Health and Wellness: Hormones

Image result for hormonal cycle

The last half decade has been a deep dive on may things, but none more so than health and wellness. As I ventured out of my 30s and into my 40s, I noticed so many emotional, spiritual, and physical changes. While emotionally I felt more strength and conviction in my choices and preferences, on the physical side I was plagued with sleeplessness, injury, and hormonal ups and downs. While I suffered from everything from tennis elbow to intense back pain, those ailments seemed the easiest to treat. (More on that later!) The emotional changes seemed harder to pinpoint and find a fix for. After a particularly dark season last fall/winter where I was plagued with low grade depression and anxiety, I decided to start to chart my feelings. After three months I came to the conclusion that I was hit hardest with complicated emotions that were completely out of control in the week leading up to my period. I literally was able to figure out that 7-10 days before my period arrived I felt despondent, angry, sad, weepy, and anxious. I also was ravenously hungry and tossed and turned all night long, unable to sleep. And then the day my period arrived, it was like someone had grabbed the corners of a dark blanket that had been piled on top of me, and lifted it off of me, letting the light shine back in. I know this sounds like I am exaggerating wildly, but I promise you, this was what was happening.

I have seen the same gynecologist since I was 15 and decided to call him immediately with my findings. Instead of putting me on the birth control pill to level out my hormones, he described how as we head into menopause (don’t lose your bananas here women, but age 42 is actually around the time when many things start to shift in that direction!) our bodies stop making progesterone. That green spike you see on the graph above slowly declines with age. He said there was a chance that my progesterone levels were very low or almost nonexistent during that week leading up to my period. We decided we would try the progesterone first, and then move onto more testing or other alternatives if needed. People I am not kidding when I say that the very first month I was on these pills I felt like a new person. I got my period and then counted from the first day until the 14th. From the 14th through the 24th I took the progesterone pills and felt like I didn’t even have PMS. Then on day 27 I got my period. In the 12 months since I have been taking the progesterone I have felt so much better. Twice I either started the pills two days late, or skipped one by accident. That month I was plagued with the same symptoms as before. This indicated to me that the pills were working, but it also helped me to understand just how sensitive my hormonal system is! I know that not all women will or do experience these hormonal swings. After talking to many women about my situation, I can tell you it is a very personal physical journey that each of us is taking. BUT the reason I share is because 1 out of every third friend I shared this with said, “Wait! Me too! me too! Me too!” And as you know if you have been reading along with the blog for some time, I share because I think we all learn deeply from each other’s experiences. If nothing else, I hope your takeaway after reading is a reminder that when you don’t feel great, it’s always best to reach out and ask for help.

So what do I do now? I stay on the progesterone and time it precisely each month. (I also use some great acupressure points to help with symptoms and emotions.) And if I miss a day or start to feel the dark “meanies”, I have an internal dialogue that I now set in motion. It goes something like this: “Lindley these hormones are bat shit crazy. They are making you feel alone, angry, sensitive, and out of control. Ride out the wave. Know that in 7 days you will be back to feeling more normal. And above all else, slow down and take some time away from others to process what you are feeling.” Saying these things to myself can really help. The most important thing I have learned is that when I am in a hormonal spiral, it doesn’t make sense to go to that dinner party, meet with friends for drinks, or volunteer at the school. I know I am not my best self, so why would I want to risk making that emotional breakdown more likely? I need quiet time and lowered expectations of myself and others. I run a pretty fast paced race to get it all done most days. When my hormones are off, I just can’t keep going at that speed. Maybe that is the hidden blessing – the mandatory slowing down.

As in all blog posts I think it is really important to remind you all that I am not a doctor. These hormones work for me. There is a lot of controversy around taking hormones, so I would recommend really researching them before taking anything. They may not be right for you. But the most important reminder here is that there are things that can help when you are feeling off. Talk to your doctor. Don’t feel alone. And feel gratitude and peace knowing that we live in a world where there is so much healing we have access to. I am grateful beyond measure for that.

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