A Whole New Way to Be

RedefineEditor’s Note: For many of us, turning 40 is an opportunity to redefine ourselves. We begin to focus more intently on the life we want, the life we were meant to live. For me it’s rediscovering the joy of writing and creating art. But for this WAF reader (who wants to remain anonymous), mental illness, misdiagnosis, and treatment that comes at a price, redefining herself takes on a whole new meaning...

It’s a quiet thing.  It doesn’t burst in and announce itself, no.  It steals into the rooms of my mind and takes over my heart, occupies my soul.  I don’t know that it’s come until it’s too late, and I am powerless to push it out.

I was fifteen the first time it happened, and it took away a year of my life.  No one knew what it was; no one could help me.  A doctor told my mother then that it was “the ultimate in growing pains.” Ten years later, it was back, and I was lost, bereft. This time, the doctors gave it a name and gave me a solution.  It was depression, and I needed Prozac.  That was the beginning of a whole other thing.

This thing was louder.  It was bold, and it made me into someone else.  I was driven, sleepless, creative, and immensely productive.  I accomplished more in the next ten years than I could have imagined or hoped for.  But there was a price.  I was reckless, unwieldy in my emotions, dangerous in my thinking and behavior.  I was having hypomanic episodes, I was bipolar.  But hypomania was my normal, so the doctors didn’t see it.  They only saw the depression, and kept giving me antidepressants, which made the hypomania worse.

I would spend the better part of my adulthood struggling to be okay.  The misdiagnosis cost me my sanity.  And after three hospitalizations, I was lost as to how to manage my life.  I was dying–slowly, painfully, dying.

I was forty years old when my therapist figured it out and sent me to yet another doctor, who also figured it out.  And now, at forty-two, I am what’s been termed stable, well, okay…But again, there’s been a price to pay.

I’ve lost some very strong parts of myself—my passion, my creativity—parts I’d like to have back.  I have to find a whole new way to be myself, to access my own soul.  This is the price I’ve paid to be sane.  This is a new pain.

My dreams are smaller now, my life less bright, like a light on a dimmer switch.  I’m not sure who I am, or what I am still capable of doing.  But my dreams have survived.  And so I’m taking this small action—writing this—to say to myself: dream on.  Dream past the pain and the self-doubt.  There is still a you to discover, a wholeness to encounter.  A way to live and be that makes sense.

Starting over as a whole new person at this age is a tricky thing.  But it’s all I can do.  To breathe, and just begin again.  Who knows where I’ll end up?  Maybe on the shore of some distant self.  Maybe in a place I can call home.

We’d love to hear your stories about life, love and reality in your 40s. If you’d like to share your story with the WAF community (anonymously or otherwise), please email us at contribute(@)womenatforty(dot)com. And don’t forget to join the conversation on Facebook and on Twitter.


Kalin’s Chronicles: Love Your Heart

Go Red DayIn the United States, February is the month of love, but it is also American Heart Month. So I’m mixing the two to tell all you “Women at Forty” – and older — to love your heart this month.

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women – more than breast cancer?

Here are some tips on symptoms, prevention and places to go for more information on how you can love your heart to health.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease – also called cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease – is a simple term used to describe several problems related to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow and creating a risk for heart attack or stroke.

According to the American Heart Association, one in three women has some form of heart disease.

Heart attack symptoms in women:

• Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
• Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
• Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
• Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

***If you have any of these signs, don’t wait more than five minutes before calling for help. Call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.

Prevention tips:

• Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to learn your personal risk for heart disease.    Quit smoking — just one year after you quit, you’ll cut your risk of coronary heart disease by 50 percent.
• Start an exercise program. Just walking 30 minutes a day can lower your risk for heart attack and stroke.
• Reduce stress — meditation is a good option.
• Modify your by eating less fried foods and red meat, and using the leaner white meat of skinless chicken.
• Per TV’s Dr. Oz:   lose belly fat and get enough sleep.  Belly fat and insomnia can both lead to heart disease.

Women’s Heart Resources:

• Go Red For Women

My Life Check Risk Calculator
National Coalition of Women with Heart Disease
Sister to Sister

So during this month of love, do something loving for your heart — it pumps hard for you!

Kalin Thomas is Women at Forty’s Travel & Leisure Editor. She is also Senior Writer/Photographer for SoulOfAmerica. Before starting her own multimedia company, Kalin spent 17 years at CNN where she won several awards for her work as producer/correspondent for CNN’s weekly travel program, CNN TravelNow. She is currently writing a book about her travels. For more information on Kalin, visit www.seetheworldproductions.com.



Yesterday’s junk…

junk What “junk” are you holding on to from yesterday or yesteryear? Memories? Grudges? Hurt?

When you’ve got your heart, mind or spirit balled up into a tight fist, you’re not only holding on to the junk, you’re ensuring, ENSURING that absolutely nothing else will get in.

Not water to cleanse your wounds.

Not oxygen to help it – and you – breath.

And definitely not anything – or anyone – that will bring your heart, mind and spirit into a new place. A new peace.

It’s hard work, sometimes our life’s work, but it’s worth the effort. No matter what age you are it’s good advice, but especially if you’re entering your 40s. It’s time. Let go of the junk. Let go and let’s go…