About the middle of August my switch flipped. I went from feeling energized and engaged in my life to droopy, irritable, and unmotivated. At first I thought it was my thyroid since menopause has been having an on again off again street fight with my little butterfly gland. And, having decades of experience with my lackadaisical thyroid, that’s just what I think of first. I was so sure. I even had my doctor increase my med dosage before getting the blood test back. So, I was understandably in denial when those lab results came back essentially fine and the increase in medication didn’t have any impact on feeling better. Crap! The easy solution got shot down.
So I spent another week feeling tired, and cranky, and wondering how much weight I really was going to gain just by waking up and breathing.
And, then I went back to the doctor. We talked, she poked, she ordered some blood tests, and the words menopause and mild depression were tossed around as likely culprits.
I will concede to menopause. I AM 53. I do have hot flashes sometimes and my sluggish metabolism got even more lazy in the last few years. But fortunately I have been otherwise unscathed by the difficulties that menopause can bring. My mood has been generally good. In fact my mood has been better in the last 10 years than ever in my life. Ask my husband. And my parents.
I do know depression. I’ve been depressed before (for many gloomy years, before the thyroid discovery) and as a part of my work I watch for the symptoms of depression in others.
Tired, irritable, gaining weight? Check. Low motivation, emotional numbness, isolation? Check.
I’ve been watching those changes for the last several weeks. I’ve been mindful of the state that I’ve been in and I’ve been curious and a little pissed off about it.
I didn’t feel good. But the part that really started to bother me was the empty feeling. I felt separate. I felt like I didn’t really belong. And I felt like I couldn’t find my connection with my spiritual source or anything that felt meaningful. I felt in a bubble or like I kept banging up against a glass wall. I could see what was going on and perhaps where I wanted to go, but there was a big thick something between me and the rest of life.
Not my happy place.
Even sitting on a beautiful beach on Kauai last weekend with the otter pop blue water and the sun shining down, with my grandson laughing wildly in the background at his first birthday party – I could not find a place to connect to joy, or peace, or that I was a part of the Universe. That alarmed me, in a numb sort of way.
With a big glass of wine in hand, in our usual place in the backyard, I talked it over with my husband. He knows me and he’s so wise in his loving geeky way. Amidst our conversation he reminded me that I am a consumer of information (he actually said velociraptor) and that maybe my spiritual bucket was empty.
Little light bulbs lit up over my head. A small fireworks display exploded for me. That assessment felt right on the money. (Thanks honey!)
So, knowing my direction, I went to work filling up my spiritual bucket. I followed my heart and I went towards anything that sparkled up as spiritual nutrition.
Here’s where I started:
- I watched Part I of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday episode with Elizabeth Gilbert. Two of my favorite women and I so love the down to earth wisdom of Liz Gilbert. She reminded me that there is always another level up, of transformation, enlightenment, spiritual development, and that our job as humans is to continue to seek. Music to my ears since I can hear that as, ‘there’s nothing wrong with you dear Catherine, you’re just ready for the next level’. Her Facebook post (Every Journey is a Spiritual Journey) also elevated me to another level in itself and gave me a touchstone on which to go through my day.
- I dug out a book that has been on the lower shelf of my nightstand for several years: ‘Broken Open’ by Elizabeth Lesser. Just the first 50 pages offered me wonderful food for thought. Pondering poems by Rumi, considering all of us as ‘bozos on the bus’, and thinking about how we’re all just humans, offered me the perspective that I can embrace all the parts of me without shame.
- I read a few Mary Oliver poems from her book ‘Dog Songs’. Since we just said goodbye to our dog Kiva, I felt drawn to wallow and romp around in dog energy. I had a little cry as I imagined just where my favorite black dog would be laying right now.
- I journaled a bit. I thought about some of the pesky troubles that were bothering me and the questions I have about some things that will change in my life in the next decade, and even if I will get that far. And I wrote soothing words to myself: ‘My emptiness is a yearning for spiritual food. I realize my emptiness means only that I am ready to eat, not that something is wrong. I am simply hungry.’
- I downloaded Rick Hanson’s Buddha’s Brain app on my ever present iPad. Bite sized practices to help my brain wire itself into a space that serves me better. I listened to the one about Being on Your Own Side and Self Compassion and I felt relieved that I could find those pieces in myself.
And then I wrote this post.
I feel better. Will I stay feeling better? I don’t know. But, I do know my spark is back, I feel ready to go to work today and I am bubbling with creative thought. That is a good sign for me. I’m not tired. I don’t know if I’m cranky since I’ve been by myself all morning, but chances are my mood is fine.
My doctor wanted to give me an antidepressant. I’m not against antidepressants and I suggest them sometimes to my clients. They are a helpful tool to a lot of people. However, that is not the right solution for me now, just as more thyroid med was not the answer. Medication is not the right solution for spiritual hunger. Spiritual food is the answer for that.
What is your spiritual food? How do you know when you need a spiritual meal?