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.
“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.”
It’s chemical for me (the roller coaster isn’t even always predictable) but also I experience pain and bleeding that lends me to other dreadful mood swings and I always tend to do the TMI thing and tell everyone exactly what’s going on (“I just had to change my pants in the bathroom at McDonald’s because I hemorrhaged severely”) so they won’t judge me for anything. And you can imagine how much they love THAT.
My point? I feel ya. Man. I feel ya.
Oh, lady. I’m so sorry. You’re retelling makes it sound kinda funny, but I know it’s not. Sometimes I think we’d all be better off if we had a bit more TMI moments. “I’m being an asshole because I’m low on estrogen.” And that would make sense. Like, people say they have hangovers and everyone gets it. Like that.
As hard as it for you to live it, it was a relief to read that I’m not the only one living this kind of distinct nightmare rollercoaster. Right now I’m in the low-low-estrogen part and I’m filling my face with bowl after bowl of sugary cereal hoping at one point it will trigger happy chemicals in my brain. My life is usually very good and, oh, how great do I feel in the sweet estrogen phase when I’m feeling on top of the world! Right now though, in this moment, I’m like a really mushy cactus; prickly and rough on the exterior but oh so vulnerable to someone with a machete releasing my gooey, tear-soaked interior.
Dude. I thought I was the only one.
I’m 34, and I swear it was just LAST WEEK that I recognized that there was a post-ovulation pattern going on here (like *wildly waving my hands around myself* HERE). I can’t wait to make my husband read this.
p.s. I may not comment here very often, and I’ve all but given up on participating in social media, but as long as you’re writing, I’ll be reading.
umm ..what about greek yogurt??? NOOOO…It’s supposed to be GOOD for you!!! hehe…”I am Tom Cruise on Oprah happy”
Yeah. Bad news. :[ http://m.nypost.com/p/news/national/greek_yogurt_has_toxic_waste_problem_HQbIzHeER9GNEfw27wtPMO?utm_source=SFnewyorkpost&utm_medium=SFnewyorkpost
If you google Greek yogurt and byproduct, all sorts of links will pop up. But the one here is the one I read first.
My husband is the same as you…and as far as I can tell there’s no estrogen/progesterone cycling involved with him. It’s probably hormonal, it’s likely genetic, and it’s definitely related to whatever mechanisms produce anxiety. It doesn’t help that he’s super type A… As a very relaxed, stress-free kind of gal, my goal as his wife is to keep his ruminating thoughts in check a bit. I remind him that he’s really intelligent and that people like him. He doesn’t read the news because it increases his anxiety and I keep my discussion of the bad stuff to a minimum. He often tells me that he needs me to help him and I do. Just by listening and loving him for who he is, I think I’m helping. I’ve also asked him to go to therapy when his ruminating becomes too much for me alone and he does on occasion.
I like your crazy tweets…
I wonder how much is genetic. I should ask my mom’s side of the family. My father’s side is a lot more laid back. My mom’s side seem to have more of these type of issues. But since mine literally hits me the same time each and every month, I’m assuming it’s mostly hormonal. :) Your poor husband!
There have been days where I’ve become concerned, wondering if I’ll ever enter a land of delusion and truly have trouble coming back and realizing it’s mostly all in my head. The only time it’s ever worried me for real was the whole meth-cooking situation. I was 100% sure that’s what was happening. It was not, (although it did end up being chemical and not particularly healthy).
Anyway, thanks for sharing about your husband. TobyJoe has suggested that I stop reading the news. I do this every night. I feel it’s important to know shit. But maybe not, you know? There might come a time where it’s simply not good for me. The bad outweighs the good.
Thanks again, MJ!
I have stopped watching and reading the news.. it makes me sad and it freaks me out completely! For the sake of my sanity and those around me, it’s best if I don’t even know what’s happening. And when people ask why I don’t know what they are talking about I tell them the truth.. because the news SUCKS.
Ugh, I know how this is. For me everything gets so overwhelming I can’t think of ways to get out from under the pile of whatever is going on at that moment causing me worry/stress/etc. I just want to curl up in dark room until it all gets better on it’s own or I don’t care anymore. It’s not fun. My hubs thinks its PMDD for me, but although my gyn agreed with him, she didn’t change any of my meds or say anything other than “it can happen”. Changing some dietary habits along with exercise can help, but not completely. I know you’re already eating healthy and exercise, has your doctor ever mentioned PMDD?
Cindy! Sorry I never pushed this reply “live”!
I haven’t asked about PMDD, but I have all but self-diagnosed myself with it. :] I am going to ask her about that the next visit. While I would love some answers, and to know what to expect, I don’t think I would go on any antidepressants for it, however. Are there other drugs they prescribe for such a thing? I think I only read about SSRIs. (Tried them, was very unhappy with the results. Plus, the ween off from the SSRI was horrific for me. Never again.)
But I also don’t like living with this for four or 7 days every month. So….
Mine seem longer than 7 days…closer to 10-14 at times and is definitely worse since pregnancy and related PPD/PTSD. I’m already on a SSRI but it seems to have little effect during those times – I guess enough, since I’m still here, but it can be BAD.
I think I’m (and I know my husband is) ready to ask what more could be helpful. If I learn anything more (other than diet, exercise and more SSRI treatment) I’ll let you know.
I am so glad you wrote this. I am a hormonal mess every month. I recently went off hormonal birth control to see if this would help, but my first cycle free was just as bad. I can tell as soon as my body begins producing estrogen again. I start to feel happy and hopeful and then I get this huge energy kick where I feel like a giddy superhero. You didn’t mention sex drive, but omg, when I am fertile, almost any man looks good. Not that I go around humping the leg of random men, but I notice men more–that’s for sure. Like a predator! Rar! I always know when I am entering my luetal phase because I have a day/evening when I am convinced something is wrong. I often lay in bed worrying about crazy shit. What if a zombie outbreak happens? What is a child molester breaks in the house while I am sleeping? What is the floor collapses? Then comes the slow build-up of insane hulk rage when I have a day or two when I think is is quite possible I could murder someone is provoked. Men? I despise men. Maybe I am gay? Because I can only tolerate a sympathetic woman at this point. Eat my children? Maybe. Maybe if they keep whining…When I finally get my period it is a relief. So annoying! I try to logic myself out of the sway of my chemistry, but it is powerful stuff!
Oh thank god. I know this post isn’t terribly recent, but I have had this problem since I hit puberty (I got my period at 9). Euphoria that could be mistaken for a manic episode in someone who is bipolar; aggravated, restless depressions.
Some months, it’s minor. Some months, and more often recently, it’s bad enough to make me contemplate (albeit not incredibly seriously) suicide.
I know it’s wrapped up in my other issues (childhood abuse/neglect) and my already iffy brain chemistry, but I’ve been saying for years that it was triggered by hormonal changes. People seem not to believe that or take it seriously, but it is so godawfully bad that I sometimes just hide in bed and have crying jags about Every Bad Thing Ever.
Thankfully my fiance is very understanding about this, even though it does make his life more difficult.
[…] Sometimes, my anxiety goes into overdrive and invites my imagination over and the two spin in an echo chamber, making each other stronger, and I’m dragged along for the ride. This doesn’t happen very often but when it does this type of shit takes place. […]