One moment you’re a vivacious, healthy, happy go lucky woman, living life and looking forward to the future – the next you’re a sweaty mess of hot flashes, mood swings and utter fatigue.
Welcome to the glorious world of men-o-pause!
Oh, joy, oh, bliss! You hit the big 5-0 and were visited by the hormone fairy. I can’t tell you how grateful I felt the moment I received this “lovely” rite of passage.
The strange progression of menopause is a slow build—you don’t really see it coming… like an evil presence… just hovering, and waiting to attack! There are small signals and symptoms that pop up along the way, and for some women it starts with “pre-menopausal” symptoms that slowly pave their way to the ultimate body changing party! Wooooooohoooooo!
I remember the hot flashes started first. It began with a simple leg outside of the covers… like a hot summer night had approached. Then it turned into a violent throwing off of the covers a few months later. The heat was so overwhelming that five minutes after the onslaught, I was shivering out of control as the furnace in my body just kind of burned out.
The worst was when I went to pick up my son from work in the dead of winter and as he stepped into the vehicle; my face became a boiler room. I turned off the heat in the car, and blasted the cold air through the vents feeling the intense pleasure of a polar vortex all over my body. It was glorious! As I basked in this wonderful relief, I glanced over to see my sweet 18-year-old son hugging himself and shivering in the passenger seat. I suppose he was thinking what I was thinking… "We’re a family, we suffer together! All for one and one for all!” The more likely thought going through his head was, “Why has my mom gone crazy?”
Crazy… That’s the word that keeps playing over and over in your head as you start to question your own thoughts and actions.
Even the most easy-going, laid back individual in the world cannot escape this inevitable curse. Now, that’s not to say that everyone experiences the same thing—on the contrary. I have two sisters, and we have all felt and dealt with this “monster” in our own way. When my older sister started menopause, none of us really knew. She did not experience any major symptoms, only some mild hot flashes and the physical changes were minimal. It came and went like an annoying house guest that you only had to deal with for a short time.
A couple of years later, I was just beginning my menopause journey, although I didn’t realize it right away. One of the biggest, scariest things was the weird, random memory loss. I had never experienced anything like it, and I wasn’t aware it was even possible until one day when we decided to go visit my parents in another state.
I hadn’t seen my folks in about a year, so I decided to take my boyfriend to finally meet them. As we drove into their neighborhood I had my boyfriend turn into a parking lot entrance with a bunch of townhouses. We turned to the left (as I always had), but as I looked around, something seemed off. I didn’t recognize any cars or the front porch area of my parent’s home, and the place seemed oddly unfamiliar. My partner looked at me and asked, “Are you sure it’s this entrance? Maybe you forgot because you haven’t been here in a while.”
I was agitated… and quite offended! I shot back stating, “I think I know where my parents live! It’s always been the first entrance!” I couldn’t believe he could even ask me that question. How dare he?
We drove around the parking lot and I began to panic… Where the hell was their house? I couldn’t even remember the unit number! I decided to call my mom—I was so embarrassed. “Mom, what is the number of your unit? I can’t find you!” I said almost in tears.
She was concerned, but kind of laughing as she said, “We’re in unit 49, right in the middle.” I was clearly upset and panicky as I continued talking. She told us to pull out of the parking lot and go down to the second entrance! As we approached, there she was standing by the entrance waving, phone in hand, with a big smile on her face.
I broke down in tears not knowing how I could possibly forget a place I had been to a hundred times. Family get-together’s, Christmas, weddings…What the hell happened to me? My boyfriend tried to comfort me and assure me that, “Oh, these things happen.” At that moment… I just wanted to slap him in his smug, smiling face!
The next big change came like a thief in the night… No warning… Just a BAM! Here I am!
I used to pride myself on staying in shape and maintaining a great metabolism considering I was just over 50-years-old. I still wore shorts and camisole shirts or feminine muscle shirts in the summer, and felt very comfortable in a two piece bathing suit. Until… that dreadful spring day.
I was getting ready for work, smiling in the mirror, listening to music, and enjoying my lovely morning coffee. I was standing there in my towel after a shower; I raised my arms to pull back my hair, when I caught a movement! At first, I blinked, and then squinted my eyes as I gasped in disbelief! I put my arm straight out to my side of me and shook it. There…it… was.
The skin on the back of my arm jiggled like a baby elephants ear… This was a crushing blow.
While this new development took place, I was preparing to take part in my younger sister’s 50th birthday celebration. I found out her menopause friend had come so, I saw her as a kindred spirit. It was the end of February, snow was on the ground, and there was a crisp chill in the air. The house was full of happy people, lots of food, music—and my sister and I slowly dying from spontaneous human combustion! She was walking around in the middle of winter with a muscle shirt, and I was standing in the dining room with my head stuck out the patio door in a vain attempt to put out the campfire in my face.
I felt terrible for my sister as she seemed to be suffering much worse than I was. Apparently, her husband was very supportive and when I asked him how he was dealing with the mood swings, he simply laughed and said, “it’s actually kind of funny… It’s like having two wives!” What a trooper.
As the months wore on, I started noticing some small changes, dry skin, mild fatigue, low energy. I thought perhaps I was just in a rut so, I began making “energy drinks” and changing my diet a little (which was difficult to do in a house full of carb-o-holics). The rut I thought I was in turned into a crazy Jekyll and Hyde saga that left even me asking, “What the hell just happened????”
As the fatigue continued, I developed sudden and explosive mood swings, and it seemed my entire household was on “high alert.” One evening, I remember having a complete meltdown of epic proportion after realizing that someone, some Judas in my home, had double-dipped” in the veggie dip.
How could they?
My anger was apparent and I made sure everyone, every culprit knew how wrong, inconsiderate, disgusting and insulting this purely selfish act was! My life had become a tragedy… because they double-dipped.
At that moment, everyone was staring at me, like a deer caught in the head lights. I stormed out of the house and went for a drive to be free of these people! As I drove around town, no radio, just the sound of my voice as I muttered my disdain, I began to finally calm down. I pulled into a nearby parking lot, and cried.
What just happened??
It was only then that I realized I needed to do something, and fast. These mood swings were taking control of my body and my life, and turning me into… my mother… yikes! My family didn’t deserve this… I couldn’t have this. I went home and sat my family down for a long talk, and apologized for my insane and totally foreign behavior. I explained how utterly out of control I felt, and assured them that it wasn’t their fault… I was going to get the help I needed.
If they were secretly planning my demise they at least put their plans on hold for the moment, and tried to understand my plight.
I began to take stock of my own symptoms and how they were affecting me physically as well as how they were affecting my family. I wasn’t lucky enough to have a supportive partner like my sister so; I was concerned about the added stress.
I read everything!
I wanted to make this journey a homeopathic one. I did not want hormone replacement therapy, and I certainly did not want to take the anti-depressants that were recommended by a doctor. I didn’t even take cough medicine so, the idea of these harsh chemicals made me cringe.
My first target—the hot flashes! These were by far my “white whale.” I started taking black cohosh which seemed like the number one recommendation, and it worked well. I combined that with some all natural progesterone cream, and began putting flax seed in my meals—all of this to balance my hormones. Within two weeks, miracle of miracles! The hot flashes subsided, and my moods seem to stabilize… I was getting back to my old self.
I began to really look into my diet because it was evident that my metabolism had changed, and keeping the weight off was more of a challenge. I tried several different workouts until I found a great one I liked, and even began taking supplements. It’s weird how your body can change like what seems overnight, and every day there’s a new, “Are you kidding me with this?” moment.
All in all, it really just takes research, and a great sense of humor to get you through the pre, existing, and post-menopausal stage of your life. It also helps to have the support of family and friends, and if you don’t… Well, I guess they better hope they don’t double-dip in your veggie dip!
Every woman has their own menopause survival kit… Mine includes a cornucopia of supplements for general health, flax and chia seeds for hormones, coconut oil for dry skin, collagen for brittle nails, meditation for mind and body, a personal password and lock on the thermostat… and of course, a great deal of wine in the fridge for everyone else’s protection and wellbeing.
Don’t despair, ladies… This too shall pass!