My last article was about aging and self-love. I intended to write about something completely different this month, but something is on my heart and mind. Writing is how I process things, and hopefully I can help others who might be feeling the same way. I am turning 42 next month, no big deal, right? Especially when other people are fighting cancer, losing loved ones, or other more serious life-altering situations. To me, this feels like a big deal because of what is happening with my body.
I shared last month how young people tell me I look, and I have to admit I love it! The last few months my body has had a mind of its own. At first I thought some of these changes were symptoms of my chronic health conditions. Some of them still could be. My hair has been falling out in clumps and breaking off, leaving me with a head of thin, wispy scare-crow hair. It’s also falling out of my eyebrows, which have always been very thick and defined. I felt like I was losing total control over my own body, and one night after work a couple of weeks ago, I had my hair chopped into a layered bob. I took control over at least one little thing again!
My periods went from erratic and light to nonexistent. I have not had one since June. I have to say, I never thought I would miss them, but the idea that my body has suddenly decided I am finished reproducing brings a lump to my throat and a heaviness to my heart. It’s not that my husband and I want more children. We decided early in our marriage it was best for our relationship and family not to have any more, but I knew I could. The idea was always there, just in case. I remember like it was yesterday what it felt like when each of my babies grew in my body, and a part of me will always ache for that feeling again. I don’t know if this is a normal thing for women my age to go through, and perhaps this is where the whole mid-life-crisis thing comes into play? This is all new to me, and to be honest, I am terrified! I love the stage my children are in and I do not have any problem with finding my own interests (I have the opposite problem), and I enjoy time alone with my husband. It just feels so…abrupt, like the rug was ripped out from under me.
The next plague upon my body was hot flashes, which are more like boiling hot mini panic attacks. Rising from my gut, they feel like hot lava beneath my skin, erupting in sweat all over, soaking everything. When I sleep, I wake up several times a night in sweat-soaked sheets. It’s more than just heat. It feels like burning from the inside out, while my skin crawls and I need to strip as many layers off as fast as I can to get relief. Immediately following are always violent cold chills and it is impossible to get warm.
I went to my rheumatologist for answers, thinking some of these things could have been caused by other medical conditions. All of the blood work came back normal, so plan B is to go have my hormone levels checked. I can think about a thousand things I would rather do before having this done; going to the mall naked, eating mushrooms (not the psychedelic kind), going through labor – pretty much anything! I did some research, thinking this might help ease my mind to know a bit more about the shadowy monster lurking on my horizon. WRONG! Do not google perimenopause (the transition period before menopause) or menopause, guys! Some of the symptoms are down right gruesome. I always felt like I had so much more time before I had to worry about the change. And I hate that term, by the way. It sounds like the title of a bad horror movie.
After the Cut
I read perimenopause can last several years (the average length is 4 years) before menopause actually begins, but it ends when the woman has gone 12 months without having her period. I’ve made it through five so far. Again, I AM ONLY 41!
It’s simply not fair! Men don’t have to go through any of this. They dodge PMS, periods, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. When they age most of them become more distinguished, while women dry up, shrivel up, and become invisible. Just a few of the wonderful things I’ve heard from women who have already gone through the “m” word. I thought maybe speaking to other women would help ease my mind. It reminded me of being pregnant with my first child. Remember all of the pregnancy and labor horror stories you heard during your first pregnancy? This was worse. I heard that not only can my hair fall out, but it can sprout up in unwanted places. What?! I can’t even imagine the places they to which they are referring.
See…a horror movie.
I basically heard I will turn old and ugly as soon as my estrogen is gone. Some say estrogen is a must, while others say to stay away from it. Another issue for me is the estrogen thing, as I am unable to take any due to migraines, so these stories really stress me out. I’ve also heard of vaginal dryness and losing elasticity, and pain with sex. Really? Men don’t have to worry about going through and major structural changes with age. Increase in headaches, insomnia, terrible mood swings, irregular or rapid heartbeat, difficulty concentrating, acne (really, this too?), anxiety (DUH), and fatigue are some of the other wonderful symptoms. I read your skin becomes dry and thin. I already slather on moisturizer and lotion, so what am I going to do now? Coat myself in Crisco? Would that work? If it works I might try it.
I would love to hear any encouraging stories especially with natural remedies and supplements for some of these symptoms.
I have noticed since turning 40 gravity is a bit crueler than it was in earlier years. Things are just not as tight and firm as they once were. If there are any ladies out there with some gentle, less atomic stories and advice about the “m” word, I would LOVE to hear from you. Please tell me this isn’t as bad as it feels right now. Right now I feel like something took my body and mind hostage.
One thing I know for sure is if I am going through you know what, you had better believe I plan to cram as much life into each day as I can. I know at one point, I will come to accept this new stage of my life. Mid-life means more than an ending to childbearing. It can also signify new beginnings. Watching my girls finish school, find their own way in the world, start their own families, and make me a nana. In the meantime, I will try to work up the courage to call and make my GYNO appointment.
“Rock and menopause do not mix. It is not good, it sucks and every day I fight it to the death, or, at the very least, not let it take me over.”-Stevie Nicks