The Mental Pause of Menopause

 

I had my first mid-life trifluckta this week –three pretty Big Deal screw ups in the same day.

 

 

First, a very nice young police officer pointed out to me that my tags had expired – two months ago.

 

Then, I missed a gathering at Boy C’s school that included every major official on staff there.

 

THEN, while I was happily making dinner for my husband’s Boy C, my girlfriend called to let me know she was on the way to OUR dinner appointment – the one we had to reschedule from last week after I forgot her then, too.

 

 

If it had been just one “goof up,” I’m sure I would have laughed it off with a cute little “oops” and an “Oh well, to know me is to love me.”

 

(By the way, as I was writing the word “oh” just now, I had to pause and search my memory banks for the correct spelling!)
 
Do you see what I mean?

I’m LOSING IT.

 

One of the ironies of mid-life is that, just as you start getting it all together, it all starts falling apart.

 

Truly, truly. One of the markers of midlife is that you have a medical specialist for every orifice on your body. Apparently, it takes a village to raise a crone.

 

I first started to notice foggy brain shortly after I became a mother. I remember that everyone said it would pass.

 
Well, that kid is in college now, and, looking back, I can’t say that I see a time between then and now when I could safely rely on my beautiful brain the way I could when I was in college.

 
So, I’ve developed coping skills, mnemonic systems, and cerebral work-arounds.

 

You think I’m joking? Here’s one that has been in play for at least 11 years:

 

 

When people ask me my kids names, I explain that I made it easy to remember them by using an acronym so that I don’t forget who they are.

 
 
CAL – Clark, Avery, and Logan.
 
 
If we get pregnant again (ha!), I have to have a “Frank” or a “Francesca” so then the kids become “CALF”.

 

 

Moo.

 

 

I had endearing little bon mots that I would drop when I forgot to remember not to forget stuff. Here’s one: “Before the children I was really, really smart. NOW, I’m just really, really charming.”

 

Everyone would giggle and that would be that.

 

 

Plus, there was a spiritual bonus to all this screwing up — my foggy brain was teaching me humility.

 

 

But after the trifluckta this week, I started doing a bit of reading. And, apparently, I’m not imagining it.

 

Mid-life “foggy brain” is a real and actual thing.

 

 

Apparently, according to medical research, I started “losing it” in my twenties – that’s when your brain starts to eat itself. (That’s my poetic license applied to medical research, but you can read the actual report here.)

 

 

Fortunately, it’s a slow demise, so that you don’t notice it until much later. For me, it was this week.

 

 

What to do?

 

Well, it seems it always comes down to the basics – diet, exercise and sleep.

 

 

And a couple of extras:
 
Stop multitasking. Remember when multitasking was an Olympic sport for new mothers on the playground? Well, who knew but apparently your brain is not organically designed to work that way. Over time, it leads to diminished frontal lobe performance. So, do one thing at a time.

 
Watch the Distractions. As you age, your ability to filter out extraneous noise diminishes. Right now, for example, as I’m writing you from my “spot” at the coffee shop, I’m acutely aware of (and annoyed by)

 

  • the woman who is ALWAYS clearing her throat;

 

  • we’ve got some Big Shot presiding over a legal strategy session via his cell phone,

 

  • and we have two kids trying to kill themselves by climbing on the furniture while their mother with the crappy-ass parenting skills pretends like it’s not happening.

 

 

It wasn’t all that long ago, that that stuff would have faded into the background if I was working on a project.

 

Deal with the Stress. When you’re under prolonged stress, your hippocampus underperforms. Why does that matter? Check out hippocampus info here:

 

 

The treatment? Exercise, mediation, creating joy. (Isn’t it cool? Joy is becoming a medical treatment.)

 

Anyway, I’m new at this, so I could sure use your input.

 

The other day, I asked our Wisdom Circle members (via our Facebook and Twitter communities) to weigh in on how they deal with mid-life foggy brain.
 
After you check out their thoughts, I hope you’ll add yours in the comments that follow.

 

 

@SharonBarberLLC Chewing gum and tennis shoes :)

 

@DMWalsh Mine pop up during stress.

 

@HelzDesign thought we over came after kids are grown up, wasn.t it a lack of sleep? otherwise … there is a fog around my head

 

@ChangeExplained Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation, time out for yourself, healthy well balanced diet, exercise and fresh air :-D

 

 

Love and Blessings, Jennifer

Photo: Flickr, KellBailey

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37 Responses to The Mental Pause of Menopause

  1. Kim says:

    I try to just pretend it’s not happening. When it becomes apparent to others, I go cry. I am so brave.

  2. vicki says:

    i strongly recommend you get your b12 levels checked jennifer. b12 symptoms are the similar to mid-life foggy brain, and unchecked can literally kill you… if they are fine, then humour, humour, humour is the only way to go for me. see how funny i am? i started off talking about death and segued into humour… have a great, if somewhat blurry day! vicki :)

    • Jennifer says:

      Thanks for the scare of the day, Vicki. Just so we all know and can follow up, though, is that a blood test???

      • vicki says:

        rofl!!! takes five years to kill you! but ya, ’tis a simple blood test that should be done at your annual physical with all the other bloodwork. vicki :)

  3. Patty D says:

    “Meditate, meditate, meditate!” That’s become my mantra and the best coping tool I have acquired. If time/circumstances don’t allow f/ a full meditation session, I STOP (the BS “reasoning” aka stinking thinking that gets triggered by my auto-pilot switch),DROP (into my body to get centered and feel what’s going on with me @ a physical level), and BREATHE! ( at least one deep cleansing, releasing breath..3 usually do the trick nicely). The next best tool is to laugh at myself and remember not to take myself or my faux paus too seriously…
    Remember when the advent of an automated world replete with personal computers, etc. promised that our workload would decrease exponentially?! Techno-induced Attention Deficit Disorder is running rampant. I’m not an effing computer! I’m an effing flesh and blood human being! I have brain farts, blonde & senior moments and I come by them honestly. And yes, it IS funny!!!! cause:
    a. it keeps my ego in check by keeping me humble
    b. it inspires some great material for humorous conversations & missives just like this one. It’s the wit that complements wisdom =P

  4. Enjoyed this post! Can so relate. I think that attitude and humor are the best ways to surf through the reality of life and body changes. It is what it is, and we choose to make the best of it or the worst of it – our choice.

  5. Julie says:

    Post it notes. Before I leave the family room and head into the kitchen, I jot down WHY I am going there. Otherwise, I get to the kitchen and have no idea why the hell I came in. And when that happens, I just make the best out of the situation and pour another glass of wine.

    • Kate Britt says:

      Post it notes, yes! It’s one of my main coping methods too. Pads located everywhere I sit or lie or stand. Dash off notes-to-self many times a day. (e.g., When I get up in the morning, sometimes after a several-heat-waves night, I wake up to a pile of sticy-yellows surrounding my bed.) Then I stick ‘em where they’re needed (e.g., a “look up what ___ means” would get transported to and stuck on my computer). Throw ‘em away when the self-command has been tended to.

    • Jennifer says:

      Geez. Things to look forward to. J

  6. Vickie says:

    wine as a coping technique? brilliant!! :-))

  7. Janet says:

    Hey – just wait until you’re 60! I’m unemployed but sincerely doubt my ability to hold down another job – definitly can’t multi-task. It’s also caused me to look back to my 20’s and 30’s and reflect how I treated people at work that were in their 50’s.

  8. I look forward to seeing that fourth one, soon! Forget the calf, we;ll just initiate a round-up!

  9. Kate Britt says:

    In our house, we call those incidents “brain farts”. My partner and I have resolved to share our stories and laugh. Just like when our poor hearing doesn’t hear right, we say what we *thought* we heard and laugh. Coping means turning it into fun, whatever body part is falling apart from aging. I guess it’s a form of acceptance.

    Our main coping method is KISS (as in “keep it simple, stupid”). A few years before we retired, we co-adopted “simplicity” as our over-riding philosophy, methodology, determinant, whatever. With every decision, big or small, we ask ourselves something like, “Will this make our lives simpler or complicate things?” Then we opt for the simple solution.

    Jennifer, I think this method is a form of several of the solutions you’ve found. It reduces stress all the while making life more simple to cope with; it eliminates most multi-tasking, it keeps us from making commitments to do stuff we don’t really want to do (makes the word “no” so much easier); it often creates joy, too. We’ve also noticed that when we for some reason (during a brain fart, usually) decide to do something that somewhat complicates our lives, especially those things we don’t really want to do deep inside, our brain farts increase in number along with the stress and overall grumpy feelings.

    Older age is much more fun if it’s simple. That’s all there is to it.

  10. Katrina says:

    Oh great…and here I was thinking that my foggy brain would go soon….that it was being caused by changes to medication…but nup…this is what it is….life change brain fog….would go and bang my head against a wall but would probably get lost on the way to the wall

    • Jennifer says:

      OMG. Too funny. You won’t get lost if you take your post-its. That seems to be the suggestion of the day, and I, for one, AM GOING WITH IT!!! Except for Vicki who has explained how we’re all gonna die. Jennifer

  11. Tricia says:

    A calendar. If it doesn’t get written on my calendar it doesn’t exist. At first I’d never check it but now between to do lists and my calendar I catch most things. I also have a 30 year old who works for me and I’ve told her she is my official memory for the work stuff I forget. She thinks it is funny…..she’ll learn!

  12. helen says:

    glad that your system keeps remembering my name and email addy – maybe it is just the cookie-technique, which i like in all cases  – especially freshly baken.

    remembering appointments:
    i am lost without my ical – lovely apple-app. it reminds me on a set time (usually 90 minutes before the appointment) that there will be an appointment soonish.
    enough time to get speedily ready and be there right on time!

    when did i establish that. about 14 years ago – son was born, 1 year old, and me sitting at the hairdresser – lovely ralf – and being told: oh your appointment was last week!
    i have sworn every oath that i was right on time!

    they say dealing with young people (like kids or teenagers) will keep you young. but maybe it just makes you so exhausted, that you don.t mind anymore because you welcome the sleep that helps to forget …

  13. Great, been in a horrible fog all day. Woke up that way, went back to sleep, dreamed I woke up BLIND and when I did wake up I was more foggy than before. 12 hours later, it is lifting and I am hoping for a good nights sleep and a better day tomorrow. No crying today tho!

  14. Christa says:

    I recently wore two different shoes to work, two really different shoes. One was black one was blue. One had a heel and one was a flat…. Now I keep a post it note on my home mirror that says “Check shoes!” So far, I haven’t done it again. Hey at least I had two shoes on and I noticed it before 6 PM. It was 3:45 to be exact. I must have had quite a strange gate with the 2 inch heel difference. I’m pretty sure no one around me noticed either. If anyone had notced it would have ben the belly laugh of the century. We are all so busy with trying to stop our Inner beauty from blinding those around us and trying to see through our brain fog. Who looks at shoes?!

    • Jennifer says:

      Oh my gosh, this is the best ever!!!!! How cool that you can laugh it off, too. Remember when you would have died from embarrassment over something like this. What a relief to be older. It’s great to “see” you again, Christa! Love, J

  15. Cara says:

    Hi, Ladies!

    My son went off to college this year, and I was of course bereft, not least because I was certain that I’d never be able to watch TV, tape a show, listen to music, use my printer, or get on the Internet again!

    A few months later, guess what I managed all by myself? I set up a wireless network in the house.

    And you know the first person I emailed, right? My son wrote back that he was very proud of me.

    We can do this! One foot in front of the other.

    Lots of love to all!

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  17. Debi says:

    Just found your blog at the suggestion of an online webinar (can’t remember which one — there’s that brain fog). Anyway … love it. Between menopause fog and fibromyalgia fog … I think I’m screwed :) Am definitely going to stop multitasking but it will be a challenge as I’ve been doing it in massive quantities for 35+ years as I’m an office manager. Going to stop trying to remember it all and start writing things down too before all this mental activity creates sparks and then a subsequent fire. Have a great weekend.

  18. Jennifer says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    It’s Jennifer! A common name it appears. Think I’ll change to my middle name.
    I love your blog and posts. I only have one issue with it all…you suggest many things that take money. I am on disability (i.e. below poverty level income) and have trouble covering the basic necessities of life.

    I love blowing bubbles (from another post of yours)

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi, Jennifer. Thanks for taking a moment to connect. You are right in that each of us needs to work within the resources that we have. We’re all making choices all the time about that. One thing that I have learned that’s been enormously helpful though is to be careful about the “story” that I tell myself about my life, my options, what’s possible, what’s impossible. We all see things all day long that we’d like to do but, for whatever reason, feel we can’t do at that time. In that situation, when I’m knee-deep in feelings of “lack” and “injustice” and even — “poor me”, I remember to put my situation in perspective with what the rest of the world is experiencing. I do what you do — I start with bubbles, because I can.

      And then — I build from there.

      I hope we get to visit again, Jennifer. I wish you every loving thing. Jennifer

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