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Daniela Miller

False anxiety

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It is only very recently that I have been introduced to the concept of “false anxiety” when reading Ellen Vora’s book “The Anatomy of Anxiety” (I highly recommend it to anyone experiencing anxiety). The idea is that certain physical things such as a lack of sleep, caffeine, poor nutrition and also hormones can put our body into a chemical/physical state of anxiety. When that happens, the anxiety we experience is a “false” kind of anxiety, as it is a physical experience triggered not by anything in our environment but by processes happening within our body.

The anxiety I experience while ovulating is of exactly this kind and unfortunately it did rear it’s ugly head while on this trip. 

We were at Lake Tahoe, a beautiful, crystal clear alpine lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains where we took a couple of days to relax in between driving. I really wanted to experience the turquoise waters the lake is famous for by kayak. I know how to kayak and I’m also a strong swimmer but the day we were meant to head off out onto the lake, I woke up feeling nervous and shaky. It was day 11 of my cycle. The lack of sleep due to jet lag combined with the hormones around ovulation put my body into a physical state of anxiety before the day had even begun.

Nevertheless, we went to get our kayaks (transparent ones to get the best experience of the clear waters) and set off. Within a few minutes of leaving the shore and getting into deeper waters, my anxiety intensified. I felt shaky and uncomfortable. I applied logical reasoning and reminded myself that I am a good swimmer (wearing a life jacket!) and a good kayaker and that there was absolutely zero reason to feel anxious. There was no danger!

But my body took no notice and I started to visibly shake, getting closer and closer to a full blown anxiety attack. I felt so frustrated and annoyed, I wanted to cry. I also really wanted to get out of the kayak and the water. I called over to Tony to let him know what was going on for me. He responded perfectly by just stopping and giving me time to figure out what I needed to do. I decided to steer my kayak into a shallow bay where I felt more comfortable and waited. Slowly, my nerves started to calm down again. I asked Tony to carry on while I stayed in the bay and continued to allow my nerves to settle, because I really didn’t want him to miss out on the experience because of me. After making sure I was really ok with this, he set off but said he wouldn’t go far and be back shortly to check on me. I waved him off and paddled around the little bay, building my confidence and slowly starting to feel more comfortable. By the time Tony returned I was ready to follow him and continue.

I never felt 100% comfortable again on the water that particular day but I also didn’t give in to my false anxiety and just gave up. Somehow, I managed to find a middle way where I neither pushed myself too hard nor allowed my anxiety to control the situation. False or not, the truth is that I did feel shaky, but I also knew that there was no rational cause for this to be found in external circumstances. And if I learned one thing about anxiety, it’s that it gets worse the more I just give in to it. But I also learned that pushing myself can backfire. As much as it frustrates me to feel unreasonably anxious, pushing myself when I’m physically shaking is not being kind and caring towards myself.

The best way I have found to deal with it, is to give it the time and space to let it run its course, to just allow it and wait for it to settle down. It certainly worked well on this occasion and the rest of our stay at Lake Tahoe was lovely (and uneventful with regards to “false” hormonal anxiety). We went for a hike up in the beautiful pine forests that surround the lake, hung out in the motel jacuzzi and pool and enjoyed the general holiday atmosphere there. We left just in time for the official start of the holiday season and the lake getting busy. We’re heading further south along the Sierra Nevada to see the giant Sequoias next. I hope that some serious tree hugging will provide a calming balm for my nervous system.

Here’s a photo of me after my wobble, when I was able to actually enjoy the experience 🙂

Me sitting in a kayak on Lake Tahoe with snow covered mountains in the background.

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Daniela Miller

Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik

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Edited by Daniela Miller, Tuesday, 6 Jun 2023, 16:02

Day 2

I’m lying. There’s no sugar, sex or magik. Just loads of blood. Sorry. But I do love that Red Hot Chilli Peppers album.

Apparently, heavy bleeding during menstruation, also known as menorrhagia, is very common among women transitioning into menopause. One study found that 78% of women aged 42 to 52 reported their blood flow as heavy.

Last night I had to get up twice to avoid a blood bath and not surprisingly, due to the blood loss and lack of sleep, I’m feeling wiped out today. I had my blood checked and I’m not anaemic yet from this monthly blood letting ritual but I do take iron supplements during my period to make sure it stays that way. My gynaecologist also prescribed me some non hormonal tablets that reduce the blood flow. She says they have no side effects but I read the little leaflet and it lists thrombosis as a possible side effect and as I’m about to go on a 12 hour flight, I figured this wouldn’t be a great idea right now. So I’m just waiting for it to pass. Luckily, the really heavy bleeding doesn’t tend to last much longer than a day or two.

Knowing I wouldn’t feel great today, I made sure most of the travel prep was done in advance and all I had to do today was go to the bank and collect the dollars I had ordered via the banking app last week. Following the order I was informed by email my money would be ready for collection from yesterday afternoon in the branch I requested. Expecting a bit of a mission (banking in a branch in Spain is always a bit of a mission), I was prepared for some hassle but after around 20 minutes of them faffing around I was informed that there were in fact no dollars for me to collect. Trying to be helpful, the lady suggested that maybe the money was sent accidentally to the branch where our account is registered (about half an hour away) and called the branch to check. She was informed that yes, they have my money.

Annoyed, I checked in with the hubby whether or not he thought it was worth driving to the other branch or if we should just get the money at the airport. He wasn’t particularly bothered but offered to drive me there as he was on his lunch break anyway and knew I wasn’t feeling great.

So off we went. 

Upon arriving at the other branch, there was more faffing around and then we were informed that no one in the branch knew anything about any dollars and that they didn’t have our money either.

What was the name of the person the people in the other branch had spoken to? 

How on earth was I meant to know?! 

The tired and blood deprived Tasmanian devil inside of me was ready to throw a tantrum. Luckily, Tony was at hand to discreetly remind me to stay calm and that it wasn’t the lady’s fault. 

I’m pleased to say that I didn’t lose my shit but I did make a point of telling her that I was angry, that this whole situation felt like a bad joke and that there would be no next time when she tried to tell me how to approach this differently in the future (basically don’t use or trust the app). And although I’m still annoyed at having wasted so much time for nothing, I feel like I can let it go now because I had my say. When I was younger I would have probably been a polite, “nice girl” instead, swallowed my anger and stewed over it for ages afterwards. 

Maybe perimenopause is trying to help us grow out of such unhealthy behaviour patterns and to finally learn to express our anger appropriately, because clearly, suppressing it is no longer an option. It certainly helps to feel supported in this process and I really appreciated Tony understanding and acknowledging how I felt today and offering his support, both physically and emotionally. Otherwise, my inner Tasmanian devil might have made an unwelcome appearance today…

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Daniela Miller

What the fuck is going on?

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Contrary to popular belief, menopause itself actually only lasts one day as it’s defined as the moment when a woman hasn’t had her period for 12 months. The time leading up to this moment, is called perimenopause and can last from a few months (lucky you!) to a decade or more (please no!). It’s the transitional period in which your estrogen levels go on a rollercoaster ride alongside the decline in ovarian function. From what I hear from women past menopause the “fun” isn’t over afterwards but I don’t want to look that far ahead yet and am trying to take this one step at a time.

Having periods and a monthly hormonal cycle has never been exactly enjoyable but after years of cycle tracking I managed to live quite harmoniously with it and even reap some benefits (such as the deep wisdom and insight that can occur just before the bleed). However, since hitting my mid forties, it’s become a bit of a bumpy ride. What was once a predictable, reliable and therefore manageable hormonal fluctuation has become highly unpredictable with sudden and extreme hormonal spikes and troughs. Suddenly there are no smooth transitions anymore between the inner seasons but the weather of my hormonal landscape can change as abruptly as a summer storm ruining your picnic.

What that means in practice is that, as my husband put it, I can go from “sex goddess to evil witch” within a matter of minutes, which is as confusing for him as it is for me. And let’s not even speak of the hot rage that is provoked by the slightest of inconveniences and looks to other people like watching a mad woman and feels to me like being possessed.

Anyway, I hope you get the picture. There are physical symptoms too, which I won’t bore you with but let’s just say that they don’t help the mental and emotional symptoms. And before someone feels the need to comment on all the products and things that can help, thank you very much but I’m on it! However, while they can indeed help, they don’t eliminate or “fix” this natural developmental phase in a woman’s life and as much as I’d rather not experience this, I believe that there must be some growth and wisdom to be found in all this too. After all, it’s the manure (shit to you and me) that makes the garden of life grow and bloom.

So with all this said, this blog will be a place for me to share and reflect on my experiences navigating this period in my life: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Enjoy the ride…

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Daniela Miller, Thursday, 1 Jun 2023, 15:58)
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