Riding the Menopause Roller Coaster
Riding Up the Hill
You’d think after riding this menopause roller coaster for the past couple of years, I’d be used to it. There are hormonal ups and downs, no longer predictable using my period tracker app, but I’ve adapted. I’ve learned if I am feeling especially emotional for no apparent reason, it’s probably hormones. I utilize my wild yam-based cream, or other all-natural supplements (depending on what I am using at the time — I rotate usage), maybe take a walk or a bath and realize what I am sensing is not reality. Once I give it some time, I know the feelings will normalize again.
This week it caught me off guard.
To be fair, it was because it was my wife’s spin on the ride, not my own. She is tackling some new challenges in her life and has had some recent wins. We were both feeling really good about this, so when the crash happened, we didn’t see it coming. In the middle of what should have been a day of celebration over a recent success, she was suddenly convinced the success was not real. She felt sure it was all falling apart and what only hours before had seemed true was actually a lie.
Standing on the outside of her wild ride, I pointed out the logic of all I knew to be true about the situation. These were objective, observable facts. She heard me but didn’t necessarily agree they meant the same thing I did. She couldn’t follow my logic.
It was probably a good half an hour or more before we realized that she was in the midst of some sort of combination panic/anxiety attack. It was not so intense we thought she was having a heart attack, but she did have stomach pain, nausea, and a feeling of panic. This sounded very much like what I sometimes get when we are driving, especially at night around curves. (This has not happened when I drive, only when I am a passenger.) I have learned this is a symptom of menopause. This was about hormones! We tried working through it by walking through our local park playing Harry Potter, Wizards Unite. (Hey, don’t judge. It’s free and gets us moving!)
Finally, a bath and getting super focused on a project were things that relieved the irrational panic. By the next morning, my wife had no feelings left that her circumstances were anything other than great. Her optimism had fully returned. She looked back and said with slight disbelief, “It was all hormones.”
This is our life these days.
During the previous week, I had woken up in the middle of the night in a panic over my son’s driving. He’d just gotten his license, so this was not exactly an irrational fear, but my level of concern was out of control. My mind was flooded with visions of him driving — safely, not crashing, just driving and it was making me feel panicky. It felt the way I sometimes feel when riding in a car at night around curves — fearful, short of breath, slightly dizzy, and mildly panicked. I got out of bed and went to the bathroom, hoping the feelings would stop. When I got back in bed and closed my eyes, I started seeing visions of my wife and I driving and was filled with panic. This wasn’t just fear over my son’s driving, it was hormonal driving panic. (HDP — I think I just made that up.)
My solution was to get up, take some cannabis drops that I sometimes use to help me sleep, and soon I was feeling calm and fell asleep with no further episodes. It’s not the first time I’ve used pot to ease physical and emotional symptoms. I used edibles to help me cope with the withdrawal symptoms of coming off of antidepressants and have used them to help with the anxiety of riding around curves during road trips. For me, this is a more natural solution with fewer side effects than doctors can provide.
No Exit — Just Buckle Up
Maybe from an outsider's perspective, it seems like menopausal women should be able to distinguish symptoms of menopause from other things. It’s not easy because symptoms change along with levels of estrogen and progesterone, plus are influenced by things like caffeine, alcohol, sugar and water. Sleep disturbances some into play. Emotions get triggered. Anxiety levels may increase. Our bodies are pretty mysterious.
Dealing with menopause is not as easy as taking a pill and it all goes back to normal. Hormone Replacement Therapy is not a good choice for many women, nor are antidepressants. Menopause is complex and each woman has to find her own way through it. There are lots of treatments that can help, so if you are suffering, please do some research and seek help from a doctor, alternative practitioner, or even a friend who might have some useful advice.
Today, my wife and I are enjoying a peaceful, metaphoric journey through the countryside, but we are armed with the knowledge that it could turn into Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at any time.