soybeans.  Spending my earliest years on my paternal grandparents farm in Bumfuk, Missouri, schooled me in the smells of the country.  Cows, chickens, hogs.  These are the reminders of the best memories of my childhood.  Running free over all those acres with my cousins was always a grand adventure in otherwise tedious growing up years with an alcoholic parent.  I had been missing this on all our other drives.  Because I had my head down and my mouth gaping open like a zombie.  Uuuuggrrrhhh…  That’s probably how I sounded to my husband when he’d talk to me or ask me a question to get my attention.

So the next day, I put my phone in a drawer and left it there several hours.  It’s an addiction, much like cigarettes, I found myself wanting to go into the bedroom and retrieve it.  Like for a smoker and you just ate a satisfying meal, but you are craving that nicotine with a vengeance.  As a former smoker, I know what this is like.  You are a slave to an object.  Cigarettes I finally quit.  Now I have to find a way to live with my smart phone as well as my tablet as I can’t completely give them up like smokes.  Tonight my phone has been in the drawer so far for 2.5 hours (who’s counting?) as I’m on mandated hiatus until bedtime around ten p.m.  I keep wanting to go open the drawer and peek at the screen like an anxious kid waiting for homemade chocolate chip cookies to come out of the oven.  It’s pathetic how addicted I am.

I am writing this post on my tablet but I am only allowed to open my WordPress app.  I have to ignore the numbers by my text message balloon icon and my mail.  Whatever is in there, has to wait. No peeking at Facebook either.  I have to admit it is really hard.  It only takes two clicks to cheat.  The other day I was watching a movie my cousin suggested called Local Color about a young artist who mentors with an older Russian artist.  There is a scene in the movie where the young man is painting outside, plein air, and the neighbor woman comments on his painting.  He remarks that he isn’t living up to his potential.  For some reason this statement has stuck with me.  I’m always focused on goals but not really my potential which maybe is part of my problem.  Was I living up to my potential?  No.

One of my passions is writing but outside of this blog, a few articles and stories published, at forty-five I haven’t truly applied myself.  I’ve finished one novel rough draft but can’t stand to go back to edit as the story drags too much.  I’m on my fifth or sixth rewrite of my current novel.  In my mind unless I have perfect conditions to write or maybe I have too much going on, I really don’t write much or pursue my potential.  My smart phone addiction has a lot to do with this.  It distracts me from being productive in so many ways.  My addiction is also a good distraction from working toward my goal of publishing a book, exercising, finishing that home project and the list goes on and on.

We only have so much time in this world.  I realize that I waste a lot of my precious life to my addiction.  After that phone-free drive the other night, I realized I was actually calmer and happier.  While it is important that I am available if my daughters or husband need me, I don’t need to be a slave to the electronic brick.  It’s past time to put that down and get back in the game.  I hope I can find a happy medium of having my phone and not missing out on life or not pursing my passions in life, developing my potential.  I’ll post an update soon…  

There’s a blue moon tonight.  Smart Phone Zombie Out.