Coming Unraveled: Chemical imbalance, or perimenopause?
It's not often I ask for help, or advise, but I'm staring at the end of my rope; so here goes.
I'm 43 years old. 5 years ago, living in Colorado, I started experiencing chaos in my body: periods went missing, and became really irregular, I had hot flashes, cold sweats, moodiness like I'd never experienced, pms that made the paint peel from the walls, aches and the sudden vanishing of headaches (I've had consistent headaches, in patches, since I was 21), and increase in migraines. I had brutal insomnia, days where I could barely get out of bed I slept so much - I thought I was going mad.
A blood test revealed my estrogen was bottoming out. He said all of this was really common with peri-menopause, and to look up how the native american culture deals with it, as it's not at all treated as a 'disease' or a 'condition'. And that mindset meant a lot going into this.
Fast-forward to now.
I had my estrogen tested again late last year, and they said now the levels are exactly fine. Which is confusing as hell.
The hot flashes are here and there; some days it's staggering and I can't breathe, some days I'm freezing. The cold sweats are more common, having entire days where I just cannot warm up. My heating pad is my new best friend. Vitamins and the help of a Naturopathic doctor and acupuncture have helped the constant headaches vanish, and the migraines are far fewer. I have at least one phantom period a year, and my cycle is down to 3 days (used to be 8-10 days long, very heavy), once every 5 weeks or so.
Now, anxiety has popped up. I feel like I'm going mad.
Last summer, I felt like I dipped off that little edge for a while; weeks spent sobbing, unable to stop. Over-reacting in a big way to nearly everything, losing interest in everything I used to love to do. Anger and rage the likes of which I've only experienced as a teenager. Now, I did have a life event that could have triggered this, but again, going crazy for a summer was a huge over-reaction to breaking up with a man.
They put me on a handful of anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety pills. There were ER visits with me crying and feeling absolutely insane. The anti-depressants didn't work. They actually made me want to die. So, after they wanted to try yet more pills, I finally said no more. They were making everything so much worse. I wasn't just sad anymore, now I wanted to die too.
So I picked myself up, and worked on feeling better. I have positive messages all over the house ('I am enough', and 'no more self-deprecating' kind of thing, to remind me to be kind to myself), I took the 'breaking' of the summer to recreate who I was, into who I wanted to be. I faced up to mistakes in the relationship, and actually am now happily back with the man who is, truly, the love of my life. And more supportive than I could have hoped for.
Then, last Friday, something just snapped.
I'd been at an interview for a next-level job, that I truly wanted. Now, I know I tie my self-worth into what I do for a living. I'm working on that. But when the email came, that they were going with someone else, that was some kind of last straw.
I sobbed like I was 5. And then, I came undone.
I ended up drawing with big black marker all over my arms and legs ('not good enough', 'stupid', 'what made you think you were smart enough for that job', 'you'll never be anything of any worth' - mother's words). I drew on my floor.
I took the Adavan the doctor had given me for anxiety attacks - which have been staggering the last 2 months - and swallowed 4 of them. With a bottle of wine. And half a bottle of burbon.
No, none of that was smart. And it wasn't me at all.
I completely broke down. Unable to stop crying, unable to stop the loop of negativity spinning in my head. When the boyfriend came through the door, with flowers in hand, to see his lover sitting on the floor, drawing on herself and barely coherent, I was already over that edge.
He called the police, I think just not knowing what else to do. And I ran.
43 years old, but suddenly I was 17 and running away from my own house.
The scariest part of this, is that I watched all this happen from somewhere else. I had no control over what the body was doing at all. And it was abjectly terrifying to me.
I walked into the ER, and they kept me overnight to watch . They let me go, because I'm not completely insane.
Now I'm still reeling from this. I've been distant, and quiet, all week. I'm profoundly scared, and sad, and have had some serious quality time with my teddy bear as of late.
The next day, after this breakdown - my period shows up. Which really, is not surprising. It's not the first time hormones have made me irrational bordering on crazy, but it's the first time they took me that far.
Now, the psychiatrist wants to put me on Pristq. An anti-depressant/anti-anxiety drug. I've read up on it, and it's the same as the rest of them - harsh on the body, harsh on the mind, horrible side effects, wretched to come off of.
I keep hearing 'chemical imbalance', since last week, but really, I saw no test for any sort of chemical. And they can't tell me exactly what's wrong, they're guessing. Just as they did last summer, switching from one awful drug to the next.
I *can* tell you, I was just like this when I was a teenager. I didn't get my cycle until I was nearly 16, though from 15 until 21, I was a raving lunatic. Angry, running away, rarely in control of my own emotions and terrified as to why. Even then, I saw psychiatrists and therapists, and have yet to ever be diagnosed with a mental illness.
So my long, roundabout question would be - well, maybe not a question. I don't know what to do.
I don't like the idea of chemicals to alter my brain - it went poorly last time, and being dependent on a prescription doesn't tickle my fancy. I'm under the impression I'm invincible and I can fix everything myself (gets me in so much trouble sometimes!).
But I know I have to do something. Last friday scared me to death. I don't want to be unstable, I don't want to be like this.
And now that my period's ended, I'm coming out of the sad as well. My motivation is slowly returning, though I'm timid as hell because of what happened.
Have any of you experienced this kind of breakdown, or this level of over-reacting to something that shouldn't spin you off into an ER visit?
Could this be peri-menopause truly kicking in, sending my hormones out of control and thus my emotions?
Could it be a combination of hormones triggering emotional issues that were never resolved, or am I truly just insane and should start taking anti-depressants again?
I'm a little lost. And there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of investigating into what's going on, by traditional docs. The one doctor that's been a godsend - my naturopathic doctor, who's been the only one who took some time to research possible causes outside the realm of just one thing (the psychiatrist thinks it's a chemical thing, the neurologist said 'nothing's physically wrong, must be mental illness', the family doc is just at a loss and says nothing at all).
I'm seeing a battery of docs next week, all of whom I'm sure will have varying opinions as to what I should do. And I'll listen, trying to make the best choice for me - but I need some community wisdom.
Is this common? Can peri-menopause really drive you over that little edge like this? Should I look into hormone replacement, or diet changes (I'm already changing it, with a battery of vitamins B, D and omega-3 as well), is this outside the realm of your experiences, and I'm truly just crazy?
I'm sorry this is long. I'm just...I'm a little lost. What I need is a tribe of elder women to show me what's coming, to tell me what's normal so I'm not terrified and it's not a surprise, but we don't have that anymore. So I'm turning to you, to be a psuedo tribe, and possibly, hopefully, lend me some wisdom, and some insight.
Thank you, even just for reading this far.