|Dear Menopause: Leave Me Alone|
|Written by Shirley Weir|
Learning to redefine the experience of menopause
You are a stranger to me. 40 still seems like a number that will never come. I’m pregnant and aside from sore boobs, I can’t say I’m feeling any “hormonal shift”.
Don’t get me wrong—I know you exist. My older sister met you early, when she was 36. Having radiation treatments as a child likely played a role and her doctors were sure HRT (hormone replacement therapy) was the right answer for someone reaching menopause at such a young age (51.2 is the average).
Besides my sister, I don’t know anyone who is currently in the ring with you. You are never part of my day-to-day conversations, and I rarely think of you.
Dear Menopause, leave me alone so I can cuddle with my newborn and pretend that time will stand still for all of us.
You, and old age (“old” is the equivalent of “menopause”, isn’t it?) are still a long way off. I’m far too busy taking care of toddlers, running a business and my aging mother has moved in with us.
Have I mentioned I’m feeling a little stressed lately? I wake up every night at 3 a.m. wired and can’t get back to sleep. I have the worst brain fog ever. I’m so busy, yet so tired. I can make a list, but I can’t seem to concentrate long enough to get anything done!
My best girlfriend handed me a gift today—it’s a book about perimenopause.
“Peri-who?” you ask. I had the same reaction. Who has time to think about anything menopause-related now? Not me! Can’t you see I’m b-u-s-y?
Dear Menopause, leave me alone so I can willfully deny that’s you tapping on my door.
Oh hello there. I thought I pressed the pause button on you and this merry-go-round. But my boobs hurt. Again. And this time, I’m not pregnant. I’m irritable and short-tempered. I have PMS for the first time. I’m exercising and gaining weight. I’m depressed and anxious.
I’m still not handling stress well, the brain fog and forgetfulness has grown worse and that middle-of-the-night alarm clock has taken up permanent residence.
My periods are still regular, but there are new things happening: low libido and chin hair.
Really? This is the thanks I get?
I’m concerned, so I’m going to take action. I’m sure there is something—even one thing—I can do to bypass you, keep you from infiltrating my full agenda.
I’m reading books. I’m trying to sort out the controversy of HRT vs. bio-identical HRT vs. “au naturel”. I’m consulting Dr. Google. I’m discovering plenty of confusing, conflicting information—along with pop-up ads for how I could “lose my belly fat in 7 easy steps”.
I casually mentioned my symptoms to my doctor. It was following a PAP test when she said, “Is there anything else?”
“I think I’m experiencing perimenopause,” I replied. She looked at me, and then looked at my chart.”
“Oh, you’re 41…you’re too young.”
I heard: “It’s all in your head.”
Dear Menopause, leave me alone. I think I’m showing signs of early dementia. I have no room in my life for you or your symptoms!
This is how the universe works: it gently taps, and if you don’t pay attention, the knock gets louder, and if you don’t answer, it can sometimes hit you over the head with a brick.
Ok, I hear you. You’re demanding I take notice; you want me to get informed, and to find a journey that’s right for me.
Au revoir willful denial—I am in the thick of perimenopause now. It’s not only the list of symptoms that disguised themselves as other things, but there are changes to my period now too. (Who knew it would change? I assumed it would just stop like a switch.)
The good news is my brain is actually absorbing the info from the books and experts I speak with, and I’m learning the benefits of proactive stress reduction, nutritional supplements, and exercise.
I’ve cracked open the conversation—with friends, health experts, my husband and even some strangers — to find I’m not alone, and everyone has a unique experience. What may be right for me is not necessarily right for others. However, if nobody is talking about it, how will we learn and manage? How will we redefine this natural life transition for our daughters and our daughters’ daughters?
While en route to learn everything I could about estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, I also learned the risks of high cortisol: mood fluctuations, depression, increased body fat, worsening sleep and bone loss, to name a few. A century ago, women lived to be 50 and menopause was a non-event. Now, we expect to live to be twice that age—yet, women are filling retirement homes with osteoporosis and dementia-related diseases in record numbers.
Dear Menopause, I don’t want to be one of those numbers. What I do now will dramatically affect the vitality of my later years. I’m focused on how I eat, move and sleep, and how I manage stress. I understand you represent just one day on the calendar (marking the 12 month anniversary of my last period). I’m no longer begging you to leave me alone because I’m not scared of you anymore. I’m embracing this journey and I’m preoccupied with my newfound confidence, wisdom and joie de vivre. It’s time to rewrite the definition of menopause, so I can celebrate the positives (and quit focusing on only the negatives).