Hormones Matter TM

The Demon Within

April 16, 2012  |  Lauren Dillon

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She lurks in the shadows of my psyche, impatiently waiting for the optimum moment to possess me fully, for that perfect storm of  family stress on top of an aching head on top of sleep-deprived nights. She likes the last half of my menstrual cycle, when my estrogen level plummets and her co-conspirator progesterone raises its sad and ugly head. She likes it even more now because she has a mate. Her sister demon Perimenopause has joined her and together they turn me upside down and spin me around until I am scarier and way more terrifying than Linda Blair doing a 360 head spin and spewing split pea soup like a Rain Bird sprinkler.

So, yeah. I am a hormonally imbalanced soupy mess. In a way, I always have been; at least, since around age 13. Before that, I was a tidy-roomed, straight A student who performed as expected and was loved by adults far and wide as an example for all children. As puberty arrived, the aforementioned demon began plotting her possession, installing a Ouija board somewhere around my uterus and letting my hormones and the emotions that they affected move the pointer wherever they liked, whenever they desired.

Honestly, I’ve never been the same since. I’ve had periods of calm, my childbearing years being some of the most balanced; but I have never again been consistent or even-keeled or steady. And, the last few years? Well, I’ve been downright erratic.

Happiness and excitement over events, or a job, or even a hobby, tornado-ed into self-doubt, depression, and despair. I’d become my own worse enemy, sure that, if I wasn’t around to muck everything up, the workplace or the project or sometimes even the family would be better off without me. Finally (and recently), I decided enough was enough. Donning my invisible superhero costume, I grabbed my crucifix, holy water, silver bullets, and wooden stakes and went demon hunting (yes, I read a lot of horror, why?).

First off, I researched and read a lot; and, although curative suggestions are legion when surfing the tubes, the three main culprits in exacerbating feminine reproductive and hormonal issues are alcohol, sugar, and caffeine.

Just rip out my heart and hold it, still beating, before my sober, fatigue-ridden eyes.

Let’s start with the evil drink. Even before menopause, women are more vulnerable than men to many adverse consequences of alcohol use and, as we age, we become more so.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but alcohol actually aggravates and increases menopause symptoms. Personally, and even after I cut back on my once worshipped end-of-day glass(es) of wine, I noticed feeling less energetic, sadder, and more capitulating than I ever had. A personal event put the final kibosh on my drinking and, six weeks into my new-found sobriety, I feel better. I don’t feel the need to go to meetings (unless they’re about buying kitchen gadgets or lingerie) or collect coins (except for wheat pennies, I’ve always loved wheat pennies) and I did go through a brief period in which I couldn’t stop eating candy (peanut butter M&Ms are the demon’s tool). But I think I’ve adjusted. Your mileage may vary.

Sugar. Hmmmm… I’m working on that one.

Seriously, can’t I have one decent vice? I was a sugar addict waaaaay before my lips touched Carry Nation’s nemesis. Bubble Yum, Good n Plentys, Caramel Creams. And then there’s ice cream, lots and lots of ice cream.

You know, when I quit drinking I thought I’d lose weight. I’m about 20 pounds heavier than I should be and 30 from that magical number when I remember actually thinking I looked good. But I’ve been supplementing my lost alcohol calories with sugar ones. Last week, I decided enough was enough and cut my sugar intake to a normal person’s level. Yesterday, I had a half a box of Raisinets. Today, I haven’t had a grain and I am still, believe it or not, able to function. I am a work in progress. Which leads me to…

…Caffeine. I’ll give up my morning coffee when they pry it from my cold dead (yet fully awake) hands. But I’m not having any besides that.

Except I had a diet coke with lunch. Shit. WIP. Be the ball.

So what have I learned? Honestly, not a lot that I didn’t already know or suspect. What has changed is that I am heeding the research or at least trying to. I have given up alcohol; I’m trying to cut back on sugar and caffeine. I am eating right and exercising (remember the endorphins; and the Alamo). And although my body is trying to hang on to these twenty extra pounds like a well-worn blanket (it’s so soft and comfy and even lumpy and bumpy), I am trying to rid myself of those as well. Only I can expel my inner demons.

I tried yelling “the power of Christ compels you” into the mirror; it didn’t work.