Women in my family experience severe anxiety in menopause. I didn’t really know what that meant until it started happening to me.
It happened at the worst time, several months after my 50th birthday. I had a new job, enough money, the house and my husband John to myself, all I’d ever wanted. After many years of shame in my body, I was just starting to feel alive, free, and fairly secure in my self-image. For two months, I was euphoric. I took some self portraits with a really old iPhone and was happy with what I saw, stretch marks, menopot (that belly fat that develops where you’ve never had it before) and all.
Then my body tried to send me through the final stages of menopause, and it felt like all I’d built up in reserve for this time of life fell away; it turned out the euphoria had been evidence of a severe serotonin deficiency and of the kind of “mood swing” you hear about. Now I understand what people mean when they say they feel they are going crazy. I know what it’s like to battle “unwanted interfering thoughts” which is the sweet term used for compulsive thinking.
I suffered working on the solution for four months and in the meantime tested the confidence I had gathered as my body deteriorated with the mental illness and menopause symptoms: loss of appetite, tremor. I mean, hey, I got rid of the menopot, but my acne returned, my breasts sagged, my hair started falling out. Try hiding that at a new job. The crash was sudden and frightening, and I had no idea what was happening to me. It plunged me back into a shame spiral I’d been living with previously, that had its roots in adolescence.