Wednesday, 27 July 2022

The Post-40 Slump: Perimenopause & The Awkward Questions




It's been a little while since I've posted any personal content on my blog. 

While it's true that part of the reason for that is the sudden busyness of life - readjusting to our previous pace after 2 years of doing very little has certainly taken its toll, and I'm struggling to remember how I ever fitted everything in! - It's not the whole reason.

The truth is, that for a little while now - I just haven't been feeling myself. 

I can't put my finger on exactly why that is, or even clearly explain how I'm feeling...all I know is that I feel a little bit...lost.

For the last few months, I've been experiencing some pretty dramatic mood swings. One moment I'll feel on top of the world and full of the joys, brimming with confidence and super motivated - the next I'll feel as though the floor has been pulled from underneath me, my mood will crash and I'll spend days wallowing in self pity and feeling utterly miserable without ever really understanding why.

Throughout all of this, I've continued with my weekly therapy sessions but what perplexes me is that there is rarely any obvious trigger for these moods...sure there are always the everyday stresses and strains of life, but nothing huge has happened to send me off on a 3-day long pity party for one...but off I go anyway!

There are days when I've found myself feeling so vulnerable and low that I can't get through a sentence without my emotions overcoming me, and more than once in recent months I've ended up crying in a heap on the floor over something that would previously never have phased me.

My anxiety has also increased, and along with it my OCD traits have ramped up a notch too  - increased intrusive thoughts,  more OCD rituals to perform to try and satisfy my worried brain - it's been pretty exhausting to be honest.

The intense daily headaches and fatigue that I've had pegged for months as lingering post-Covid symptoms are wearing me down, and - probably unsurprisingly given all of the above - my self esteem has taken a tumble of rather epic proportions!

I find myself nervous to write on here or post on social media, feelings of self-doubt and that familiar old "Nobody likes you! What could you possibly have to say that's of interest to anybody!" voice inside my mind has reared her nasty little head and refuses to back down.

I might have blamed all of these things on general anxiety, but there's one other factor that leads me to believe otherwise...my periods have become irregular.

After having a cycle so regular that you could set your watch to it for my entire life since age 11, I have suddenly found myself skipping a couple of periods here and there. 

Which leads me to think that maybe all of these symptoms are actually signs that I'm in perimenopause.

It shouldn't really come as a surprise. I'm 40 after all, and it really did feel like all of these symptoms arrived overnight on my 40th birthday!

But I wasn't really prepared for how the prospect of perimenopause would make me feel. If I'm honest, until this started happening ... I didn't even know what perimenopause was!

A few friends suggested I look into it, and once I did - it was like reading a checklist of everything I've been experiencing for the past few months.

Why, oh why are womens issues so underdiscussed?! I'm pretty confident that if this was something that men go through, we would all know a lot more about it!

Although the physical and emotional symptoms I've been experiencing are tough, by far the most difficult part for me has been accepting the inevitable...the fact that all of this points to one thing: My ovaries are getting ready to close up shop! They're ready to say goodbye to the babymaking days...which made me question, am I ready for that?

After having my 3rd baby, I'd always left the door open for one more. It was something we never ruled out. Both Jon & I knew we would like to have another baby, but after having 3 children in the space of 3 years it seemed right to have a break....and that break became longer than we intended.

Somehow I just didn't really notice the years passing by, and the thought of that 4th baby remained there at the back of my mind...it was always a maybe. Always a possibility. 

But now...it feels as though there's suddenly a countdown placed on my womb, ticking away day by day. Now it feels very much like a "Now Or Never" thing. 

I've never been any good at making decisions. I struggle to decide what to have for dinner, so having to decide whether or not to try to have a 4th child is weighing heavily on my mind.

Part of me wants to go for it - the words "You don't regret the things you do, only the things you don't" echoing in my mind. Knowing how much the children would love a baby sibling, knowing that because I had them so close together I never really got to experience what it was like to introduce a sibling to their new baby brother or sister....because mine were all babies at once. 

Knowing that if I'd realised my last pregnancy was going to be the last, I would have savoured it more somehow - enjoyed it more, drank in that feeling of the little life growing and moving inside me, taken more bump photos, indulged in it all a bit more.

Instead my last pregnancy passed by in a blur - I had a baby under a year old to think about, so there just wasn't the time to enjoy the pregnancy. I was in survival mode.

But on the other hand...what if going back to the beginning again is just too hard? My youngest would be at least 7 before a new baby was born, would it be stupid to go right back to the start again just when the children are starting to become more independent?

Could I keep up with a toddler now? Would my health issues allow me to safely carry and birth another baby? Is Jon, at 8 years my senior, too old to become a Dad again? What if I've pushed my luck too far already - I have 3 healthy children, maybe I wouldn't be so lucky again. 

The "What ifs" are overwhelming and neither option leaves me feeling certain of what to do for the best. Then there's the guilt...the knowledge that so many people don't have the option of even trying, so how dare I be so undecided about it! If I decide to go for it, will my indecision be punished somehow? 

The truth is I wasn't really prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that turning 40 has put me on. I'm  not sure how to feel, what to think, what to hope for or how to move forward from here.

I feel very stuck in the middle of two starkly contrasting worlds right now. The familiar but somehow frightening world of babies, toddlers and little children - of dedicating every inch of my body, mind and soul to the art of motherhood from right back at the starting line. And the unknown and equally scary world of life in the next phase of womanhood - the phase where my children need me less and less as the days go by, and my days and thoughts are all mine to fill. I find it hard to picture my life in that world, I feel unsure about my identity there...but there's also a sense of excitement at allowing it to come too, because who knows what lies in store there...when our wombs are no longer creating life what other creativity might be waiting to be birthed from us instead?

There are no answers just now. As difficult as patience is for me, I guess we'll just have to see what life has in store for this next season of life...mood swings, perimenopause, ticking clocks and all...

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