You may believe that your mood is largely based on what your reaction is to events that happen; the stress of your job, road rage, or a demeaning encounter. But that’s only partially true.
In fact your biochemistry plays a significant role in how you feel not just physically but emotionally. As your ovaries phase into slumber, estrogen and progesterone begin to diminish. Estrogen encourages the production of serotonin and endorphins (those feel-good guys) and progesterone interacts with serotonin and GABA receptors to invoke calm and contentment.
On average perimenopause lasts about 4 years so these subtle, unpredictable shifts will take quite a bit of time and you can find yourself suddenly swinging from fine to being irritable and angry as your hormones fail to aid in some sort of regulating, upbeat sentiment.
Dear God, Who Am I?
Since puberty, estrogen and progesterone have been actively fueling the fertility in your body. And now that they are waning, besides these heightened emotional fluctuations, you may be facing a whole new set of changes that do not help you to feel your best like: weight gain, hair loss, hot flashes, low libido, and vaginal dryness.
And all of this erratic change can be causing you to second guess yourself in how you’re looking and behaving moment to moment. You may be feeling as if you’re losing all control over most of your sensibilities.
Perhaps you once loved date night and now you’re shirking it quicker than your drunk relative during the holidays. Or maybe you burst into tears under the pressure of having to change a light bulb.
Over time you might become super self-conscious that your friends, family, and coworkers are giving you some side-eye as to if they too are noticing these less desirable alterations.
It’s as if you’re getting an unwanted makeover that has you not recognizing yourself!
Your Own Private Island
Since the journey through perimenopause is not exactly the same for everyone, you may have girlfriends or genetically-related women trying to give you advice that does not match what you’re experiencing nor is it helping to alleviate your ailments.
You could be sorting through delicate notions of shame and blame for your lifestyle choices.
This too can be isolating and daunting for you might wonder why your difficulties are different.
Lacking a sense of community, shouldering self-doubt, and struggling to find remedies just to get back to your sense of “normal” can be stressful and overwhelming. This additional, silent pressure can have you boiling over in unexpected ways that even you may not entirely understand.
New Names, Same Person
You may suddenly feel you are constantly acting “crazy” or “evil.” Your intense brain fog might lead you to believe you’re “dumb” or your coordination is affected so now you’re “clumsy.”
You might even be surprised yourself as you reflect on your day that you overreacted to something trivial that never bothered you before. Perhaps you were grossly impatient with your assistant or you drilled your kid on why they made a mess in the car, and then your best friend informed you they’ll be away for your birthday and you were so angry you cut the conversation short.
Overall, your relationships are being impacted in some way; the connection that you have with yourself and how you are around your loved ones.
You could be forced to contend with that you’re losing your overall sense of self as you face a temperament that you’ve never known before and you’re even struggling to identify with it much less explain why it’s occurring.
You’re also probably wondering about what the other side of this passage will look like. Will you look different? Will you ever feel well again? Will your sex life rebound?
All of this instability is draining!
Beneath the Disguise
Teenagers are expected to have meltdowns and pregnant women are forgiven for temper tantrums but when you look like a mature, middle-aged adult on the outside, you don’t quite receive the same societal compassion for dysfunctional hormones that you have no control over.
No one is going on “menopause-moons” or having a “meno-mitzvah” party even though you’re facing one of the biggest psychological and physiological confrontations that you’ll ever have to go through.
It’s certainly not a mainstream topic that women in perimenopause face very little tolerance or sympathy as others with similar disabling conditions do. You’re just expected to soldier on in silence as the women before you have done and let’s be honest…it’s really not fair.
Being alone in perimenopause when you’re being impatiently condemned by others in addition to all the changes you’re witnessing is no easy endeavor. It’s especially important at this time to be kind to yourself, make your health and sleep a priority, and most of all to try to find the support that you need.
You may not be able to articulate exactly what you’re going through but it’s important to not spend too much time alone as that can lead to deeper depression and additional agitation. Surround yourself with likeminded people who know you well and are more of a sounding board than a judge.
Self-care is crucial so if you need to leave work early to take a yoga class, explain why it’s important to your mental health. If you need to avoid certain gatherings, don’t feel bad. And lastly, do not second-guess, criticize, or blame yourself for being the erring human being that you are.
Convey the Truth
The health of any and all relationships is based on being able to communicate. You don’t have to approach those closest to you with an exact explanation for the circumstances of your mood swings.
But it is important to not keep it a secret. By letting them know that you recognize something is amiss helps them to realize that it’s not as intentional as things seem.
Make sure to consult with a doctor if you feel something is becoming a severely persistent concern…Women make up over half of the world’s population and perimenopause happens to almost every single one of them. You’re not a freak-of-the-week to be going through this transition. Give yourself some compassion that this is not a mind over matter situation. You have no authority over what your hormones are or are not going to do. Just know that one day everything will settle down and you’ll have a sense of stability again.