A natural process is discussed. Personal information is shared. Fair warning.
I know, I know, you’re too young for menopause.
Well, head’s up, my mom went through it at 36. Nope, no hysterectomy, just plain vanilla menopause at 36. I was worried I’d start young, too, until I got pregnant with kid #3 at 38. I scoffed at menopause. Ha! I flaunt my fertility!
Then I got to 45. And, weirdly, the first symptoms weren’t (ahem) girl-part related. No, I just couldn’t sleep.
I’d been a light sleeper for years. What parent isn’t? What member of a cat’s staff isn’t? There’s a sound that can propel me from a deep sleep to running down the hall at Usain Bolt speeds, no coffee needed…it’s the sound of regurgitation, human or feline. But around age 45, I was waking up after two hours of sleep for absolutely no reason. And I couldn’t get back to sleep. Even my soporific standby, the Weather Channel, didn’t lull me back to dreamland.
The insomnia, while aggravating, was only occasional. Once every couple of months. Then once a month. Then a couple of times a month. When I started having trouble every week, I bought some over-the-counter sleeping pills. Now, every night is a crapshoot. Will I fall asleep, only to waken after two lousy hours? Will I sleep all night with no trouble at all? Will I never fall asleep, but spend the entire night fretting about not sleeping? I can understand why Michael Jackson took such drastic measures to get to sleep. It’s frustrating and faintly horrifying to be exhausted, yet unable to fall or stay asleep.
After about two years of sleep problems, the hot flashes started. Slowly, at first. Just a slight flush. Now, well, now I understand why women of a certain age stop wearing makeup. Why bother if you’re just going to sweat it off?
Then the night sweats hit, as if I didn’t have enough sleep problems already.
And the mental fogginess. Walking into a room with a purpose, only to halt two steps in without a single clue why I was there. I’ve taken to muttering what I need whenever I go to a different room in the house. And making lists of absolutely everything. I can’t rely on my memory when I walk into Target anymore.
Finally, the girl cycle stuff. Sometimes I go without for two months, sometimes I hit the “lottery” twice a month. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, which just irritates me. And yeah, a lot of things irritate me now.
So this nonsense has been going on for five years. Surely the end is in sight. Au contraire, my friend. Here’s the lowdown, from the Mayo Clinic:
“Perimenopause, also called the menopausal transition, is the interval in which a woman’s body makes a natural shift from more-or-less regular cycles of ovulation and menstruation toward permanent infertility, or menopause.
Women start perimenopause at different ages. In your 40s, or even as early as your 30s, your may start noticing the signs. Your periods may become irregular — longer, shorter, heavier or lighter, sometimes more and sometimes less than 28 days apart. You may also experience menopause-like symptoms, such as hot flashes, sleep problems and vaginal dryness. Treatments are available to help ease these symptoms.
Once you’ve gone through 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, you’ve officially reached menopause, and the perimenopause period is over.”
So what I thought of as menopause was actually perimenopause. Ok, how long does this last? From WomenToWomen.com:
“You might start to notice symptoms as early as 10–15 years before your period completely stops.”
Are they kidding??? I could be going through perimenopause for longer than all three of my kids are going through adolescence? (And that’s a ring of hell Dante forgot to mention — perimenopausal mom with three hormonally-challenged teenagers.) Also, doctors are really reluctant to prescribe the “treatments” the Mayo Clinic says can help ease symptoms. If you’ve had a period in the last 12 months, they don’t want to hear your whining. Although, it’s entirely possible that just my doctor doesn’t want to hear my whining.
My advice? Take your nutrition and exercise a bit more seriously. There’s some evidence that a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins along with moderate exercise can help minimize the perimenopausal symptoms. Keep track of the changes, like trouble sleeping, a hitch in your normal cycle, so you have facts for your doctor (and yourself…you’re probably not actually going crazy, even though it may feel that way). Try to be a little more careful with your health; consciously take time to relax and enjoy yourself. If this s**t lasts 15 years, you’re gonna need to develop some mad coping skills. And maybe stock up on some wine.
- Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes of Life (aiminglow.com)
- House Call: Menopause and Depression (myfox8.com)
- Female Hormonal Changes and Anxiety (reducestress4u.wordpress.com)
- Woman’s Doc: Perimenopausal ‘brain fog’ (wbaltv.com)
- A healthy menopause (timesunion.com)
- Booze and fruit ease effects of the menopause (scotsman.com)