I’ve been going through perimenopause for God only knows how long. I’ve been surprised about how little I understand about this process despite having a medical degree and considering myself generally well read on the topic. I wanted to know what to expect when the time came. So I thought I was going to be prepared.
I have experienced symptoms for years that I’ve thought might be because of changing hormones. But then, when it comes to things like anxiety or restless nights, how do you know if it’s down to a hormone imbalance or if life and its stresses are just fucking you up?
I’ve been complaining about anxiety for several years. I’ve told my doctors, I’ve gone through therapy, I’ve learned coping strategies. If someone were to tell me that the anxiety that I developed in my thirties was down to life’s fuck-ups, I can believe them. But the anxiety I developed later on in my late 40s/early 50s felt different. Sure, life’s fuck-ups are still there and probably still need to be dealt with. I swear to God I’m working on it as best I can. But I can tell there’s something else. I know there’s something else.
You know what upsets me? It’s how difficult it is to get someone to listen. You go to the doctor as a lady in your late 40s and tell her time and again that you have anxiety, and you’re told to try to get in touch with a counsellor or, “Here. Take this pill that will give you the worst brain fog you’ve experienced in your whole life and fuck being able to work.” You mention potential symptoms of perimenopause and you’re met with a blank stare.
I had a most interesting conversation yesterday that really resonated with me. It’s given me much food for thought.
Mahmoud is a fellow Egyptian revolutionary who has also found himself going through difficult times while based in Berlin, Germany. I first got to know him in 2009, in those early days when there was only a handful of Egyptians posting on Twitter. We had a little community of Egyptian bloggers/micro-bloggers going for ourselves. Twitter had given us space to make our voices heard. We had a lot to say. And, for the most part, we felt we had a lot in common. Someone organized a couple of tweet-ups for Egyptian tweeters, which I joined. That was probably how I met Mahmoud first in real life. We stayed in touch over the years the way people do through social media. And our paths crossed a few times in Tahrir Square during those fateful days in 2011.
Mahmoud read my previous blog post where I was expressing confusion about what to do next in life. He wrote me a comment on Facebook saying that we had to talk. We eventually caught up with each other yesterday on a phone call.
“We’re misplaced gods,” he explained to me. “We’re misplaced gods stuck in mediocre places with mediocre people who don’t appreciate who we are. And it’s affected the way we see ourselves.”
For most of my life, I was certain I’d have shit figured out by the time I reached my 50s. The older generations always appeared to have their shit together in my eyes. Now I realize that they were either great actors and wanted to protect us younger folk from the realities of life, or I was just extremely naïve. It was probably both.
What am I doing in my 50s without the slightest idea about what I want to do when I grow up, who I want to be, or where I want to live? This can’t be normal. Oh, but it is, the wiser, less naïve version of myself responds.
I’ve long felt that my father, in his final years, felt disappointed with how his life turned out. There was a look in his eyes that I felt I could read. He was thinking, “This is it? This is all I will ever be? All I will ever accomplish?” I think, in many ways, he was heartbroken. My father was an academic. He was a professor of kinetic chemistry. He loved his job and he loved his students. He also loved research, something he wasn’t able to do much of once he moved to Saudi Arabia, where he spent some 30 years of his academic career. My father knew his own potential. It was thwarted and he knew it.
In some ways I find myself with similar thoughts about my own life. This is it? This is all I will ever accomplish? All I will ever be? I know I have accomplished some things in life. I realize that I have lived a rich life, full of adventure, love, loss and achievement. I know that. But there’s a weird feeling residing inside of me. I’m conflicted. I want to be more. I want to do more. At the same time, I’m tired. I just want to settle down and get out of the way of other humans. I’m tired of being rebellious and wanting to change the world. And I’m upset that I don’t have the energy anymore to be rebellious and want to change the world.
I’ve had anxiety for many years. For a long time, I thought I was managing it, until one of those perfect life storms hit me and it erupted completely out of control.
I knew I needed help at that point. I did what I needed to do and got it. After ten months of therapy, my therapist told me she thought I could manage on my own. I thought I probably could too. It’s been a few months now since therapy stopped. It’s not been easy. There was no magic cure. I wasn’t suddenly anxiety-free because of the therapy. I had learned enough to know it would be an ongoing process. But I’m seeing improvements.
I’ve been surprising myself. The anxiety comes. But it also goes. (more…)
Yesterday, for example, I pledged allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II.
As if pledging allegiance to a single human being, a non-elected monarch at that, wasn’t enough, to become a British citizen I also had to pledge allegiance to Charles.
I had to pledge allegiance to all of Elizabeth’s successors and heirs. No matter how horrible or evil they might turn out?? Some of you might like that Meghan Markle, but I’m keeping a close eye on that one and her progeny.
Am I the only person who sees something terribly wrong about all this?
Not that I didn’t do it. I did it. I pledged my allegiance. And, as I explained to my personal trainer this morning in the midst of all my moaning and groaning—because of the heavy lifting but more because I was explaining the process of becoming a British citizen to my now fellow Brit—my word is my honor. I mean honour. (more…)
I don’t know where to start. But I’m afraid this is going to be a messed up, emotional blog post. I wouldn’t be sharing these thoughts if I hadn’t come to the conclusion that I’m not alone even though I feel very very alone. I’m sharing in case this makes someone out there feel a little bit better. I’m sharing because sharing helps me work through my own thoughts, even though I worry that it makes me appear desperate and needy, which I sort of am anyways. But I’m going to stop giving a fuck about what other people might think of me for a little bit. I need to write.
It’s hard to sum up what an issue really is. It’s difficult to give problems, lots of them, that all come with personal and social contexts, a title that other people will understand.
But let’s call this one loneliness.
It’s a desperate loneliness. It’s the kind of loneliness that probably puts people off you. That’s how desperate it is.
It’s a loneliness that often expresses itself as: Oh, how I wish I had a friend I could call up and say, “Meet you at the movies at 6pm tonight?” But that’s not really it. That’s not the source of the loneliness. The story of the loneliness is so much more complex. (more…)
In the summer of 2009, while climbing Africa’s highest mountain, I learned a valuable life lesson: Don’t think about trying to reach the summit ahead. Just think about putting that left foot, in this moment, in front of your right foot. “Can you do that?” I’d ask myself. “Yes. I can,” I’d reply. “Then just do that for now,” I’d say. That’s how I eventually got myself to the summit, 5,895 metres above sea level (with A LOT of encouragement from the very kind people in our group).
Somewhere along the line, I seem to have forgotten that valuable lesson of being in the moment and not worrying about what lies far ahead.
My 30s were a really difficult time in my life, with lots of personal and career turmoil. I became determined to change things and, as what I thought was the ultimate result, I became a wise woman sometime in my 40s. I thought I had figured things out. I knew what needed to be done to get myself out of a bad place and into a good one. I had learned so many valuable lessons. I could even pass those lessons onto others.
Where that all went by the time I reached the end of my 40s I have absolutely no idea. I seem to have regressed an infinite amount of regression. I’m back to living in turmoil, not really because my personal or career lives have any issues in them. They are both very stable at the moment. But in my head, a tornado is happening. A huge, earth-shattering, ear-splitting tornado. (more…)
I have scratch marks in various places on my carpet, little paw prints on my windowsill, and a specially laid out fleece on my couch.
And I don’t even have a cat.
But a cat definitely has me.
The first time I met the cat, it was meowing on my windowsill. I was worried it was lost so I opened the window and it casually walked in.
I posted a picture of the cat on our local community Facebook page, asking if anyone had lost one.
Several people thought it was theirs. One was certain it was theirs and asked me to make sure not to feed it because it was on medication. By the end of the day, when we established where that person lives in relation to me, we decided her cat couldn’t have wandered as far off as I live.
The cat wandered about my living room a bit, then placed itself at one end of the couch and went to sleep. I was really tired that day, so I eventually had a nap myself. When we woke up, Cat signaled to me it was time to leave, I opened the window, and it was gone.
I didn’t see it again for about two weeks. (more…)
I’ve been experiencing a general lack of motivation for many months that has had a serious impact on my ability to train.
At least that is what I thought until a few days ago. I was on my way to my therapist, who I’ve been going to now for a few months to help me figure out what to do about my bouts of anxiety and low mood. I have spent the last few months telling her about almost anything but my lack of motivation regarding sport. I’m sure I mentioned it a couple of times as a passing comment but not much more. While driving to my appointment, I was thinking about what the topic of this next session should be. And I thought maybe it was time to talk about my lack of motivation, as evidenced by my almost complete lack of desire to swim, bike, and run.
It was that last sentence that got me thinking. I’m not lacking motivation in general. I don’t lack motivation regarding my work, for example. I don’t lack motivation to go to my personal training sessions at the gym. I actually enjoy going to see Tom, partially because I like the challenge and I like feeling strong, and partially because he’s funny and makes me laugh, albeit usually at myself. Tom, for example, thought it was absolutely HILARIOUS that I’d like to work as a bodyguard. I think it’s hilarious that he thinks it’s hilarious. I’ll show you yet, Tom!
Back to depression.
That very short inner discussion made me realize that I’m not lacking motivation generally. There is something inside of me that has become very anti-triathlon. (more…)
I have been spending the past few months learning about the long-lasting effects of trauma. Everyone goes through traumas in their lives. I had always thought that I managed myself through my traumas quite well. If each trauma had happened alone, it is possible that I would have been able to get through each individual one without it having too much of an effect on me. But one trauma followed another followed another, and I am now seeing how their cumulative effects have been too much for me, no matter how strong I am and have been, to deal with them without them having a significant impact on my self.
I have suffered for a great many years from bouts of undiagnosed depression and anxiety. I emphasise the word undiagnosed. I use those two words because they are the only words I know to describe my states of being.
In the past month, I have come to realize that I lack the ability to express a range of emotions that would be considered normal in other people. It is almost as if I developed some sort of a protective mechanism against feeling happy, sad, angry, excited, afraid, or even loving or hateful. Instead, I repress these feelings as they start to emerge, with the result of two main feelings taking over: anxiety or depression. Instead of feeling happy or excited, I get anxious. Instead of feeling angry or sad, I get depressed.
This has highlighted to me a concept that is very ingrained within me: the concept of the personal “jihad” or the internal struggle. (more…)