But this day is meaningful to me in another way...because this is the first year in over 12 that I have been free of a crazy affliction that started when my hormones went south at the time of menopause. It is also the first year in over 12 that I have felt truly alive.
This affliction is something I call the broken record syndrome, or auditory memory loops (AMLs). You may know it as simply having songs stuck in your head, or "ear worms." And for most of us, it's nothing but an occasional nuisance. However, for others of us (and I have learned that I'm not alone) it is a maddening and destructive phenomenon that can literally ruin your life.
For one solid year I had multiple songs stuck in my head 24 hours a day 7 days a week. They were so "loud" I couldn't hear my own thoughts. I couldn't get rid of the music...ever. I could only "change the channel" and get a different song stuck when one had become so painfully familiar I thought I might jump off a bridge. They played throughout my waking hours and then filled my dreams with insideous torture.
For one solid year, I never had one minute of quiet anywhere in my world. And I now know that many others have suffered even longer than I did. I honestly don't know how they have remained sane.
I have since hypothesized that this phenomenon may be associated with the stress hormone cortisol. However, my efforts to reduce cortisol with supplements have only provided moderate success.
What worked most effectively for me was to keep my progesterone levels fairly low...lower than I really wanted to. After all, like all women, I needed progesterone to balance the estrogen I was taking (and still making in my adrenal glands and fat cells, even after my hysterectomy). But progesterone can break down along either of two paths: (a) toward the sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone, or (b) toward the adrenal hormones like cortisol and adrenalin/epinephrine. For whatever reason, my progesterone seemed to prefer to break down into cortisol. And the high cortisol seemed to feed the broken record syndrome.
The real breakthrough came late last year when I experimented with a new hormone replacement therapy (HRT) regimen. The hypothesis behind this regimen exploited the fact that during a woman's normal 28-day cycle she experiences a surge of estrogen in the middle of the month. This helps her body prepare for and trigger ovulation. But this surge of estrogen also helps prime her body's cells to accept the progesterone that will be coming along right after ovulation.
Rather than attempt to mimic a full 28-day cycle I tried to do half of that...a 14 day cycle. I have not yet found documentation that tells me just how much E your body needs in order to prepare those progesterone receptors to take in the progesterone. Neither do I yet know exactly what the E surge does. One source says it "creates" progesterone receptors. Another says it "opens up" progesterone receptors.
In any case, my hypothesis has been that perhaps I had plenty of progesterone floating through my system but without the E surge the doors wouldn't open and I couldn't get the P inside the cells. So instead, the P converted to cortisol which powered the crazy jukebox in my head.
Once I started the new regimen, the broken record syndrome went away! Curiously enough, the new regimen also has reduced my allergies, taken away the headaches I'd had, and eliminated a certain pain in my right side that I suspect may have been caused by a bit of endometriosis missed during my hysterectomy.
What's most profoundly important about this new regimen is that along with my ability to enjoy music again, it has given back my aliveness, my passions and creativity. You see, for 12 years I had felt dead inside, sometimes "knowing" a moment or a thing was special but being completely unable to FEEL it. The touch of a dear man's hand on mine a year ago tormented me as I studied it and begged the universe, "Why can't I feel this?"
Now I feel everything again, experience everything in rich detail, and am learning all over again (perhaps with a whole new appreciation I never had before) to savor every moment, to explore every facet of that moment and to be fully present in it.
So I feel free and today I am celebrating my independence...from lifelessness, from the two-dimensional world that some insisted was to be expected at my age. I never gave up on that hope of finding myself again, of reawakening the passions in me. And neither should any of you.
Happy independence day!
For more information about the broken record syndrome, see my other blog at http://brokenrecordsyndrome.wordpress.com/