Mid-life moments in Alert Level 3 – Lockdown #2

Friday 14 August 2020

Yesterday I didn’t take my morning shower, and after much procrastinating I took myself off to the supermarket to get essential supplies for the next few days. I did not change out of my house clothes or put on my lipstick. It was a phenomenal effort to venture out and I went at 12.50 pm because the Government were doing a Covid 19 announcement at 1 pm. My plan was to avoid a wait as I thought most people would be watching the update and to my delight I did not need to queue and I could take my time in a sparsely populated Countdown. This act of leaving the house unshowered, with unkempt hair and in my old duds, is a sure sign that my mental health is declining. I really can’t be bothered. And I can’t be bothered about anything much at all.

On Tuesday 11 August 2020, it was announced that Auckland had 4 cases of Covid-19 with no links to overseas transmission. The Labour Government announced that Auckland, from Pukekohe to Wellsford would move back to Alert Level 3 on Wednesday at 1200 noon and the rest of the country into Level 2. I was totally deflated by this news. Lockdown for four people? Roll out the metaphors, I felt like I had been hit by a bus, flat as a pancake, or maybe that it was just me standing under a big black cloud when everyone else was out playing in the sunshine. First thoughts that ran through my head, were totally all about me – I had arranged a weekend scrap booking starting this Friday 9 am for 3 days of connection and creativity. My self care consolation prize for not being able to travel away with Holly earlier this year. That’s not going to be happening. This lack of being able to plan, look forward to the fun things in life is energy sapping and soul destroying. I know I am just one of many affected by this and I understand the need to save and protect as many lives as we can. It just feels heart breaking to keep missing out. And at times like this I think about alcohol. While I really don’t want to go back to drinking I still miss the ability to numb out the rubbish feelings that invade my head space at times.

I know that many people are feeling this lockdown more, and for me it reminds me of our time in hospital and when we first came home with Mitchell. It’s two steps forward, one step back. ON REPEAT. Part of the reason I am feeling this way as that there seems to have been a chain of ‘things’ happening since our last lockdown and we have not got back on our feet properly. I have felt fatigued a lot of the time and although I can see the connection of events that are making me feel this way I just can’t dust myself off and show a happy face. I had raised my tiredness with my GP a few months back (pre first lockdown), but he suggested that due to our ongoing stressful home environment that it was possibly quite normal to feel this tired. That was not motivational.

ALERT – THE NEXT 4 PARAGRAPHS RELATE TO MY MENOPAUSAL HEALTH. – IF YOU ARE NOT INTERESTED, SKIP FORWARD.

However, there is tired and there is exhausted and I felt (and still feel) that perhaps it was something to do with the ‘change of life’. I was also curious whether I was in peri menopause, going through menopause, or whether I was post menopause and if my tiredness was because of a hormone imbalance. At the time, I went home feeling disappointed that it seemed that I just needed to accept not feeling ‘good’. As I do, I started trying to read up about menopause to see if I could find out any more information about whether the feelings I was having were simply ‘menopausal’. There is a plethora of information and definitions of menopause stages and symptoms, but I could not really find the specific answers I was looking for.

At the suggestion of a friend I decided to make an appointment with the Family Planning Clinic to talk with a specialist Doctor about menopause and my constant aching muscles, itchiness, irritability and tiredness. I had also been having trouble getting to sleep which is totally out of character for me. I met with a fantastic doctor, who spent time talking with me about all things menopause and gave me a thorough examination. When I told her I had recently had a period after 16 months without (in the first lock down), she explained that this is what is called a post menopausal bleed. And unfortunately, this is something to be concerned about. Little did I know, that this can be a sign of endometrial cancer. I DO NOT HAVE THIS. Just saying this straight away, as I have now been for all the tests and biopsies under the sun and although I am still waiting on one result for a skin biopsy my womanly insides passed the tests. The past two weeks have been filled with appointments including an pap smear, an internal v. ultrasound, an endometrial biopsy, skin biopsy and blood tests. The ultrasound revealed I had a ovarian cyst, which turned out to be small and ‘simple’ – the good type and that my endometrial lining was too thick – this is not good in ‘post-menopause. Which of course, if you have a period you are not post menopause – or are you? Off for more blood tests to check out hormone levels, which do suggest I am through menopause. BUT, and there is a but your hormone levels go up and down through the month, so I will no doubt have to get another full year under my belt without a period to say I am post menopause. Tricky this business of our midlife bodies, isn’t it.

So, I am still considered menopausal now I think, as technically there is still a chance I could conceive. I need to go another year without a period – to once again be post-menopausal. Confusing isn’t it. All I get out of this is thankfully, as of today, I know that I do not have ovarian or endometrial cancer, and for that I am extremely grateful. I am still waiting for the skin results, but fingers crossed, this is just some sort of hormonal deficiency or something causing my all over constant itchiness. Oh, and I forgot to mention I did have a mammogram in the middle of all this – which was also FINE.

What I need to do now is figure out how to get my energy and good moods back. Writing this has helped me. I am grateful that my results so far have been good. I am lucky that this is the case. I appreciate that, but I also couldn’t help feeling, what the hell is my problem then? These past 3 weeks I have reread Dr Libby Weaver’s books – Exhausted to Energised and Rushing Women’s Syndrome. When lockdown is over I would like to go back to see my lovely FP doctor and talk through what I can do to work with my hormones, if indeed these are the problem. In the meantime, I am cutting back a little on coffee, trying to reestablish my regular walking and I’m going to make myself a new little journal about all of this girl stuff.

I feel like an adolescent in a 50 something year old body. I really think menopause makes you question and react to things differently. And part of me just needs to accept, that ‘this too shall pass’.

It’s now Saturday the 15th, and the Government has extended our lockdown to last for at least 2 weeks (until 26 August). My mood has lifted a little as we have finally been out and bought a new laptop for Holly, which means I have mine back (it’s been nearly 5 months). I know it shouldn’t feel like you are missing a limb when your technology is out of action – but I really miss having access to my own space where the laptop lives and having to use our communal desktop computer for everything – as it lives in the lounge which is all open plan, with family and the caregivers.

I have managed to finish off a couple of visual journal pages I started a while back, both with appropriate messages for my latest mindset.

And now I am trying to make some space to create around the family in lockdown.

With love

Cherie x


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