Hormones, Anxiety, and Middle-Age : How I Got My Life Back

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Here we are - the post you've been waiting for! If this is the first you've read, you can read the introductory stories here:

Post One: Health, Hormones, Anxiety, and Middle Age

Post Two: Hormones, Middle Age, and the Mess

There are affiliate links in this post. 

Inevitably, whenever this topic comes up and resonates with another woman in conversation, she implores, "Please, tell me which supplements you took to cure yourself!" I so understand the desperation to find the fastest solve possible, but let me tell you what I always tell them: There is no quick fix. 

How to Figure Out What's Wrong

The first thing I knew needed to happen was a diagnosis of what was actually going on. My psychologist friend highly recommended Dr. Sara Gottfried's book, The Hormone Cure, to me. Dr. Gottfried is that Harvard Medical School educated physician I mentioned in an earlier post, and she has led a team of hormone researchers for the past two decades. 

I studied the book, took her online quizzes, then headed to my doctor to talk to him about the problems I was having and ask for a blood panel to test my hormone levels. 

Surprise! My results were exactly what Dr. Gottfried said they would be: Outdated "normal" levels in each category, and so I decided to trust the Harvard doctor and researcher's revised listing of what is normal and what is dangerously too low or too high. We'll let the medical community play catch up on their own schedule; I'm going with the latest help available.

The First Step in Changing My Life

After I had my results, I could properly go about changing what needed to be changed in my own life. Here's the thing you need to know about that change: It isn't simply one thing. It isn't simply changing your diet or exercising more or taking things off of your list of responsibilities. It's a combination of all of the above plus some "fixes" that might even surprise you.

For me, it was the following, but keep in mind that it will be different for you. You really must create a plan that is unique to your own fluctuating hormone levels and what is too low or too high in your own body.

I had to:

  • Kick my sugar addiction. Except for maybe the nightly game run of Candy Crush, this was my only addiction and the one I return to most often. 
  • Stop all cardio. I could keep my twice-weekly ballet class (I'm an old ballerina in a class of old ballerinas), but beginning a running regimen was out of the question.
  • Get regular massages. Super tough. (Just kidding.)
  • Have more sex. Seriously. Orgasms release the good stuff into our bodies, and mine needed more of that good stuff. I don't have the same drive my husband does (massive understatement) so this one is still difficult for me. How's that for transparency?
  • Add natural supplements specific to my issues. I could tell you what they are, but that won't help you. 
  • Make sleep a non-negotiable priority. I am terrible at this, but for the first few months, I set my alarm to tell me when to turn the light off and get 8 hours of sleep.
  • Assess what our priorities are. Do you know what happens when two naturally driven people with massive life capacities get married? They buy dental practices, become church leaders, have 8 kids, homeschool, create a cottage business, write books, run a popular podcast, treat each hobby as if it's an Olympic sport, and invite the world into their home every week. At least, that's how we've been living for 25 years. We were way, way overdue for an assessment of what needed to stay in our lives and what we could kick to the curb.

. . . and Then Everything Improved

Part of the nutrition overhaul for me was deciding to use a well-designed shake for breakfast and lunch. I needed easy. I needed to not think about everything I was putting in my mouth. My husband was firmly committed to a ketogenic diet that helped reverse his Type II Diabetes, and so I was already on the steep learning curve of that whole thing as I prepped dinners for all of us. So long, pizza and homemade rolls and my beloved sugar.

But back to the shakes. I knew of a product called Isagenix and had even lost quite a bit of weight with it after our 8th child was born and I was 180 pounds on my little 5'3" frame. Again, I didn't want to think, so I ordered the 30-day Weight Loss Plan from Isagenix and began on a Monday morning.

I kid you not, by day four (4!) I told my husband, "I feel like a new woman." Two weeks in and I felt like I had my life back. I'm hearing the same thing from other women who've decided to take the same path.

I don't think Isagenix cured me. I don't think it's the only way. But it was the best way for me, and now a year later, I'm still committed to it. 

Are You Ready to Make the Change?

I hope you've felt that I've given you some good points from which to jump off and get healthy! You could take everything I've mentioned above and get started without another word from me, but if you want to do this together, let me know! 

Is it time to make a life change you won't ever regret? Do you want my help?

I'm not selling a thing. I just think we can do this together. Click the button below - I'll walk you through step by step and it will be fun! 

Daughter's high school graduation, May 2017  - Note the Mo Willems children's book, which is what happens when your 4th child graduates and the little special needs brother has to sit through the ceremony. :D 

Daughter's high school graduation, May 2017 - Note the Mo Willems children's book, which is what happens when your 4th child graduates and the little special needs brother has to sit through the ceremony. :D 

Hormones, Middle Age, and The Mess

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First things first: Why didn't anyone tell me this was going to happen? Why isn't this a widely discussed topic in our work lives, churches, clubs, and community conversations? Why isn't it included in "the talk", right alongside menstruation, sex, birth control, and menopause?

If it is discussed, what should we call it? The truth is, so many of us have been caught completely off guard by this thing - this middle-life turned upside-down and kicking us upside the head and catching us unaware.

Hey, Younger Woman! Here's What's Coming Down the Pike:

If you are in your teens, 20's, or 30's, let me be the one to break it to you gently: Middle-age gets rough, especially if you juggle a home, children, husband, job, and 21st century western First World living and culture. 

Your doctor likely won't let you in on this either, which is weird. My (male) doctor said, "That's not a thing." I politely replied, "Okay" and took my business elsewhere. There's really no use arguing with the uninitiated; that would be like arguing the finer points of childbirth with a man.

My Story of Hormones, Middle Age, Stress, and the Mess

A psychologist friend patiently listened to me as did my RN sister-in-law, and both wondered aloud if this was more hormonal than anything else. Regardless of what is being taught to physicians, there is hard evidence that stress adversely affects our hormones, and middle-age women tend to carry plenty of it. In my case, my body was also breaking down the fallout of three children nearly dying, a son's failed wedding, my husband's cancerous tumor diagnosis and removal plus his Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, the day to day management of our brain-injured son, my brother's precarious cancer removal surgeries, and interpersonal extended family turmoil.

I put all of that in writing and stand back to look at it and think, "Well, duh! Of course you were falling apart!" But as you probably have observed in your own life, we don't always take stock of a stressful situation in the midst of it. We just do what we have to do and move on until the storm passes. 

How to Know When It's Time to Make Changes

Clearly, when I read all that I had been living and managing (plus 8 kids!), it's easy to diagnose the problem, or at least understand where those pesky symptoms of anxiety and weight gain had come from. But we're not always so good at diagnosing ourselves. 

I'm thinking that if you landed here to read this series, you have an inkling that something isn't quite right. Is now your time to make a change? Ask yourself:

  • Am I managing everything that is in my life as well as I did six months or a year ago?
  • Do I feel sick or overwhelmed when even a small change is made to my routine?
  • Is my body showing signs (weight gain, hair loss, acne along the chin line) that it is carrying more tension than is obviously healthy for me?

If you can see that it's time to do something to change the trajectory of your health, stick around for my last post in this short series. You can even scroll down and subscribe to get it delivered right to you so you don't forget. There is hope, I promise!

Read the rest of the posts in this series:

Post 1: Health, Hormones, Anxiety, and Middle Age

Post 3: Hormones, Anxiety, and Middle Age: How I Got My Life Back

August, 2016  - Our oldest son's wedding, and at my heaviest non-pregnancy weight. 

August, 2016 - Our oldest son's wedding, and at my heaviest non-pregnancy weight. 

December 2016  - Down 25 pounds for our second son's wedding.

December 2016 - Down 25 pounds for our second son's wedding.

Health, Hormones, Anxiety, and Middle-Age Weight

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This month my husband Fletch wrote a series on his blog about taking hold of his health as he hit middle age. The response he's received has been hearty, to say the least.

Last October, I too, decided to make public my own battle with my health. When I posted on Facebook all that I have been up against and how it was being resolved, I was not prepared for the response I received, either. My phone began to buzz  - all day long - "off the hook" with text after text. Women messaged me privately, and I had a few call and ask to get together to discuss what they had been experiencing. 

It's not an understatement to say that so very many of us in our middle age are really, really struggling. 

If you feel as if you're one of them and you missed my original Facebook post, here it is. Maybe you'll read your own story in mine:

Been pondering this post for a few days but am deciding to go ahead in case it’s helpful to someone. I will be writing about it elsewhere, but for now, here’s the short version:

After 8 straight years of trial after trial and poor stress management on my part, I hit this past summer with a deluge of panic attacks and anxiety. I cried. All the time. About everything. I was angry, unable to forgive, and mad at God. The kicker was when I found myself on the floor of the church kitchen one night, unable to breathe, heart racing uncontrollably, scared to death I wasn’t going to ever be healthy again.

I met with a psychologist who correctly recognized that what I was dealing with was due largely to nutritional and physical depletion, as well as imbalanced hormones (age, 9 pregnancies, stress . . .) I also made an appointment with our family practitioner, who ordered blood work and prescribed Xanax. He and I agreed that the Xanax wasn’t a cure, but there if I needed it.

I then headed full steam into a nutritional overhaul and after getting connected with the work of a Harvard Med School doctor who specializes in hormone research, I added supplements to help the hormones figure themselves out.

4 days into it all, I felt like a new woman. Now 6 weeks in, I have lost 13 pounds (12 to go) and I feel like I have my life back. No panic attacks, no freaking out, no crying. I never filled the Xanax prescription.

Sound like you? Maybe it’s not your brain, your ability to cope, or your spiritual life (don’t get me started). Maybe it’s just a simple need to take a very close look at how you’re fueling your body and managing everything on your plate. Part of that meant taking things off my plate, too. So there’s that. And ballet. My ballet class is a key.

That’s all. My story. And if it helps you, I’m glad I posted it.

Is this your story, too? I'm not a nutritionist or a medical professional, but I can tell you what has made all the difference for this over-committed, middle-aged, working, homeschooling, mother of 8 plus 2 daughters-in-law. That post comes next.

Part Two: Hormones, Middle Age, and the Mess

Part Three: Hormones, Anxiety, and Middle Age: How I Got My Life Back

While this photo encapsulates one of my favorite memories, it was taken on July 4th, 2016, at the height of my panic attacks and worst health. It's painful to look at because I know how badly I was struggling at the time.

While this photo encapsulates one of my favorite memories, it was taken on July 4th, 2016, at the height of my panic attacks and worst health. It's painful to look at because I know how badly I was struggling at the time.