Today is my birthday, so I am feeling a little bit down.
You see, when I was very small, my birthday was always the beginning of a period of mourning as my mother died 9 days after I was born. So for all the adults around me, my birthday was a reminder of a tragedy they were still grieving.
Then, on my 7th birthday, my half sister was born. Which meant my birthday thunder was stolen forever :-D
Every year, a few days before my birthday, a dark cloud descends that I can't seem to shake off. Some years it's been so awful I've pulled the duvet over my head on the actual day and slept through it. It doesn't make sense, it infuriates and puzzles the people who love me and it leaves me feeling upset and confused.
Why am I telling you this? Well, of course, that sadness I feel doesn't really belong to me - it's something I picked up as a tiny tot from the people around me.
It isn't my sadness.
By the time we reach midlife, we can often carry other people's "stuff" around...
I realised this weekend that I was not ok.
Perhaps I am "supposed" to be. As the Founder of this Midlife Movement I do my best every day to be measured in my responses and careful what I post. And I am, as a rule, ok most of the time.
But I am only human and the current situation, I think you will agree, is testing for us all, to say the least!
As I always do in a crisis, I "look for the helpers" as Mr Rogers would have said. And I am finding them, and posting about them and aim to do my best to help calm the anxiety and fear that is surrounding us as much as I am able.
So how do I know that I am NOT OK?
It started with feelings of irritation at small, silly things. Not being able to get the lid off a jar, losing work because I forgot to press save - that sort of thing. Then yesterday I lost my temper - very rare as I have a very slow burn - at some misinformation doing the rounds on social media. (Not at the well meaning people sharing it, but at the irresponsibility of the...
Do you still dream? Not when you are asleep, but properly daydream as you might have done as a child and a teen?
So often we abandon the dreams we had when we were young and swap them instead for what we believe to be a sustainable life. Marriage, perhaps, mortgage, children, the corporate career climb... and we forget to create new dreams, telling ourselves not to be silly, impractical, unrealistic...
Those dreams we had don't quite go away altogether though. Whether we are conscious of them or not, they reside within us, dormant, waiting, just in case they might be needed again.
There's something about hitting midlife that triggers a stirring, a little tremor that can awaken old dreams and desires. Slowly, we often feel an almost imperceptible shift, a yearning for something we can't quite pin down, but that causes us to feel restless, often dissatisfied.
It raises questions, causes us to become reflective, reminds us of our long abandoned dreams. It can be a bloody nuisance,...
Worry is such a pointless occupation, we all know that. And yet sometimes when hormone levels start to fluctuate some of us are beset by anxiety that seems to come from nowhere.
Anxiety caused me untold angst during my own perimenopause. It didn't matter how much my head reassured me that all was well, something nagged away inside my brain, telling me it was a lie. I walked around with a vague feeling of dread which sat in the pit of my stomach like a heavy stone.
I would wake up in the morning and was immediately assailed by a horrible sense of impending doom. To try to counter it, I would lie in bed and think about each of my four children. "He's doing x with y and is going to go to z," I would think, "so I know he's ok." "I'm seeing her at lunch, so I can check she's ok..." It was endless.
To be fair, our family were dealing with some serious difficulties at the time. Weirdly, I seemed to be able to cope with the big, obvious stuff. It was the little things...
It comes round, so fast.
One minute, you're learning how to be a parent, how to keep this tiny, delicate human being thrust into your care alive. You help them learn to walk, talk, function. Navigate milestones like first teeth, potty training, first day at school.
Before you know it, you're helping with homework, freezing your bits off at the edge of a [insert appropriate ball-game here] pitch, washing dirty kit, learning the offside rule.
Then there are hormones to contend with, slammed doors, broken hearts, exams...
Until, finally, the day comes when they fly the nest.
It's a happy day, right? After all, isn't this what we wanted? Happy, confident, independent children? We're pleased for them, proud.
1. Recognise your Feelings
So what is this hollow feeling in the pit of the stomach? Why do our eyes smart with tears on the drive home? Why does walking into that quiet, empty house for the first time without them make your stomach turn over?
If someone you care about is in the throes of a bout of depression it can be really difficult to know how to support them. I've been clinically depressed and I've supported people who are depressed, so I have experience of this horrible condition from both sides as both carer and cared for.
I've been talking to fellow sufferers and, drawing on their experience and my own, here are my tips on how to support someone who is depressed:
I'm fine, thanks. That's what we say, isn't it, when asked how are you? I'm fine, thanks. But what if you're not? What if you are sinking, struggling, not fine at all?
I live a fairly public life insofar as I have written about myself on blogs and in books, I show up regularly on Facebook live videos, on Youtube and, now, on the new Midlife Movement Podcast. Most people know me as optimistic, generally happy, always smiling.
If you follow my output regularly, though, you will know that I have had my battles with anxiety and depression throughout my life at various points. I always know when I'm starting to "slide".
There are warning signs that I dare not ignore. These include:
Introducing Vivienne Joy, Queen of helping people "get out of their own way" and achieve incredible mindset shifts in life and business. I am delighted that Vivienne agreed to be one of the expert contributors in the Membership and her course, called "7 Steps to Stress Less", is both thought provoking and transformative.
Viv talked to me during Launch Week about her work and why she wanted to be involved with The Midlife Movement. You can find out more about Vivienne and her work here: She Enjoys Business Movement.
Talking about stress, I had a funny old day recently.
I was supposed to be going to London to a meet-up with an organisation I belong to called Project Positive Change, so I got all dressed up (ok, I admit it - that means I brushed my hair...) and went down to the station.
Catching a train and finding places I don't know when I have to be somewhere at a set time are, for me, a couple of those silly, irrational stresses we can all have, so I suppose I was probably a...
So many women tell me they lost their confidence as they approached menopause. For some it's a sudden omg, stop in their tracks moment, often accompanied by a panic attack. For others it's a gradual wearing down, a slowly dawning realisation that everything they had been certain of before suddenly isn't so certain any more.
Sometimes, there seems to be no apparent reason for this loss of confidence. Anxiety, depression, a feeling of being lost can come out of nowhere. So what can cause this loss of confidence and what can we do we do to arrest it? How do we get our mojo back?
1. Physical appearance. Slowing metabolism often results in weight gain, especially around the middle. Facially, we lose collagen and start to notice a softening in the jawline, wrinkles, eye bags - if we feel we don't recognise ourselves in the mirror any more it can knock confidence.
How well do you breathe?
If you're anything like me, day to day you breathe from the chest as you rush about "doing" stuff. Yoga Teacher, Teacher Trainer and Midlife Movement Coach, Dawn Wright, talked to me live about the importance of taking a moment to breathe properly.
Dawn has a wonderful course in the Midlife Movement Membership with four nourishing breathing practices that will make a real difference to your life. Members have full access to all the courses and resources in the Membership. You can have a taster "breathing pause" here, at 10:44.