I’ve read quite a bit about all the various mental and physical symptoms that come with menopause and my main takeaway is that nearly everything regarding this transitional period of life for women remains very very dark-magic mysterious to the medical community and that my generation probably isn’t going to reap any major research benefits/solutions.

At least menopause is somewhat acknowledged now, sort of. But who can make sense of how to find a doctor who gives a shit, how to decide whether hormone replacement therapy is going to help you or kill you, and how to determine whether symptoms such as, say, waves of crippling anxiety are related to menopausal transition or *gestures vaguely* modern life?

I have a LOT of anxiety these days. I guess I always have, but it feels more physical now. It often hits me early in the morning and drives me out of bed. A sort of clutch in the chest, a nonstop background thrum of oh dear, oh dear.

I read a book recently where the character described this feeling perfectly: “My heavy heart told me there was something to worry about before my mind caught up with exactly what that was.”

There’s certainly no shortage of things to worry about but I’m not sure if what I’m feeling is the result of my thoughts or my hormones or a big bummer combo plate. Maybe it’s the midterms maybe it’s parenting teenagers maybe it’s the still-happening pandemic maybe it’s Elon Musk maybe it’s my waistline maybe it’s rollercoastering estrogen levels maybe it’s—

Here’s a comprehensive list of what I’ve been doing to help myself feel better:

• Jack
• Shit

Okay. That’s not completely true. I see a counselor, I do yoga, I read self-help malarky of all kinds, I sometimes eat a cruciferous vegetable instead of a Toaster Strudel. I continue to stay away from the damaging substances I relied on for years.

But I still drink caffeine even though it sends me STRONG messages that our beautiful long-term relationship really has run its course, I consume way too much sugary/processed crap (often in the evening which for sure fucks up my already no-good sleep), and the scrolling. The SCROLLING. I really can’t seem to get a handle on my worst current habit of all, which is skimming “news” on the reg.

I have spent most of my life making choices that weren’t serving me or helping me be my best self, and I suppose if nothing else I am consistent, here at nearly 50. But I really hope that 1) I am lucky enough to live beyond this in-between-everything stage, and 2) I’ll be able to look back on my midlife years with empathy and love, the way I look back on my fretful early-parenthood years, knowing that things really did get better.

Important life update: my resistance to TikTok has crumbled.

Initially I assumed it was a whole lot like Snapchat, which is the one and only app I think I’ve ever opened, stared at with great confusion and mounting concern, then closed forever having decided that I was simply too old to understand its function and appeal. It’s been so long that I can’t even remember what was so baffling about Snapchat but it was an immediate full-bodied no, kind of like the first time you try boba tea and a tapioca pearl aggressively hits the back of your throat. Like … unexpected things are happening and is this thing going to somehow kill me?

Then I tried it a few times but the experience felt chaotic. You open TikTok as a newbie and the video is already rolling and it’s like your phone becomes a vertical portal into a mystifying dimension where everyone has a background in professional dance.

I decided I was not just uninterested in TikTok, I was actively against it. I didn’t like how Instagram was getting inundated with Reels, which I assumed were exactly like TikToks, and if I didn’t like Reels what was the point of deliberately seeking out yet another time-sucking social platform filled with more of the same?

Here’s what eventually got me to give the app another chance: my workplace asked us to watch 15 minutes of TikToks per day.

(For context, I work for an influencer marketing agency. We do campaigns across all the big social platforms, and more and more brand clients are getting pretty damn interested in figuring out TikTok.)

I was honestly grumpy about this at first — 15 whole minutes!! — but in retrospect, I suspect this was because I was a little afraid that I just wouldn’t be able to make sense of it.

That was several months ago, and I think it’s safe to say I am fully on board at this point. I don’t create TikToks, because I am an ancient crumbling pile of Infinity-war dust with no special talents or capacity to entertain via multimedia, but I happily consume them every day.

I don’t understand the point of being social on the app if you’re not a creator, so I don’t accept follow requests and I only follow people if I want to see their content. I have this maybe-misconception that if I connect with people the algorithm will factor that into my recommendations, and I don’t want to mess with that because I currently feel like TikTok really gets me.

That’s probably the biggest difference with TikTok, at least in my experience: there’s this almost-spooky sense of being seen and understood by the platform. Instagram’s like, Look I know you want to see your friends’ posts but how about this dumb keto hacks Reel? You like keto hacks don’t you fatty???? Whereas TikTok somehow knows my fucking SOUL.

I’m pretty sure this is the first TikTok that truly converted me. I have never IT ME’d so goddamned hard, I can’t explain why this little skit makes me feel better about myself and less alone in the universe but it DOES.

TikTok knows that I have major phone anxiety, crippling social anxiety, regular anxiety, and depression that manifests as a reluctance to do things or connect with people but not a desire to stay in bed all day. It knows that I’m a recovering addict but I enjoy funny cannabis-related content. It knows that I am here for nearly all good animal posts with a particular fondness for people who live on actual farms of poorly-behaved rescue animals. It has correctly pegged me as a person who is largely disappointed in men but not yet ready to give up on them completely, as well as a person who will watch a certain kind of evocative food post without any sort of intent to ever attempt the recipe. It has seen my inability to relate to thin bodies or conventional plus-size bodies and is the one and only platform to deliver “mid-size” fashion content to me, insane bonus points for somehow realizing that what I really want are bodies that are collapsing gravitationally and so I am also seeing posts from creators who are my size after having lost a lot of weight.

I don’t know how TikTok has essentially mapped my entire human genome and I don’t particularly care, except of course for the distant dystopian bell-toll of it all. All I know is that I’m here for it, belatedly but enthusiastically.