Ignorance is not bliss. I'd like to throttle whoever came up with that lie. I'm 50Free and every other week something seems to happen to my body or life that no one warned or even hinted to me about. I'm not talking about little twinges or tweaks; I'm talking wholesale, drastic, eye-popping, OK, ALREADY! changes.
Think about it: you sail along for 20, 30, 40 years looking and feeling like yourself (aside from pregnancy where you incubate an alien for a season and nothing you want, feel or think really matters anyway). Then suddenly, BAM! You look in the mirror one fine morning, and what was once black has turned white, what used to stand up has decided to lie down and what was hard...well, you get the picture. What on earth?!?
In biology class I was taught major physical changes in nature typically served to attract the opposite sex and signaled the onset of some torrid mating season. The only thing these new wiry tufts of white hair on my head are attracting is a box of Dark & Lovely. And with these sheet-drenching night sweats, the very thought of stirring up some more heat makes me want to punch someone's lights out.
And that's another thing: keeping my escalating violent tendencies under wraps is a job. At least twice daily I enjoy – yes, enjoy – daydreams of slapping somebody into next week or cornrowing their eyelashes. I know, I know…but do you remember when you were a teenager and your mother could shut you up and stop you in your tracks with a look that could divide bone and marrow? I didn't understand her superpower then, but I get it now. She had fire coursing through her veins, just like I have now. But more than likely, she didn't know how to harness it, and it had it's way with her. It still does with so many of us, mainly because we don't acknowledge, discuss or understand it. The culprit – or the power source, depending on your perspective – is menopause. And menopause is not fair.
Nobody warns us. Nobody tells us when, what, how long or just how intense it's going to be. It's not discussed in public or private, except with your 60 year old male or 38 year old female gynecologist (they do not come in other varieties). And what do they know? Exactly. They shuffle papers around and mumble about estrogen, progesterone and testosterone imbalances, but they can't seem to figure out how much and what form of each you need to return to normal. They don't know whether it's the red pill or the blue pill but they're happy to dispense both, even though the list of side effects for either is decidedly worse than menopause. We are left at the mercy of mothers who have willfully forgotten menopause and girlfriends who are equally discombobulated.
If you're waiting for me to unveil the never-revealed-until-now mystical solution to this ancient conundrum that has befuddled man- and womankind alike for time immemorial right here, all for the low, low price of $99.95, forget it. I just told you I was discombobulated. This isn't even a scientific treatise examining the 34 most common symptoms of menopause. I just read what I thought was a pretty darn comprehensive list. Then I added a few more I thought they'd missed. And no, I can't tell you soy is better than black cohosh is better than maca root. I'm not a doctor and if I was, I'd obviously still not know much (see above). But this is what I can tell you: somewhere between 20 and 60, hopefully much closer to 50, your body is most likely going to go haywire. Your mind and your sleep will go right along with it, and normal and rational will not be. How else can we explain the success of the Real Housewives reality show franchise? It is menopause mania at its finest.
I really only have two things to add to the conversation about menopause. One is to have the doggone conversation! We whisper about hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and little else. It's high time we had some illuminating chats. Sure, every woman's journey is different, but there's certainly enough common ground to establish some patterns, warnings or something. Why is menopause the last taboo? Look: if in the space of 25 years we went from babies being dropped at the front door by a gigantic delivery bird to screening parties featuring birthing videos shot with zoom lenses in standing room only labor and delivery suites, surely we can pull the covers off of menopause. In fact, you need to share this blog post with every 20 year old you know, both male and female. Let's get this conversation started! You think knowing about a woman's menstrual cycle is important? If you're living with a menopausal woman, knowing everything you can is critical to your survival. If you thought PMS was something, you ain't seen nothing yet! Face it: when that woman in your household wakes up and her full mane is suddenly so thin you can read her thoughts, you'd better know it's going to affect her. And you. Knowledge is power; foreknowledge is time to prepare a fortified underground bunker.
My second thought is that your attitude can greatly impact your journey. (Note: I keep calling it a journey because it can last a loooooooonnnnngggg time. Years. Decades for some.) You don't typically get a start date unless you have some medical intervention that triggers the start of menopause (i.e., something that stops estrogen production, like a hysterectomy). But I don't know anyone who has received an end date. So I've decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns. I'm harnessing all that energy, that heat flowing through me, and I'm going to create. All those sleepless nights? I'm up writing. I stay in my bed so my body can rest, but my mind won't shut off anyway so I may as well make the very best of it. I have perfected the art of the power nap so I can almost catch up on a 15 minute break or lunch hour at work, if need be. I think about all the women who started businesses, successful businesses, in their 40s and 50s. I think they understood and harnessed their power, too. It makes perfect sense to me but then again, I'm menopausal. I've established some real goals for myself, timetables and all, and so far I am tickled pink with my progress. If someone thinks it makes sense to take the hair off my head and deposit it above my top lip, I think it's fair to either create a new depilatory or sell my story and laugh all the way to the bank!
Choose your path and don't be an ostrich. Hiding from menopause won't make it go away. I can tell you menopause is real. So if your symptoms are more intense than you can handle or you experience all 34+ symptoms at once, don't quit searching until you've found a knowledgeable doctor or specialist, and treatment that fits your needs. If your loved ones begin to peek out from the bunker, you are probably on the right track.
Robin C. Green