Seventy-Nine Days

I’ve been away from WordPress for a while. Seventy-nine days, to be precise.  Over the years, I’ve struggled on and off with my pet demons: Depression, Procrastination, Fear, and Perfectionism.  They’re nothing new to me.  They are the enemies I’ve known so long, we should probably get matching coffee cups.

shake-it-off-mug

*Like this one from The Hillywood Show.

(I don’t know anything about your pet demons, but I’m sure mine drink lots of coffee!)

That said, I’ve known for some time that something else was going on, something I couldn’t quite grasp.  Vague symptoms have been popping up; little stuff that could have been anything, but all together add up to something.

I’m in my middle years, in my forties.  I’m not a kid anymore, but I’m not quite ready to look at retirement villages either.  Honestly, for a minute there, I REALLY enjoyed being in my forties.  I liked the idea of finally being in a place in my life where I didn’t care as much about random opinions.  I could focus on me.  My body wasn’t young anymore, but I finally felt comfortable in my own skin.  Being in your forties is like being in the middle of the herd.  It’s safe. It’s a good place to be.

Until it wasn’t.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like something wasn’t right, like I didn’t know my own body anymore, especially over the last few months.  I’ve had memory lapses, entire conversations…GONE!  Mood swings. Bouts of depression that have left me confused, because they’re not like the ones I’ve had in the past.  My body is achy, then it’s not!  I’ve had difficulty sleeping, like every sound is being magnified.  I’ve gained weight, but I’m active and I’m not overeating.  Sometimes, I get symptoms that vaguely seem familiar, symptoms that remind me of being pregnant, and yet I am most certainly NOT pregnant. I’ve been worrying over everything, almost to the point of paranoia.

For a while, I thought that maybe Depression was morphing into something else, something darker.  But there was no consistency to it.  I’d feel depressed, then BOOM! Now, I’m fine.  Oops!  Now, I’m not.  That’s not how my bouts of depression usually work. I usually slide slowly into my depression, then gradually pull myself back out.  But lately, my brain is all over the place.  I’ve been feeling like I’m losing my mind.  I was plagued with thoughts of dying, but NOT of suicide.  It’s more like I thought maybe there was something REALLY wrong with my body, that it was finally failing me for good.

I’ve been grasping at every straw I could think of, trying to figure this all out, trying to make myself better.  But I couldn’t put it all together.  Aches and pains are common.  Lack of sleep happens to all of us, from time to time.  Everything I’ve been experiencing seemed so random and unrelated.  Plus, my symptoms were inconsistent.  I’d feel like I’d lost my mind, then I’d feel like me again.  Sometimes, I’d feel BETTER than old me, more focused than old me.  So what does that mean?  It’s still a symptom, even if it’s a positive one.

It means…I am NOT crazy.

I’m NOT dying.

(Okay, technically I am dying, because we’re ALL dying, but not right this second.)

I’m going through PERIMENOPAUSE, the time in a woman’s life BEFORE menopause hits.

For the record, I consider myself a reasonably intelligent woman.  I honestly didn’t know this was a “thing.”  My mother had Multiple Sclerosis.  She died in her fifties.  My maternal grandmother passed away a few years ago.  The matriarchs of my biological family are mostly gone.  The only assumption I had about menopause is that it happened to women in their fifties.  That, and yay!  No more periods.

I didn’t know that a woman’s body goes through changes five-ten years before menopause hits.  I had no idea this was normal.  I thought I was losing my mind!!!

I think Magnolia’s The Perimenopause Blog has more information out there, in one spot, than just about any other place on the web, but her post: The 35 Symptoms of Perimenopause, was especially eye-opening.  I have 27 out of 35 possible symptoms listed. So…umm, yeah.  That says a volumes.

Is this too much information to share?  Maybe. I didn’t get into all my personal gory details, but I felt like I had to say something.  I wanted to get this information out there because I KNOW I’m not alone.  This is a thing.  It’s a natural part of a woman’s life.  It effects the lives of everyone around me.  Plus, there are things I can do to help myself, now that I know what’s going on.

I’ve already made some small changes in my life, and I’m already seeing some benefits, but I’ll share that information in another post.

In the meantime, check out The Perimenopause Blog.  Learn something new.  Do stuff.  And thank you so much for ALL the kind words!

I appreciate you all so much!

xo Juli

 

 

 

 

 

“Ask Me How I’m Going to Lose 30 lbs!” #9YRChallenge

Last year, due to circumstances beyond my control, I had a career shift.  It happens to the best of us.  Corporate downsizing.  Survival of the fitness and all the jazz.  After fifteen years of service, I found myself out of a job.  Since then, I’ve bounced back.  I’m working again…but NOT for the same company and certainly NOT at the same insane intensity.  A good thing!  I used to be away from home 50-70 hrs a week.  Now, I actually SEE my family.

“Who’s that lady in the kitchen?  Is she homeless or something?  Is that a bag lady?  She looks strangely…familiar.”

“Noooo!  Don’t you recognize her?  It’s MOM!”

Before I lost my job, I noticed my weight was slowly creeping up.  I LOVE food.  It’s delicious.  It’s comforting.  When everything else is going wrong, when everyone else seems like they’ve deserted you, that bag of chips…isn’t going anywhere!  They’re so good!  Those donuts in the break room are your friends.  They don’t care how bad you feel. They don’t judge you. Chocolate has NEVER let me down.

I don’t mind the extra weight.  I can still fit into most of my clothing.  I carry the weight well. I’m fairly tall.  The weight is evenly distributed.  My knees, on the other hand, are complaining.  Loudly!  My feet are grumbling and cursing.  I put on an extra 20 lbs, a little at a time.  And since my career shift, I found 13 more! That’s…33 lbs heavier than where I’d like to be.

Visualize this:

That’s a 20 lb bag of kitty litter, plus a BIG bag of cat food.

Yeah!  That’s about how much extra weight I have on me.

And I’m carrying those bags with me.

All. Day. Long.

SAM_1406

Going to the mailbox?  I’ll just lug this bag of kitty litter and my BIG bag of cat food with me.  I’m taking them EVERYWHERE!  I’m taking them to the movies.  I’m taking them to work.  I’m taking them on that walk around the block. (Because I’d like to get fit?)  Look at me!  I got 33 lbs of cat supplies with me…but I don’t know why my knees hurt?  I don’t know why my feet are so sore?  I don’t know why it’s so hard to climb up and down the stairs?  It couldn’t have ANYTHING to do with all this extra weight…could it?

I’ve seen diet gurus visually demonstrate weight gain with everything from sticks of butter to gallons of milk.  I’m not sure if any of them questioned how how many bags of dog food that is?  Or water softer salt?  (Those suckers are HEAVY!!!)  Or cat litter?  Need inspiration to lose weight?  Find something around your house with approximately the same weight as you’d like to lose, and pick it up.  Now imagine…carrying that weight with you. EVERYWHERE.  Think about it!  You’re going carry a bag of dog food with you and go to the mall?  You want to play outside with the kids or grand-kids while carrying around that jug of laundry detergent?

Seriously?

I know I’m going to sound trite and cliche, but… Let it go!  Set it down!  Stop carrying around all of those extra bags.

I know.  I KNOW!  Easier said than done.  And yet, I was talking to a coworker who proudly proclaimed that they were fed up with being overweight.  He said, “I’m going to lose 30 lbs.  Ask me how.”  So of course I asked, “How?”  He said, “I’m going to lose 30 lbs…in 9 years.  Who’s with me?  Who wants to join my weight loss plan?  We could all lose weight…TOGETHER!”  We all laughed at first.  Nine years?  A nine year diet plan?  Then he pointed out that in general, most diet plans are unrealistic. Everyone wants to shed their extra weight too quickly, then hope they can keep it off.  But a nine year plan…that’s a LONG time.  That’s only 3.3 lbs of weight loss per year.  Anyone can do that!   And honestly, what difference does it make?  If I stopped worrying so much and just shed the weight slowly, a little at a time…I could FINALLY drop the 33 lbs of extra weight I’ve been carrying. It’s not like any of us put on our extra weight overnight.  The goal is to drop the weight in a realistic time frame.

So yes, I’m in!  I’ve accepted the 9 year challenge.  It’s the new joke around work and at Yonder Hoffman Haus:

I’m losing 33 lbs…in NINE years.

But…just by giving myself permission to lose the weight at a snail’s pace, to NOT have a “perfect diet plan,” to make a joke of it, to NOT beat myself up over every morsel of food that enters my mouth…  Umm…yeah…  I’ve already lost 5 lbs.  Sure, it was a SLOW 5 lbs, but I’m not stressed out.  I’m laughing at myself.  I’m laughing at my goal.  I’m having fun with this!  I’m enjoying my weight loss.  I don’t feel like I’m taking on an impossible task. This is probably the easiest and silliest diet challenge I’ve ever encountered.  My inner Perfectionist LOVES it!  I’m 5 lbs lighter than I was when I started, that puts me almost a YEAR ahead of schedule!!!  YAY!!!!!  My inner Procrastinator is quite pleased.  Nine years? That’s a LONG time from now!  I’m not afraid of failure, thanks to the outrageously long time frame.  My knees feel better.  My jeans fit better.  And because it was a SLOW 5 lbs, there aren’t any excuses to ruin my thunder.  It doesn’t count because it was probably just water weight?  Pfft!!!  I laugh at your water weight!  I lost approximately one small bag of cat food, or 1/3 of a BIG bag of cat food.  I’m NOT taking it with me to the mailbox, or to work, or out to the movies.  Not anymore!

Anyone else ready to take on the NINE year diet challenge?  Let me know in the comments!  :)

Have an awesome day!  xo Juli

Thank you Bernadette for this week’s Senior Salon!        

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*Legal Mumbo-jumbo: I am NOT a doctor, dietitian, nurse, palm reader, etc.  Please check in with someone who is QUALIFIED before taking on any new diet/exercise routine. Thanks!

I’m Getting “Super Better?”

I first learned of Jane McGonigal while listening to NPR.

Now, I’m a BIG fan of TED Talks.  And NPR.  I read self-help books.  For fun!  However, I’m NOT a gamer.  I get bored easily.  I have the attention span of a humming bird.

And…I struggle—daily—with depression.

My symptoms go up and down like a roller coaster.   Sometimes, I feel like I’m plummeting down into a gaping hole.  I have days when I don’t want to get out of bed. My responsibilities and family are the things that keep me grounded.  Other times, I feel okay. Happy.  Good.  My life isn’t perfect, but I feel like I can accomplish my goals.

Right now, I’m going through a good period/phase.  I’ve been feeling good for the last few weeks, which is HUGE.  When I’m at the top of my emotional roller coaster, I do everything I can to hold onto that feeling.  I don’t want to go plummeting back down.  I try to eat better.  I try to move more.  I try to do whatever I can to take care of myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  It’s so much easier to make little adjustments to keep my brain on an even keel, but once I get caught back into depression’s quicksand, it’s hard to climb back out again.

This morning, I decided to try Jane McGonigal’s online game, SuperBetter.  Today’s quests were about honesty and truth, about getting out of your comfort zone and taking risks. So…this is me, getting out of my comfort zone.

super better

Admitting that I struggle with depression is HARD.  Really hard.  I don’t think anyone WANTS to admit that they don’t have their life together.  It’s scary.  I worry about how I’ll be perceived.  I worry that family or friends will read my posts, shake their heads, and judge me.  It’s no fun to admit that you’re broken.  Everyone fails.  Everyone falls down. Everyone makes mistakes.  But when I’m wallowing in the wreckage of one of my depressive episodes, I feel like I’m the only one who has ever felt the  way I do, like I’m all alone.  A special snowflake.  When I’m feeling good again, I can see things much more clearly.  I know that my family and friends only want what’s best for me.  I’m grateful for that.

Journaling through my feelings, either privately, or online has helped a great deal. Sometimes it’s nice to drop the facade, even if it’s only for a moment.

“How’re you doing?”

“Fine,” I’ll answer.

But I’m lying.  I’m lying with a smile on my face.  I’m not nearly as “fine” as I probably should be.  Today, I’m “fine.”  I hope to be “fine” in the future.  I want to be “fine” for as long as I can.  It’s a lot of work pretending to be “fine,” going through the motions.

My inner critic is my enemy.  It tells me that my self-worth is conditional.  It lies to me.  I lie to myself.  It tells me that if I complete a laundry list of to dos, perhaps I “might” be worthy.

On a good day, like today, I can read one of the SuperBetter challenges, give myself a hug, and say, “Yes!  It’s not what I do; It’s who I am.”  Today, this feels true, because it IS true. “I am already awesome,” is written on an electronic sticky note on my computer’s start up screen, another SuperBetter quest/challenge.  I want this statement to feel real.  I want this game to give me a boost, to help me feel better longer.  I hate the emotional yo-yo, up and down.  I want to stay better, maybe even “Super Better.”

xo Juli