In the Thick of It

Yesterday a new mommy friend came over for a play date. Her son, Red Bull, is in Toots’ class, and her daughter, Demure, attends Booger’s preschool. Our kids perfectly pair off, because Toots and Red Bull are human energy drinks in a kid bottle, and Booger and Demure remain content to read books and play Barbies for hours.
So in between our oldest ripping up the neighborhood and our youngest sitting quietly, the two of us mommies settled into a couple of lounge chairs and began to talk.


The past week or so, I’d sensed some angst in my friend, and although I didn’t know her well, my intuition picked up some unsettledness. She seemed pensive, quiet, maybe a little like a shell about to break. I know that emotional state well, having spent a lot of my time putting on faces for the public when inside I’m a ball of anxiety, so I thought maybe I could get her to release whatever was plaguing her. She needed to talk, that much I knew. And soon enough, she did, and the conversation became like the many, many I have with dozens of other women.


My friend recently turned 40 and has begun to feel “off.” She gets dizzy, has “cloud-head,” and suffers panic attacks. A week of so into the symptoms, she finally broke down and confessed to her husband that she didn’t feel right, although she couldn’t put into words so much what was wrong. God bless him, he insisted she go to the doctor and after several tests and some weirdness (one doctor prescribed antihistamine for her anxiety), she was told she had high blood pressure and TMJ.


Assuredly these issues cause her symptoms, but she still thinks there’s something behind her new onset emotional ups and downs (“Maybe I’m depressed?” she suggested), and this bothers her. After a trip to the dentist for a TMJ night guard and a prescription for blood pressure medication, she’s waiting to see if she experiences a break from her anxiety and muddy head, but something is niggling at her, something that says there’s more to it, more to the sudden change in her body chemistry, more to the dizziness, more to the heavy sense of dread she is now feeling every day. The worry is like a coat she wears.


I know it well.


We talked more about what’s going on. Her dad just passed away, her best friend’s five-year-old son died, and she’s overwhelmed with grief and sadness. There is that, there is that. Of course, right? She knows this, but there’s more, there is more. She insists it’s true and I believe her. I’ve proclaimed the same insistence.


She beats herself up for not being a good enough parent, her son is strong-willed and she doesn’t know how to handle him, so at the end of the day she drinks wine to decompress and she worries this is bad. She’s high strung, over emotional, often worried, trying to do it all, concerned she can’t, wants to define herself beyond motherhood and well? It’s caught up with her. She’s unraveling.


My friends, I know it well.


It never stops surprising me how many women go through this and how we don’t talk about it much until we’re at the end of ourselves. I know there’s the “others” out there, the ones who can handle it all with aplomb: the PTA, the hormones punking their bodies, the “spirited” children, the deadlines, the evolving marriages, the deaths of loved ones, the “what lies beyond motherhood?,” the etc. and the yada.


I’m not one of them.


I kick, I scratch, I wonder, I rail, I obsess, I blame, I question, I cry, I panic.


There’s more of us out there. We’ve got so much going on at this stage in our lives. Managing families, raising kids, setting aside “me” time, possibly caring for a sick mom or dad (or worrying about a sick mom or dad), keeping the love relationship on track (or derailing it and getting on a new train), negotiating boundaries, finding ourselves…the list expands. I also think after 40 can be a perfect storm of external expectations crashing into internal expectations. Maybe some of us followed the template until this point in our lives (you meet someone, you have kids, you build your family) and now we turn our attention to discovering our authentic selves. We’re breaking the template. Or creating a new one. There’s growing pains in that. Also it’s said that to know your true self, look through the eyes of a child, and maybe some of us don’t like what we see. So we try to improve, change old behaviors, be all we can be. Plus, the guilt associated with parenting is intense. THEN, hormonal fluctuations don’t help matters. I believe that that organic change creates issues — physical transformations, brain chemistry peaks and valleys, anxiety — that compounds emotional angst.


Whatever it is, things suddenly aren’t the same after a certain point in a woman’s life. Not physically, not emotionally, not mentally, not even spiritually as some of us question what relationship with God or the Universe resonates highest with us. We’re busting through barriers of however we — or others — defined us as and shining the light on what we really want from our lives. If this phase of life were a weather system, it’d be a tornado. Lots of swirling, debris by the wayside, sometimes a good ole 2×4 over the head. And let me just say…this is a welcome tornado. It’s a necessary wind. I want the tornado. And what comes after the tornado. Still….right now, it’s a tornado.


At least it is for me. And for my friend.


And I’d be willing to bet for some of you, too.


We should talk about it more.


23 Responses to “In the Thick of It”

  1. Me says:

    OH MY GOD! I love you.

  2. Me says:

    Of course my neuroses is checking my first comment and convincing me that it will scare you because, how could a perfect stranger use those words, blah, blah, blah…

  3. Deanna says:

    And NO one ever TOLD us about this! I’m at the point when I hear someone say, “She’s just a mom.” I want to use that 2 x 4 from aforementioned tornado and smack ’em! Great post!!!!

  4. Excellent post.

    I wish i could write about it. I am just…too tired, too busy, too tongue-tied, too embarrassed.

    Too whiny, too private, too hyponchondriacal.

    Too stuck in the middle of the funnel.

  5. And if you think the tornado dissipates as they get older, you’re in for a stunning surprise. “Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems”

  6. Blognut says:

    Yep. We should absolutely talk about it more.

  7. Dawn says:

    Oh my gosh this is just what I needed to read at this very moment!!! Just knowing that other people are going through this exact thing is such a lightbulb moment. I have been feeling this way for months. I keep thinking that I’m coming to the other side and then no. Not coming out. sigh. Two days ago my daughter left her volleyball shirt at home and I had to take it to school for her. Cried the whole way there feeling all overwhelmed and un-appreciated. Sheesh! We definately should talk about it more. It helps to know we aren’t alone.
    Hugs to you today…..and a thank you for writing this,

  8. vodkamom says:

    wow. that was amazing-

    and yes, I welcome the loud and hectic life- it keeps those dark thoughts at bay.

  9. I love these conversations with you.

  10. Deborah says:

    Beautiful post. I’m sure it will encourage others to come out and say more, knowing they are not alone.

  11. There are many things left unspoken amongst the mommies until, as you said, one of us is at a breaking point. We need to get past the stigma that we will be looked down upon or as less than if we reveal the imperfections in our lives. Good on you for getting the conversation started.

    (PS – my phone is always on, Skype is a click away and I’m not too far up the freeway)

  12. You articulated this so well.

    I confess to being the “other” kind of woman-and sometimes I wonder if I’m missing something because I don’t feel like that. I wonder if maybe I’m just not “deep” enough. So I guess that’s my anxiety.

    Also, I’m glad you’ve got a kindred spirit in the suburbs.

  13. Michelle says:

    Oh my. YES!
    Have you read this article yet?

  14. Myra says:

    Yes, we should definitely talk about it. Because if we’re honest, we’re all struggling with ourselves. I think what is the most difficult is living among those who are not honest about it. Then we have to question ourselves. And hold ourselves to an impossible measure. I’m glad it’s not just me.

  15. Jennifer says:

    I’m yet at that point in my life but I have experienced the minor pieces of the storm that tend to enter my life from time to time. Reading this I feel anxious at what may come when I go through the full storm. Talking has been a great help so far. I’m convienced more talking is needed.

  16. Danielle says:

    I’m there. Oh yes am I there. Right there, right in the middle of it. I understand. I try to talk about it, but sometimes it’s just too difficult. Or someone just doesnt’ get it. Thanks for this post.

  17. kate says:

    me too.

    how do you say things so well? so that we hear them AND feel them.

  18. Mama Mary says:

    Whoa Nelly! Are you INSIDE MY BRAIN right now? It’s quite ironic that right at this moment I am listening to a Tony Robbins CD, trying to type a blog post about how I think I’ve made some wrong decisions in life that have effed up my future and that I have given up on my dreams and that i want to cry constantly at what a horrible mother I am. Yes, I am in a funk–the funk of which you speak of so eloquently. I could not find the right words to continue my post so I popped over here for a prompt or a pick me-upper, or a downer, or whatever. And then I found THIS post. Then reading all of the responses to your post just makes me wonderful and sad at the same time, and makes me glad I’m not alone and also wonder what can be done to help us all through it. Thanks for the honest, beautiful post!!!

  19. Da Goddess says:

    You know, we have a Poway group for divorced and blended families. I’m beginning to think we need to morph our group to be a special moms and dads group period. We talk this stuff out and all walk away feeling clearer, stronger, and slightly saner.

    Give your friend a hug from me. And then have her give you one from me back.

  20. Crystal says:

    Holy crap – I don’t know if I should be encouraged by this post (because there are other women that feel the same), or scared silly – because at 29 I feel like I’m already there, and if you’re saying it’s gonna be WORSE and not BETTER by the time I’m 40 – heaven help me.

  21. BonnieT says:

    Wow. You mean I’m not going crazy after all?? Thank you for this post. I really needed to read this. Yes, let’s talk!

  22. Very profound, my dear. Your friend is lucky to have you.

  23. bzzzzgrrrl says:

    Just catching up on my reader, so I’m a little late to the game, but saw this and wanted to say, for all of you who are connecting to this post– go read (or reread) The Feminine Mystique. I’m just rereading it for the first time in almost 20 years and am AMAZED at how different my 38-year-old take is from my 19-year-old take.

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