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.

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