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Rooster_Ties

I really need advice and a sounding-board (serious stuff)

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Posted (edited)

Not me -- but my wife (we met in 1996) is going through the roughest time.  She's incredibly stressed out with work, 50+ hour weeks for 60% of the last year, and 80% of the last 4 months -- much of the work itself is stressful (only because "the powers that be" have made it that way).  But on top of all that, she'll be 55 later this year -- and menopause is kicking her ass like nothing I've ever witnessed in my life.  Wild, crazy mood swings inside of barely 2 hours -- and she hadn't been able to sleep much for most of May and June (maybe some back in April, I forget) -- always waking up at 1am, and never getting back to sleep).

Two weeks ago she went on some basic hormone replacement (which isn't an overnight fix, and takes time), and she got a prescription for some moderate sleeping pills that she is having to take right before bedtime (which worked great for about 10-12 days, but then the last two nights she's back to waking up again every night).  She's also starting to have what I'd nearly call "panic attacks".  I'm always able to talk her down some, but when they happen in the middle of the night or in the evening -- she can't take the anxiety medicine she was prescribed 2 weeks ago (Xanax), because of its interaction with her sleeping pill (Ambien).  She's on the lowest dosage of Ambien, and she's barely taking any Xanax (just one-half pill almost every day, in the morning, and occasionally another half-pill in the early afternoon).

TMI, I know, I'm just trying to paint a picture.

Her mood swings are pretty wild.  She seems very much "half on-top of things" for a while, and then two hours later she's almost weeping over what a bad person (she thinks) she is for not being able to do her job better, and how everyone hates her.  And one employee of hers (one of her direct reports) is an especially impossible person to deal with, who know how to just say the "right" thing to set my wife off (yesterday, it was that my wife was supposedly "not thinking strategically enough" because this employee didn't like how a particular policy shift was affecting her (the employee, not my wife).  And my wife recounted the story with me (later) 5 or 6 times within the span of an hour (3 times in a row, in 15 minutes), in an OCD sort of way.  Then an hour later, my wife got hold of her emotions better, and was more in control.

I do think my wife's getting good medical care, and has a really fantastic doctor (who she's had for about 7 years now, iirc) -- but that care is really just beginning.

The other factor is that wife hasn't anything like a real vacation since before the Pandemic -- short of two weeks at Christmas the last couple years (but this last year, half of that was with her elderly parents, which is stressful, and they really need to contemplate downsizing and moving, and my 83-year father-in-law wants to pretend like that's 10 years in the future, when it needs to be 1-2 years in the future, at most).  And my mother-in-law had to have a mastectomy (at 81) 6 months ago -- and the stairs in the their house are really a huge problem for her, because of some other health reasons.

Again, TMI, sorry -- I just don't know how to do any of this succinctly -- and frankly, I'm trying not to break down typing all this (I'm normally incredibly good at must keeping everything all crammed down, and putting a brave face on everything).

I'm trying to think of who all in my circle of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues that I can reach out to -- and I'm starting with you all first.  (Trouble is, my very best friend back in Kansas City, who I'm sure I'll reach out to at some point, lost his wife to Covid about 18 months ago -- and if she had any similar Menopause issues, I'm just hesitant to make him my first-line sounding-board in all this).  AND, compounding things a little, most of my best work-colleague friends are gay men (that's just the demographic of where I've worked the last 10 years -- us straight men are barely 10% of the staff now, and even back pre-Pandemic, we were barely 20% back then).  I probably will reach out to one or both of the women colleagues I've known for 10 years (one of whom is now retired), who are both around 60 years old, and may have some firsthand perspective.

Day to day, I feel like I'm sort of half on-top of all this (maybe just barely)(, but I know my wife hasn't felt that way in months.  And I'm beginning to see the real possibility of my wife having a full-on nervous breakdown eventually.  I *THINK* the medical care she's newly been getting starting about 2 weeks ago will eventually help, but we're not there yet (even if my wife has some new tools (Rx), that she may not be using as often or in strong enough dosages yet).

Compounding things a bit, my work schedule includes every weekend (4 or 5 days a week) -- so my wife and I haven't had more than a handful of days off together at the same time in over 16 months -- and where I work is perpetually short-staffed (the same Museum I've been with since 2012, though my role isn't the same -- and the overall staff is barely 1/3rd of what it was, pre-Pandemic).  I know, get a new job.  But I loath job hunting more than anything in the whole world (can I have a half-a-dozen root canals instead, please?) -- but that's a whole 'nother can of worms I don't need to get into here.

Life's being really shitty for my wife these days, this entire year, but especially lately -- and at least for the moment, about 30%-40% of the time (of any given day), my wife literally isn't herself, and it takes upwards of an hour for her self-loathing periods to dissipate enough that things like logic and facts mean anything to her.

I'm babbling now, so I should stop.

I'm not super shy about sharing stuff, feel free to ask pointed questions.  I'll probably delete this thread (or clean it up) in a few months, when things are better.

Far as my wife's work stress goes -- just to paint some more of the picture -- she's worked for the same federal agency for 28 years.  And, actually, which administration is in charge can sometimes counterintuitively have a detrimental effect on her work (which is related to regulatory compliance).  She oversees a department with a staff of like 30 people (spread across 3 states, all across the country).  And the people in management above her haven't been with the agency (or even in Government) for more than a year or two -- and they have completely unrealistic expectations for how they think things should just magically work, despite decades of prior policy and practice within the organization (and competing priorities, often totally at odds with each other, within sub departments of this agency) -- and the support my wife and her entire department is getting from above her is often totally lacking.

One good piece of news, though, is that my wife is supposed to be hiring NOT a new 'assistant' (she's had an assistant for years) -- but a new assistant director (someone almost at her level, to take on (or at least help significantly with) probably 40% of the less complicated cases my wife deals with now, and help run her entire department, including having half the department report through this person).  THAT can't get here quick enough, and that person might be hired as soon as September.  Won't fix everything overnight, but by November, maybe 25% of my wife's workload will probably be significantly reduced.

 

I feel like I'm holding up a house of cards, but the worst of it, is that my wife is struggling so badly -- and I feel like there are significant periods of time when I can't even begin to get through to her that she's not an abject failure at life, and her job, "and everything".  She's not suicidal (her doctor already asked), but that's only because my wife is far too responsible (about everything she's responsible for) to ever even consider it.  But if she had it in her, I would be seriously worried.

OK, that's it, I'm done, because I don't know how to stop, or how to edit all this.

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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Very sorry about all of that. No idea how to help other than finding out if there’s a support group she can get into. Also, don’t know what y’all’s tolerance of delta 8 or 9 CBD products are but microdosing that has helped some folks I know with mental relaxation and sleeping. Other than that, definitely plan a long vacation. I recommend something by the ocean with varying degrees of remoteness so that checking your phone or laptop isn’t easy. I do hope y’all can find some resolution. Neither of you are alone in these struggles for what that’s worth 

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Sorry to hear of this tough situation, hang in there--you need to take care of your own inner peace and well being to be strong for your wife.

I've been through the menopause ride three times with the three most important loves in my life--my first wife who got hit with it early and whose mental illness certainly both complicated in a worsening way and helped in the sense that her medicines for her "mixed states" helped tranquilize; the "one that got away"--my friend of 38 years or so who became the love of my life after my wife died and who is married to her very important job and went through a later, gentler, menopause--and my second wife who went through this the first few years of our marriage with some patience and grace and some impatience and lack of control. It's never easy for a woman or her mate. 

In the first and second instance their doctors were both sympathetic, observant, and helpful, and in the third case sisters and a counselor were very helpful. Only "the one that got away" had hormone therapy, it seemed to help, it helped me. Each of these women had pretty stressful jobs and it took a toll on them. Sleep was their friend. I carefully and diligently allowed them as much sleep as I possibly could. That's one advice I would offer you: do what you can in your lives together to compensate for time that they can use for extra sleep and rest.

The biggest thing I think that can help your wife is improving that job situation. Letting go what can be let go, getting assistance (seems forthcoming) as much as possible, finding ways to calm the mind and build esteem. I hope things will get better. The menopause will. . . though rarely quickly.

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Posted (edited)

They just keep piling on heaps of work (and shit) on my wife’s plate at work — and the only long time off she’s got time for is a necessary trip to see her parents back in KC the first week in September (hardly a vacation).

We are taking a quick ‘weekend’ overnight trip in late August — a Wednesday & Thursday (because I’m locked into working weekends), but that’s hardly time for her to really decompress much — and I’m genuinely scared it won’t be much of a getaway at all (and she could loose it then, for all I know).

She’s been working most weekends too the last month (or at least Sundays), just trying to keep her head above water. It’s getting pretty bad.

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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I worked nearly 30 years for the state of Texas and I know how this can be--my years were during Bush/Perry downsizing of state agencies by as much as 40 percent in the case of ours to give juicy contracts to their buddies and f over the citizens. Our work rarely went down, we just had our resources nearly halved. The final three years two plus of them I was also doing everything I can for my wife's lymphoma care. I had to let some things go. That went totally against my nature--I was a people pleasing take on everything employee for decades--but my own health and my family's welfare was more important. My best advice for her is to prioritize her own well being and learn to just care less about her job enough to regain her own equilibrium. Jobs are not worth losing your health and mind over, I know that's a hard reality to accept for many.

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My advice:  Get your wife off of the Ambien so she can take the Xanax when she needs it.  Trazodone is much safer (it's a very old antidepressant that is used for insomnia because it makes you drowsy) and has very few side effects with anything.  It's also not a narcotic.  Ambien is a bad drug and frankly should be taken off of the market.  I worked both as a nurse and in pharmacy so I have a little insight into this.  I personally take Trazodone and have for years.  Blessings to both you and your wife.

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Posted (edited)

My wife has a telehealth visit with her doctor day after tomorrow (and her doctor literally dropped everything two weeks ago today when my wife presented as being uncontrollably emotional shortly into a regular follow-up visit my wife had bout other things -- and her doctor called her back personally at the end of the day that same day (two weeks ago) just to check up on her).  So she will have an opportunity to report back these recent two nights with a lack of sleep, etc. -- and a chance to change or tweak her meds.  I do think there's a good chance for some improvement over the next month -- but it will take time for the HRT to take effect, and probably some trial and error with the other meds.

I just got off the phone from a good hour-long call with a trusted friend and colleague who left the museum I worked at about 6 months ago -- and she's about my wife's same age, and just got thru menopause herself 2-3 years ago.  I wanted to brainstorm with her some possible things I might need to do, if my wife does have more of a meltdown than she's already had so far.  My former colleague was always one of the best problem-solvers and most level-headed people I've ever known, and she and I always had very candid conversations over our 8 years working together -- not often about personal stuff (but sometimes).  I had dotted-line responsibilities to her back when i was in my old role (she was second in command of the whole place).  It was a very good conversation, and she had some good ideas for how to move forward -- how my wife should deal with her work, her HR, etc.

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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Very sorry to hear this! I know from own experience (a mother with serious mental health issues) how hard it is trying to help someone who’s struggling that way. i also know from experience that everybody will give ‘good advice’ from best intentions but that most of that advice is or not realistic or just not very helpful. And now I am going to do the same to you. So maybe it’s a little helpful and if not: just forget what I say.

To me it really sounds you already know what the big problem is. Menopauze is one thing but that’s not something you can control. But your wifes job IS something within your circle of control. It really sounds like the job is killing your wife mentally. And than youre going to reach a point that you have to ask yourself: should I really continue with this job that is making me so unhappy or should I quit and find something that will give me energy and strength again. 

Now this comes from a guy who hasnt the slightest knowledge of your financial situation so forgive me if this just aint an opportunity. But if it is: i really think she should find another job, maybe something completely different. Those pills are just symptom suppression but the cause remains the same. Hope you will be careful with that kind of medication as I know from own experience (my mom again) that stuff is really unhealthy and risky. 
 

Forgive me if I didnt read well but youre wife is not seeing a psychiatrist yet? That might be of help as well, though it of course depends on the person she will be seeing. Some of them are good, some are of no use. 

Last but not least: you’re wife really needs time for herself. She has to find herself again in the better things of life. Picking up an old hobby is an idea, going for long walks in nature another and finally working out and eating healthy is essential. All these kind of things will not help instantly but do help a lot on the longer term and the absence of these things makes one unhappy and hard to relax.

Part from this, I just want to wish you and youre wife the best. I sincerely hope she will get the right self insight to change the factors in her life that make her unhappy. 

 

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It is interesting that she works at a federal agency but cannot get any vacation time.   Usually, the government is pretty good about that.  It sounds like she could really use a bit of time off from work right now to both relax and work on getting herself together.   Perhaps it could even qualify as sick leave.  Is that impossible?

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Take a vacation to Philadelphia and see what might have been.

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Rooster,

When I'm in a dark place, here's something that helps me keep my head above water. Keep reminding yourself: "It will NOT always feel this difficult."  It may feel like things will never change, but they will inevitably change.  Like (almost) everything else, difficulties are temporary.  

If she's not already doing so, I would also suggest that your spouse carve out some time in her busy schedule to see a therapist regularly.  When it comes to addressing mental health issues, drugs are very helpful -- and sometimes life-changing.  But all sorts of research has shown that drugs in combination with talk therapies of various kinds are much more effective.  I will also say that I speak from personal experience when it comes to this.  Drugs are good.  Talk therapy is good.  But they work much, much better together.

The last bit of advice that I'll offer: Consider going to a therapist yourself.  When my wife was having difficulties -- some of which were similar to the circumstances that you've described with your wife -- my therapist helped me to be a better friend and husband for her.  But, just as importantly, I had a opportunity to unload many of the burdens that I'd been carrying.  It also helped me to see things more clearly by gaining another perspective.  

I know that are still many stigmas associated with psychotherapy.  After many years, I guess I've moved past them.  I've come to look at therapy the way that many people look at going to the gym: It's just a method of keeping yourself mentally healthy, just like the gym keeps you physically healthy.

I hope these ideas are helpful, and I wish you and your wife nothing but the best.

 

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Rooster, just hang in there - it is worth the wait, and she will never forget that you tried to stay at her side all the time once things get better. Working overtime seems to be a normal state of things these days, bur what is thrown at ther simply is too much, and IMHO this causes her sleeping problems and cannot ne cured by pills. Try to make a deal to get a vacation time together and a definite statement for the assistance later this year, because reducing that amount of work is the only cure and will save both your heath and marriage. I will cross my fingers and pray for you, ask only for enough strength to master the next day and you will get through. My wife and I had similar problems with our working situation and got through, and now we are in happy retirement, so will you! 

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Why would you hesitate to reach out to a gay co-worker? Do they not know you're heterosexual?

Seriously, people are going to be caring and supportive or they're not. And sexual orientation is not a determine factor. An asshole is an asshole, period 

Not knowing the individuals involved, I can't say. But if you have a coworker, any coworker, with whom you can talk to as a person, by all means do so. This is not the kind of thing you share lavishly, but it's not the type of thing you hide away either. Sooner or later, it will impact your personal interactions at work and you will appreciate having somebody in your environment who understands what you're going through while she goes through what you're going through while you both go through what you both are going through 

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4 hours ago, JSngry said:

Take a vacation to Philadelphia and see what might have been.

FWIW, I go into Philly pretty regularly and love it (more so than any comparably sized city in Texas).  I don't know if it will/would help Rooster or Mrs. Rooster with their issues, but it's a fascinating place.

 

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, JSngry said:

Why would you hesitate to reach out to a gay co-worker? Do they not know you're heterosexual?

If I was looking for a guy, I was specifically looking for someone who had experience with a (female) spouse who’d had menopause before. I have had a number of GREAT coworkers of EVERY stripe — but all the straight guys were younger than me by a good decade.

I wasn’t lacking for sympathetic years — but the gal I reached out to was in her late 50’s (had menopause in her early 50’s, now past it) — and she’s one of the best problem solvers I’ve ever known. She was the closest thing the organization had to a “Fixer” during my entire run working up in administration.

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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Menopause can be crazy. PMS can be crazy. Job stress can be crazy  Personal doubt can be crazy.

I say this with the fullest of care - if this is all happening at once, there's not going to be any one thing that fixes all of it, so don't look for that. Just affirm the victories as they come, how they come, for as long as they last.

This one may or may not go into extra innings, but there are no ties in baseball. Manage accordingly and never deplete you bench. Or hers  Because right now, you and here are on the same team. The opponent is all this other stuff. So just... don't give the other team an opening to beat you 

And it's ok to scream. Just don't do it around her. But let her scream all she wants to, and around you as she sees fit. Until this is over, at which point, hey, it's the next game. But win this one first.

Y'all are the home team, after all. 

 

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Posted (edited)

if she is having true mental health problems (and it sounds like she is, whatever the cause) she needs to find a doctor/shrink who will write her out of work, who will put enough restrictions on what she is allowed to do to permit her to go on disability (I am assuming she has some kind of coverage). I did claims work for many years, and she certainly sounds like she qualifies. It doesn't have to be permanent, but I urge you to look into this asap, before the situation gets out of control.

Edited by AllenLowe

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Posted (edited)

My wife had a better day yesterday than either she or I expected (half of that was nothing really 'triggered' her, and she never had any breakdowns, or felt like needing to have one).

AND, she DID sleep through the night last night -- and managed to get back to sleep after getting up briefly around 2am.

She was really nervous this morning, so I encouraged her to taking a full Xanax pill (she'd only ever taken 1/2 pills, just once a day so far -- even though she's cleared for 3 full pills per day).  No, I don't want her taking 2 and 3 full pills every day -- but I also don't want her to be so gun-shy about taking it, that she doesn't ever experience what the full effects of 1 full pill are (so she knows that that's like, and how much drowsiness that causes).  Because there will be days she needs more than just one 1/2 pill.

About an hour ago she said she was a little tired, but felt pretty calm.

One day at a time, one day at a time.

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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