Around three years ago, a woman who I know and trust, a woman old enough to be my mother—yet looks young enough to be my sister—asked me out of the blue, “Do you mind me asking, how old are you?”
I was in my early forties.
She clucked her tongue and shook her head in that knowing way that comes with southern breeding and education. “Then it’s probably about time you started taking your B vitamins.”
I was born and raised in Michigan, about as north as you can get while still living in the United States. Half my ancestors were raised in the south. You do not argue with southern women. Even still, I am a stubborn woman and this sounded vaguely old-timey bordering on superstitious, like drinking pickle juice for gout. (Before you ask, yes. This is a thing. And yes. I know people who swear that pickle juice/brine has healing powers. I do not make these claims. I am NOT a medical professional.)
“Do you notice that you’re feeling tired all the time,” she continued as she lit a cigarette, “more so than usual?”
I had been feeling tired out. Worn out. Used up. It’s as if all the decades of my life had hit me at once. I couldn’t understand it. It’s not as if being in your forties was…old.
“That’s the menopause starting, honey. Take your B 12 every morning. That’s what I do. Been doing it for years.” She grinned at me. She’d been there, done that, was on the other side of it all, and could still kick my butt if she wanted to. This advice was coming from a woman who was old enough to enjoy retirement—but didn’t. By choice. “Retirement? What am I supposed to do? Sit at home and clean? I don’t think so.”
I didn’t listen to her advice. Not then, not later on. Not until 3 weeks ago.
I tried other things. Some worked for a little while. Nothing stuck. When you’re tired and worn, you can’t think straight. You can’t make good decisions. The exhaustion fuels the depression. You assume it’s temporary. (You hope it is at any rate.) I thought my weight was probably contributing to the problem. I joined a gym. My plantar fasciits started acting up. I stopped going. I changed my diet. That didn’t seem to help. It’s been frustrating.
Three weeks ago, I’m thinking about the 1991 movie, Fried Green Tomatoes, and poor Evelyn Couch (the protagonist) going through her own midlife troubles. They based the movie on, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: A Novel written by Fannie Flagg in 1987. There’s a line in this book that spoke to me:
Why, there was this woman over in Georgia who was only thirty-six years old, and one day she got in her car and drove right up the stairs of the county courthouse, rolled down her window, and tossed her mother’s head, that she had just chopped off in her kitchen, at a state policeman, and hollered, ‘Here, this is what you wanted,’ and drove right back down the courthouse stairs. Now, that’s what an early menopause will do for you if you’re not careful.”
I’m not quite there yet, but this felt about right. Old-timey wisdom or not, I started taking a B-complex vitamin every morning with my coffee.
Again, I am NOT a medical professional. I am NOT handing out medical advice. Talk to your doctor. I don’t want anyone getting hurt because this wasn’t the right treatment for them. I’m only telling you that this is what I did. What I’m doing.
I started feeling better almost immediately. And there is some truth to women in their forties often being deficient in B vitamins. In the past 3 weeks, I haven’t been fighting with depression, primarily because depression hasn’t even been on my radar! I’ve been feeling more like my old self, myself from my early thirties. My foot has been sore, but I haven’t been feeling depressed about that either. (Pain is often one of my triggers.) I’ve felt like writing again. I started doing work in my yard. I just haven’t felt so overwhelmed like I often do.
And…I know this is TMI—too much information—it’s certainly embarrassing. If you’ve ever given birth to children, you know that your poor bladder is NEVER the same afterword. My kid is a teen, and I still cringe if I sneeze because sometimes…it’s NOT good. But since I started taking a B-Complex supplement, even THAT has gotten under control. I thought my good feelings might have been a placebo effect. Placebo doesn’t fix occasional/minor incontinence. This has. (It turns your urine fluorescent yellow so I would know if it wasn’t helping.) And it’s only been 3 weeks.
So…yeah. I wanted to share this sooner because I felt better immediately, but I waited just to be sure. What worked for me may not necessarily work for you. That said, I’m glad someone shared this advice with me. I wish I’d followed her advice sooner!