About a year and a half ago I decided on a ten year plan for where I wanted to be with my artwork in the years to come. I set some goals for five years and then one year. I was pretty stoked and I was doing well. It was a lot of work – art went from ‘hobby’ to ‘second job’. I decided I wanted to get better and do more and have some achievements.
I did the first year pretty well. I had lists and targets and goals and was well on track to following them.
About 6 months ago I started finding things very hard. Not impossible, just things were hard and I had no energy to do anything much. It wasn’t that it was the art that was the problem, it’s that i was so darn tired all the time. I used to be able to get home from work and work on other projects. Increasingly, I was coming home and flomping on the couch, or even going to bed for a pre dinner nap. It’s like I could not keep up with my life. The trip to India in November really took it out of me. December sucked. I got sick in January and Feb and never really got back on the horse. I was thinking it was work, exercise, other things were causing it.
I said a few times that ever since I turned 40 I started feeling old. No one else around me was saying anything like this and I was finding it very hard to articulate exactly what I meant by this. But I just…felt old. My plans for my art were suffering and I wasn’t really doing all that much. I was beating myself up over it too.
Mid April I took some leave. I took 4.5 weeks off. I was thinking this would be a time to recharge the batteries and get over whatever it was that was stressing me at work or whatever. Didn’t quite work like that – 2 weeks in and I realized I was waking up tired, going to bed tired, and my muscles and joints ached the same way they were when I was regularly seeing my personal trainer – MORE so in fact. At this point I thought to myself ‘Wait. This is medical‘ and went to the doctor. I got blood tests, questions and then a diagnosis.
The upshot of it is that as well as being a bit B12 deficient (which causes fatigue and I’ve fixed up now) – I’m going through Peri menopause – all the fun of menopause plus you still get to menstruate (sometimes)! I’m 41 and now that I know the symptoms I can date it right back to at least September 2012 (i was getting hot flushes on the train to Guilin in China), which means I started when i was at least 39. Turns out mum went through it at 40 – also an auntie had a similar thing. THANKS MUM!
A good list of 35 symptoms is here. I’m getting 22 of them regularly. I hadn’t even considered some of the things, like the dizzy spells, to be a thing, till I read this list and went ‘well there you go then’. The biggies I’m getting are hot flushes – actually I’m burning up most of the time, muscle/bone aches, crashing fatigue, normal fatigue, and unfortunately irritability. Lots of things rile me up these days. MEH! The fatigue is the worst. The thought of doing things in the evenings, or going out more, or ‘lets catch up’ have been filling me with dread for the last 6 months. Now I know why! I am coping ok with daily things I need to do (work, relationships, friendships, chores), but anything else has me almost crying at the idea of having to do it.
I’m walking around some days in no sleeves and sleeping under a single sheet (it’s kicking off into winter here in melbs. Actually I noted yesterday the only other people wandering the streets of melbs in no sleeves were older ladies. It’s like a secret society!). I always did wake up during the night and be unable to get back to sleep (THANK YOU ADHD) but it HAS gotten worse over the last six months. And some days I just hurt and ache all over and it’s not the nice ache you get from doing exercise but a joint ache that is distressing and yuckky.
It’s kind of like thinking you’re perpetually about to come down sick but you don’t feel sick, you just get all the symptoms of being sick.
It’s such a relief in a way, to know that there is a reason for all this stuff. All woman go through this eventually and that I’d never really heard about it all that much – I’m the wrong age to be hearing about it as my friends are my age and younger – so I missed reading the symptoms and no one really read them for me. Not that there is much I can do now I know. You just have to go through it and as the lady I work with pointed out – it just becomes normal and you get used it it. I’m still on the pill and will stay on it till I actually do hit menopause – but going off the hormone pills on the cycle you’re supposed to follow to see if you still get your period (the answer is ‘sometimes!), triggers even worse symptoms – so not sure when I’m going to do that again. I’m so glad I took that time off and went to the doctor!
It’s an odd thing, menopause. I think out there seems to be a combination of not-wanting-to-talk-about-it (‘i am no longer young and fertile’) combined with generation that means women my age just don’t know about it cause I’m about 10 years ‘early’ (there is a bell curve. some people start early, some late!)- I really just don’t hear about it cause none of my friends are talking about it. (One friend I don’t see that often, did go through it at 30- she and I have had a really good talk about it – she had a worse time than me. That was great to talk about it, for her and me!). Also men don’t go through it so they don’t discuss it (I have more older men friends than women friends) but since I’ve been talking about it I find a lot of guys out there remember their mums going through it (‘my mum would open the freezer and put her head into it’) , which is good for th anecdotes too. Anecdotes are COMFORTING at this point. It is nice to know others are going through it.
I have been super sooky about it for a while cause frankly, this is really a shitty thing to go through! How the heck did I not really ever consider this would happen or how awful it was going to be! Ah well. Suck it up, princess. I’m coming out of the resentfulness (it’s kind of a chronic condition really, no way out of it) and the crankyness and I’m starting to be fascinated to what’s happening to me. Like in The Fly.
So my best laid plans for art – I wanted to get an exhibition going this year, was my big thing. “The paintings are done… I just have to find the space and organise it”…. Now the mere thought of going to the effort of doing that is filling me with horror. It’s less about the ‘finding the gallery’ than ‘having to DO EXTRA THINGS’ – I’ve done two exhibition sand its a lot of running around – think planning for an event like a big party…it’s hard work and you have to do more than you expect you will. And when it gets to nights like last night when I get home from work and go directly to bed and lie there feeling entirely drained for an hour before I can even be bothered to take my earrings off – this is not the time to be introducing a New Thing To Have To DO.
So my plan for this year is ‘work on my art projects slowly and without guilt’ and wait for the fatigue to subside and then when I have my energy back, deal with it then! Up yours, endocrine system. I might have to put up with you but you don’t own me…well. Turns out actually you do!