One of the questions and worries I hear a lot from my consult clients is about whether they are ‘crazy.’
‘Crazy,’ as in ‘mentally unhealthy.’
They are genuinely worried that something is wrong. Are they crazy because of how their brains are working/not working with peri-menopause?
Are they crazy for wanting to leave everything they know and go be by themselves for a while?
Are they crazy because they think about sex ALL THE TIME in the Surge- is something literally wrong with their brain and brain chemistry?
Are they ‘crazy’ because they are working an extra 18 hours a day to make sex happen- or to manage the desire for sex happening?
You’re not crazy.
What my clients are really wondering is if there is a secret mental health issue hidden within these changes in their brains, hormones, and behavior.
In general, there isn’t.
That’s not true for every case, of course. Peri-menopause symptoms include depression and/or anxiety in some women (which sometimes goes away after menopause becomes the ‘new normal’ and which sometimes persists). Only a tiny percentage of the women I have talked to about the Sex Surge had a more serious mental health concern (we’re talking about 0.1 percent- tiny).
So, if you’re worrying about whether you’re ‘crazy’ or not, you’re probably not.
But, in many ways, not having a mental health issue is a gift- but for the Grace of god, there go I.
Mental health issues are something that can strike anyone, at any time. We all have the capacity for any mental health disorder. We could be struck by depression or anxiety (or any other issue) at any time, for nearly any reason.
We are all capable of being a narcissist. On the healthy end of the scale, narcissism gives us confidence; on the unhealthy end of the scale, narcissism makes us cruel and self-serving.
I believe (although you won’t find any formal research papers on it) that the voices we all have inside us are probably also the culprits in schizophrenia. The voices simply become so compelling and real and necessary to obey that people with schizophrenia are unable to manage them anymore. It’s most certainly a brain chemistry issue, but we all have the capacity for this to happen.
There are mental health disorders that appear to be ‘lesser’ forms of PTSD. Or, even, forms of PTSD that are particular to the female brain, because women are diagnosed with these disorders more than men. (Which is why you will hear me harp on about equality and justice- keeping women healthy and safe will change the world.)
And we’ve all heard of or known someone whose mental health issues began innocuously enough- a job loss or family death- and spiraled out of control because of relational, financial, or other circumstances.
We are all capable of having our mental health become mental distress or disease.
[I do want to take a few sentences here to say that I believe some mental health issues are over-diagnosed. And some need to take their natural course, before medicating. And some people need help with their brain chemistry and drugs are A-OK by me. And that mental health or illness is mostly described as a problem when it affects a person, their relationships, and their ability to care for themselves negatively. Someone can be depressed, but if it doesn’t keep them from living a life they enjoy, it may not need treatment. Mental health is something we know only a drop about- but it does affect everyone.]
keep your mental health lush and nourished
What can we do then to help ourselves stay as mentally healthy as possible?
De-stress. We know, very clearly, that stress affects both the brain and body. And long-term stress, even low-level amounts, is detrimental to overall health. Finding ways to de-stress – exercise, venting, getting enough sleep, yoga or stretching, prayer- will help us maintain our best possible mental health.
Grow Some Resiliency. You know that tired-out meme on Facebook about “You’ve lived through 100% of your worst days- you’re a champion!”? Well, it’s true and looking at things from that perspective raises our capacity for resiliency. Resiliency is the feeling where we know we can deal with what’s in front of us (and yes, sometimes it comes with stress!)- resiliency helps us bounce back and keep going. Resiliency is also nourished by self-care.
Boring Self-care. I found this fantastic hashtag on Pinterest: “#boringselfcare” and it was from a woman who makes illustrations about the small ways we can take care of ourselves. Taking our pills on time. Going to health exams. Eating enough through the day. Doing the laundry. Simple things that reduce anxiety and help us build a good foundation for our body and mind. (You can find the illustrator on Instagram: @makedaisychains .)
Being in peri-menopause or the Sex Surge can certainly make us feel ‘crazy’- that our brains are functioning in a way that isn’t ‘normal.’ But, for the most part, it’s just changes- phases- that our brain will move through and into another phase. Keeping mentally healthy as you travel each phase is the key.
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Programming Note: I am moving house this summer and it’s clear to me that I can’t get a blog post out every week. For the summer, we’re switching to ‘every other week’ delivery. Thanks for understanding- see you in the Fall! Joanna :: xoxo