Mental Health

Monday, May 24, 2021. 4:30AM

I was happily typing away in my makeshift office (couch, laptop, cat, blanket.) I was thinking about the work I wanted to get done for the week. My thoughts drifted to the question, “Will my youngest scalawag’s teacher be back today after her bout with COVID?” She hadn’t sent an email to say that she would, also hadn’t sent an email to say that she wouldn’t. What did that mean?

Enter my husband, who wanted to remind me that he would be presenting at a youth conference that very morning. “What?” I replied. “What about school?”

“Today is a holiday. Pentecost Monday,” he reminded me. “I need to prepare for my presentation. If the boys need anything before 7:00, would you mind dealing with it?”

(Aside: “Crap. I totally forgot today was a holiday.”) In a super cool, calm and collected tone of voice, “Of course. No problem.”

5:00AM: Littlest scalawag knocks on the door. He is wide awake and wants to read books.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021, 5:45AM

So now I am a day behind. That’s okay, I tell myself. The only time-sensitive item on my docket is to do the sign-ups for the scalawags for the fall session at the Conservatory. Big scalawag had a limited year due to COVID cancellations, but he loved it. It will be little scalawag’s first year starting in the Fall. He has music in his bones. He will not only love it, but will rock everyone’s socks off in the process.

We needed some documents to upload along with our sign up, and I had thoughtfully taken photos of the items throughout the weekend so I could do it on Monday. Since my work time got pre-empted by an unexpected trip to the skatepark, this was now a Tuesday job. I sat down to do the online registration for little scalawag. All of my photos were too large a size file. I started to panic. What do I do? This was now becoming a time-sensitive emergency.

I still don’t know if little scalawag’s teacher will be back yet. I haven’t heard anything. I tried to contact another teacher, not wanting to bother her if she was still sick. The other teacher didn’t know. So there was a 50/50 chance I wouldn’t get to work on this another time today.

Get your s#!t together! I mutter to myself.

There is a knock on the door. Little scalawag is awake and wants to read books. I start freaking out. I need to get this registration done. Indulgent husband is up to his neck in papers to grade and is now behind because of his presentation the morning before. I am feeling a huge bubble of panic start to form in my chest and now I am crying and hyperventilating.

Over an online registration for music school for a preschooler. I am freaking out over an online registration for music school for a preschooler.

There is a reason…

There is a reason that we are most fertile when we are young and go through menopause when we are closer to fifty.

Raising small children and going through menopause at the same time make for uncomfortable bedfellows. As a discrete activity, there is nothing easy about raising small children. Likewise, there is nothing easy about going through menopause.

Doing these two unavoidable activities at the very same time? Zero stars, do not recommend.

In my Ideal Life I am a person who:

  • doesn’t have panic attacks
  • knows how to recognize when hormones are making me crazy
  • is even-keeled
  • doesn’t make a mountain out of a molehill
  • holds her tongue when hormones roiling
  • lets emotional cycles complete
  • has a healthy outlet for anger

Staying on top of my game

I have been tracking my monthly cycles for as long as I can remember. I have read that during different phases of the menstrual cycle we are more or less efficient, or that there are better/less productive times to give presentations, have important conversations. etc. I am fully on board with this research, and have tried, since the scalawags were born and I have been my own boss, tried to adapt and schedule my engagements with an eye on what what part of my monthly cycle I am in.

Enter peri-menopause, during which all bets are off. Irregular cycles, hot flashes and mood swings are the name of the game. When I started to have little pricks of anxiety, I used to be able to make a one-to-one relationship with the day of my cycle. Now, it’s completely random and I pretty much ascribe everything to hormones.

It took me a very long time to trust my body enough to have a baby. When I saw all the amazing things my body was capable of during pregnancy and childbirth and nursing, and then, after all those things, when I was finally able to learn to love my body no matter what it looked like, I experienced something akin to a honeymoon phase with it.

Suddenly, that body that I was finally in love with became what was making me feel crazy. Suddenly, I didn’t trust it anymore. This began causing significant dissonance in my mental health.

Stepping back to look at what is working and what isn’t has helped identify what is “real” and what just feels real because of my hormones.

The Exercise:

The question What is working? is usually answered by my adherence to the habits and routines I have established to make my own life easier. For example, Mise en Place is one of the greatest mental health support/self-care routines I have. It is my five minutes in the evening to retreat, put closure on the day I just had and invest in the next day.

I also joined a Facebook support group for women going through menopause. Having a “tribe” is such a huge support.

The question What isn’t working?, these days at least, is answered by just how bad my hormonal mood swings have been.

Then on to the two bullet points:

Things to consider–most recently it was that I had found a series of articles about ways, both medical and non-medical to deal with these mood swings.

Things to do–I decided to finally go to the pharmacy and ask about, at the very least, vitamins that might help regulate these mood swings, before I get in to see a doctor about it. Also: make an appointment with a woman gynecologist, for heaven’s sake. Enough with these men who have never given birth and don’t know what hormonally induced insanity feels like. Also: Take a bath or do something nice for yourself. Press the reset button.

Until help comes…

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.

Isaiah 40:4

This verse was what popped into my head years ago when praying for a friend who was struggling with bipolarism. I took to praying for him, asking God to lower the “mountain top” moments of mania and to raise up the deep, deep valleys of depression.

I pray this for my eldest scalawag, who wears his heart on his sleeve and is ultra-sensitive.

Now I pray it for me as I face menopause.

Also: I sew. Sewing helps! Creativity helps!

In my Ideal Life, I always keep perspective.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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