mood alterations

the menopause

I was reading about weight gain during menopause and happened upon this phrase, “the menopause.” The article stopped me. Not “menopause” but “the menopause.” Not “war” but “the war.” Not “life change” but “the life change.” Not “cancer” but “the cancer.” It reminds of the work usually assigned to a specific noun. The difference between generic and named: professor versus the Professor; woman versus the Woman; mother versus the Mother. But “menopause” was not capitalized. Still it was “the menopause.”

Perhaps “the menopause” is bigger than “my menopause.” More universal. As if “the” can encompass all of the experiences of menopausal women everywhere. We all pass through “the menopause.” A unifying experience. A hand-holding, gathering in a circle, singing songs ritual where we rejoice in the rite of passage known as “the menopause.”

Praise be to our flames of power–firing surges of hormonal heat!

Hallelujah for our hearty middles, jiggling thighs, fluffy flesh!

Amen to the almighty god, the Menopause!


The second meaning:

accustom (someone) to managing without something on which they have become dependent or of which they have become excessively fond.
“the doctor tried to wean her off the sleeping pills”
synonym: disengage

I’m in my second week of weaning off my SSRI. From 20 mg a day for the last 16 1/2 years to 15 mg for the last 7 days to 10 mg this week. On Sunday I’ll begin 5 mg for 7 days and then be done. Weaned. After the first couple of days, when I felt flu-like I didn’t notice much of a change. Kind of an anti-climatic end to the journey. I must have been ready.

I want to embrace the synonym, “disengage,” which reminds me of my mantra “detach.”

separate or release (someone or something) from something to which they are attached or connected.
“I disengaged his hand from mine”
synonyms: release, detach

What once was connected, now becomes separate, unattached.

And then I wonder if I’ve yet to experience the full effects of withdrawal. Apparently it’s a thing: SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome. Effects ~20% of people who discontinue antidepressant use. Maybe I’ll be one of the lucky ones?


In 2002 I lost my mind. I was doing the dinner dishes. A pile of recycling had accumulated on the counter and threatened to spill into the sink and onto the floor. Yogurt containers, beer cans, an egg carton. I lost it, it all came pouring out: my pent-up pain. Through tears I raged against everything that had piled up in that kitchen. When I was done, I turned and saw my children in the doorway. They were 2 and 4.

I started with Prozac, which made me “not feel”–something better than the crushing pain I felt before but not a good state. I remember imagining that both of my children died, hit by a car, and found myself incapable of generating any sort of emotion related to such a disaster. I couldn’t cry, couldn’t empathize. When I switched to Lexapro, my emotional range grew. I emerged from that alternative fog.

Now weaned, I find myself racing through memories. Thoughts of my earlier depressive episodes. In the summer of 1990, when I returned from three-week trip to Kenya, I isolated myself from friends–convinced they didn’t like me anyway–and cried at the slightest provocation, and slept and slept and slept. My parents’ friend, an infectious disease specialist, tested me for every conceivable third-world disease. Nothing. Nothing until late summer at a friend’s wedding, where I partied into the wee hours and something let go, something lifted. The parallel story: after leaving a PhD program in English at the U of Arizona, I moved home for the summer and took a job working with kids in day camp at the Salt Lake County Recreation Center. My illness coincided with my post-Africa, post-Tucson stay in Salt Lake City. By the end of the summer I had moved into my own apartment in the Avenues and started a new PhD program at the U of Utah. I guess transitions are hard.

There are more episodes, but I’ll stop here.

Prozac Culture – I related to this piece a lot.

The God of Depression – Thanks to William Styron for speaking out; you didn’t cause it, you can’t control, and you can’t cure it. So suicide may be the only option.

Why Writing Matters in the Age of Despair – Reminds me why I write–to keep track of the trivia that comprises a life. And of course we all need a room of our own–a place to breathe freely, to let our minds race, to gather ourselves together and return to the hearth.

the lure of death

We’ve been talking about death. “We” meaning my kids, my husband, and me. And by “death” I mean the lure of it, the desire not to live anymore. At 2:43 a.m., my daughter sent me this article, I am not always very attached to being alive. It’s a candid description of “chronic, passive suicidal ideation.” At some level, the author and cited sources claim, we all do it: desire to die. Just the other day I imagined driving into the oncoming traffic. I was physically tired, emotionally drained, and thought about how easily I could drift into the other lane and BOOM! be done with it. And last night, after several particularly deep conversations with loved ones, I dove into a crying jag that left me fantasizing about how much easier everyone’s lives would be without me in them. I didn’t so much want to die as to eliminate what I perceived as the stressor (me) from the situation.Then my mind turned to all the mess: the chaos I would leave in my wake, the unsigned will,  the dangling threads of projects at home  and at work, and I realize I’m making lists of things remaining to do, so I cannot leave…yet.

But why stay alive? Really? I can’t come up with any good reasons to give my young adult children. The line, “it gets better,” lacks credibility. How do you know? Can you promise that? At least “I want you to stay alive” carries the truth. But can that be enough? “I created you, nurtured you, watched you struggle to learn how to be alive, so I can’t stand idly by while you throw away all of that hard work.” Too dramatic, too selfish, and simply too silly. Everyone loses things they’ve worked hard for every day.

hot flash

It begins in my lower back, draws up my spine, blasts out through the pores in my neck. I sweat and steam pours. While I’m flashing I cannot concentrate. How do the women playing Vivaldi play their violins? Can they saw through these temperature extremes?

About BJ

living the dream in northern Utah
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