I am 47 and I had hoped that by this age I would be in a place where I am happy and have achieved some sort of healing of my mental health and experience of abuse in childhood. Well, to be honest, I never thought I would get that old. In my teens, I was sure I would not survive the magical three zero. I did by some miracle.
Today I think this belief just showed a stage in life. 30 is a time when things change for a woman: Your body tells you that it is high time to produce some children and settle down. I tried. Not very hard but I tried and it didn’t work out. Five years later I changed everything and started anew and while it got me to the country I always wanted to live in it also got me a partner who had a lot of problems and who let it out on me. Another five years later and I let that one go too. And then I found the one.
I thought I had made it finally but pretty much immediately my mental health really played up. Before I met the best husband (Jeremy Clarkson voice) in the world I was in a constant state of alert and fright. I did not really feel it because it was “normal” and I had numbed my feelings rather successfully. Meeting my husband allowed me to feel safe and happy but the fear came back. And it came back with a vengeance. You do not feel your fear and panic so much when it is around continuously. But it feels bigger when you have a respite in between. Does that make sense?
Now I am closing in on 50 and something else adds to my problems: My period has been playing up for several years. I live with fibroids (a non-cancerous growth in the uterus) which can be rather painful and they muddle with your period. It is said they vanish once you hit menopause but it seems to me that there is not much knowledge out there about how menopause affects different women let alone how it affects women survivors of childhood abuse and/or women who live with a mental health issue.
So I have started to ask these three questions:
- How much of my actual crisis is caused by my mental health and what by my changing hormones?
- How much of my physical symptoms is my mental health and how much is getting older?
- Do I have the right diagnosis?
1 How much of my actual crisis is caused by my mental health and what by my changing hormones?
The NHS says about menopause:
The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.
Periods usually start to become less frequent over a few months or years before they stop altogether. Sometimes they can stop suddenly.
The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman’s oestrogen levels decline. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51.
However, around 1 in 100 women experience the menopause before 40 years of age. This is known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.
So I fit the picture perfectly for being menopausal. I have often said in therapy in the last couple of years that my symptoms when I have a break down do not make sense anymore. I do feel at peace with what happened to me. There are things that are still in the dark but I have agreed with myself that those dogs are better to let sleeping. Thinking about it I had several of the symptoms stated by the NHS that you experience in menopause. However, apparently, British women experience it on average at 51. So I would be rather young. But I am not British either.
I am also wondering if women who had no children get it earlier. I wanted to ask my step mum about it who had no children of her own but so far haven’t been courageous enough. I had asked at the doctors but in my experience, GP’s directly go to the anxiety, PTSD diagnosis without considering any other possibility which makes me question their approach. Even though I feel well treated with my new GP who seems to know a lot about mental health problems I am not so sure if that mental health thing is all there is.
2. How much of my physical symptoms is my mental health and how much is getting older?
I have been to the doctor for my menstrual pain and my period playing up, my abdominal pain, my headaches, my neck pain and my bones and joints aching. There is no physical reason whatsoever. Now I know that bad mental health affects your body too. Psychosomatic physical pain is known but of course, at nearly fifty lots of your body starts wearing out too. I also have not been known for being too physically active or taking care of my body as such. Another problem you deal with as a survivor of abuse. Your body is the part that still keeps those memories of all the pain that you experienced while being abused. Your mind might not be aware of it anymore but your body certainly is. So you try to ignore it as much as possible to not being reminded of what lies behind.
However, maybe my question is the wrong question. Maybe you can’t answer which part is mental health/abuse and which is ageing but how to deal with it is the same: getting more physically active and take care of your body with eating healthily, drinking enough and taking food supplements if you believe in it.
3. Do I have the right diagnosis?
I am asking myself that for a while. I crash, I have therapy, I deal with life with the tools I learn and I crash again. Whats the point? And if there is a point are the tools that I learn the right ones or do I need something different? I am on the waiting list for more CBT therapy and I think I need to ask exactly these questions when I go back. Or maybe I need to let the diagnosis bit go and go back to a more spiritual approach. I don’t know. I feel so confused, so at a point where I cannot get on how I used to but have no idea where to go from here.
I remember reading “The Courage to Heal”. There is a chapter where they say there is a point in your healing process where everything seems to break down. You just can’t get on how you did and you need to find your new path in life. That is when true healing begins. It would be nice if that would be the case.
Coming back to the beginning: Even though I am going through another mental health crisis and have not yet achieved a healing I consider a healing: I am in the country I always wanted to live in, can express myself creatively and have a husband and family who is just plain wonderful. We nearly live at the beach. I have enough to eat. A roof over my head. What more do you need?
It might just be that this is a new challenge to deal with. Just new questions that need answering and no matter how I feel at the moment it might just work! I think I could believe that. Yes, I do. Really…
I am wondering if I am the only middle-aged woman who is a survivor and/or living with a mental health condition who asks herself these questions and has the same experiences. I would love to hear from you.
NHS ~ Menopause
Music Monday: I am not sixty four yet but its not so far away anymore. So here a lovely French version of the song:
“Often it isn’t the initiating trauma that creates seemingly insurmountable pain, but the lack of support after.”
― S. Kelley Harrell, M. Div., Gift of the Dreamtime – Reader’s Companion
Fellow bloggers writing about mental health, growing old and surviving trauma:
Buy Kamagra Gold Online: Menopause and Anxiety (Revisited)
ActiveHistory.ca: High Risk: Women, Healthcare, Trauma and History
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