Are you feeling like you've lost yourself? Pushing people away?
You see, it’s not just the physical symptoms that cause distress through the menopause stages. The mental symptoms can be just as debilitating. There’s also another set of symptoms that, in Ye Olde Days, might have been termed a ‘mid-life crisis’. Those feelings of discontent, loneliness, isolation, or dissatisfaction with everything – yourself, your family, your partner, friends, job, career, house… It’s a very real thing.
It can be puzzling and frightening – and it is often part of the suite of changes that take place throughout peri/menopause.
So why the jiggins is this happening? Why do you start to feel like doing a Thelma & Louise and leaving everything and everybody behind? Why do you want to be alone, and yet not?
One possible reason is related to hormonal changes; we all produce a ‘love hormone’ called oxytocin. It’s nature’s way of making us care – for instance, oxytocin levels rise massively when giving birth – and it’s this hormone that helps us to feel fluffy about people. Oxytocin is linked to oestrogen levels, so when oestrogen begins to fall, so does oxytocin.
This brings on feelings of detachment, and coupled with the alienation and feeling of ‘losing yourself’, this can lead to feeling utterly fed up with everybody and everything. This isn’t helped if you feel like you’re being taken advantage of. You might start to feel (and maybe rightly!) that you’re getting no recognition for what you do, whether that’s in the home, with family, socially, or at work. So you feel more isolated and alone. You might feel like you want to be alone… and life can become bloody miserable as a result.
Those close to you notice a change in you, and if they don’t understand what is happening as you go through the stages of menopause, this can lead to further estrangement, feelings of being isolated and loneliness, and that can put a strain on relationships.
So you feel like this, you recognise now what’s going on. But what can you do?
The first thing NOT to do is make any big decisions in haste. Some people feel they need to walk out of the family home, resign from their jobs, or ditch friends. If you genuinely feel unhappy with any aspect of your life, take a breath. Take some time. Try to bear in mind that this is likely to be a passing phase – it might feel like this is it, and this is who you are now, whoever that is! That may well turn out to be true, and you might actually want to make some drastic changes – it’s now or never, right?! But don’t rush. Consider your options…
You may well feel that you’re going to be more assertive and put yourself first for a change. This is definitely a positive to be taken from this! Make some plans to do the things that you never got a chance to do – and do them! Do them without feeling guilty that you have decided that you are important. Don’t stress that you don’t feel that you care about others as much as you used to. You do care, but you need to care for yourself now. Try to take full advantage of this opportunity to be yourself, for you.
But what if you feel like you don’t actually know who you are anymore?
Many people going through menopause can feel lost, adrift or they feel they ‘are a different person’ or their ‘real me’ has disappeared. This is another effect that low oestrogen levels can have - affecting how you feel about yourself and the world around you.
You might suddenly feel as though you’re behaving differently. Maybe words are coming out of your mouth seemingly without any control from you. Your thoughts might seem alien to you, your emotions are all over the place, and you’ve lost your mojo. You don’t recognise the woman in the mirror, physically or mentally.
It’s really difficult to know what to do when you’re feeling like this. Again, don’t make any hasty decisions! You *can* help yourself, although you might feel despair. Getting your oestrogen levels topped up is likely to make you feel so much better! HRT is the best way to do this, but if you can’t take HRT, there are other things you can do. These things can also give you more support if you are able to take HRT, but you could do with a bit of extra help.
Supplementing with magnesium (we recommend glycinate – it’s gentle on your digestive system and also helps with sleep, night sweats, and hot flushes). Vitamin B to support your nervous system can also help here. (ALWAYS consult a properly qualified healthcare professional before starting any form of treatment, including supplements or herbal remedies).
Breathing exercises and other meditative practises can help, and exercise can get those endorphins (the feel good stuff!) pumping around your system. You might feel like alcohol is a help, but it isn’t!
Please remember to be kind to yourself. Try not to beat yourself up about any feelings of inadequacy, loss, detachment, or anxiety. It's not you – it’s your hormones! Like the oxygen mask on a plane: put your own on first before helping others. It’s the same here – you can’t be who you want to be if you don’t take care of yourself. You can’t be there for others if you’re still feeling absent.