In Which a Womyn’s Circle Would Probably Have Been Helpful
For a year or so now, I thought I was going crazy.
I know this sounds like one of my typical hyperbolic post starts, but it’s not.
Sporadically, I would have a day to two days where I would just lose it over some insignificant little thing, blow it all out of proportion, get angry at myself for flipping out (but this would just stir the emotions even more), withdraw from the family (both because their very presence made it worse and because I didn’t think they should be forced to be around the ugly soul I had become), lose sight of any way out of this pit, … and then it would just disappear. The mood would be gone, life went back to normal, and the family acted as if nothing had happened.
(As an aside, I don’t think they were “acting”. In a discussion this weekend, it became clear that they don’t remember, for example, the awfulness last December when I had one of these episodes, or the details of other ones; I mean, the Consort remembers these episodes, but not the activities I practically ruined with my outbursts; the girls probably just chalk it up to how moms are supposed to act, god help them.)
Yes, a part of what I experience does sound like depression, but isn’t depression more of a constant in your life? It doesn’t ebb and flow on such a short scale; the switches were so freaky fast (I could see one of these episodes coming on, from time to time, but I wouldn’t be able to stop that train). And some of the problem was the strength of the emotions I would feel. Sometimes, like this weekend, waves of fury (and I do mean waves — I could feel them swirling up my body) would engulf me. In the midst of it I would feel proud of myself that I could hold it together enough not to give in to the urge to smack the child whose rudeness had so pissed me off; unfortunately, what seemed “better” to my furious mind included saying some really mean things to her.
When the Consort called me on it later that evening, I could see that he didn’t understand that it could have been worse than some mean words. And that night I cried myself to sleep, thinking that it would probably be better for everyone if I just disappeared. And as I thought that, I realized I needed to do something about this. This was getting out of hand. I made a vow to myself when I was a kid that I would NEVER use that threat with my children. NEVER. That is a low blow to make to someone who has no real power to do something about it. I hadn’t, and I wasn’t planning to. But the mere fact that I was thinking it to myself wasn’t good, and frightened me.
I mentioned to the girls and the Consort on Sunday (when the worst of the episode was over) that I planned to discuss this with the doctor I’d be seeing on Tuesday (for a completely separate and benign issue, don’t worry). Maybe I do need antidepressants, I said, and hopefully the doctor will be able to get me going in the right direction — an emergency prescription, even if that isn’t his specialty? And they told me it wasn’t a big deal, that I wasn’t crazy, that they loved me. They’re so innocent. Sweet, but innocent.
So yesterday, after the gyn and I discuss the reason I was in there (I was tired of being anemic all the time; we were going to do something about it) and had decided on what we were going to do to take care of the anemia, I mentioned these terrible mood swings and emotional upheavals I have from time to time, which I noted were usually around the time of my ovulation.
That’s normal for your age group, he said. The hormone cocktail that swirls through your body when you’re in your forties can produce mood swings. I was stunned. Why don’t people talk about this more? Do they, and I just didn’t pay attention? I mean, I know about the hot flashes, the sweats, and the chills, but mood swings? (Thinking about it later I think I’ve got some visions of 1950s-era women being all weepy — from movies? — but that isn’t what I’m experiencing.) Some women take progesterone, that seems to block some of it, he continued. Others take antidepressants, but usually getting on a birth control pill cycle stops the mood swings. That’s it? Getting on the Pill? And, he continued, if you’re on the Pill, you won’t experience the hot flashes, either, when they do begin.
I’ve got my own reasons for not wanting to go down the antidepressant route (and I may talk about those reasons in another post sometime), but especially in this case, where the mood swings really are a focused, narrow-window sort of experience, I didn’t think they’d be the best solution.
So, twenty years after I first started taking the Pill, I’ve got a new prescription for it. That’s a weird concept, don’t you think? I do. We’ll be giving it 6 months or so to see if it is taking care of the problem. Since my moods were sporadic, I think it will take at least that long to see if the Pill is working. But at least it will take care of the anemia, even if it wasn’t the treatment I originally went in to see this gynecologist for.
I seem to have lost my male readership (or they are being rather quiet lately), and I know there are women of various ages who read this blog. If any of you farther along on this ride of mid-life (or who are younger than me but have been paying better attention to what others talk about) have any tidbits to share of what other normal issues can be expected as we move beyond our thirties, could you share? Just like new parents wish they had a list of “Things that you ought to know about babies but that no one thinks to tell you”, I’d feel a lot better if I had a map of what’s in store up ahead, so I can stop thinking that the Consort should be looking into committed care facilities for me.
And so that I won’t ever again, in apologizing to my daughter, have a conversation where I say to her, “Remember the mean thing I said to you this weekend?” and she replies, “Which one?”