Depression, Hormonal Hell and Other Fun Topics
A few months after launching a new business, I decided to begin sensorimotor (aka ‘traumarelease’) psychotherapy. I often over-deliberate when making decisions, but occasionally jump in headfirst unaware of all implications. This was such a time. In fact, my therapist said had she known what we would uncover, she would’ve recommended we wait until Essentiel was on more stable ground. But by then we had already opened the ol’ can-of-wounds, just in time to contribute even more chaos to the tornado that belies any new business.
The last thing I wanted to do as I approached middle age, was to travel back to childhood and uproot pain from the past. Yet, I felt deeply called to clean up some messy personal matters that were causing crippling insecurities and anxieties. My hope was to finally liberate myself from whatever remaining shackles of shame and suffering that were standing in the way of living my best life and being my best self. And ya know, get more.…happy!
Well…little did I know embarking on this inner adventure would require much more of me than initially anticipated. During the first session, I told my therapist I could only give our work 3 months max as I had important things to attend to and was presently struggling to get through all the new never-ending to-do’s – much less make time for rehashing disturbing memories and allot time for crying.
Cut to two years later – I’m relieved to report that the heavy-lifting has substantially been lifted. Yet I’m still dealing with the aftermath of a very potent process that’s taken a lot longer than 3 months (or even a lifetime) could accomplish.
During this time of delving into the depths of my despair, I was also subjected to hormonal hurricanes that often occur with perimenopause – that period of 1-10 years before the end of your period. No one warned me! Not even my hippie feminist mother who shared and bared EVERYTHING.
I wish I’d known more about this phase of life when I was much younger. But sadly, the topic is often kept quiet in the mainstream. It’s not trendy to talk about what every woman will experience sooner or later. I live in LA and have friends whose publicists discourage them from discussing with the public their experiences during this stage of transition. Perhaps if more strong celebrity women spoke openly about this potent portal, we’d feel more community when our time comes.
Not every woman experiences difficulty mentally, emotionally and physically during this change of life, but many do. The good news is there are WONDERFUL empowering gifts that also arrive unexpectedly – once you get through the depression, insomnia, weepiness and weight gain.
Years ago, when reading a bit about what to expect during The Change, I remember many women claiming to cry far more frequently. Surely, I thought, that won’t be me – my Italian mafia-genes make me more angry than weepy. I also could not imagine experiencing sleep issues since I’ve been known to fall asleep in a loud bar even before having a drink. Mafia genes aside, I can now report that in the past 2 years, I’ve cried more and slept less than I have in the previous two decades.
Granted, the doozy of recent decades known as Covid 2020 exacerbated my perpetual PMS. Pandemic paranoia, social isolation, injustice, pathetic partisan politics…and losing unexpectedly both of our fur babies within six months, made matters feel far more intense.
Even though I still get my period, a naturopath suggested I try supplementing with bio-identical hormones. She thought more progesterone and testosterone would smooth symptoms from stress caused by the crap-combo of 2020. Well, unfortunately adding these to the mix made matters much worse. I became bloated, grew an ovarian cyst and fibroid tumor…and felt even crappier.
Though expectations are to feel depressed initially while undergoing trauma therapy, feelings should shift as trauma releases. The goal of the work is to get to an end-point, so therapy doesn’t last years/decades. Yet as time passed, I continued to be caught in a miserable malaise of toxic thinking, obsessive worry, self-criticism…and the hormones only aggravated the energy. So I stayed busy, but lost touch with what motivated me. There were even a few days I had trouble getting out of bed. What was the point of it all…where was the meaning?
All I wanted to do was retreat from the world. Everything on Instagram seemed so silly. How can I talk about moisturizer when my mental health is suffering? I didn’t care what someone’s butt looked like…or what they’re having for brunch.
Soon my mind began fixating on what might be wrong with my life. Was it my marriage? The business? Would I be better off in the Bahamas by myself growing gardens and raising animals…? Sometimes our overpowering emotions are indicators to mobilize more meaningfulness into our lives. But for me, this bad trip I was having was an inner experience generated by my mind, not the outer circumstances of my life.
Eventually I listened to my body, which was by now crying out for attention. I got off the hormones and felt better immediately! Low and behold– the blood test from this past month showed my hormones at optimal levels with no signs of perimenopause. The fibroid tumor had shrunk and my OBGYN said my Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) number looked like someone’s in her 30s. Amazing how the body will often balance itself best without our interference.
I share all this hoping to help whoever may be struggling similarly, and to remind us how unique our bodies are. Many women have wonderful results while taking bioidentical hormones. Similarly, SSRIs (aka antidepressants) have helped save lives, while other people taking the same medications have horrendous side effects, including suicidality. When it comes to balancing biochemistry, there’s no one-size-fits all remedy.
At one point, I was quite ready to take an antidepressant, but since my inclination is to incorporate a natural approach whenever possible, I decided to first try a supplement called SAMe, an essential amino acid compound produced in the body that’s a neuro-transmitter enhancer. It’s prescribed in Europe to treat depression, and is available in the US over the counter. It’s also reported to enhance mental performance, boost liver health and slow the aging process.
For ME (again, everyone is different), SAMe was another game changer. Within a week I felt alive in a way I hadn’t for a long time. I had hope, renewed perspective and more energy. The background music to life was back ON.
But it wasn’t only a matter of balancing body/brain chemistry. All the excruciating work of confronting trauma began to reward me with more inner peace, rather than the rocky road it took to get there. Sure, I still wrangle with worry, perfectionism, paranoia…and a brain that bullies when I could use more compassion, yet seeing clearly where those defenses were born has helped me put them into perspective rather than their running the show.
Therapy not only helped me see that my mind can be quite the misery-making machine, it’s allowed me to reprogram with more positive possibilities. Previously, I believed whatever my mind told me was true, and since I inherited a fear-based bias that generally imagines the worse outcomes, I couldn’t help but feel angry and depressed! I’m the only one in charge of my mind which I now watch 24/7.
ALL feelings are temporary and better left to be felt and released, rather than endlessly analyzed and interpreted – or put on a hierarchy of how evolved (or not) we are for having the feeling in the first place. The kinder I am to myself, the less chance a negative emotion can capture and consume me.
The excavation into the origins of inter-generational trauma has been an essential part of my growth and I’m grateful to have gone down the rabbit hole of healing. From the rubble of a legacy of broken hearts begins rebirth.
Not everyone needs therapy or should embark on such a journey. Again, we all have different backgrounds, needs, and paths to growth.
I no longer see my life as something to fix – but rather a messy mysterious miracle to behold and let unfold. My goal is no longer to simply be ‘happy,’ but rather to participate wholeheartedly in whatever arises in me and around me.
I’m ready to put the past in its place and to rest, recover and discover who I am NOW, in this moment. To forgive. To let go. And to have more f*ckin FUN.
Starting with little Sophie, our 4-month-old puppy lover…
What a difference doggies make! Even in the darkest days, LOVE is always what’s needed most.
As Easter approaches, my hope is for everyone to experience a profound sense of spring renewal and rebirth. Here’s to brighter times ahead for all!
*Please share any insights, war stories from last year, rebirths… I love hearing from you!