Thursday, 26 June 2008

An epistle on hormones

Last night I celebrated the menopause.

Yes, I say ‘celebrate’ because for the last two or three months I have been having trouble sleeping. I thought this was due to stress. Which in part it was. The writing business is incredibly competitive, and in journalism trying to break into a new market isn’t easy. So I felt under tremendous pressure to prove myself.

I succeeded, but the price to pay was increased anxiety and sleepless nights.

Soon I began to realise that sleeping had become a Problem. And once you start worrying about something as basic as sleeping, it becomes much more difficult to sleep. Having a very active brain, the only time I do switch off is when I’m asleep, so sleep is crucial. And when I couldn’t I was lying there worrying because I wasn’t sleeping and knew I’d be tired the next day – and so on it goes.

I tried everything. With a sleeping pill I could get 5 or 6 hours kip a night. Without I got 2 or 3 hours, and I really don't function on 3 hours sleep. But I worried because I didn't want to get addicted to them. I tried heavier lined curtains, milky drinks – you name it. And no, I’m afraid any herbal remedies had absolutely no effect.

I started getting more worried, thinking I couldn’t cope. Why couldn’t I cope? I always had done before.

In desperation, and after nearly 3 months of this, I started seeing a counsellor and it was an incredible relief to spill out all my worries to someone who was able to deal with them. I didn’t have to worry about worrying her. She understood. And that goes a long way.

I finished the first draft of my novel and thought – hooray! I can celebrate! Forget about it and have some time off.

Then an agent emailed saying she would like to see the entire manuscript of my previous novel. Normally I would have jumped in the air, celebrating, but as I knew it needed some revision, that prospect seemed more pressure than I could cope with.
I needed a holiday. Badly.

Then I got an abscess, and two lots of antibiotics had drastic effects so I had to stop taking them. Then my GP gave me something else to knock me out at night and the effect of that was my heart started banging so hard I thought it was going to jump out of my chest. I lay in bed, holding onto Himself for dear life, crying, “I’m frightened.”

After that I seemed to have palpitations on and off – like having an ongoing panic attack. For no reason. I despaired of ever sleeping again properly. I felt I was cracking up. And having done so, many years ago, I knew that dark tunnel is the most terrifying place you can imagine. Literally a living hell. Where you can’t relax, don’t feel safe, feel as if you are splintering into tiny fragments. Don’t go there.

We came back from our break and I managed to get some rest and sleep a bit better. But on Monday I woke up and my heart was racing – another day long panic attack. Oh no. What was I to do?

I met a dear friend for lunch which I couldn’t eat. Food wasn’t going down. Another bad sign for me. She listened thoughtfully and said, ‘do you think this might be the beginning of the menopause?’

I looked at her and a large question mark filled my mind. I raced back home and googled ‘menopause symptoms’. There I read –
“insomnia often due to anxiety. Racing heart – palpitations. Sore breasts. Irregular periods – or none at all.” In fact the only symptom I didn’t have was hot flushes.

I could have cried with relief. I wasn’t cracking up. It was The Change!

Suddenly everything fell into place. I looked up my file from Dr Gray and saw she had written, “if you start to feel low start taking half a patch (HRT) twice a week. If symptoms don’t improve, raise the dose.” The last time I’d seen her I was feeling fine, which was why I hadn’t remembered this significant gem of advice.

I rang her, just to make sure and she said, “you’ve done absolutely the right thing. But if you need me, you know where I am.” What sweet words of comfort.

So I opened a lovely bottle of wine and Pip and I toasted my hormones.

Since then I am now sleeping better, have cut down my sleeping pills and hope to be off them for good very soon.

Courtesy of our break I am more relaxed, enjoying editing my novel before I send it off to the agent, and have finished a piece on our wedding for a bridal magazine. Next in the pipeline is a piece on zerobalancing. But I am enjoying the variety and the challenge. Every day is different and while I must be careful not to overdo things, I love what I do. And I intend to get better.

My counsellor has signed me off, saying she’s there if I want her. But I seem “in a good place at the moment” and why rock the boat? Why indeed?

I walked Mollie round the castle this morning and enjoyed the sunshine, the sweet scent of the dog roses. I was incredibly grateful just to be alive and be happy. To love and be loved. To live in such a beautiful place. And to have the support when things go wrong.

So the motto of this epistle is – take breaks. Don’t work too hard. Enjoy life. Ask for help if you need it. And remember, if you’re of a certain age and start feeling you really can’t cope. Stop. Listen. It could well be your hormones.


Rebecca Taunton said...

You poor thing, you've really been through the wars lately...and to think it's hormones! You're absolutely right though: take breaks when you need it (a lesson I'm only just beginning to learn).


Totty Teabag said...

Been there, done that, and the T-shirt is ten years old. It does get better, and now you know what is causing the anxiety, I'm sure you will soon learn to accept the odd half hour of feeling "off the wall". When I have a hot flush (yes, I still have those) I now say "Excuse me, I'm just having a power surge..."

Flowerpot said...

RT - yes we all need to learn when to take breaks (she says, suddenly realising the time!!)

Totty - I love the idea of power surges! Sounds exciting and controllable. Hah!

Lindsay said...

Very well done - you seem to be cracking the problem. What a relief! I had panic attacks, always at night with heart pounding - I know how you felt! I really do admire anyone who can "write" - so give yourself a huge pat on the back.

ChrisH said...

My hormones packed up at a tender age (thank goodness I had the girls early!) so I understand your confusing symptoms. But, hey, good news about the agent will keep everything crossed (well, escept for the bits I'm crossing for myself!).

Akelamalu said...

It's so much easier to cope when you know the cause isn't it? So glad you're feeling better honey. x

Grump said...

Well I'm glad you have sorted that problem out. There we were all suggesting home grown remedies. It is good to enjoy the day and not forget how precious this life is.
Cheers Mark x

Flowerpot said...

lindsay - those panic attacks are hellish arent they?

Ak - yes it suddenly made sense - and what a huge relief!

chrish - hormones eh? thanks for the crossed fingers though - mine are still crossed for you!

grump - thanks for that and you're right. life is very precious.

Lane said...

Ask for help if you need it
That can hard sometimes if it doesn't come naturally.
Glad you've finally got to bottom of what it was and fantastic agent news!! Hope to hear some good news soon!

Flowerpot said...

lane - I don't think many of us like asking for help. It means that we can't cope. And I certainly don't like that or any of the connotations that go with it. Thanks re the agent - I've got more revisions to make but should send it off in a few weeks. Then it's teh waiting game again!

Mopsa said...

I have all that to look forward to, do I? Isn't it funny how the naming of parts is such a relief.

Ellee Seymour said...

I am facing many of the same challenges Flowerpot. I'm so glad you've turned the corner. At the moment I have swollen glands and am covered in rashes, so I think I need a break too. I think we are twins in many ways.

Flowerpot said...

Mopsa - not necessarily! 65% of women DON'T have any symptoms so fear not. Just a favoured few...

Flowerpot said...

ellee - you definitely need a break by the sound of it. Can you take one very soon? The lovely Dr Gray said to me, 'You're very sensitive, which means it will come out in all kinds of ways" - like your rashes. Take care Ellee!

rosiero said...

Yes, those symptoms can be frightening. So glad you can attribute them to something hormonal and now feel a lot better.

Anonymous said...

Guess all the fun starts here then! Glad you are okay though, I know I have it all to come!

CJ xx

lady thinker said...

BL***Y hormones - how well I remember it all.At least you've been Lucky to have escaped the hot flushes. As totty tea bag says - it does get better eventually.

Flowerpot said...

rosiero - horrible yes but at least Iknow what it is now. Roll on end of hormones!

Crystal - don't worry, you may not have any symptoms at all. Only a few of us do!

Thinker - thanks, that's encouraging. I will hold onto that thought!

wordtryst said...

Damn and blast, as the child said in that William book. Hormones? I'm so glad I read this. Forewarned is forearmed.

Congrats on the agent interest. That's definitely a high.