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Yea, Though I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death…….

Posted Oct 12 2009 10:01pm

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It happened.  Again. That dreaded monster of perimenopause that never has the courtesy to check with me to see if it can stop by. Of course, it knows I don’t have any extra room, but like all rude guests, it didn’t really care and came anyway. Depression. I hate depression. Truthfully, I hate perimenopause. I’m trying very hard to find a silver lining in this cloud. But the truth is, there is just a rusted, corroded edge to everything and I’m sick of putting on a happy face.

Have you felt this way lately?  Especially since you’ve begun going through perimenopause?  This is an excerpt from a post I did over a year ago after I had just come out of one of those hormonally induced depressive funks.  I thought I might resurrect it today and talk about perimenopause depression.  It’s a big one.  In fact, on both polls here at The Magnolia Diaries and The Perimenopause blog,  mood swings have been high on the list of troublesome perimenopause symptoms.

When we think of mood swings most of us usually think of the rage componant.  And perhaps the term mood swing is actually thought of more as swinging from a balanced hormonal state where one’s moods are consistent to the less balanced state where they are, umm, shall we say gently, not.  

But depression a very real and substantial part of that cycle for so many of us.  Especially if you are predisposed to depression anyway (like me).  It can be like a pit of quicksand trying to get out of it - even if you know what’s causing it (like I do every time it hits).

There is no need to go into any medical detail to explain what causes it, because frankly, we all KNOW what causes it.  It’s a hormonal imbalance.  Period.  So, really, the question becomes: What the heck can we do about it? 

No one enjoys not being able to get out of bed without some centrifugal force sucking you out of it.  No one enjoys hardly being able to pick your feet up to walk across the room because they feel like they have cinder blocks on them and no one and I mean, no one enjoys having a dark, gloomy cloud color every aspect of their  life, crushing down on their chest, making every breath  a laborious effort.  

I hate you If you are one of those blessed few who are the approximate 20% who do not experience serious perimenopausal symptoms, God bless you.  (I’ll try not to hate you)

Though, if you are, you likely wouldn’t be here anyway, so I guess that’s a moot point. :)  

So back to my original question – what can we do about it?

Well, according to a few medical studies I’ve read, hormonally induced depression is really no different than your garden variety depression (which excludes serious clinical depression – so please make that distinction) and that the same suggestions to help with non-hormonally induced depression should and often do help with hormonally induced depression.  Such as:

  • Physical Exercise - so if you’re not much into the vigorous aerobic type activity (and many of us are not due to joint issues, etc. ) you can’t get much better than walking.  A brisk daily walk in the morning or evening (or anytime that is convenient for you) can do a lot to lift the fog.  The light from the sun along with the Vitamin D lifts moods substantially. The irony here though, is that when you are depressed you don’t feel like doing anything.  It’s like not knowing how to spell a word and someone tells you to get a dictionary to look it up. Or you’re looking for your first job and potential employers  say they are looking for someone with experience.  It’s just the ultimate catch-22 all the way around.  But, if you can push yourself out the door and get your body moving, it can go a long way to help with lifting the blues. If you are more ambitious, maybe swimming or bike riding would be a good option for you.  Even a good session of vigorous house-work can go a long way in throwing off depression. The point is, just start moving.  


  • Eat A Healthy Mood Lifting Breakfast - if you are like me you may be tempted to skip breakfast.  It is a lifelong habit of mine unfortunately that is not a healthy one.  Eating breakfast, especially a healthy one (which means no donuts & coffee ladies) can not only lift one’s moods if you choose the proper foods, but it can also kick start your metabolism for the day and aid in dropping a few unwanted pounds.  Complex carbs like whole grains are superb.  I personally love quinoa   (pronounced keen-wah) because it’s such a versatile grain.  It can be spiced up as a side dish for a lunch or dinner, or you can  fix it as a breakfast cereal and top it with nuts, raisin, and a little soy or rice milk.  I think quinoa should be called the “little grain that could”.  Not only does quinoa come loaded with the much needed protein, but it also provides a nice mix of vitamins and minerals  that we need during perimenopause.  With a low glycemic index of 18, quinoa is an excellent blood sugar stabilizer – which directly affects your moods.  I can personally vouch for this as I have always had blood sugar problems.  In addition, quinoa will literally hang with you all day long.  It  provides a good source of magnesium which is helpful for sleep and calming your jangled nerves.  It also provides an excellent source of manganese   which is a nervous system soother as well, in addition to strengthening bones and helping with hair loss. Qunioa provides a portion of our daily allowance of calcium (for our bones) and iron (which also helps with energy).  Believe me when I tell you ladies, quinoa is one of the most remarkable foods I’ve ever discovered.  Try it.  You won’t be disappointed.  You can usually find it in the grain section of most grocery stores and certainly at any whole foods or health food stores.


  • Talk With Friends – Again, when you’re swallowed up with depression the last thing you want to do is, well, anything.  Exercise can’t get a rise out of you and eating?  Waaaay too much effort.  But, talking with someone can sometimes be a great mood-lifter.  Especially if that someone tends to be a positive, supportive and uplifting person.  Blogging has been helpful for me.  I just start typing and get it all out there.  Most of time though, you all don’t see it because I end up deleting it.  But, just the act of pouring my emotions out there and “talking” about it so to speak, is quite helpful is cleaning out some of that sludge.  If you have a certain friend whose company you enjoy, call that friend, go out and have some coffee with them , talk through those negative feelings.  It really does help.


  • Herbal Solutions – I have friends who swear by St. John’s Wort  for mild depression.  I will tell you, I tried it during my most fierce depressive times with perimenopause and it did absolutely nothing for me.  However, there has been a lot of research done, especially in Europe and it is documented medically that it does bring some relief for some people.  Perhaps you will be one of those people and it can help you as well.  It certainly won’t hurt you to try.


  • breath Deep Breathing Exercises - I suppose this could fall under the heading of physical exercise some what, but oxygen to the brain works wonders –  really.  Stand in a comfortable position with your feet hips-width apart, bend your knees and breath in deep and slow, expanding your belly (this is the easy part because, well, my belly is already hanging out there) rising up and lifting your arms above your head.  As you exhale, make sure it’s controlled and slow, lowering your arms slowly as well.  Concentrate on your breath as you inhale and exhale.  Do this for about 5-minutes.  


  • Avoid Excessive Alcohol & Refined Sugars - Many people enjoy a nightly cocktail, beer or glass of wine.  It can be fine to unwind with any of these at the end of the day, but remember, alcohol is a depressant.  So, if you’re already feeling the weight of a depressive funk, you won’t be able to drink it away.  Maybe it will knock you out and you can sleep for a little while, but it really is not an effective way to manage depression.  Not to mention, you might end up developing a secondary drinking problem.  That Exhaustion can never be good.
  • Sugars.  Well, here’s the deal with sugar.  It can be a quick pick-me-up.  I’ve certainly reached for the occasional Snickers bar or Reeses Peanut Butter Cup and gotten a little kick to help me ride through that part of the day where I just want to lay down for about, oh, I don’t know, 10 years.  But in spite of the quick kick in the pants sugars can give you, they also dump you like a bag of rocks when your blood sugar plummets after the unnatural spike.  So read my typing keys: this –  is –  not –  healthy.  Now, I won’t tell you not to eat that wonderful candy bar if you just want it ladies, but it won’t really last for you in the long haul.  The alcohol is a similar culprit with blood sugar as well.  It just does a number on it and the up and down of blood sugar levels can make you feel like you’ve been in the boxing ring for a few rounds.  It’s just not worth it.  So, the occasional splurge or drink?  Okay.  Just don’t go overboard with it.


  • Anti-depressants - Okay, I guess you knew I would be getting around to these sooner or later, so what about them, right?  We seem to be the anti-depressant culture these days.  Most people I know have either taken them or currently take them in some form or fashion.  I’m not against them.  In fact, I took them for approximately 3 years during my worst perimenopausal years.  They didn’t necessarily take away all of my hormonal issues, they just gave me a little help in being able to manage the dips and dives that were so difficult for me.  They do have side-effects such as sexual dysfunction (like you have trouble reaching that magic moment), teeth-grinding, excessive yawning, insomnia (for some) and nervousness (for some).  Personally, I’m glad I took them when I did.  They were a much needed crutch and band-aid during a time where I felt vulnerable and just unable to cope.  It is possible they could help you as well.  As always, talk with your doctor or a trusted medical professional and do a little arm-chair research to educate yourself on the pro’s & con’s of this option.  If you do decide to take them, don’t beat yourself up for feeling weak.  We take all types of medication for all types of issues with our physical bodies.  Perimenopause is in fact, physical, not mental.  So, it is not a sign of mental illness or weakness.  It is biological.


ThisTooShallPass Finally ladies, remember, unless you are suffering from severe clinical depression (and if you are, get thee to a physician or mental health professional quickly) this too shall really pass. 

I know when you are in the middle of it, it seems that you will be forever sucked into that deep, dark, sad hole.  But, it’s not true.

My days of crippling depression and violent mood swings are all but passed.  Had you told me 5 years ago, 6 years ago, 7 years ago, that they would, I would have had a terrible time believing you.  It seemed so –  permanent.  But it wasn’t and now I am  only burdened with the occasional “bitchy-day” and a mild case of the blues that I am able to shake off with very little effort.  So it does end. 

You will find your way back to the land of the living.  In the meantime, do whatever it takes to get yourself through this time.  Above all else, be kind to yourself.  Really.  Be kind.  If you beat yourself up for something you have absolutely no control over, well, it can just turn into a neurotic cycle.  And with all of the other crap going on in your body right now, who needs it?  Besides, at the end of this journey is the ultimate prize – MENOPAUSE!!!   Then we can all go  hang out with Eileen at Feisty Side of Fifty  and enjoy the perks of middle-age and beyond.  Oh, happy day.

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