‘The life of the party.’ That’s what they used to call me. The extroverted, loud life of the party. For 45 years, I stood at the center of every conversation and danced on the borders of everyone’s imagination, and I loved it. I really did.
Then anxiety hit me like a brick.
I became anxious about everything under the sun. The possibility of binmen outside the house for too long. Or getting to the front of the queue and having my coins fall out on the floor, and especially the prospect of walking through a packed train. I was so deep in my head that I couldn’t get out. Menopause affected me mentally before it ever did physically and forced me to see everyday life through an evil microscope. It is so frustrating because as much as I protest that this is not ‘who I am, longing to relive my electric days, this is my reality. I notice how I respond to things and then get frustrated with that response, and it’s a circle of self-depreciation that I never thought I’d experience.
Fortunately, I felt comfortable enough to seek help. Although I was…no, I am inundated with intrusive thoughts. I am not ashamed of this. Perhaps if my social lift isn’t full speed ahead, then this is where my brain needs to be. This is usually where the story shifts into a lovely story about how I channeled this hyperactive mind into a profitable side hustle. ‘Fraid not! I sought therapy instead.
Therapy has helped me to look at the world as an entity with me in it, rather than a terrible experience directly targeting me. In most moments, I can remove myself from the panic and calm myself into stillness. The support of my family, friends, and therapist has truly saved my life.
In midlife, it is vital, to be honest about health issues, mental health included. Things can escalate much quicker than before, and a better relationship with your medical professionals can speed up any urgent escalations. I was concerned that my anxiety and forgetfulness was a sobering sign of early onset dementia. I could feel my mind deteriorating, and I felt powerless. Luckily, I have not been diagnosed but advised that this is a typical element of menopause. Still, since raising this concern, I have been given helpful information about when these symptoms are concerning and know which behaviors to flag to my doctor.
You won’t find me at many parties as there is always one going on in my head. I don’t always want to attend, but you’ll find me cleaning up at the end every time.