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Reflections: A Recurrence of the Ick
Episode 5622nd July 2023 • Forty Drinks: The Podcast About Turning 40 • Stephanie McLaughlin
00:00:00 00:16:23

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In a solo episode, Stephanie reflects on a recurrence of the Ick in her own life and what she’s doing to try to work her way through it.

Reflections: A Recurrence of the Ick

Sometimes you can do the work, you can make it to the other side and build a life that suits you perfectly - and you can STILL have weeks or seasons that just don’t feel good. I’m in one now and I'll tell you about it in this episode.


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Stephanie: Hello, and welcome to the 40 Drinks Podcast. I'm Stephanie. Thanks for being here with me.

I like to think of these solo episodes as sort of a bonus happy hour with you. So, to that end, I have a stiff drink with me today. I'm having a Tito's and soda with a lime. And, let's talk about that lime for a moment, shall we?

Why, when you're out and you ask for a lime in your drink, do they give you some microscopic sliver of lime? First, there's no actual way to squeeze that sliver into the drink without just mashing the pulp with your fingers. And second, there's really not much in the way of juice to squeeze into the drink.

So, seeing as this is my world and my lime, I've got a nice big slice here. Maybe even a whole quarter of the lime. So there's some skin to squeeze and juice to put in my drink. And I need this drink today. And I need this happy hour with you today because I am kind of at the end of my rope, as my lime rant may have suggested.

And that rope has been fraying for a couple of months now. Do you mind if I let it all hang out today? I could really use a deep dish session. Here's what's going on.

I am in week 18 of an estimated 5 to 6 week bathroom renovation, and I am about to lose my mind.

On top of that, my health has not been great for the last 4 to 6 weeks.

And while things are good at work, there are some tasks I've been avoiding that are hanging over my head and making me feel bad.

I didn't get a regular episode published this week. Ugh, I'm sorry. Something had to give and that was it.

And are we even going to have summer here in the Northeast this year?

As I'm recording, it is raining again. It's been raining almost straight through since Memorial Day. And while my 40 transition was a decade ago, lately, I feel like there's something roiling deep inside me. I'm feeling quite a bit of the old Ick. Sometimes I think it's from doing all the interviews with people about their transitions and uncovering bits and pieces that can or maybe do apply to me in my life and sometimes I just think it's a culmination of everything else that's going on leaving me with zero bandwidth to process everyday life.

It sounds like someone needs a vacation, huh?

Let me tell you a little bit about the bathroom renovation. I hired contractors that were referred to me by a friend of the family and who had done work for people I know and respect.

My husband Patrick and I live in an old home in our town and there's what I called the old house mafia, the people who are really into restoring and stewarding and taking care of some of the beautiful old homes where I live. And these contractors have done some work for a couple members of the old house mafia, so I figured they'd be a good fit for my job.

At first we were going to try to do. a halfway renovation, like just replacing one side of the bathroom to get us a bigger shower. The one that we have been living with for almost five years is so small that if I put up my hands to wash my hair, both of my elbows touch the wall of the shower. It's that small.

But the contractors rightly pointed out that we'd end up with half of a new bathroom and half of an old bathroom, and we'd probably be unhappy with the result. So we decided to go all the way and take it down to the studs and just start from scratch. And at the beginning, I was very excited about the contractors and our plan.

He said the project would take about four to five weeks, and he said that everything would be done to a hundred percent, and that I'd be so happy with the result. But that's not really how it's turning out, and it is taking FOREVER. At least last week, we FINALLY got the shower glass put in. Nine weeks after we ordered it, at which point they told us to expect like a six week lead time.

So we didn't have a fully functional shower for 111 days. Over the winter, Patrick and I would walk the block and a half to my mother's house every couple of days to go take showers and then we'd birdbath in between. And then once the tile went up, I hung up a plastic curtain, but the shower footprint is a little funky, so the plastic curtain hung like halfway across the shower. Meaning that every time you shower, you've got a plastic curtain sticking to your body. And I think it made the shower even smaller than our original.

And I know, I know these are first world problems, but still the reason we did the bathroom was to improve the shower because it's something we use every day. So I have been reminded every day that the bathroom project continues to drag out.

And as for that a hundred percent, the contractor promised, Oh, well, in several cases, it only gets to a hundred if I pay him to come back two or three times to get it right. Now, at least the work that they do is good quality, but there were a couple of final details that I have asked a cousin of mine to help me out with, because I'm just so tired of arguing with a contractor and paying him multiple times to do the same thing, to get to a hundred percent.

I could go on, but that's a good enough overview of that particular brand of stress in my life.

iagnosed with Lyme disease in:

And that Lyme disease has not responded to treatment, but I also have complicating factors like a currently wild and out of control autoimmune thyroid condition, and, um, pretty significant chronic fatigue. So don't even get me started about which doctors don't even believe that what I have is real. We could be here for days if we went down that path.

And also don't get me started about one of the fun games I get to play, which is is it Lyme or is it menopause? Is it thyroid or is it menopause?

I started a couple new supplements in early May that seemed promising. I got a glimpse for a couple of weeks of what life could look like with some more energy and a little bit less fatigue.

But then the past six weeks have just been a fall back down into the hole of fatigue and something really more than brain fog. These days I don't actually feel like my brain really works. And it's terribly frustrating. And there's not even anyone I can scream at or rail at about how frustrated I am that nothing is working.

I am taking care of myself like it's my job. But what do you do when doing your job doesn't get the job done? So I continue to soldier on.

I had a meeting last week with a nurse practitioner I see who said she was happy with some of my recent blood tests that showed that my thyroid is out of control, because she said that that proved that the mechanisms, my body mechanisms, were working.

She said, yes, your thyroid is struggling, but it's working like it should be, which she thought was good news. And as far as I'm concerned, it's theoretical good news only because it just sucks to live in this body right now. And I'd like a refund, please. Who do I see? Who can I talk to? Is there a manager around?

Hopefully the medication changes won't take too long to get me back on track.

Let's see what was next? At work, there are some business development tasks that I have been avoiding, which I'm not thrilled about. I'm trying to give myself some space because of everything else that's going on, but I know myself, I am so resistant to authority that I can't even tell myself what to do, and I find myself trying to figure out how to entice myself into doing things.

But it's tough because the entire time I'm scheming to figure out how to get myself to do it, I'm also listening to the scheming to figure out how to get away with it. So it's a vicious cycle. Meanwhile, the tasks go undone and I continue to feel bad about it. But that's one I'm working really hard to let myself off the hook for.

With everything else going on, really, I mean, how could I even handle any new business that came in from those efforts? So maybe it's actually a good thing that I'm stuck in that particular space.

And I keep thinking that maybe it's all the health stuff that's got me feeling like I've got the ick again, because it's not just my body that feels bad. I have been uncharacteristically down in the mouth lately, which I have not been enjoying.

I guess the bottom line for all of this is that it's a great example of you can do the work. You can make it to the other side of this 40 transition and build a life that suits you perfectly. And you can still have weeks or seasons that just don't feel good.

Sometimes it's just life. And sometimes It's just shit. All you can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other, and breathing, and staying in your shoes. Don't let your mind go wildly to the past or the future or the what ifs or the conditionals. Stay where your shoes are. And lean into gratitude despite the steaming pile of poo.

There's always something you can find to be grateful, even if it's just surviving another one of those days. There's lots that I am grateful for on a daily basis. My husband, first and foremost. Our house, which is like a sanctuary for both of us. My rambunctious a hole of a cat who drives me insane, but also very clearly loves me.

I'm grateful for my team at work, and my business, and my clients, and more, of course.

But I've also returned to an exercise that I talked about in episode three with my friend Jaime Lang. This exercise comes from an old friend of mine, Bill Burns, who was one of my drinks in my original 40 Drinks Project. And Bill was also a psychic and became a friend and a mentor over time as well.

Bill's assignment to me was to grab a journal and at night review your day and write down what pleased you that day. It doesn't have to be anything that was overtly successful or anything that would matter to anyone else.

It doesn't have to have anything to do with achievement. Just what pleased you. What did you notice that went well? It could be minuscule things. It could be silly things like, I like the way my hair came out today. Or, the outfit I had on pleased me. And once you've done that review and you have the list of things that pleased you that day, flip the page over and consider the items you listed one by one and identify for each one what talents skills qualities or abilities you brought to the table to make that thing go well. And let me be clear the list of talent skills, qualities and abilities that you choose from is entirely of your own making.

I'm not telling you to go online and look for a list of these things that you pick from. Just identify what it was about you that made that thing pleasing. For example, a moment ago I said, My, uh, uh, the way my outfit came out pleased me. Well, what about me made that happen? My own personal sense of style. So, I mean, it's that simple.

And at first, when Bill gave me this homework, I protested against it. See above, re authority. But then I started doing it. And I did it consistently for about a year and a half in my late thirties. And it really contributed largely to changing my life and I know that sounds weird, but it's true. It, it did change my life.

I've always had two voices in my head a mean one and a nice one and, through this exercise, all of a sudden the mean voice, who had always been an outsized presence, shrunk down to a reasonable size And the nice voice, who had always been quieter than the mean one, grew so that the voices in my head became more balanced, which was a game changer.

That allows you to hear some of the nice things about yourself and not always be at the mercy of the mean voice and her bullhorn.

So since then, whenever I feel out of balance, like if there are days or weeks where I'm beating up on myself a lot, I have pulled out my journal and started doing the exercise again.

And it takes a much shorter time for me to rebalance that internal monologue. Maybe a couple of days, maybe a week, maybe a couple of weeks, depending on where I'm at. And actually, now that I've done this exercise for so many years, I don't even write it down anymore. I do it as sort of a meditation right before I fall asleep.

I think of the things that pleased me each day. And then I think of the talents, the skills, the qualities and abilities that I brought to the table to make that thing go well. And then I fall asleep thinking about the things that went well in my day and all the ways that I brought that about. Which is a pretty good way to end the day.

And I think it's probably also a pretty good way to wrap up today's happy hour, too.

Before I go, though, two quick things. Today, I've shared quite a bit about how the Ick is showing up for me right now. But it doesn't always look like this, and it might look completely different for you. I created a two page guide to help you diagnose whether you, or maybe even someone you love, is suffering from the Ick.

Sometimes... somebody outside of us sees more clearly than we do. And it shows up differently for everyone. And you might not even know that something bigger is going on. It might just feel like, like I shared today, like everything is stuck or blocked or going sideways, and you might just explain it away as life.

So this guide outlines the symptoms and red flags associated with the Ick. And it might help you see what's going on from a different angle. You can download it from my website, So spell out the word 40, that's

And the second thing before I go, I want to invite you to join my email list. I have started creating emails that go a little deeper into the topics I explore on the podcast. There's more about the Ick and the backstory of the original project, along with additional analysis and interpretation of some of the stories you hear on the podcast. I would love for you to join me there.

Email is a place where I'm sharing more of my heart and soul, and I'm aiming for showing up in your inbox about once a week, unless there's something fabulous or really important I need to tell you. So if you want a piece of that, go to or drop me a DM anywhere or an email with your email address and I will happily add you.

Well, I feel a little better after getting some of this stuff off my chest and I want to thank you for listening and giving me the opportunity to unload a little. And hopefully the next time we get together for a drink, I'll have a fully functional bathroom and the medicine changes will be working. And I will have found the wherewithal to get some stuff done at work. And maybe I will have even found a few days to take a little vacation.

Until then, cheers.




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