Thursday 31 December 2020: So, here it is, the final day of 2020. The turkey leftovers are long gone and the coconut chocolates remain in the Quality Street tin. The pine needles of the Christmas tree cling onto the branches for dear life, but I’m not ready to take down the tree yet as that would mean the end of Christmas, and like the pine needles, I’m clinging desperately onto the remnants of the festive sparkle and light that I so needed this year.
For countless reasons, this year has been a long hard slog, and finally I am able to take some much needed time away from work, to rest, recover and prepare for the next 12 months, but as hard as I try to savour these days, they seem to be sprinting by all too quickly.
No one could have predicted the utter chaos 2020 brought us, but as the light fades on this annus horribilis, I slip into my annual New Year’s Eve melancholy. I have never been a fan of the New Year’s Eve celebrations as I’m usually sad that my favourite time of the year (Christmas) is over, and disappointed that the outgoing year didn’t deliver what I’d hoped for. That said, I’ve never been a big one for planning ahead, so I’m not exactly sure what it was I’d expected. Nonetheless, that sadness of the year’s failures creeps into my stomach, and sits there for a while.
This year however, despite the devestating effects of Covid 19, this feeling in the pit of my stomach is somewhat different to previous years. Yes, I am glad to see the back of this year, but not everything about it was bad. 2020 gave me something quite precious; it gave me time; time to recover, time to learn, time to accept.
Just over two years ago, I realised that the turmoil I’d been in since my early 40’s, was mainly due to being perimenopausal. Neither myself or my GP joined the dots of the myriad of symptons I was suffering from, and so I continued, back and forth to surgery, to be given a variety of antidepressants for my low mood and feelings of hopelessness, and beta blockers for my anxiety. Triptans were prescribed for the worsening migraines, which I was taking almost daily, and referrals to specialists made for the various pains throughout my body. The relationship with my partner, was repeatedly going through hell and back; I was struggling to manage Little Blue’s lifelong battle with anxiety; my own anxiety was at times, out of control; feelings of guilt that I was failing as a daughter, mother, friend, employee, overwhelmed me; sleep evaded me and I was exhausted. I was breaking.
Time to Recover
The relationship with my partner finally ended quite quietly in March 2019, with no words from him or me. An Instagram post from him, publicly notified me that we were over, and he had found comfort in the arms of another. Shock and anger instantly kicked in, followed by the whole range of breakup emotions. My hormone levels were all over the place, and that increased my anxiety and depression. I stopped going out to prevent me from seeing him and the new squeeze, and removed all traces of him (and her) from my social media – seeing the picture of them at the event that he’d bought us tickets for, was too much.
By the beginning of 2020, the heartache was easing, however the anger remained. I would accidentally see a picture of his big ginger face on my phone and my stomach would instantly knot. The plinky-plonky vinyl collection had gone, along with the slow cooker (a gift from him to me on our first Christmas together – I should have known then he’d been a poor choice), but he was still in my head (and my house – not literally of course). It was Little Red that realised the problem, and so with steam stripper in hand, the poorly hung wallpaper that big ginger face had slapped onto the walls of my home a few years previously, was steamed and scraped off. Every bit of him was finally ripped off and chucked in the bin. Gone. Fresh paint adorned the walls and it felt good and I felt lighter somehow.
The continued resistance from my GP to increase my oestrogen patch strength and failure to refer me to a menopause specialist, was disappointing to say the least. Instead of trying to convince my doctor that the worsening migraines, insomnia, anxiety and countless other symptoms were due to my dwindling hormones and not actually caused by my ‘sad life’, I decided to channel my frustration into making a private appointment with someone who needed no convincing – all hail Dr Louise Newson at Newson Health! I hadn’t gone down this route earlier, as firsly there was the cost, and secondly, a drive from North Yorkshire to Stratford-upon-Avon and back again, daunted me (driving fear – another sympton of menopause). Rather serendipitously, the Covid lockdown restrictions that prevented travel, allowed the clinic to offer virtual appointments. Three weeks and a few hundred quid later, the rather wonderful Dr Zoe Hodson concluded that my oestrogen strength must be more than doubled and that I would also benefit from taking testosterone (AndroFeme – specifically designed to replicate the female testosterone and neatly packaged in a pretty pink tube just in case anyone was in any doubt it was for women!).
Six months on, not an antidepressant or beta blocker in sight and my anxiety and depression are gone. The migraines are much reduced, I sleep much better, my joint pain is almost gone and I feel I can cope again.
Time to Learn
Like the majority of office based employees, I took my laptop home back in March, and set up a work station in my kitchen. Thinking that this would be short term, I embraced the ‘temporary’ working-from-home thing and delighted in being able to put a load into the washing machine and then making a video call to Chicago in one easy step – actually about 5 steps from the washing machine to my laptop.
I had always been one of those people who had resisted home working, as I like the buzz of the office and I need the interaction with colleagues, because without that connection, there was a risk that my true self would make an appearance.
Most people I work with, would I suspect, call me an extrovert. By day, I’m the show-off confident loudmouthed joker that most likely irritates the majority of my colleagues. What they might not appreciate is, that once the working day is done, I crave solitude and quiet. My confidence is fragile and I joke to deflect my shyness. Maybe growing up as the only female sibling in a house of loud big brothers with even bigger personalities and issues, did I think that I couldn’t compete, and so I’d creep off to my room to be able to express myself through drawing and reading whilst listening to Vangelis and Duran Duran. For hours.
Being at home all day for the majority of 2020, highlighted that I am an extroverted introvert – there, I’ve said it. I rarely feel lonely or alone, although recently, I have felt loneliness, but I guess I’m not alone in that (oh the irony). I throw myself into my work and have found new ways to express the extrovert part of my personailty, mainly through cake decorating and work Zoom video calls – a few fun backgrounds and strategically placed quote pictures on the wall assist the showy-offy me, with the audio only option and the laptop power-off button, instantly taking me to my safe invisible-me place.
I’m a loner, and that’s okay.
Time to Accept
Not being able to hug my beautiful mum has been one of the hardest parts of this pandemic year, and will continue to be well into the new year. As mum lives alone, she has bubbled up with me and so we speak daily and I visit her a couple of times of week, where I hopefully provide some much needed respite to the enforced solitude. Together we prepare her online weekly food shop, whilst eating whatever homemade delicacies I’ve managed to throw together that week. Being able to see her and keep her well however, is something I am truly grateful for. So many have lost loved ones this year. So many are unable to see parents in care homes where no visitors are allowed. So many have family in another city or country. To be able to just sit (at a permitted distance) and let mum talk repeatedly about the same old world issues and the problems with online food deliveries to help her alieviate the monotenous boredom, is something I am happy and fortunate to do.
I understand the social distancing rules and I am forced to accept them for the safety of others, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about them. From the moment my babies were placed in my arms, my instinct has been to hold them close and keep them safe. Being held by someone brings such comfort and reassurance, and I so desperately want to hold mum and tell her everything will be okay. Sadly, I can only offer words of hope, a smile, and a kiss blown from a distance.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
So the New Year’s Eve melancholy I am feeling today, God willing, shall be replaced tomorrow morning with hope; hope that the vaccine does what it’s meant to and that we can all receive it; hope that I can hug my mum again; hope that my granddaughters grow up in a world without facemasks and they see the world smiling back at them; hope that the extrovert me will reappear and I will shine again.
Until next time my lovelies, thank you as always for reading my ramblings.
50 year old mum and grandma juggling children, grandchildren, love, work, and the menopause!