One of the most exciting things happened to me recently: after years of daydreaming about riding horses again someday, I found a trainer who is willing to give me lessons. I told her about how I had taken lessons as a child but haven’t ridden anything aside from trail horses for about forty years or so, and she assured me she had a great school horse for me to re-learn on. She has access to a large terrific facility that’s only 15 minutes from my house and on the much-anticipated day of my very first lesson I …

…almost canceled, like twelve different times.

And I mean I really had to stop myself from messaging this lady and being all, Oh no I can’t come my uhh car fell in a sinkhole. Even though I wanted to go! It wasn’t like it was a pelvic exam, I had specifically sought out this experience and I was legitimately so thrilled about it and what the FUCK, brain.

I expected some anxiety because that’s just how I roll (into a worried ball like a potato bug): if I’m gonna be doing a new thing, there’s gonna be stress. But this was kind of a crushing amount of the kind of anxiety that I can only compare to the personal experience of waiting in the roller coaster line at the New York-New York casino in Las Vegas: I have chosen this, and it was a terrible, terrible mistake.

Anxiety has really come to the forefront of my life lately. I guess I used to think of anxiety as being a nervous person filled with excess energy — jittery, darting from one thing to the next, maybe. But anxiety isn’t always like that. It can be paralyzing. It can be an all-encompassing sense of dread. It can be a mess of intrusive thoughts and what-ifs, or the inability to focus.

It can be the difference between hanging in there for the “fun” icebreaker Zoom question or dropping the call because you can’t take the pressure and then berating yourself for being such a stupid! Piece of shit! Weakling!!!

It can manifest in all sorts of unpleasant physical symptoms, like for instance waking up at 3:45 AM with a pounding heart because OH NOoooOOoooOOO except there’s nothing wrong? (Aside from everything that IS wrong, of course. With an immediately obvious source of worry, there’s always, say, climate change to consider!) Or feeling absolutely poleaxed by nauseating amounts of cortisol/adrenaline over a relatively non-stressful occasion, so much so that I avoid making commitments now because of how a 6 PM hangout with someone I legitimately enjoy and feel comfortable with will ruin my entire day.

I often suspect this New and Improved Anxiety is menopause-related, even though I’ve had anxiety all my life. It feels … biological in nature sometimes, if that makes any kind of sense. It feels like a thing that is happening in my body more than it is happening in my head, even though there is plenty of not-great stuff happening in my head. It feels like an OVER-REACTION, frankly, sort of like an auto-immune disease.

All that to say, I did make it to that first lesson. I’ve been riding weekly since, and it’s one hundred percent the best thing I have done for myself in years and years.

I still honestly have to life-coach myself out the door each time, which I resent. Here is a thing I love and value and look forward to, why does it still have to be so hard?

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Amy
Amy
11 months ago

In February, I started taking piano lessons again for the first time in 40 years. Yes, I chose to do it. Yes, I want to do it. Yes, I have to life coach myself to every lesson. Every. Lesson. You are not alone!

Swistle
11 months ago

Oh god I do hope it’s menopause-related because I am having this toooooooooooooo

cindy
cindy
11 months ago
Reply to  Swistle

Anxiety is really common in perimenopause because of dropping estrogen. Especially the kind that hits in the middle of the night (when estrogen naturally drops even further) and wakes you up. Oftentimes it comes with a bonus hot flash in the middle of the night, for funsies. I had it too, for several years, but it went away when I slapped an estrogen patch on my abdomen.

Mary
11 months ago

My newer type anxiety is that I latch on to an unpleasant/terrible idea (“Something is wrong with the dog. I am certain he is dying.”) that has no evidence to back it up (he has no symptoms to suggest such a thing, but he yelped in his sleep the other night), and I just perseverate on it. I guess I would call it an intrusive thought?

This is an actual example from maybe four months ago. Spoiler alert: The dog appears to be fine. I have moved on to worrying about other things.

Beth
Beth
11 months ago

Yes to all of it. My tween daughter was almost agorophobic after the pandemic, and it took a lot of life coaching to get her to ride in my car, sleep over at her grandparents, or even come to the grocery store. She is mostly better now, but occasionally has an anxiety attack about going somewhere and I have to pretty much ignore her wails and drag her out the door. Not that I’m unsympathetic! I have similar issues, but have learned to deal with it. I know that queasy stomach isn’t real and I’ll feel better. Ugh. I hope you get through it, too, and enjoy the horses!

Katherine
Katherine
11 months ago

Couple of things that may resonate: 1) I had a therapist tell me once that, for some people, anxiety and anticipatory excitement can feel the same in the body. 2) Have your cortisol levels checked and, if high, consider a supplement called Cortisol Manager. Made a huge difference for me. 3) I learned from The Untethered Soul to disassociate from my thoughts and see them as a temporary thing. If I think of my thoughts as not being me, I can choose to watch some go by (the ones that are not helpful) and grab out and catch the (helpful) ones I want to keep.

Finally, I’m so glad you talk yourself into the barn each time. You look good with that horse.

nerr
nerr
11 months ago
Reply to  Katherine

If I think of my thoughts as not being me — Love this.

Denise
Denise
11 months ago

I am guessing the anxiety is 100% menopause related. I was never an anxious person – I was the calm person who didn’t get ruffled by much. Then I hit perimenopause, and suddenly anxieties sprang out of nowhere. The good news is that now that I’m further along in the cycle, they seem to be receding a bit. Damn hormones, though! It’s crazy what they can do to us.

Pat Birnie
Pat Birnie
11 months ago

I am so happy that you did this Linda; somehow pushed yourself out the door. What a wonderful new experience for you. Now you just have to figure out how to anticipate each lesson with joy!

Melanie
Melanie
11 months ago

Congrats for overcoming your fear to do something you love! Enjoy.

Meghan
Meghan
11 months ago

Yes yes yes to everyone who says the debilitating anxiety is perimenopause. I’ve been through contentious divorce, lawsuits, health scares, moving house, family deaths, etc. throughout my life, and never felt the level of anxiety as I did six months ago, when I had a dramatic panic attack at work doing my regular old job. It was bad enough that I finally sought all the interventions, including going part time, therapy, and HRT. It might be time for you to look into estrogen; while everything has helped immensely, I think HRT is helping in a corporeal, fundamental way from the inside out, if that makes sense. I felt like I was aging decades in months, and when I started HRT that stopped.

Shawna
11 months ago

I take the pill every single day to avoid menstrual migraines and my doctor has told me she’s okay with letting me continue for a couple of years but I’m dreading the day she wants me to go off it. I have a feeling it’s dramatically lessening what would otherwise be menopausal or perimenopausal effects.

.303 bookworm
.303 bookworm
11 months ago
Reply to  Shawna

Yes, this. I mean can you get contraceptive pills on the black market? Because seriously I am dreading the day I get told ‘no more’. I’ll just keep taking them until I’m 90 or keel over thx, ‘K.

Kristen
Kristen
11 months ago

You look beautiful, and so happy!
I used to read your blog years and years ago, when your boys were babies and littles, then lost track. Life got busy. I have two boys about the same ages as your boys. I’m also a freelance writer. So glad to find you again and see you doing well, still blogging, having adventures and being happy.

Clare
Clare
11 months ago

I started a Visual Arts course in February. I’m 43 and haven’t drawn or painted since high school. I love being there, but just like you I have to “make” myself go. I forgotten how to be me, not mum or partner or employee. Which is exactly why I enrolled, but damn… you’re right, why does it have to feel like pulling teeth?

Lucy
Lucy
11 months ago

I feel this so hard. I am *not* a person that has struggled with anxiety, I don’t thing… but menopausal timing has me feeling all kinds of anxious feelings for the first time ever.
What a joy, eh? I’m so sorry you’re dealing with it.

Nicole
Nicole
11 months ago

My newest physical manifestation of anxiety is waking up in the middle of the night with this electric shock like feeling across my legs and stomach… similar to the physical feeling of a near miss or an almost fall – it’s like a jolt of adrenalin. Except it lasts for several seconds. This has nothing to do with menopause (I’m not there yet) – just an escalation of my lifelong GED. Good times!

Nicole
Nicole
11 months ago

I also wanted to say that I have owned a horse for the past 17 years. Anxiety highjacks your ability to be present. Working with horses demands your presence in every single moment, and riding grounds you into your body (and out of your head). It’s the best kind of therapy.

Ulli
Ulli
11 months ago

:)
I have found going back to horses also insanely therapeutic.

I hadn’t stopped by in so long, but when I heard of Dooce, it brought me straight back to the blogs i was devouring back in the day. Yours included. Thank you for that content and being part of my life.

April
April
11 months ago

I’m really happy for you, and as I told you, I am going to look into this too. (I actually filled out a form to volunteer at a horse rescue ranch so that might be fun?) I’m putting a lot more effort into putting myself out there with friends despite the stories I tell myself (ie that they don’t really want to hang out with me uggghhhh). I took a flower arranging class with a friend recently that was super fun and I’m also going to do a metal smithing class soon, sooooo “A” for effort I guess?

Leah
Leah
11 months ago

Completely 100% relate to your perfect description of anxiety in midlife.

I love following your riding journey! I’m also cheering on my friend who just started riding in her mid 40s. Meanwhile I just joined a band for the first time at age 42 :) It really feels amazing to realize new opportunities are fully available at any age if we want them and can talk ourselves into it (or avoid talking ourselves out of it)

Vic
Vic
10 months ago

Nice horse!
Also – yes anxiety from menopause. Never had anxiety before (you can hate me but anxiety in moderate amounts is what gets shit done). HRT saved my life!!!

Sarah
Sarah
10 months ago

I grew up riding horses and then stopped for 23 years for multiple reasons. Right before covid hit, I got back into it, just for a few lessons. I have abdominal pain and lots of scar tissue from endometriosis, so I rode bareback and just rode at a walk, and having my legs hang down and stretch + the warmth and motion of the horse were SO therapeutic. I’d like to go back soon because I could feel the muscle memory returning. Anyway, this made me *inordinately* happy to read—somehow people also enjoying riding makes *me* feel more seem and known? Ha. Or maybe it’s that joys increase when they are shared, and horses are one of my life’s greatest joys.

Katie
Katie
8 months ago

Hello! I was a long-ago reader. Our babies the same age….and then FB happened and I sort of forgot about the blog world. And then today I thought I’m going to look up all my old favorite bloggers ….and most have nothing new. But YOU. HAVE. ALL. MY. SAME.MIDLIFEY. THOUGHTS! I saw the belly fat one as I was sitting here w my hand on my midlife belly. The ANXIETY at 4 am that TOTALLY feels biological. Wtf. It’s so nice to read your thoughts on it. Right there with you. Thank you for still being here!!