Time for Change…

The quandary with being mid-life is that you’ve lived a lot of years but also you (hopefully) have a lot of years ahead of you.  You also realize though that you don’t have your entire life in front of you either and that your days must start counting for more.  I think this is sometimes called a mid-life crisis but I think for most people it’s just a time to really stop and check the path they are on.  Stop running on autopilot, step back and say, is this the life I want? Is this what I should be spending my precious time doing?  It’s a self-check moreso usually than a crisis.  I have yet to want to buy a sports car, get a really young husband and well, I guess the female version to the combover is to dress and try to look like a teenager to the point you look ridiculous.  I think a lot of older women are not accepting looking like little old ladies and that’s great but you have to do it with finesse and style, not copy your 16-year old daughter.  

Yesterday, a young girl in our community died days after her attempt at suicide.  Thousands of people had been praying for her and her family but it was not enough to bring upon a miracle.  This girl is part of my family doctor’s family, his two older sons graduated with my daughters and since he’s been my doctor for ages, his kids essentially grew up with mine.  Not that we were close, they didn’t invite me over for dinner but in a small community like ours, everyone knows everything and you interact through many different channels.  

I can remember her as a baby, toddler, young girl and a teenager.  She was a beautiful sweet girl with seemingly everything a girl could want at least from the outside but yet this tragedy occurred.  Of course the rumor mill is running rampant with why she may have done it, but the only person that truly knows is gone.  People will judge her parents and make assumptions but the real truth is, this could happen in anyone’s family.   So sit down and focus on what is your life.  Say a prayer of peace and comfort for the family instead of stirring up the gossip. 

Suicide is the one thing, unless you’ve been on the verge of committing it yourself, it’s easy to stand there and say “how could she do this?” Essentially for many different reasons, you come to a point where everything feels hopeless and you feel the only way out, the only way for peace is death.  This could be from a mental cause such as depression, chemical imbalance in your brain, drugs (both prescription and illegal) and so on.  The Cherokee Indians had a saying that roughly was “Do not judge a man without walking in his moccasins” or the more modern “walk a mile in his/her shoes”.  Have some empathy, don’t just stand there and judge.  Try to see what it might have been from someone’s view. 

In my mid 30’s, I had a bought of depression so bad that I would wake up and then curse the fact I hadn’t died in my sleep.  It scared me enough to get treatment which was prescribed by this very Doctor.  He gave me Zoloft and finally that urge to die subsided.  It’s not always “just in your head”, mental illness many times is physiological and not just psychological.    You can’t “snap out of” depression.  It’s like telling someone with a broken leg to just think positive and it will heal.  Yeah it may heal but maybe not heal right. You may walk with a limp the rest of your life because it needed set.  You get the idea.

On the news yesterday that this girl passed away, I was sitting there thinking about my life.  Yesterday was also the two-year anniversary of my mom’s death.  I was feeling reflective anyway but this tragic news pushed me even deeper into thought.  The last few years especially, I have had time to work on myself, things that happened to me years ago and their effect on me today was forefront in my life.  If you read my blog consistently, you know I’ve talked about self-esteem issues, body image, mid-life, grief and a whole host of topics that are relevant to me as well as many other people’s lives.  The greatest complement I have received from my writing is when someone thanks me for being candid enough to write about a hard subject because they feel less alone and I’ve helped them in some small way. 

The thing about death is that it reminds you to live.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years working out my grief, working out issues from years ago because I either pushed it down or I simply didn’t have time for myself.  This is the first time in my life since I was a teenager that I have been able to really focus on myself because I was no longer actively taking care of someone else.  Having all this time to think was both good and bad.  Just the other day I wrote something about a traumatic experience that happened when I was 14.  It was one of those times where I started writing it in my head first and I needed to get it down on “paper”.  When I told a friend about it, they said why do you keep reliving this stuff?  Me being me, I was annoyed at first with what they said.  I am a stubborn learner at time and yesterday it finally clicked with me what they were trying to tell me.  

Yes I could use my traumatic experience to reach others and help someone else but by doing so, I was keeping the past in the present.   The beauty of youth is you don’t have years of the past to ruminate on.  You live each day looking to just that day and sometimes toward the future.  I try to be mindful of each day and live in the present but I tend to be all over the board.  I have no clue what I want in my future to be other than a happy, healthy family, be able to live comfortably, finish my degree and publish a book.  I don’t have the fiery, motivated goals of my youth and sometimes that bothers me.  I have no idea why, maybe because I feel like I am not “doing enough”.  It seems even more imperative now at the age of 46 that I should be “reaching for some big dream” before it’s too late.  

As I sat there alone thinking about my mom and this young girl’s life being cut too short, I realized I need to live for today and stop worrying so much about the future or achieving some great thing.  I simply need to follow my heart and stop worrying so damned much.  I need to let go of the past, I have worked hard to get where I am today and be the person I’ve become.  I’m proud of the person I am today even if I’m not always proud of my past life.  I’ve made many mistakes, my life was a train wreck when I was younger but so what?  As the 1000 memes going around social media say,  you get a new start every day or something to that effect.  Really all I need is a change in focus and attitude.  It’s that simple. 

In the effort to live each day to the fullest and live in the present, I’ve decided to suspend my blog for the time being.  I need some time to refocus myself and just live my life by embracing each day as a new opportunity.  Focus on spending time with the people that I love the most and make me the happiest rather than putting energy into those relationships that do not add much if anything to my life.  I am going to let go of the “should of’s” as well.  I should do this, be this or achieve this.  This is a lot of white noise that confuses me and makes it difficult for me to enjoy life.  In essence, I’m going to hit the “reset” button and start new again.   Maybe I will pick up my blog again with a different goal in my writing.  We will see.  

Go live for today, do what makes you happy and don’t look back.  Find your passion, take a chance and live your dreams.  There is never going to be the perfect day for it, do it today, start today.  Live for today, you have no guarantee there is a tomorrow.  Be prepared to fail and hear “no” many times over, but don’t give up.  The one difference between the people who achieve their dreams and the ones who don’t is usually the fact they didn’t give up and not because they nailed it right from the start.  

So in conclusion, this blog has been a wonderful journey which forced me to get myself and my writing out in the public eye.  I am grateful to all that have read it, who have commented on it and who might miss it just a little bit.  I am going to focus on my dream of publishing a novel.  Wish me luck!  Or better yet, wish me tenacity to stick it out and get over or around all the challenges I will face (mostly being too self-critical of my writing – ha…).  Deep breath and first steps…

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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.