As I weave through the months following my 50th birthday, I wonder when menopause is going to ambush me.
I thought it was stalking me a few years back, when my lady plumbing went totally haywire.
So. Much. Blood.
Since my embolization and ablation procedures there’s hardly any blood, which makes it harder to know what’s actually going on down there.
But the PMT is slamming me for longer and more frequently. Sometimes I only get a week’s break from the bitch before she returns to slap me around again.
The last bout was arduous. It lasted about 12 days.
I panicked on Monday when my period briefly arrived and the misery didn’t leave. It normally lifts the moment the blood descends.
But this time around I had to wait another 24 hours for relief.
And now I feel zen again.
People give me lots of advice on what I should be doing about my mood swings. Evening Primrose Oil is a common one. But it doesn’t seem to do much good. I should probably be getting an expert opinion, but there’s never time.
So I just cope instead.
Yesterday, I read a harrowing but fascinating article by Rose George in The Guardian about her battle with menopause and it’s accompanying “low mood” stretches.
She kicked it off by describing waking up in the throws of despair: “I know already that this is a bad day, one when I feel assaulted by my hormones, which I picture as small pilots in those huge Star Wars armoured beasts that turn me this way and that, implacable. On this morning, I wake up with fear in my stomach – fear of nothing – and I know it will be a bad day.”
There are days when I feel that way and grimly gird myself to face the world.
George discusses a phone call with her mother, who doesn’t really get why her daughter is having a “bad” day. “If it’s that bad, how am I talking on the phone and sounding all right?” her mother wonders.
George explains: “Because I am a duck: talking serenely above, churning below, the weight on my chest, the catch in my throat, the inexplicable distress.”
I am a duck too.
George notes: “I do not count as depressed. Instead, I am one of the women of menopause, who struggle to understand why we feel such despair, why now we cry when before we didn’t, why understanding what is left and what is right takes a fraction longer than it used to: all this is “low mood” or “brain fog”. These diminishing phrases convey nothing of the force of the anguish or grief that assault us.”
I feel a kinship with her confession. This can be me, and then, 24 hours later, I’m high on life again.
I don’t always have enough resilience to deal with the tough stuff. I’m like a vulnerable turtle that’s lost its shell.
As George admits: “On the good days, I am at peace with my age, with what I have done, with who I am, menopausal or not. I delight in what I can do, and when I run, I hurtle headlong down a steep descent with the joy of a child, aged nearly 50. But on other days, that woman seems like someone else.”
Researchers wonder whether women feeling depressed in menopause are actually just experiencing the ups and downs of life. Is it the hot flushes – which I don’t have yet – and sleeplessness that are making us miserable, rather than the hormonal fluctuations? Or are we just feeling diminished by life’s challenges?
Some scientists argue that our depressive symptoms are a mourning for who we were and what is to come. We are apparently suffering from something called “the redundancy syndrome”.
Like George, I don’t agree with the scientists. I don’t mourn who I was, I am happy to be free of those rules and restrictions. Yes, I’m worried about what’s coming, but I dont think that’s what is bringing me down.
My fear is that I’ve finally been given a chance later in life to “be myself” and something will be taken away by menopause. I want to stay as I am … just without the hormonal fluctuations that make some days feel like I’m walking through treacle.
I want more time on this side of menopause. So much more time.
The new me isn’t ready to regenerate again quite so soon.
Why am I telling you this? Menopause is supposed to be an off-limits topic. You’re meant to keep to yourself about it.
As George notes: “The only acceptable place for menopause is in menopause jokes. The humour that masks distress and shame. The woman in a meeting who laughs off her sweating, who talks of ‘power surges’. The comedians and their mothers-in-law and their hot flushes. What if it came out of jokes and into accepted conversation?”
So I’m bringing it into conversation, just in case you’re feeling the same way and are worried that you’re going mad.
I want you to know you’re not alone. We’re in this together. The worse might not be over yet, but we’re going to be OK.
I’m lucky to be back among the good days again. Life is filled with excitement and promise. I am smiling at everything and nothing.
Throw anything at me and I’ll catch it. It might be a different story in a fortnight but right now I’m winning.
Hello Wednesday! What have you got in store for me?
Song of the day: No Doubt “Don’t speak”