We roll our eyes when we talk about self-centered teenagers. “Hormones,” we say, to explain their often-unexplainable erratic emotional behavior. They forget to feed the dog. They space out when you talk to them. They spend hours in their room alone or on the phone with a friend. This self-absorption seems to come with the teenage turf.
Midlife presents the older woman with the same hormonally predisposed imperative to turn inward and focus on herself. It’s a time to take stock of how she has lived the first half of her life. With whom has she shared her time, her love, her money, and her energy? Has she followed her dreams and passions? Has she contributed to the community? When midlife women look in the mirror and know for sure that youth is fading and aging is inevitable, many of them seize the opportunity to make big changes as they head into the second half of their lives. They go back to school, get married or divorced, start the business they put on hold twenty years ago, sell it all and go traveling, or retreat to a monastery. Many of these women say they feel like they are becoming outrageous, like the lid is coming off and they can’t control what they say anymore. All that has been repressed steps forward, right smack into the middle of their personalities. If they were “good girls,” the midlife woman from hell is about to step from behind the curtain and yell, “BOO!”
Perimenopausal women make up the group that most often reports fatigue, wild mood swings, and mental instability to their doctors. Unfortunately, many of these doctors overprescribe antidepressants, which can be as great a disservice to the woman poised on the threshold of the second half of her life as it would be to the teenager struggling to find her emotional and mental balance on the brink of adulthood. This same woman will eventually ride out the hormonal storm and find her footing, mentally, physically, and emotionally, but if it will be years before her child is grown, she may find herself wondering if she’ll have enough energy left to pursue her own dreams.