I’m a worrier by nature. The female members of my family are Olympic gold medalists when it comes to worrying. There has always been a part of my brain hardwired for worry. I have always been a worrier. All my life, a worrier.
But during my luteal phase, I hit the rock bottom of worry. I binge on worry until I’m stumbling around, trying to figure out what is a legit concern, and what is amped up on hormones (or lack thereof). Although, I’m not sure I’d call it rock bottom, because “rock” suggests there’s nowhere else to sink. It’s more like Quicksand Bottom. (I’m just coming up with that now—forgive my sloppy brainstorm.) I hit Quicksand Bottom. I may feel pretty awful, and it may seem as though I can’t sink any lower, but I find ways in which to do so. And the more I fight against it, the more it sucks me in. Worry turns into paranoia, paranoia spawns delusions. Before I know it, I’m immersed.
(Man, this metaphor is lame.)
It doesn’t help that I know it’s coming every month. I can see it speeding toward me. But no matter what I do, I can’t stop myself. No amount of reasoning or preparation helps.
I’m guessing, based on years worth of detailed note taking, that my body just doesn’t bode well and is highly sensitive to the extreme shift in hormones.
Here’s the skinny: many women fight a difficult battle every month when it comes to coping with the seemingly schizophrenic nature of our menstrual cycle. Our body gives us a healthy dose of “the happy hormone” (estrogen) and then, right as we ovulate, drops that shit right down to nothing letting progesterone take over. And if progesterone levels are high, you are more likely to be depressed and anxious. My progesterone levels are usually off the charts. So when I hit, I hit it at the speed of light and from great heights because, on the flip side, I have high estrogen levels as well.
At the beginning of the month, when the estrogen is flowing, I’m a goddamn treat to be around. I will sing to you, make you cookies. I’ll give you back rubs, make awesome jokes. I will hug you and kiss you and tell you how awesome you are. I will remark about how amazing it feels to be alive. I will plan on living forever because, hell, who wouldn’t want to? Being alive is just the best thing ever! I feel awesome. No, I am awesome. I am Tom Cruise on Oprah happy. To put it simply: when my estrogen is high I am the fucking shit. I am untouchable. Nothing can bring me down, and if you’re a part of my life, I will make it my job to try and make sure nothing brings you down either.
Sweet, sweet estrogen.
But then my body just takes it away. Just like that. It doesn’t simply poke a tiny hole in the balloon so I come down slowly from my estrogen high. It doesn’t pull the plug from the drain and let it all just naturally fall away from the basin. No. It blows the balloon to smithereens and drops the bottom out of the bathtub.
Progesterone takes over. And I’m a mess.
Many women have it hard. On top of dealing with the “nurture” part of who we are and who we’re becoming—our histories, the things we’ve been through, those we share our lives with, whatever hardships we’ve endured just by existing—we’re also dealing with chemistry, chemistry that is comically unfair if you ask me.
Anyway, the last few days, I have been in the trenches. The rise of progesterone, along with my natural ability at inventing scenarios based on very little actual evidence thanks to the art of worrying, has had me in a terrible state. I’m not myself. I’m reacting poorly online. I’m skittish around those I talk to every day (although, I’ve come a long way with the people I share my days with simply by being more honest about my situation). The past week, I have been a big ol’ ugly mess.
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you may have witnessed bits and pieces of this over time. But instead of getting the unedited, desultory version I’m about to share with you, you’re getting the 140 characters or less version. And frankly, I’m not sure which is worse. You be the judge.
Here are a few sample conversations I’ve had with myself. (I’ve simplified the end-of-world scenarios to some degree. But it almost always boils down to death, darkness, torture and outlaws with machetes. Man, reading that back sounds ridiculous. Haha!):
Your husband eats too much greek yogurt and that yogurt is an environmental nightmare so you need to tell Toby that he can’t eat greek yogurt anymore. He has to eat less damaging yogurt or, OR! you can make him greek yogurt from scratch! You don’t have much in the way of time, but you can do this. You have to do this. Until they figure out what to do with all that byproduct, you will make him greek yogurt so you don’t help destroy the world and end up living in darkness surrounded by people with machetes. It might be beneficial to know how to make yogurt when everything begins to end anyway.
You know it’s bad when you’re obsessing over losing followers on twitter. But I do this when I’m in that bad place.
Someone unfollowed you on twitter, someone you’ve been friends with for a while. They used to like you. They hate you now, Michele. They hate you because you’re a selfish asshole who can’t stop tweeting and you should have shut up more often. No one cares about what you have to say. And how could you have gotten that tweet about rape jokes so wrong? What’s wrong with you, Michele? Pay attention! You’re a dick. You would unfollow yourself if you could. You should just quit twitter because one day it will be overrun by people with machetes and we’re all going to die anyway because of the measles outbreak in Williamsburg and because of that new virus you forgot the name of. Oh, don’t forget to send that virus information to Toby.
This next scenario continued for days. And I brought several people into it with me both in real life and online.
The neighbors smoke weed. But this? This is a new smell. It’s chemical. You need to google this. HOLY SHIT. They’re cooking meth! You have babies and animals! Your neighbors are cooking meth! This is not good. You should call the cops. No, call Toby. You need to tell Toby. He knows all about drugs. But he’s in California. You need to ask twitter. Twitter will tell you what you should do about your meth-cooking neighbors. Yes. Twitter and Toby. Is this what it’s going to be like at the end of everything? Drug dealers with summer teeth cooking meth, buying machetes and eating their young? God I hope my kids don’t see that. I’ll have to tell them not to have children.
Your son uses too much paper and goes through too much clothing and we’re completely destroying the world because of it. You need to be more diligent and teach him why he can’t do that. He needs to be aware of all the landfills and trash and garbage. You need to tell him all of this so his kids won’t be completely fucked and live in a world surrounded by darkness and fire and people with machetes.
We can’t buy anymore plastic toys from China because it’s killing everyone and everything slowly. And soon we’ll be surrounded by mountains made up entirely of horrible plastic toys. And maybe those mountains will help shade us from the hot sun and all the life-altering weather we have heading our way thanks to global warming and the fact that so many people don’t think it’s happening. That This American Life really scared you, didn’t it, Michele? It should! YOU MUST ACT NOW before you’re forced to take your family and hide inside caves bored out of mountains of plastic toys that will protect us from the people with machetes. But you can make yogurt from scratch if you can find the cows which will likely all be dead, killed at the hands of people with machetes and summer teeth.
And I’m only embellishing a little bit for the sake of brevity. I have tangential thoughts like this. And they continue for hours, sometimes even days.
So, if you’re (still!) reading this, and you’ve witnessed some of my trite and irrational, internal battles trickle out onto the Internet: I am sorry. I am sorry you had to see it. I am sorry that I am like this sometimes. I am trying so hard to get a hold of my own head when the bottom falls out.
P.S. I am OK. I promise. This was meant to be a bit funny, making light of something I’ve come to know and live with every month. My life, it’s overall very good.