No, really. Can someone please pass me the remote?
There comes a time in every woman's life when she realizes that menopause is on the horizon. Maybe it's the sudden onset of night sweats (followed by day-long hot flashes), mood changes, thinning hair (a lovely perk no one ever talks about), or all-out fatigue that delivers an abrupt "What the hell is this all about?" or perhaps it's an upcoming birthday (50 on the horizon, anyone, anyone?) that ushers in the swift realization that something is happening.
Or maybe it's none of the above for the lucky ones who have no physical symptoms whatsoever but are nonetheless aware of time's ticking background noise.
For me (symptoms, symptoms, and more miserable symptoms, thank you, hormonal powers that be), perimenopause and menopause have come with a rude awakening. Most of all, I'd simply like to stop sweating.
If anyone would have told me that hot flashes could last this long (four years and counting, folks) and that they could actually occur while standing under the blast of sub-zero cold shower, I would never have believed it.
If anyone told me that my crazy head of hair, which I have always taken for granted as a blessing and a curse (blessing because there has always been so much of it and a curse because blow-drying it has been a second full-time job for most of my life), would suddenly start to look suspiciously "not right" (read: hmm, what's with the weird, widening part?), I never would have believed them. Neither would anyone who has ever lived with me and kvetched about the hairballs the size of small squirrels that perpetually clog my sink and shower. I have always had a crazy amount of wild, wandering, never surrender kind of hair. The kind of hair that regular keratins and Brazilian blowouts could not tame.f I'm talking that kind of hair.
Actually, now that I think about it, the only time I've ever sweated more than the past four years is during my regular blow-out battle between me, my hair and the best paddle brush money can buy. Go figure.
But aside from the physical and physiological aspects of perimenopause (the wench), there's a host of sobering emotional issue that I've not been all that prepared for. Aside from having to register the ultimate the-baby-factory-is-now-officially-closed announcement, there's a true mid-life assessment that kicks in right around the same time you're picking half your head of hair off the bathroom floor.
Honestly, there is nothing like having to do some serious emotional house cleaning when you're already feeling vulnerable. The truth is that for many of us, perimenopause is the first time we think about midlife only to realize that true midlife happened a few years back and we missed it. Now that's something to sweeten the pot, isn't it? Wait? I passed midlife? Already? When? Shoot. Well how much time (and hair) do I have left?
Really? Yes, really.
But most of all, if I had fully understood that all of these symptoms are perimenopause, and not menopause itself, I would have cried. Why? Because the perimenopause part is just the prelude to menopause. It's the build up for the end of a woman's period and reproductive life, and well, it can last for up to ten years. At which point, I'll be close to receiving Social Security benefits. Assuming of course that Social Security will still exist.
There's. Just. Too. Much. Here. For. One. Blog.
Back to menopause:
According to the medical world, a woman isn't in menopause until she has not had her period for one year. So through the years, we've secretly wondered what the fuss was all about when it came to menopause? Well, the fuss was really about the opening act, perimenopause. I'd just like to go on record as saying that there seems to be some false advertising going around where this is concerned. Until I started experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, I never even understood the perimenopause phase. To be perfectly honest, I was blissfully ignorant.
Oh, I remember my mother having hot flashes here and there, and have a vague recollection of her standing in front of the open freezer door, but I don't recall her having any major hormonal drama. Before, whenever I heard menopause, I thought: hot flashes, end of period. Period.
Where has all the discussion been (or not?) about perimenopause? Why aren't we learning about it at the same time we're learning about our period and fertility and pregnancy? Shouldn't it be part of the dialogue? One long narrative continuum that tells the whole story over the course of woman's early life? To me, this delayed dialogue until one is in the thick of it is a real disservice to women. I can honestly say that up until these last few years, I probably could have told you more about any run-of-the-mill celebrity than I could have about perimenopause is all about. There's just something wrong with that.
What do you think?
If you're experiencing any of the common symptoms of perimenopause, educate yourself here. The more we talk and share, the more all of us will know. Same old song.
Until next time.