Menopause

For the more dignified ladies in their 40’s-50’s, I am writing this article about menopause which I had to look up to spell.  I still get confused when saying menustration which is actually menstruation.  Easy to do slang with something you don’t like to deal with.  Funny how both words start with “men.”  One sounds like a combination of administration and men, while the other sounds like you are putting men on hold.  But don’t we do that with both words, during this time?

The nice thing about menstruation, if there is one, is that you know you are on your period.  Duh!  The bad thing about menopause is that you have no clue when it begins and you never exactly know when it ends.  I believe it is supposed to be when you have ceased to have a period for one year or more. 

For me, this time of life is just as confusing as I am not sure if I am going through menopause right now or if it is just because I am older that my periods are different. 

It all started when I got off the pill in my late 30’s.  I read somewhere that in your 40’s, the Ortho Novum is not good for your body.  I think the newer birth control pills are okay though.  I did use Yaz during one relationship in my 40’s.  Anyway, it wasn’t right away but by the time I was 40, I had gained one size, sometimes two, depending on the clothes and went up several cup sizes.  Sure, the larger breasts would be great if I were a model on some beefcake show but I am not.  I am 5′,5″ and when I lost the weight and went back to my normal size 8, my body could no longer tolerate the excess on top.  I haven’t gotten a reduction yet either, though I intend to.  Nerves!

On top of having the weight issue, I also began to have my menstrual cycle occur every three months.  This was not good since I was in a relationship.  I kept thinking I was pregnant, even though I WAS using contraceptives.  I kept having to spend money on pregnancy tests and I didn’t like that.  The cycle confusion occurred for a year and hasn’t happened since. 

Now I am 48 and in retrospect began to realize that a lot of bad things started happening in my life a few years ago.  I didn’t pick up on it at first but over time began to associate very bad depression and moodiness that occurred during my menstrual cycle.  It took me some time, even though I am a psychotherapist, because I didn’t want to admit it but also I was so busy taking care of others I didn’t have time to put two and two together.  I am not talking about depression where I couldn’t get out of bed.  Most people think this is always depression.  Children often manifest depression through anger or moodiness.  Adults can too.  It didn’t occur to me that when I was the most pissed off it was during my cycle.  I also didn’t realize that the rest of the month I was okay.  That is because I was working as a social worker for most of this time and there was a lot that pissed me off.  Realizing that one time was worse than another, didn’t sink in.

I also began to realize that my cycles were different, sometimes heavier and a day or two longer.   I would have headaches that would linger on the heavier days and Tylenol just wouldn’t always work.  I also don’t like using medication at all, so sometimes I did my best to get through it.

The anger from my depression is so bad that sometimes I wonder myself what I was thinking.  A few days after, I am constantly having to apologize to people. I have even tried to prepare myself.  Having a mantra in my head telling me that the next two days are going to be rough and I should remember that I am on my period, not depressed.  Unfortunately, the impulsiveness in the way the “crisis” will affect me tends to make me forget the mantra.  Next month I am going to try to hang up a piece of paper on my computer and mirror, to see if that helps!

The other issue that I have discovered in the past few years is that my memory and cognitive capabilities have weakened.  It looks like it is called “Expressive Aphasia,” or Broca’s aphasia, and yes, I had to look this up too.  This is extremely difficult when you are a professional and you are trying to think of a word. I have had other professionals look at me oddly.

I am petrified of having dementia, especially since my maternal grandfather and his brother both had a type of this brain disorder.  Both my mother and sister have the same problem with speech.  We can be all sitting together talking and one of us has to try to finish what the other is attempting to say.  We forget people’s names all the time, even getting our own family mixed up.  This is why I write because I can look things up and no one knows how long it takes me to finish a blog article.  Though if I write during the monthly cycle, yikes!  This is usually deleted in a couple of days.

All the women in my immediate family and my maternal grandmother had a hysterectomy – except me.  This happened before they went through menopause.  Of course they all had normal menstruation but I began at 15 1/2.  My sister is now having hot flashes – post hysterectomy last summer.  I have never had a hot flash.  This is why I thought it would be good to write about menopause.  Am I in menopause?  Or is this just my age that is causing me to go through these changes?

I felt that if I wrote about my experience with what may or may not be, other women could relate.  Maybe you too are going through the crisis that doesn’t look normal but you aren’t sure if it is the m-word.  Since I haven’t had any issues with my period, other than the changes I spoke of earlier, it comes every month without fail.

Some other issues I want to mention, because at this stage of the game it all comes in one fell swoop.  The body shifting downward.  It goes very slowly in your forties – thank goodness.  Again, I am small so I don’t know what it is like for other body types.  Since my cup size increased dramatically in my late thirties, that of course has weighed me down heavily.  I can actually crack my back at night once I remove the chain mail which holds me up, and lift myself up naturally with my hands.  The other place I noticed was in my hips and chin.  I don’t have wrinkles per se, but I have noticed some of my face is beginning to slope under the chin.  It has actually tightened up my face more.  And where I once was able to have the hip definition so I could wear French cut panties, those same pairs look like briefs now.  That is because my hips have begun to slope down as well.  I used to do modelling in my twenties.  I have a photo of myself in a bikini in my bathroom, with the French cut.  It is amazing how different I look now.  This is how I am able to guage the differences too.

Age is different on each person.  I presume menopause is as well.  The signs don’t come with an alarm like your first period and they don’t end with a signal either.  The time in between is difficult and this is an understatement.  There are no movies, that I am aware of (but please mention some if there are).  I am an avid foreign film fan and even here, you will see older women but generally it is related to romance and children, not necessarily menopause.  American movies are so ridiculous and get younger all the time, as I get older.  Celebrities over 40 look so tight and big lipped and disproportioned, it is hard to know which are real and which are fake.  Now, I look at all celebrities very closely on the screen and wonder – is she ageing gracefully and is she really this perfect or was there a knife somewhere.  The bets are still out on Susan Lucci who continues to be gorgeous but never seems to look like there has been a plastic surgeon in her corner.  I keep thinking, maybe her eyes?   But I am just not sure.  She does obsess over Pilates, so who knows?  Maybe this works everywhere. I can’t do it because my body is not as flexible as it used to be.  Even yoga is too hard.  Arthritis creeping in.  Pilates forces bladder issues that I don’t have with yoga, so I tried it once and said forget it.

I realize I have written quite a bit here but you know, with a topic that we rarely hear about, with the exception of a comedian here and there, it’s about time.

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