When You Know You Need a Break ...

Providence Canyon

I've been in serious need of a mental health day, so the fam and I took a day to drive up to Providence Canyon State Park in Lumpkin, Georgia, to explore yesterday. It's a very cool place! Other than making jokes about being a medically diagnosed dizzy blonde, I don't normally share my health struggles, but I decided to share this in the event it helps someone.

First, menopause is no joke. (Men, please read that again... menopause is no joke.) I've been battling some side effects for a couple years now. I'm currently six weeks to the day into a maddening case of 24/7 tinnitus (the medical term for ringing in the ears.) I've had inner ear issues most of my life (which is what causes my vertigo), and I've just assumed the tinnitus is related to my ear damage, but I've also recently read it can be a side effect of menopause. Whatever the cause, it's hit me really hard.

I'm normally a naturally positive, glass-is-half-full kind of girl, but I have been truly struggling with this, and I hit a pretty low spot last week. Sleep is very hard to come by with a constant ringing in your ears, and lack of sleep compounds so many other things. For me, it's heightened my vertigo issues and caused a shingles flair up. My worst night was this past Tuesday when I got maybe a total of two hours of sleep. At one point, I remember thinking that, wow, I think I understand how my mother made the decision she did to end her life. Don't get me wrong, I'm not in the least bit having those types of thoughts about my own life, but just the idea that I understood that thought scared the hell out of me.

After a good pretty breakdown with a very dear friend over lunch and my husband later in the day on Wednesday, I called my doctor and got in to see him on Thursday. We talked a LONG time about a lot of things, and I've got several issues going on. Challenge is in determining the old chicken and the egg. My blood pressure was very high for me ... which could be causing the tinnitus which likely is causing the shingles flare up (for me, normally stress induced) and amping up my usual vertigo issues. Or all those things and having a conversation about things that are difficult to talk about may be increasing my blood pressure. Either way, he's put me on a blood pressure med, a mild anti-depressant and triple my normal valtrex maintenance dose for my shingles to knock the flare up back down. I see an ENT specialist Tuesday to see if we can do anything about the tinnitus, and I'll see Dr. Allen again in a couple weeks, or sooner if needed. If the ENT can't determine any cause for the tinnitus (which is unfortunately often the case with tinnitus), I will see a therapist for some other coping strategies other than the white noise app I'm currently using. Full transparency, I am hesitant to take the anti-depressant given my mother's history, so I'm not sure how I feel about that. Haven't started taking it yet.

Yesterday was a really good break for me, and once we got home, I just settled in on the couch and watched TV for a bit before going to bed early. So like I said, I don't usually share this kind of stuff, but .... men, listen to your wives/girl friends/whatever when they share menopause struggles and understand that they are very real. Whether my tinnitus is menopause related, who knows. And friends, take the time needed to take care of yourselves. As women, we so often take care of everyone else before we take care of ourselves, and I know I can absolutely be guilty of that. When you need help, don't be afraid to ask for it. Between all this mess, work stress, menopause, my girls getting ready to head off to college, losing one of my very best friends very unexpectedly in October, and, oh, a global pandemic and all that it's brought us, I've had to accept that I have a whole lot of pretty heavy stuff going on right now and ask for help. I think admitting all that is half the battle!

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