Guest writer, Jane, shares her experiences with anxiety and hormones – including her top five tips for dealing with a situation that many women face.
Years ago, I watched a hospital type documentary where one of the nurses described having up to 10 ‘hot flushes’ per day and how she purposely kept her hair short as her hair would get completely soaked. It was an incredible story which has stuck in my mind to this day and can now relate to, even if not as extreme.
At an Early Age
An only child and self-conscious from an early age. That was me. If I was told off by my parents, and anyone else overheard, I didn’t say a word but was inwardly, REALLY embarrassed. I have a birthmark on my knee (which is hardly noticeable) and when I was 6 a family friend made a brief comment about it – what she said, stuck with me. I’ll never forget it, despite it being a brief comment.
I was described as ‘big for my age’; other than very few other kids who were tall for their age, I noticed the boys started to overtake me at about 13. I was an early ‘developer’ too. I had to start wearing a bra when I was 8 and wore a vest under my t-shirts so no one would see the straps.
Six months after my 9th birthday, I started my period. I hated it and I never told a soul. When I was almost 11, one of the girls in my class told me she had started hers but I never admitted to being in the same boat. I now wish I had!
I experienced heavy periods which caused more internal embarrassment. In my mid-20s I noticed that I started having little panic moments and my head would sweat; more embarrassment… even if no one else noticed.
Expression is Vital
I kept EVERYTHING to myself which exasperated my self-consciousness and it was only as I grew up that I started to discuss private issues with my friends. I have now realised, that despite my mom being a great communicator, and really explaining ‘growing up’ to me in advance as she wanted me to be prepared, it may be that my self-consciousness increased as she said I “wasn’t to discuss or joke about these things with the other kids” – so I didn’t.
What Happened Next
When I was 31, my son was born. I had a cesarean section (I was wide awake and with my hubby present) and all went well. We had a beautiful, healthy baby boy without any complications. It was an amazing experience which we both vividly remember.
When our son was coming up for a year old, a couple of times I had extreme pain and couldn’t move; sharp pains that would last about 15 minutes. I thought it was trapped wind – the pain was so sharp it would literally stop me in my tracks. Then when my son was almost 3, my hubby had to drive me to the hospital. I was sitting in the living room and experienced the sharp pain again – but this time I knew something wasn’t right. We called a neighbour in to watch our son and went to the hospital.
To cut a long story short, what he was feeling (and the sloshy feeling I had felt) turned out to be two large ovarian cysts. I was booked in for surgery a few weeks later and the surgeon said they were the biggest cysts he had ever seen. Fortunately, they were benign and the slushiness I felt (and the mistaken pregnancy diagnosis) was due to the cysts being so large that they sat on top of each other so it looked and felt like I was pregnant.
The Catch 22
So, were my little panic moments due to my hormones being out of whack or just being self-conscious? I didn’t have mood swings, or the standard hot flushes described by so many women – so thought it must have been panic as opposed to hormonal. Eventually, I asked my doctor and she said it can be a catch 22; maybe a little of both.
It seems, if it’s hormonal (however mild) then I panic/get embarrassed which compounds how I feel. Sometimes it has been so bad, when out and about, that I’ve hidden behind my husband while dabbing myself with tissues. Embarrassing to say the least.
I’ve heard of women who are going through ‘the change’ and the problems they can get with hot and cold sweats. I’ve also heard that some have the symptoms for years and suffer severely as with the nurse I mentioned at the beginning. I really feel for them.
How do I deal with anxiety when it strikes?
Now that I’m in my late 40s, I feel I can joke a little about my panic/hormones by saying “Woman problems!”. It can be awful at times but I have learned to deal with being self-conscious, a bit of panic and possible skewiff hormones! So, how do I deal with it?
I’m always aware of the signs and, when I start to feel overwhelmed, I try to stay calm, breathe deeply and try to relax as much as possible. It doesn’t completely solve the situation but it can REALLY help.
My Top 5 Tips
- Be aware or mindful of the signs.
- Try to stay calm and stop the clock for a minute – or two.
- Breathe deeply – but not too fast!
- Remember that when I keep my cool… ”This too shall pass”.
- Remember that I am NOT alone! Many other women are in the same boat at this very moment – so there is no need to be unduly embarrassed.
As with any physical or emotional turmoil, it’s always sensible to have your doctor check you over to rule out physiological disorders. I have a wonderful doctor who thoroughly discussed my symptoms and it really helped. She offered me the option of also trying out hormonal patches to see if that helped and discussed my ‘Catch 22’ situation.