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When life forces you to slow down
I’m a huge advocate for living life at a slower pace, creating a life for yourself that is calm instead of busy and overwhelming. That’s kinda my thing. I’m also the first to admit that it’s a process. A slower life doesn’t happen overnight… But sometimes, life happens, and you just don’t have a choice in the matter. You HAVE to slow down – right now – and you might not be ready for it yet. So, what do you do when life forces you to slow down before you’re ready?
That’s precisely what has been going on with me for most of this year.
****TMI warning – I’m about to talk about some female health stuff here.****
Ladies, some of you can probably relate to what I’ll be sharing (and I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below if you feel like sharing too.)
Fellas, if you’re squeamish about these topics…well, first of all, get over that ASAP. Half(ish) of the world’s population deals with this stuff, so you might as well be aware of some of the things that happen. But if you’re not quite there yet, I get it. (To be honest, I’m not quite there yet either. But here I am, writing about it for all the world to see…) Feel free to skip the story part and go straight to the tips.
Ready? Okay, let’s go.
I’ve been having some kind of minor problems with my menstrual cycle for years now. Pretty much ever since the very beginning, actually. But over the past few years, things escalated. Like…a lot.
- Periods that went from being annoyingly “heavy” to extremely heavy with large clots and flooding
- Cramps that used to be painful but usually manageable, turned into days spent on the couch, curled around a heating pad, and nights waking up in tears.
- PMS symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, and mood swings lasting a couple of days shifted into lasting 2-3 weeks out of the month
- Occasional random mid-cycle spotting that turned into regular, full-on period-level bleeds that happened out of nowhere almost every month. (Including once in a former employer’s car on the way back from a business lunch…cringe.)
As these things tend to do, it increased juuust gradually enough that it didn’t really phase me at first. Until I realized exactly how big the problem was becoming and how much I was really missing out on in life.
- I missed days at work.
- I had to make excuses to get out of things I really wanted to do.
- I had to leave in the middle of an important job interview.
- During a weekend vacation trip, I had to wear a tampon, pad, period panties, and two pairs of pants for the two-hour drive (and STILL had to stop halfway there).
- I had to make an emergency stop at a gas station somewhere between Tennessee and Ohio with 2 pets in the car during our cross-country move.
- Friends stopped by on a Saturday afternoon, and I had to hide in the bedroom the whole time they were here because I couldn’t safely move more than 3 steps away from the bathroom. (I tried. It didn’t go well.)
- In fact, I couldn’t go anywhere that either didn’t have a bathroom or where there might be lines for the bathroom, no matter what time of the month it was because I just couldn’t trust my body.
I basically started scheduling my entire life around the few good days a month I could still count on.
The physical effects were bad enough, but the mental weight of all this was worse. The fatigue, fuzzy-brain, and just general blah feeling. Not knowing what each day was going to be like when I woke up. Not feeling safe to leave the house. Stopping at every bathroom I saw when I did leave the house, just in case.
I wanted nothing more than to wake up full of energy and feeling rested. And sometimes that happened. Most days, it didn’t. I was just…drained.
That “not knowing” part made it impossible to plan things, schedule, or do anything on any kind of scheduled basis. For a “doer” like me, it’s been a little bit like being handed a full schedule, then locked in a tiny room with no way to follow that schedule. Frustrating much?
There’s also the piece of trying to explain to people without saying “too much.” To come up with excuses for missing events and turning down invites without explaining to people why I couldn’t commit to any plans.
Early this year, I finally decided to get it checked out. (I’m a little bit of a medical procrastinator – how exactly is one supposed to randomly choose the right doctor off of a list? Not my favorite part of adulting.) But I just couldn’t take it anymore.
I suspected that it was probably uterine fibroids or something along those lines. The symptoms fit, and there is a family history.
Luckily, I met with a really nice doctor, who ordered some tests (namely, an ultrasound…) and gave me some solid referrals when the results came back.
Suspicions confirmed: Fibroids. Surprise bonus? Cysts. On both ovaries. Yay. Neither issue is medically serious… 20-70% of women develop fibroids at some point – sometimes with symptoms, sometimes without. Ovarian cysts are also super common; they can go away on their own…and sometimes they need a little help evacuating the premises. They both explain a lot of what I’ve been experiencing.
If I’m candid, I had mixed feelings about fixing things. Yes, they’ve disrupted my life…like, a lot. But in some strange way, I was also a little attached to them. After all, I grew them…they were literally part of me. And I was kind of used to it all.
But I did it. After weighing my options, I decided to schedule surgery to evict the tiny invaders. Like everything else in life these days, Covid threw a wrench in the works, and it was about a six-month wait before I could actually go under the knife. By the way, is it strange to be excited about surgery???
Even though there really weren’t any guarantees that it would fix everything I was experiencing…or even fix ANYTHING. Even though I was nervous about what else they might find in there. Even though it was going to take about 6 weeks to recover and get back up to speed.
It’s been about 3 months now, and I’m happy to report that IT WAS WORTH IT! The fibroids and cysts weren’t quite as bad as they looked on the ultrasound. Still, there was an added twist…they found endometriosis too, which was probably causing many problems. The recovery was surprisingly easy…actually, aside from the first 24 hours, the cramps I had been living with for years were worse than recovering from surgery!
Thank goodness joggers and sweatpants are in style, though, because the abdominal swelling lasted a little longer than I expected. It was a couple of weeks before jeans were an option.
Since then, my energy is back, I can leave the house again, and best of all, I can get back to doing things I enjoy – like working on this blog.
Why am I sharing?
So why am I sharing all of this? It’s not exactly a cozy topic. And although I don’t think it was ever stated outright, growing up, I got the distinct impression that things like “female trouble” simply weren’t to be discussed. I’m not entirely over those feelings.
In fact, I’m a little bit terrified to hit the publish button on this one because it’s such a personal topic… (If you’re here reading this right now, I obviously DID post it…Yay me!)
This is why: It’s because I know I’m not alone. You might be dealing with the same thing. Or something similar. Or something completely different, but you can still relate to this.
And because when I was looking into the possibilities, the symptoms, the outcomes, and how other people handled it…I wanted to find as many personal experiences as I could. There really wasn’t a lot out there. Lots and lots of dry medical info, not a lot of personal experiences. And if you can’t find it, maybe that means you’re supposed to be the one to write it…
And finally, because I’m tired of trying to be the ultra-polite person who hides things to protect others from having to deal with the icky stuff, even when it’s part of reality. I’m just not available for that anymore! This is what’s been going on. This is why I haven’t always shown up recently like I should and like I want to. This is real life.
What are the lessons here?
One thing I’ve come to realize – or possibly just remember – is that when something disruptive comes into your life, there’s a pretty good chance there’s a lesson in it. It may not be here specifically to TEACH you a lesson, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn something. So, look for the lessons…what are the positives that you can take from a less-than-ideal situation in your life?
Here’s what this year has been teaching me, and I hope it’s helpful, relatable, or even just comforting for you too.
Accept that it’s okay to slow down and take care of yourself, even if that means that some things just don’t get done.
Taking care of yourself does NOT equal laziness! It. Does. Not. Equal. Laziness. Taking care of your physical or mental health is SOOO much more important than making sure the grocery shopping is done every Wednesday and the kitchen sink doesn’t have any dirty dishes in it. Order a pizza, use paper plates for a little while, and give yourself a break!
If it’s fixable, fix it.
If there is something in your life that CAN be fixed, there are 2 options: You can either ignore it or deal with it. And both options can have benefits… If you ignore it, you don’t have to change anything. You get to keep your built-in excuses. You get to just keep going, the way that you are. Or you can deal with it. That can be scary because, depending on the situation, it might lead to many changes in your life if you decide to change it. And change is difficult. The unknown is scary. And the unfamiliar is uncomfortable. But what if, crazy idea, it turns out BETTER than you expected?
Take a tip from my (still pretty scary) decision to write this, and open up about what you’re going through. You might find that it helps just to be open about what you’re experiencing. You might also find that you feel better if you’re honest about things instead of trying to whitewash or sugarcoat what’s really going on. And there are probably people in your life, in your circle, in your world who are going through the same experience – they NEED to hear that they are not alone.
How to deal when life forces you to slow down
So, what can you do when something comes up in your own life that causes you to hit that brick wall, and you just CAN’T keep going the way you have been? Here are a few suggestions from my own personal experience:
1. Adjust your priorities
Take a good hard look at your day-to-day priorities. Are the things that have been at the top of your list still really that important? If you know you have to let a few things go for a while, what are the things that you absolutely have to keep?
For me, my job was non-negotiable – Getting fully dressed, make-up on, hair done? Nope. That wasn’t happening, no longer a priority. (Luckily, I’m in a virtual position, so “showing up” in pajamas while laying on the couch wasn’t a problem.) Spending time with my husband? Also non-negotiable, although we had more couch nights than date nights for a while. Keeping the pets fed and happy? Obviously a priority. Keeping up with building my own business, though? That was just going to have to take a back seat for a while.
It will become pretty clear what you HAVE to do. You have my permission to put the rest on hold for a while.
2. Ask for (and accept) help where you need it
Asking for help is hard for a lot of us. Especially if you’re on the type-a, overachiever, high-expectations side of personality types. But one of the strongest things you can do is recognize when you need some help…
Speaking of priorities, keeping our house clean and organized has always been really high on my list. But I just didn’t have the physical or mental energy to keep things up to my own standards! And my hubby, while he has the best of intentions and is always willing to help, tends to be a bit…messy. And completely clutter-blind. (But he’s adorable, and I love him for who he is!)
So, I hired someone to clean the house twice a month until after my surgery and recovery. It was really hard turning that over to someone else, but after the first couple of visits, I’m sooo happy I did! It’s still important to me, it’s still getting done, but I’m not the one responsible for making it happen right now. And having that weight off of my shoulders has been amazing!
3. Be patient with the process
Sometimes when life forces you to slow down, it’s only for a day or two. That’s easier to deal with because you can see the other side from where you start.
But if you’re dealing with something that may take a while or doesn’t have a specific end date, it can be harder to keep looking forward.
The only thing that’s certain in life is that life is ALWAYS changing. And that means that where you are today isn’t where you’ll stay. So, as hard as it can be, be patient. With yourself. With those around you. With the situation itself. Because things WILL eventually change.
4. Give yourself permission to accept that it is what it is
Finally, accept where you are right now for what it is. That doesn’t mean that you don’t want something different in life. That doesn’t mean that you can’t plan for the future.
What that DOES mean is simply accepting that this is what is happening. Don’t fight it – it’s okay to be along for the ride for now.