Thursday, November 1, 2007

being a woman

I've been feeling a bit melancholy the last few days. Sort of hard on myself in my head: like when I make a small mistake or a bad decision, I don't just laugh at my clumsiness and move on--I take it as a sign that Something Is Seriously Wrong With Me. Some of this is due to stress (will my thesis ever be officially signed off? Will I ever get the three signatures I need on the one key piece of paper? Will the gods find yet another way of thwarting my good planning--so far we've had (1) catastrophic wildfires, (2) my forgetfulness, and (3) really terrible Halloween traffic?)

But I digress. The melancholy is more than just stress, though. I really think that it's partly hormonal. I say this because before Lucy was born and I stopped, ahem, taking things to make sure she wasn't born, I went into a tailspin of self-loathing for a month. It was bad enough that I went to see a therapist I'd been to a few years earlier. She asked me a few questions, until she found out that I'd stopped taking the pill, and said, do you get like this every month? And I considered, and realized that, yes, indeed I did, but it had just been worse than usual. She told me not to worry, that there were things I could do to not feel so melancholy (like exercise and change my diet) but that it was also okay to just be blue at the end of the month, kind of cleansing, and I could feel the feelings if I wanted to.

Having had the steady hormones of pregnancy/nursing, I had forgotten about those monthly blues. Until my face started breaking out and I started cussing at myself because I accidentally changed Lucy's diaper when it didn't really need changing.
Being a woman is weird. You feel things that seem wholly related to circumstances, or Life, or Who You Are, but there are also these weird chemicals floating around in your brain that play a much bigger role in how you feel than you'd like to think. And not that the feelings aren't valid--it's not like the weird loathing is wholly chemical--it feels more like my defenses are lower right now, and the subtle insecurities I feel are just magnified. And it's not like men don't have these chemically induced moods--of course they do--it's just their chemicals are constant in a way ours aren't, and thus they're easier to forget about.
To be honest, I feel weird posting about this because my last two commenters are male, but you two can hang with this topic, right? (No comment necessary. Feel free to stay away from the blog for a few days, until the estrogen blows over).


tODD said...

I just wanted to chime in about the notion that men's hormones are constant. Certainly I don't get PMS as such, but ask Julia some time about my up/down swings. I've never actually charted it -- anything that takes several months to work out a pattern is too long for my attention span -- but I definitely have periods of mania ("I'm so excited! I have lots of ideas! I'm going to start five new projects! I don't need to sleep! Yay yay yay!") and malaise ("I don't want to work on any of those stupid projects. I don't want to read anything. I just want to sleep.")

I do think simply being aware of one's chemical nature -- its rhythms, inputs, and outputs -- is helpful. Yeah, we have wills and can override things sometimes, but we're not all will-powered all the time. It's like the weather -- no good complaining about it, might as well roll with it. So it's a gift when I'm up, and a gift when I'm down (because then I catch up on my sleep lost when I was up).

I just wish I was able to follow through on ideas from peak to peak. As it is, I have way too many unfinished projects lying around.

Not that this necessarily relates to your story, but hey.

Heather said...

Wow, Todd, that's good to know. Perhaps what's weird about being a woman is that the swings are necessarily tied into our biology, and monthly rhythms, and are so commonly held with many women? So sexists can say stuff like, "well, you can't make a woman president because she'd set off a WWIII while PMSing?" (really, she'd be more likely not to have the wherewithal to make really awful decisions like that: one more reason to put a woman in the White House! (Not that I'm voting for Hilary; I'm still deciding).
But it's good to know this is common to all people; I'm glad to know that.

Rob said...

Yeah, what Todd said. You knew we both had to at least chime in ;-) What is interesting to me is that in treating bi-polarism you can make lots of changes to your diet that will massively easy mood swings, but no one ever seems to apply the same principles to women's health. One of these days my wife is going to catch onto the fact that I rig the menu based on a 28 day cycle that doesn't have to do with the moon.