Just because the sun sets on one stage in our lives, it will always rise in another
(Photograph by Sam Rose)
There, I have said it – the very word that many women deny all involvement with or are embarrassed to even say, preferring the words ‘I am at that time of life’ or ‘a lady of a certain age’ but very few will say ‘Hey sweetie, I am in the menopause – let’s have an ovary party and celebrate the retirement of my reproductive organs’
I wonder if there is there an element of embarrassment associated with this time of a woman’s life? Has society got some unwritten rule that it should not be discussed and to do so is like admitting that you are on the slippery slope down to old age, incontinence, big knickers and genitals like Wallace and Gromit’s mouth (letter box).
I recall once having a discussion about menopause (you know, just women’s talk) with a lady who I shall refer to as ‘Ethel’ in her mid 50s and she said to me in a guarded voice ‘Oh no, I am not there yet, nowhere near it in fact – years away’, then she nodded several times for good measure and self reassurance.
It was said with such ferocity and passion that I could imagine her as an 80 year old lady in a nursing home claiming that her ovaries still have the fertility capability of a nubile 20 year old while saying ‘Still a long way off yet, no menopause for me yet dear’.
Or perhaps when she has passed on, it will be on her grave stone ‘Ethel, died aged 100 years old but by God her ovaries went to the grave good as new’
Tales of Horror…
I am not going to lie though, the stories that I have heard about menopause have been pretty scary. Things like light bladder weakness (LBL) and peeing yourself if you cough, laugh or don’t get to a toilet straight away are somewhat alarming.
Have you seen adverts showing pads for LBL that omit a pleasant perfumed odour if you ‘leak’, well who in the name of God invented those? Imagine people get to recognise the perfume that is secreted on these pads and the minute they smell it, they point at you and yell ‘Oh my god, she has pissed herself!’ You may as well put a high viz vest on saying ‘LBL’.
Claims that pelvic floor exercises are next to Godliness obviously have some truth in it and up until now I have never paid much attention to it and why would I? Clenching myself for counts of ten at bus stops have never been on my agenda, mind you I never get the bus so I suppose I could do it in Coles supermarket with the end result being a pelvic floor you could crack coconuts with. Now that is something to aim for (cracking coconuts I mean and not urinating yourself).
Hot flushes, mood swings, weight gain – come on ladies, we know the score and have read all about the symptoms. We have all heard about the Pandoras box of hormones that Mother Nature chucks at us when our time of life is nearing so let’s talk about it and those that don’t like it can turn around and put their fingers in their ears the way they do when Trump gives a speech or poverty adverts come on TV.
The Puzzle that is my Body
If you have read my previous blogs you will know that I have an auto immune disease and adrenal insufficiency. My fight or flight hormones are not as they should be and sometimes I think that my hormones are having a party and I am not invited but that’s adrenals for you, they are a bit naughty like that.
Anyway, the other month I had my hormones checked for menopause because at 49 years old, surely it has to be on the way, I mean really it must. My last test was negative and I was in the ‘Who me? I am nowhere near it, years away club’ because at that time I wasn’t anywhere near it and I wasn’t in that famous Egyptian river of ‘denial’ either – I still had the hormones of a non menopausal woman.
But this time I went to get my results from my doctor and I sat patiently waiting for her to read them to me.
She frowned at the results and said ‘You are in Peri-menopause, have you noticed any symptoms?’
Feeling a mixture of shock and ‘where the fuck has my youth gone?’ plus a good measure of happiness and ‘Yee ha, does this mean I am a grown up?’, I told her that no, I hadn’t had any symptoms and I certainly wasn’t peeing myself when I coughed/sneezed or sweating like joint of gammon in a butchers window.
‘Well you are there, your results show you are definitely in it (Peri-menopause)’. She confirmed and then as quickly as you like, she changed the subject on to something else leaving me wondering where my certificate of congratulations was.
Congratulations – I think….
After my consultation, I decided that after that news I should celebrate with a bacon roll and a lovely healthy can of coke plus a bag of chocolate covered peanuts (yes I know, crap food and all that stuff – not one gram of toss was given that day about that).
Nothing can prepare you for how you might feel for being told you are starting menopause. It’s a normal healthy part of being a woman – even if the symptoms can be awful. Suddenly you have left the ‘No not me, I’ve got years ahead of me yet’ club, and you have entered the ‘Shit, it’s actually happening’ club.
Whilst munching on my bacon roll, I digested the news and wondered how in the name of fluffy kittens did I not know such a significant process was taking place in my body? I mean really, how. did. I. not. know?
I had plans in my mind that when it happened, I would be greeted with some hot flushes and night sweats that would take the top off my head and blow steam out of my ears and nose while my face went bright red and hot enough to fry an egg on.
I had plans that I would be on the phone to my sister discussing my hot flushes and minge problems in true girly fashion and had I been living in the UK, we could have done that over a glass of wine or three and chocolate coated peanuts. There are baby showers, hens parties so why not menopause parties, we could have a cake in the shape of a lady-garden and everyone could bless it or something.
And really, why should it not be celebrated when we have gone through so much to get that title of ‘Peri-menopausal’?
Because I actually believe that it should come with a ‘certificate of achievement’ and a trophy to make up for the years of periods, period pain, PMS, plus the vast amount of money spent on sanitary protection and painkillers, not to mention the hassles of birth control and a week of hating anything with penis.
I had plans that I would have sensible and respectable chats with other women at the same stage of life as myself, we could discuss and compare symptoms over a Chai Latte and a custard cream biscuit. But most of all I had plans that I would know that it was happening, like a gentle tap on the shoulder and the ‘Menopause Fairy’ saying ‘Samantha, it is time – welcome to Peri-Menopause, take my hand and I shall show you the way’.
But no, not even a ‘Catch ya later flappy vag, Estrogen is now leaving the building! Hope you enjoyed the ovarian cyst we gave you last year bitch, enjoy the hot flushes when they arrive and god bless your lady garden because it’s sure gonna need it!’ Nothing, not a thing, no warning – I mean how disrespectful!
It was like some secret hormonal party was taking place in my body and until the doctor told me, I had not been privy to any part of it. Any hopes that I had of that magical moment of realising something different was happening to me, had been cruelly dashed because I genuinely did not have a clue.
In fact I reckon my ovaries have blindfolded me in the night, kidnapped me and let me out in planet menopause wondering where the hell I am and how did I get there – like Back to the Future with Marty McFly but no chance of turning the clock back.
It was with some elation that I drove back to work that morning, once it had sunk in that is. Because my body cannot do anything normally, I can’t get coughs or colds because of my overactive immune system. Even my periods have never really been normal and only lasted 3 or 4 days if that and sometimes they never rocked up at all but then again, adrenal insufficiency can play a nice game of ‘hide and seek’ with your menstrual cycle so I have discovered.
So this news was actually very good to hear because for the first time in a long time, I was normal and that actually feels quite good.
On the way back to the office I sat waiting at the traffic lights in my car, blasting out ‘Rebel Yell’ and feeling very ‘rock chick’. I scoffed the rest of those damned chocolate peanuts like a starving person and rebelliously took swigs of coke from the bottle while waiting for the green light. It was at that moment that I decided that I was more than entitled to my very own mid life crisis, but what form that will take remains to be seen as I am still planning that one.
‘How did your appointment go?’ My husband asked me when I got home from work.
‘Great, I have started menopause!’ I beamed at him and then quite suddenly felt like a grown up for saying it out loud – did this mean I had to start acting like one?
‘Since when?’ husband asked looking surprised.
‘Doctor said judging by my hormone results it must have been a while, so I don’t know’ I shrugged my shoulders and poured myself a glass of wine.
‘How come you didn’t know? I thought all women knew this stuff?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know but I plan to call my sisters and discuss my hot flushes with them and talk about menopause symptoms’ I told him and then gulped my wine down rather too quickly because I was still thirsty from the bacon roll and the chocolate peanuts.
‘But you haven’t had any hot flushes or symptoms’ my husband started to say.
‘They are coming, I don’t know when but I have heard most women get them and I should think mine are on their way and then I will blow steam out of my ears and nose’ I said knowingly. Like I would know, my hormones never tell me anything the bastards – but that is how I imagine it to be like and I am sure it will be.
Later that night
I stared at my reflection in the mirror from different angles wondering if I had changed, surely something like this happening means that you notice changes. Shouldn’t the lady-garden suddenly look like a wizened prune or something, or grow a grey goatee beard just like Billy Connolly’s?
Or would it wear a pair of horn-rimmed old ladies spectacles and look at me with a newly acquired look of disapproval if I didn’t act my age. But no, I still looked the same and there was no grey goatee panty beard, no horn rimmed glasses and no disapproving looks -nothing at all.
Well now I am officially in the Peri-menopause club, I shall at some point be discussing the hot flushes (when they start) with my sisters over the phone with a glass of wine and lets not forget those chocolate peanuts because I can wholly recommend stuffing a bag of those babies down in celebration when you get this kind of news.
How do I feel? I feel kind of mature, a bit like a grown up that has risen above any childish antics. I have a kind of peaceful serenity about me to the point I may go and start listening to Cliff Richard and bake muffins (and if you believe that, you believe anything!)
Now if you will excuse me, I have to go and work on the book that I am writing about dogs that talk, do childish things and have social lives.
Peri-menopause – now wearing that badge and totally owning it.
Samantha Rose (C) Copyright October 2016
Cliff Richard songs – in a crisis only Cliff will do
Chocolate covered peanuts – your life saver