Hello dear readers. I am so sorry for the lack of writing over the past few weeks. I needed to take some time out to get my head around my Mum being diagnosed with advanced cancer. She’s making good progress and so I find myself more able concentrate on normal everyday life activities.. so here it is, episode 7.
In episode 6 Cath visits a psychologist in an effort to find some relief for her more weird menopausal symptoms. This week we should find out what’s at the root of it all, if the weekly sessions help? Does she go cold turkey with all the pills? What else does menopause throw her way?
New Year, new me (hopefully)
I am swimming in new cookery books from Christmas. It seems my family thinks I should get back to cookery. Deciding that they may have a point, and I could count it as occupational therapy, I pick a course from each book to cook Sunday lunch, something I have not felt like doing for ages. My sense of humour is still alive and kicking and I can’t resist a little giggle as I put my menu together. In short this lunch is a Naked (Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef – starter), Hairy (Hairy Bikers – main) Great British Bake-off (pudding)!
In spite of my rusty kitchen skills, a decent lunch lands on the table and, judging by the lack of left-overs, greatly enjoyed by all. I should do this more often. I was so absorbed in cooking, I forgot all about the facial numbness, hot/cold tongue and general anxiety. In fact, I felt great. Shame it didn’t last long. The January Blues which accompany the return to work, are looming large. All the glitter and sparkle of the festive season is replaced by short days and long dark nights.
My brain agrees, as I lie wide awake at 3am. I wonder what it is about the wee small hours of the morning, that pokes my brain into activity, jumping on the hamster wheel and thinking a million thoughts a minute? If I am lucky enough to be asleep it’s not restful. Everything from the weird and scary to the pretty naughty, X-rated stuff. If only I could carry the x-rated stuff into my waking world, Mr D would be a happy man and late for work!
Twang! There goes another apron string…
Midway through January Cost Centre 2, my rapidly growing wee baby, has Sixth Form choices form to fill in. Sixth Form? How did that happen? I’m surely not old enough to have my youngest going into Sixth Form? Where did my little baby go? The Suddenly I feel older than I’ve ever felt before and I am on the edge of tears. This time I take Dr Siskin’s advice. Instead of stuffing them down, biting them back, I take myself off to a quiet part of the house and cry. These are silent tears, falling in torrents. Afterwards, red-faced and blotchy-eyed, I have a good long chat with God (we are back on speaking terms again). As I wash my face, I switch on the radio in time to hear a song played at my Wedding ceremony, “Morning has Broken”. Undoing my repair work, more tears fall but this time they are happier. This is the natural flow of things. Children grow up and women go through the menopause! The timing could be a tad better don’t you think?
Much to my own surprise, I find myself looking forward to my weekly therapy sessions, so much so that I agree to start a therapy used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR). I have to say I am a little sceptical about it. After all, people who suffer from PTSD have had some major trauma in their lives to deal with: rape, murder, active service in combat zones for example. In my own mind I don’t think I fit into this profile. I’ve not had serious trauma in my life as far as I know. I’m pretty sure I would have remembered it. However, a promise is a promise. I promised God in my last long, ear-bending chat, that I would trust Him to provide what I need to get through these changes. I hope it works because the thought of being like this for the rest of my life is depressing.
The first session leaves me feeling drained, as if I’ve had a serious gym session, but determined to keep going. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. Dr Siskin reminds me to treat myself with loving kindness (this will be a first) and to keep a note of anything that springs to mind afterwards. ‘Springing to mind’ sounds quite peaceful and gentle, an ‘aha’ moment.What actually happens is this –
‘So I’ll see you at the same time next week Cath. Remember to take good care of yourself and note down anything that pops up.’ says Dr Siskin, bringing our session to a close.
‘…wait. What? No! Oh my God. I’d forgotten about that.’ I splutter, not listening to Dr Siskin’s advice.
‘Are you ok Cath? Sit down and tell me what just happened.’
‘Does being bullied at school count as trauma? The kids in my class either pretended I didn’t exist or hit me. I was about 12 years old when it started. And home did not always feel safe to me either.’ I tell her as I stare at my shoes, not daring to look her in the face. I feel like that small kid again.
Almost as soon as I say the words out loud to Dr Siskin, I feel something click into place. I do need this help. I do fit the criteria for trauma treatment.
Getting to the root cause
As the sessions progress, more physical trauma, from my early years through to early puberty, emerges from the deep recesses of my memory. Menopause changes are poking me hard to deal with them one by one so that I can begin to move forward again and positively thrive in my Second Spring. Each trauma has a physical and mental component to the memory. In my case, I felt I could not speak out. Each time I asked for help, parents and teachers advised me to ‘ignore the bullies, they’ll soon get bored.’ Obviously they hadn’t dealt with the average teenager when there’s sport to be had. Yes they reach boredom within 0.25 seconds of an English lesson beginning. But trust me when I say they do not get bored with tormenting their victims.
The constricting lump in the throat feeling, bruxism, amongst other symptoms, as well as the general feeling of anxiety, are the physical form of those memories and emotions that have not been processed. The lack of support from teachers and parents had taught me to stuff down my feelings, keep a poker face and never speak out. Time to change!
I’m not an expert in EMDR, but I’m an expert in being a recipient! If you click the link above, it will give you much more information than I can. As far as I understand it, I still retain the memories of the events but they no longer trigger a response in my body. Most of my physical responses were centred in my mouth and throat. In psychological terms, I’d learned to grit my teeth in the face of bullying, to say nothing because not one adult believed me or intervened on my behalf.
Time to wave goodbye to some pills
Midway through the month I remember I said I would make myself an appointment with my family doctor to discuss my meds. That was weeks ago and we are now into the second month of the year. It’s time I sorted out my HRT dose and came off the beta blockers. Meanwhile, back in Perimenopauseland, new symptoms have popped up: muscle twitches and tinnitus. I’m twitchy in my arms, thigh muscles, and stomach muscles. I google them knowing that the first set of results will say I have a life-limiting illness. I’m getting wiser to this and scan further down the list. I come across a forum set up for women going through the change. Intrigued, I take a look at it and hunt round the site. There’s a wealth of information, and to my relief, lots of women experiencing the same weird and scary stuff as me. I am elated. All of these symptoms are connected to the change. I am reassured that HRT is the answer to all my problems and that maybe I’ve been on too high a dose for me.
My latest consultation with the doc sees me come out with a lower dose HRT pill and a plan to wean off the beta blockers. I can hardly wait to be finished with them. I want rid of the lethargy and spacey feeling and I could do with my libido coming out of hibernation, especially as Mr D and I have a night away booked for Valentine’s Day.
As the therapy sessions progress, we uncover more physical trauma from my early years through to early puberty. It looks as though I need to deal with all the bottled up feelings from these memories so that I can move forward. I wonder if the memories are real so I run them past my sister. To my horror they are real. Parents and teachers would not get away with such behaviour nowadays but I guess it wasn’t such a big deal back then.
Apart from processing the trauma memories, I am having to learn a new language. I need to be able to speak fluent Cath Dean. Bodies are very clever at telling us information on how we are doing, body, mind and soul, but it is up to each of us to listen, understand, and act accordingly. As I’ve spent most of my life ignoring my body’s messages, I am very much a beginner. This is going to be an interesting lesson.
Tune in next week to find out if Cath’s HRT pills bring her libido out of early retirement. Does she learn how to interpret her body’s messages? If so, what’s it saying?