Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

The end of the end and the beginning of a new beginning

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At the end of last month, after a long illness, my mother transitioned into her new life, leaving my Dad, my sister and me to find a new way forward. Like many people experiencing grief, I wonder if I’m doing it right. Is there something wrong with me? Did I not love my mother as much as my sister and father?

Why the odd questions? I’ll tell you. After her passing in the hospital, we completed the necessary paperwork and went to our separate homes. In my case, I went back to my hotel room. Due to COVID restrictions I am not allowed to visit with my family unless we meet in a public place. Anyhoo – Dad told me he’d gone to the bottom of their garden and had a good cry. My sister had done something similar at her house. Me? I couldn’t do it in a faceless hotel room. I knew I needed to keep myself together for the journey back to England the following day. It just didn’t seem like the right time or place to me. Maybe once I got home again…

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And then again, maybe not. The last time I sobbed my heart out was after I dropped Cost Center 1 at University. I sat in her childhood bedroom and had a good old cry, the kind you do when you were little and fell over, hurting your knees. I felt better after that cry. I’d like to feel something like that now but so far nothing doing. I think the best description I have is I’m on autopilot. Her funeral was last Thursday. I motored through choosing flowers, coffin, writing obituaries, writing and practicing Mum’s Eulogy, delivering it on the day, talking at social distance to all who attended to pay respects. An endless list of things that needed my attention and focus.

Now that I’m back home in England, there is nothing left to organise or stay in ‘professional mode’ for. I’m numb and empty. I can’t sleep. In fact I looked back through my journal and found that sleep has eluded me for almost a third of a year. Sleep may have been MIA, but anxiety sure as heck hasn’t. I guess I’m so used to being on red alert for every text message, every email, every land-line call, every family conference call that I’ve forgotten how to switch it back to ‘normal’.

With nothing to focus on per se, my anxious attention zeroed in on my own body. The ‘What If’ gremlin has taken up roost on my shoulder. It watches everything my stressed out body does and asks – 

The What If gremlin!

‘What if that’s a sign of some deadly illness?‘

What if you go the same way as your mother?’ 

Look how healthy she was all her life and then POW! A year and a half later she’s gone!’

‘What if…’

‘What if…’

‘What if…’’

Argh! Shut up already!’

I phoned my family doctor and explained all of this. I half expected to be asked to call in for a checkup, but no. He kindly explained what happens when a person’s physical and mental health when they’ve experienced relentless stress, severe and prolonged sleep disturbance  and bereavement. It’s a recipe for burn-out. He’s prescribed me some short-acting sleeping tablets (with very strict instructions), clean eating, no alcohol (bugger – there goes my Friday gin and tonic), meditation and plenty of fresh air. So here I am, writing this sad old post, grounded and trying to put myself back together again.

I know the pain of loss will diminish over time. The rawness, emptiness, floods of tears following a happy memory shared will resolve in their own good time.

Meanwhile, I’d like to thank each of my core followers for your kind words and virtual hugs. Just to know you took the time to send me little replies helped me, and continue to help me today and tomorrow. I’m looking forward to a time when I’m back to my usual chipper self.

Bless you all.

Cath xx

Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Tales from the other side – To sleep, perchance to dream…

What is it about midlife and menopause than switches off our ability enjoy a decent night’s sleep? I can’t remember the last time I woke up to the alarm, feeling rested and recharged. Lord knows I need it. The circles under my eyes tell a sorry tale of disturbed sleep. I envy both Cost Centres (a.k.a  my kids). Their ability to fall asleep anywhere, not surfacing for a good ten hours is one I’d love to have back again.

It all began when my once-reliable hormones began to fluctuate. Up. Down. Up. Even more UP. Down to almost nothing. Back to normal. And so on. The accompanying hot flushes and night sweats are obvious culprits. I dare anyone to sleep through an inferno followed by generating puddles of sweat! Many a night I woke up to an impromptu puddle at the bottom of my rib cage! I used to keep a small towel by my bed to mop up before anything had the chance to dribble onto the bed sheets. Having mopped up and cooled off, this seemed to trigger my brain into action. It would jump onto the hamster wheel and think about all sorts of random, sometimes scary, crap. Fast-forward to today, and although I’m now post-menopausal, with supposedly level hormones, I still join the ‘sleepless at 3am brigade’ on a regular basis. Blooming annoying.

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It seems that our fluctuating oestrogen levels (or even permanently low levels) are joined by inefficient sleep hormone production. As if hot flushes and night sweats aren’t enough to contend with. This heady cocktail can make it harder to fall asleep, harder to stay asleep and more easily disturbed by noises, lights etc. In the Dean household, Cost centre 2 has a habit of gaming online with a headset on. He forgets how loud his voice is, particularly when he laughs. Once I’m shaken awake by his victory yells it’s almost impossible to fall asleep again with all that adrenaline running riot, not to mention the flushes that accompany such a rude awakening. I love him to bits but there are times when I’d cheerfully throw the broadband router out the window!!

Stress and/or anxiety are obvious causes for sleep disturbance (amongst other things). Given the above situation with noisy kids, plus my own parents’ health issues praying on my mind, coupled with added health anxiety, it’s a great recipe for ensuring I’m awake to appreciate our local population of owls hooting at each other!

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I’m certain our obsession with communications technology is unhealthy. We humans were never meant to be available 24/7. Not so long ago, winding down from the day involved a little tv, maybe a book (a real one) and then bed. Now humans seem incapable of staying off their gadgets, checking emails and social media from what used to be the quiet of the bedroom.

This is by no means a complete list. Nor does it constitute medical advice. It is simply a random list of things I’ve tried with varying success. If you are worried about your sleep, use your common sense and see a qualified healthcare professional.

Cath’s list of sleep aids.

  1. No caffeine after lunchtime – women take longer to break down caffeine than men.
  2. Limit food intake three hours before you go to bed to allow yours stomach time to digest its meal and empty itself. Late eating often leads to a spot of heartburn… that’s going to keep anyone wide awake.
  3. Get moving. Daily exercise of some form helps reduce stress levels. Just don’t have a cardio workout close to bedtime. Swap it for some chillout yoga session instead.
  4. Make sure you get the best mattress you can. After all, you spend a third of your life asleep so be as comfortable as possible
  5. Sleep in a dark room. If this isn’t possible, invest in a good sleep mask. And while we’re on the subject of light, or limiting it, no sneaky looks at your phone/tablet at least an hour before bed. Even with night mode enabled, those things are still stimulating your mind.
  6. Mindfulness – ten minutes of undisturbed calmness, focussing on just your breath, in and out, calms the brain. You can do this anywhere. I make it part of my get ready for bed routine
  7. Keep your bedroom uncluttered and tidy… a calm feeling in the bedroom goes a long way to helping you unwind
  8. Aromatherapy – lavender oil is a big favourite for invoking a calm atmosphere. Here’s my recipe for a room/bedding spray. You will need:
  9. A clean spray bottle (holds at least 30ml)
    • 30ml water
    • 5 drops clary sage
    • 5 drops frankincense
    • 5 drop geranium

Mix well and spray your room and bedding for a soothing aroma.

What do you do to ensure a decent night’s sleep? Share your top tips in the comments section.

Have a fab Friday my lovely readers xx