Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Menopause

C'mon.  You don't need to go "ew." 

Especially you guys.  You have your own version of this.

If I can write about my colonoscopy (which I did), I can certainly write about this.  And, really, it's much less gory.

I was inspired by a book I just finished, "The Madwoman in the Volvo, My Year of Raging Hormones" by Sandra Tsing Loh. 



It's a humorous account of Loh's navigation of "the change."  Hers included an affair, the end of her marriage and managing a nutty 89-year-old father, not to mention the physical issues that come with menopause. 

So being the impressionable little thing that I am, reading her account made me look back on my own journey, which covered much more than a year and, I thought, I too could provide some insight. 

However, my journey was far less extreme and dramatic.

I just got fat, mad and kind of crazy. 

And I wasn't mad about being fat.  I was just really mad...about everything and kind of crazy all of the time.

There was a reason my "handle" on my son's pager (remember those?) was 666.  I thought that one up, because I thought it was funny (you know, Mom calling and we hate that, you know like the devil, you know...), but I think that was my unconscious realization that the devil had somehow gotten into the details of my life, but I didn't know why.

Likewise, with menopause, especially the years leading up to it, it slowly creeps up on you and you don't really realize what is happening until suddenly Aunt Flo doesn't come to visit anymore - ever.  Anyway, that's what happened to me.

It all started in my mid-40's.  I don't remember anything earth shattering like hot flashes, but looking back I see that I was "changing" and had been for some time.

How else can I explain staying up until three in the morning watching old game shows like "I've Got a Secret" and "What's My Line?"  And I had to be at work the next morning. I cried when the Game Show Network stopped showing them.



Or getting up in the middle of the night with heartburn that I was sure was a real heart condition and thinking that having a glass of wine would solve the problem,

Or walking over to Trader Joe's (it was across the street) in my robe ("No one will notice"),

Or my one woman crusade to make sure the people who worked at Trader Joe's did not park on my street.  For some reason, having those cars parked in front of my house made me crazy (Gee, I wonder why), and I not only wrote letters to the management of Trader Joe's, I would yell at people from my front porch,

Or making my kids sleep with me when Hubby traveled because I was sure if a bad guy broke in, he wouldn't kill me with two little kids sleeping in the bed with me,

Or standing in the Safeway line and suddenly feeling like I would die if I didn't leave immediately,

Or on my Friday off (I had every other Friday off), cleaning the house and then shutting all of the curtains and sitting in the dark living room watching movies for the rest of the day (hey, I still do that!),

Or the shouting matches with my teenage son.

It's a wonder I wasn't found wandering the neighborhood in my nightgown mumbling in some language I had made up.

Looking back on all of that, I can only shake my head and wonder what the hell was I thinking?

Well the answer was, I wasn't thinking.  My hormones were ordering me around.

And because I didn't really have any physical symptoms (except for that middle of the night heartburn and those panic attacks), I didn't realize what was happening and didn't know to ask for any treatment from my doctor. I thought it was just ME.

You see, I was always considered a bit "high strung," or that's what my parents would say about me when I would get upset at my brother teasing me at the dinner table and stomp upstairs and lock myself in the bathroom. 

That said, I was now a career woman, a mother.  I could juggle many plates, dammit.  I wasn't prone to prowling around in the middle of the night with my hair standing on end like Medusa and my eyes spinning in my head.  What the hell was going on?

That is why the onset of menopause is so insidious.

I think perimenopause (that period, pardon the pun, leading up to "the big finish") and menopause are kind of like Alzheimer's.  I'm not being disrespectful here. Hear me out. There is the crazed part of it, but, like Alzheimer's, you don't really know you have it until it's all over. The last thing we women want to believe is that we are getting old, because menopause is for old ladies, right?  In the case of Alzheimer's, you could be diagnosed with it, but until you are dead and they analyze your brain, you don't really know for sure.  You could just be demented. 

So at 45, I thought I was too young for Alzheimer's so I just thought I was a demented person.

By the time I finally had my hormone levels checked and started taking hormones, that big study came out that said hormone treatment was linked to heart attacks, so that was enough for me to ditch the pills (things have changed since then).  Besides, I wasn't much into taking pills anyway.  This here girl was pioneer and Swedish stock!  I can beat this thing.

If you find yourself in similar circumstances and exhibiting similar behaviors, take note.  The time has come.  But don't beat yourself up.  You can't help it.  I recommend doing anything and everything you deem appropriate to help you get through it.

But here is the sobering part of all of this.

As Loh points out in her book, when we are very young, we are detached.  It's all about ourselves. But as our hormones kick in, we then become attached as we seek mates and have our children. Once we are no longer able to procreate and our children have left the nest, our bodies and minds go back to being detached, not needing to nurture anyone but ourselves once again. 

However, many of us modern Baby Boomer women didn't live that "normal" biological and chronological clock of a typical woman from an earlier generation:  get married and have children in her twenties, "begin to detach in her forties...Her grown-up (say eighteen year old) children are leaving the nest; her perhaps slightly older (say sixty-ish) husband is transitioning into gardening and fishing; her aged parents have conveniently died." 

So that was an easier menopause because at least many of life's stresses had already passed when it was time to detach.

But Loh goes on to say that doesn't fit the new normal of the late-boomer/Gen X women who put their careers first and didn't get married until their thirties, got pregnant in their late 30's or early 40's, and with medical advancements, their parents are still alive.  So that means just when our bodies are telling us to detach, we still have kids at home and parents to take care of. 

No wonder we go nuts.

That is what happened to me.

The full cycle of perimenopause to menopause to post-menopause can take up to ten years.  So when I think that in the midst of those years when my body was changing from a fertile young thing into a wild-eyed crone, both of my parents went through illness or institutionalization and then died and, my son was 15-25 and my daughter was 10-20, formative years to say the least.  

No wonder I remember big eyes in the back seat when I was on a tirade or that they don't seem to share a lot of happy family memories. No wonder they now say, "You know how you are," when neither has lived with me for over 10 years, and I don't know what they are talking about.  How am I?

I was a madwoman in a Mustang.
(no Volvos for me).

But according to Loh and to me, there is good news for those of you who are suffering or about to. 

It gets better. 

I think that is what I am here to impart, because you know, I am all about providing a public service.

I'm still fat, but I'm not angry anymore, and I like to think I'm no longer crazy, though that could be up for debate.

It does get better. 

Most of those nasty hormonal symptoms do eventually go away.

You do get to detach (as in spending time with yourself). 

And with age comes some perks.

We women of a certain age come to  realize:

It's not as important as it once was to be a skinny bitch. In fact, a little extra junk in the trunk is known to prolong life, save your face and keep you from BEING a bitch.

It's not as important to have a clean house because who do we need to impress anymore?  Hubby would rather have a cheerful companion than an angry cleaning lady in a clean house. 

It's not as important to care what people think. 
It's called "The I-Don't-Give-A-Sh*t-Anymore-Syndrome."  It hits around 60.

It's not as important to be a Super Woman if we ever were.  It's important to be your own hero.

You now have the time to be grateful - for all of it.


What IS important is to make peace with yourself:
body, mind and spirit.


You will come out the other side.

Now I'm the old, but no longer mad,
woman in the Mustang!





Thanks for Reading!
 
See you Friday
for my review of the new movie

"Interstellar." 



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5 comments :

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. OMG . . . loved this! Just the other day I commented to my husband that I was absolute positive I was losing my mind, and to prepare himself in the event I didn't make it through this God-awful transition in one piece.

    It started with a good two+ years of waking up around 2:00 AM and being unable to go back to sleep, accompanied by pretty regular night sweats. Which is when my husband, bless his heart, accepted that I could only go to sleep if our bedroom was roughly the same temperature as our refrigerator. And that I couldn't bear to have any portion of his body touching me in sleep . . . 98.6 degrees of male coziness was about 30 degrees to much. If he wanted to snuggle, he needed to be sure there was at least a sheet (preferably two) between our appendages or I'd wake up out of a sound sleep positively drenched.

    Thankfully, those days are mostly gone, so it's just my brain that appears to still be going nuts. And yes, I'm experiencing alternating bouts of sadness and anxiety that are completely out of character. I rarely, rarely take pills (just a little Xanex when I fly :-), but I'm t h i s close to making a Dr appointment and throwing myself at her mercy.

    I will say that a minimum of one vigorous hour of exercise a day does wonders, as does spending time outdoors doing anything. My husband can always tell which has been the case by my level of calmness vs craziness at days end.

    Can't wait for this to be over.

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    1. I know, Tamara. When I look back on it now, I am actually glad I am now OLD! I think you might want to see your doctor because times have changed and I think there are all kinds of things out there to help with the transition. The author of the book I highlighted mentioned finally doing that and getting some estrogen cream and that really helped. But I will say, it will be over. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Rosy! Im Lyndsay, one of Ashleys friends in VA. I am a regular reader and I am so glad Ashley promotes the blog so I am reminded to check in regularly.

    My question: My mom is/ has been going through the change. Do you think I should get her "The Madwoman in the Volvo" for xmas?

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  4. Thanks for your comment, Lyndsay. I am glad you like my blog. Yes, I think your Mom would enjoy the book. It's very honest and funny. And it's hopeful. Also, send her my blog post! :)

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