Over the last few weeks I’ve experienced some serious daily meltdowns. My hormones are raging. I’m stressing over every little thing. Emotionally I’m a mess. And I don’t have a clue what to do about it.
I’ve read about mood swings a woman experiences during menopause. But reading about what to expect is far different from reality.
My oncologist said there was a shot that my symptoms could become debilitating. But I brushed that off. Summer and early fall I experienced mild heat flashes. My mood was upbeat. I thought menopause was a snap.
That all changed in November.
Rage Monkey Is Gonna Rage
I started noticing a problem one night when I picked a fight with the husband. I can’t even remember why I got mad (actually, apocalyptic is a more apt description) in the first place. I knew I wasn’t being rational. That didn’t matter. My anger just escalated hour after hour before exploding. When he naturally pushed back, I immediately shifted from righteous anger to a weeping mess for nearly 2 hours.
Oh good lord. This isn’t me.
Its one thing if I had one outburst. We all have bad days, right? What about daily? Hourly? I feel like I’m losing my mind. Once I start hulking out I can’t stop it. Some days its a slow, smoldering anger that builds. Other days I just explode with rage. For. No. Reason.
Thankfully, it’s rare that my husband is the focal point. Anything can set me off: mailman running late, spilling a drink, stacking towels too neatly, filling the dogs water bowl, burning bacon (well, that’s a given).
So That’s What A Panic Attack Feels Like
But it isn’t just intense anger. Anxiety and fear are also rearing their ugly heads. Last week, smack dab in the middle of one of my rages, I became overwhelmed with fear.
About what? I picked up Peekabu, my Old English sheepdog from doggie daycare. It was rainy and rush hour traffic was in full swing. Someone (texting of course!) decided to swerve into my lane.
Accident avoided. After shouting profanities that could make a marine blush, I immediately started obsessing over one thought: “What if she hit me and Peekabu got hurt.” This sense of panic just swept over me. I started shaking and sweating. My heart was pounding. Tears were flowing. We were safe. I avoided the texting idiot. It. Didn’t. Matter.
I was a mess for nearly 2 hours…2 frickin’ hours!
Time To Try Mindfulness
These incidents are increasingly becoming the norm for me. So of course I do what most women do…ask The Google. I can only find 3 solutions: hormone therapy, drugs, or mindfulness.
Since my body produced too much estrogen, causing my cancer, hormone therapy is out.
I have zero interest in taking prescription drugs.
So I’m walking through Door #3 – Mindfulness.
I’ve never been a fan of meditation. It’s too abstract for me. I’ve read about all the benefits. But I’ve also read about the benefits of the food pyramid, and that turned out to be a bunch of BS. So pardon my skepticism.
I can never get a straight answer on the how tos. It just seems like a lot of mystical mumbo jumbo.
“Just focus on breathing,” I’m told. What? Anything I’ve read on it was in the most flowery, nonspecific language. I dismissed it as something that sandal-wearing, tofu-eating Californians do.
And it was with this attitude I approached mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
The best definition I’ve found is:
“…the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
Ok, that works for me. But how do you do it?
Again, I run into the same flowery, mystic language of meditation. It always makes me think I’ll gain the power to levitate and shoot frickin’ lasers out my eyes.
I found this video of Jon Kabot-Zinn, the zen master of mindfulness. My heart sank a bit during the first half. More flowery language. But the actual practical demonstration clicked for me.
It really is about grounding yourself in the now rather than being consumed by fear of what might be. I panicked about what might be when I was in the car with my Peekie. A future I couldn’t control but those, thoughts consumed me. The freak out could have been diverted by focusing on the present moment and not dwelling on the past (i.e., not on the texting idiot).
When you focus on your breathing (feeling it go in and out, how it sounds, or the movements of your chest) it helps to clear your mind from random thoughts.
I followed along in Kabot-Zinn’s video and I have to say I felt completely relaxed. Was I perfect? Nope. Those random thoughts are pretty relentless.
Thankfully, I saw tangible benefits the next day. Someone cut me off in traffic, and I felt the rage coming on. Then, out of the blue, I started listening to my breathing and heard my voice say, “Just let it go.”
The rage monster was vanquished. Woo-hoo!
Now every morning, before getting out of bed, I’ve committed to spending 10 minutes focusing on my breathing. This morning was the first time in a few months where I didn’t get out of bed feeling like a live wire. Nice!
I guess it’s not all mumbo jumbo. It’s time to open my mind to that flowery language.
Who doesn’t want to levitate and shoot lasers out the eyes?