We’re in a cafe, ordering. I specifically ask for a ‘large single shot almond mocha’. I know, it’s complicated. The girl asks me if it’s a single shot of coffee or chocolate!
We sit down. The drinks are brought to the table. Mine’s a regular! I say to the girl, “I ordered a large”. My partner says, “No, you didn’t”. She goes to check. A regular was ordered.
I feel annoyed. Not because it’s a regular. But because my partner told me I didn’t say ‘large’. I know what I said as it’s what I always have.
We sit in frosty silence, reading bits of the newspaper. I’m still annoyed. It feels unreasonable, my annoyance. I’m annoyed that I’m annoyed. I start to add up the price to discover whether we were charged for a large. An extra 50 cents! This is not like me. This is crazy! I usually couldn’t care less. I ask my partner how much it cost as he paid. He gets frustrated and tells me to “stop it”.
I react. I slam down my cup. The mocha sloshes over into the saucer.
And then he says, “Sometimes you’re so stroppy.”
‘Bad tempered and argumentative’ says Google dictionary.
What triggered my ‘strop’? The ineptitude of the girl who took my order? That I didn’t get a large? Being told to ‘stop it’ or that I didn’t say what I know I said?
Why was I so ‘stroppy’ on this particular day? Cantankerous, hypercritical, quick to anger, judgemental?
Yes, hormones can wreak havoc on our minds and bodies. But it’s a choice as to how we allow them to control our thoughts and behaviour.
I’d like to say that as I’ve aged and gone through the cycles of my life so far — puberty, fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, peri-menopause and now menopause — that I’ve learned how to manage my emotional turbulence, crazy outbursts and stroppiness!
I have not.
It’s a continual struggle as my body keeps changing. New challenges, different hormonal configurations, side effects. All women experience this.
A phone call from my daughter, “Mum, I don’t know what’s wrong. I was doing really well and now I’m not. Nothings working out and I had a big meltdown yesterday.”
“Are you due for your period?”
It doesn’t matter how old you are, once those hormones kick in, the ride is wild! I’m more aware now of how my mood and behaviour is affected by hormonal changes. If I’m particularly snappy and witchy, or just feeling like I want to go to bed forever, I can sometimes catch myself and logically think, ‘Oh, I’m just going through a bit of hormonal hell — it will pass.’
More often than not, I’m caught out like my ‘stroppy’ episode in the cafe that escalated into, ‘Right, this relationship is over! I’m leaving! I’d rather be alone!’. If I don’t soothe myself with a thought like, ‘Ah, that’s right, I’m also having some hot sweats in bed at night, it’s just hormonal and that’s why I’m feeling like a crazy madwoman!’, then my mind can spin downwards into a vortex of negative toxicity. Thoughts that can be totally delusional, destructive and hopeless.
‘I hate my life’,‘Life is just so hard’, ‘I can’t cope’, ‘What’s wrong with me?’,‘I’m completely overwhelmed’, ‘No-one cares about me’, ‘I’m terrible at relationships’, ‘I don’t know how to keep going’, ‘I’m so useless’.
We can all have these thoughts, men and women, regardless of our bodily state. It’s just harder to rein our minds in when our bodies are suffering from a hormonal imbalance.
So what can you do when you’re feeling anxious, irritated, overwhelmed and grumpy — sore and bloated waiting for your period, enduring vicious peri-menopausal mood swings or inconvenient, menopausal hot flushes?
BE VERY, VERY KIND TO YOURSELF
This may be the hardest thing to do when you’re feeling so bad about yourself.
Take yourself out of the game. Nurture yourself. Have a hot bath. Go to bed early. Allow yourself to retreat. It’s ok. The world will cope without you for a while.
One of my daughters is very aware of when she needs to take herself off to bed. And does so without apology. I admire that. Sometimes it’s hard to do what we most need to do. It takes wisdom to know when to fill ourselves up to regain our zest and energy. Do what works for you.
Exercise has always been my secret weapon. I love to sweat it out — a bike ride, run, walk, gym workout, yoga, dance, whatever I’m up for and what my body can cope with. Without exercise, my mind can become a twisted mess. When I move my body, endorphins are released. This helps to calm and ease my anxiety and to create a happier, more balanced state of mind.
If exercise is not your thing then you could try meditation, eating chocolate, laughing and sex — all great at producing an endorphin high. We often crave chocolate when experiencing hormonal imbalances, yet, an orgasm, which may seem like a ridiculous idea when you’re feeling like scratching your eyes out, may be the best remedy!
Say sorry to your friends, family, partner, kids, colleagues if you’ve been difficult. Acknowledge where your body’s at and gracefully remove yourself from situations that stress you out. If you can’t get away, take a pause — in the bathroom, in the back garden, in your car! Wherever you can be alone to take a deep breath and reset. I’ve hidden in many toilets over my life, crouched on the seat, wrestling with the turmoil within, “Get out of the toilet! You can do this. Get up and go. NOW!”
I have a friend who has a problem forgetting people’s names, even friends she knows really well. Instead of beating herself up or getting embarrassed when it happens, she just laughingly says, “Oops sorry, I’m just having a menopausal moment.”
As I’m writing this my pre-menstrual daughter calls me again.
“Mum……..I think I’m having a panic attack…I can’t breathe…”
“Have you got your period yet?”
“Yeeesssss… I got it today.” Deep sobbing and sniffling, uneven breathing. She’s really not doing very well. Luckily, I’m out of my ‘I’m-going-to-walk-into-the-lake-fully-clothed-and-not-come-out’ hormonally challenged week! I can empathetically listen, not feel like I’ve totally screwed up as a mother and give support.
“Oh, that’s good. Just breath…take a deep breath. You’re doing really well. Everything’s going to be ok.”
“I know…it’s amazing how quickly happiness can wear off!”
Yep — hormones!