Life, Menopause

Understood

This life thing, it’s a head-scratcher.

We are all just trying to figure things out, aren’t we?

But at the the end of the day, all we want is to be understood.


Menopause cry journal courtesy of Mary Ruefle/ I have something very similar but mine is a migraine journal full of big black M’s instead of C’s

 

Two weeks ago, a friend texted me a link to an article written by Mary Ruefle titled Pause.

Mary wrote it in 2015 about her experience with menopause. I began my slow climb into the abyss that is perimenopause that same year. This piece was unlike anything I’d ever read before, almost like poetry for those who are hormonally-impaired. I had never felt so understood, so “seen”, because for the past five years I have felt like an outsider. 

I read it to myself a couple of times before reading it aloud to my husband while preparing coffee one morning. For the past five years, he has been alongside me on this most unenjoyable journey for the past five years. He hasn’t experienced the symptoms, but I imagine there are moments when being in his shoes, feeling helpless, is almost more difficult. 

I know that feeling all too well.

Feeling helpless.

Being held hostage by my body.


 

I’ve written about menopause 31 times since 2015. In some ways, you could say it has been my silent writing companion.

Documenting the time I needed to paint a door blue for no apparent reason, or the day I learned I was officially in the grips of perimenopause, then needing therapy since perimenopause was raising my anxiety to levels beyond my ability to cope with them. I try to keep my posts light and sprinkled with humor so that you don’t worry about me, feel sorry for me, or decide to call the authorities.

 I felt as if I had written Mary’s piece when I read it. I’m pretty sure I didn’t because her words are much more poetic. You don’t have to persuade me that my writing is just as good as hers. I am not looking for a compliment. She is simply better at communicating what I haven’t been able to, which was a tremendous help to me. .

I finally feel less alone and validated in some way. 

See? I’m not making it up. It really is a thing.

 

Woman Looking at Sunset

“Reading this, or any other thing ever written about menopause, will not help you in any way, for how you respond to menopause is not up to you, it is up to your body, and though you believe now that you can control your body (such is your strength after all that yoga) you cannot.” -Mary Ruefle

 

Therapy has been such a blessing during the last several years. It is the one place where I can open up about what is going on inside my thoughts without fear of being criticized. Because even the most sympathetic individuals cannot comprehend it until they have experienced it themselves. 

On most days, I’ve felt as though I’m free falling. As if I’m making it up as I go. There have been days where I laugh and shrug about how I’m feeling, and other days when I’ve been brought to my knees.

I have never felt so powerless in my life. Of my emotions, my bodily functions, my pain.

 

Woman and Girl Using Tablet Computer

“Of course, you may be lucky: I know a woman who experienced menopause in no way whatsoever except that one day she realized it had been a couple of years since her last period, which was indeed her last.”- Mary Ruefle

I don’t have someone in my life who’s ever experienced perimenopause as difficult as I have. Which makes me feel like it’s all in my head, that I’m being overdramatic, and that there’s something wrong with me.

Something isn’t right with me. My body is resisting the changes it is going through. 

Someone once told me that, “Women have been going through this for years”, as if I am wrong in showing my suffering. I feel as if I should suffer in silence. As if I’m not as strong as all the other women who’ve come before me.

It has forced me to delve deeper into myself and to assess myself harshly than at any other time in my life. 


Person Showing Left Eye

“You hear a lot about hot flashes, but hot flashes are the least of it, totally inconsequential in every way: you get as hot as a steam iron at odd moments – so what? The media would have you believe that hot flashes are the single most significant symptom toward which you should direct your attention and businesses their products, but when I think of menopause I don’t think of hot flashes; I am not here to talk about hot flashes.” – Mary Ruefle

 

Recently, when I Googled “songs that can relate to menopause”, this was the first result:

“Women of a certain age” …

Like fucking Nelly has any understanding of how I am feeling.


Listen, hot flashes suck. But is that all there is to perimenopause? Not even close. 

It’s taking a moment to remember when your daughter’s birthday is.

It’s a deep grief that appears out of nowhere at some of your happiest moments.

It’s vertigo that strikes while you’re sitting up in the dental chair, and you teeter out of the office like you’re intoxicated.

It’s getting Invisalign on a whim at the age of 48. 

It’s migraines so horrible that you pray to die.

It’s wanting to slam into the driver who cut you off in traffic. 

It’s ending friendships because they can’t understand why you are so enraged about the tiniest of things (and you can’t either), but you can’t bear it any more and walk away. 

It’s going to the bathroom and sobbing, then walking out of the bathroom as if nothing happened.

It’s the sudden disappearance of essential hormones that your body has relied on for over 30 years. 

It’s not being able to tell even your closest friends and family what’s going on because if they heard everything, they’d assume something worrisome is going on. Then you start to suspect something worrisome is going on. And so the cycle continues. 

So yes, perimenopause is more than just hot flashes.


Silhouette Photo of Woman

“If you take the time to peruse the annals of any nineteenth-century asylum, as I have, you will discover that the ‘cause of admittance’ for all women over forty is listed as ‘change of life’.” – Mary Ruefle

 

For the past five years, it has felt like 20 years.

Am I losing my mind?” I once asked my husband while sitting on the couch at three in the morning with heart palpitations and fearing I was going to die right there on our couch at three in the morning.

“Am I losing my mind?” I asked the caring nurse as I sat in the emergency room, being admitted for a severe panic attack.

Am I losing my mind?” I have asked my neurologist as I explained why yet another migraine preventative wasn’t working.

Am I losing my mind?”  I wondered to myself as I lay in bed in the dark.


Female and Male Runners on a Marathon

“You may decide to take up an insane and hopeless cause. You may decide to walk to Canada, or that it is high time you begin to collect old blue china, three thousand pieces of which will leave you bankrupt. Suddenly the solution to all problems lies in selling your grandmother’s gold watch or drinking your body weight in cider vinegar. A kind of wild forest blood runs in your veins.” – Mary Ruefle

 

I think we all can agree what my “insane and hopeless cause is.

Writing a screenplay, “building” a John Hughes museum in my head, writing at a dead director’s grave

Etcetera. etcetera, etcetera.

 

channeling John Hughes

 

In the past five years alone, I have written an entire screenplay based on nonsense, painted six rooms in my house, painted my front door four different colors, and migrated my blog three times.

I wanted to learn to play guitar after hearing a Grammy performance by H.E.R.; I also wanted to shave the side of my head and dye the rest of my hair purple. No, silver. Or maybe pink? Or maybe get a full sleeve tattoo.

I wanted to be a home stager. When I didn’t want to be a professional organizer. When I didn’t want to go back to school and finish my bachelor’s degree.

I’d say there is definitely “wild forest blood” that’s been running in my veins.

Some call it a mid-life crisis but mine is more than likely perimenopause, which in some respects is a mid-life crisis. I am more than halfway done with my life, and it’s making me sad.

We should be allowed to be sad, to grieve, to mourn the loss of the ability to carry children regardless of whether you wanted more or not, the loss of what physically divides man and woman.

Do I miss my period? God, no. Do I miss my period? Sometimes, yes.


Grayscale Photo of Man, Woman, and Child

“The one thing no one will tell you is that these feelings and this behavior will last ten years. That is a decade of your life. Ask your doctor if this is true and she will deny it.” – Mary Ruefle

 

During my most recent visit to my gynecologist, I looked her dead in the eyes and told her, “you’re not doing any woman any favors by downplaying menopause.

There needs to be a best-selling book exposing the realities of menopause. Not the medical part of it, not the big pharma part of it, not the psychological banter part of it, the gritty reality of it. The Mary Ruefle version.

Be truthful with our daughters and granddaughters, our sisters, and our friends. Stop making it a taboo subject, only to be discussed sitting on a sterile table in an office while wearing a paper gown on or in hushed tones around a kitchen table with another female so that the men and children don’t hear.

Tell your stories publicly, demand more information and awareness from your doctor, and if they say there isn’t anything they can do, find a new doctor.

And share Mary’s piece with every woman you know who is struggling with menopause and beyond. Hell, share this piece with every woman you know who is struggling with menopause and beyond.

 

pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood, mom, mommy, teenagers, children
With my beautiful little humans circa 2015, when it all began

It would break my heart to think that when my daughters inevitably go through this, they would feel alone. That they would feel as though they have no one who they could relate to what they were going through. Perhaps they won’t have as difficult a time with perimenopause as their mother did. I pray to God that they don’t.

But if they do, I will offer these words:

You’re not alone. It’s not all in your head. It’s okay to bitch and moan about it. It’ll be challenging, but you’ll get through it. Why am I allowed to say this? Because I completely understand what you’re going through. I was right there.

37 thoughts on “Understood”

  1. Oh Kari, so many things to say. I am so sorry that you have had such a rough time with this. I feel like there’s so much talk about other stages of life for women but menopause is a subject that we just don’t spend a lot of time talking about other than like you said hot flashes. There’s so much more than just that.

    I am not there yet but I am so glad you wrote this and I will share it with everybody I know who might be going through it or who will.

    Sending you so much love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am always afraid to share posts like these because I am normally sharing funny, lighthearted stuff. So this one was very therapeutic to write but also putting myself out there a tiny bit.

      Thank you for sharing this. I am so glad my friend shared Mary’s post with me.

      Big hugs. 🙂

      Like

  2. I am on my way to being late for work, and I will write more later when I have real time, but I just wanted to say right now: Good for you for writing this AND hitting “publish.” That took guts. And I’m so sorry that you’ve been going through such an ordeal. I wish I could give you a hug through my screen.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have been searching for good/ informative books and blogs and just anything and everything having to do with perimenopause and menopause and it’s so sad how much this subject is lacking. I have a few friends who said it was no big deal at all just a few hot flashes and that’s it; never a mood swing or problem (and man I really hope I am in that category!) but I have heard so little about what to really expect. I get that everyone is different and all our bodies react differently, we react differently, etc. but still if more women were open and honest about what they were going through I think it would be amazing! If we talked about menopause even 1/2 as much as we all shard our birth stories we’d have such a better knowledge of what to expect.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So now that you wrote what’s in my head, what’s next? I’m in school to get my associates because I should have a degree. I want to homeschool because all my friends are doing it. I want to adopt a baby girl because I’m a cool mom and why not? I want to cry at the thought of raising another human.
    Sigh….. I thought I was crazy. I’m a low iron anemic who HATES hot flashes.
    But you, my dear soul mate, you I adore. I love you exponentially.
    You. Are. Not. Alone. and neither am I.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh soul mate, I had no idea you were going through this as well.

      FRIEND, we need to get together.

      You are not alone and all of those thoughts you’re having are all sane in relation to what we are going through.

      So I will support you all the way.

      Ps- if you want a girl, my girls will be willing to be your adoptive kids. Ella adores her Auntie Sidney.
      I do too.

      I love you so much. 💜

      Like

  5. You have tremendous guts to lay your soul bare like this.  And you have a gift for writing – about anything and everything – that makes this entry so relatable. Of course, I can’t first-hand relate to what you are going through, but I can sure sympathize. 

    A million and one fist pumps for what you’ve written and your kindness in sharing your story with others.  You’re helping people. A negative turns into a positive.

    Pretty amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for this. The male perspective is hugely important to this. To all the men (my husband included) who are supportive to the women going through this, they need to know how important their role is. ❤️

      Like

  6. First of all, menopause lasts *that* long?! I had no idea, figured it was like a one year thing.

    Second, I’m sorry it is so difficult. It sounds maddening (and a lot like bipolar, so I guess my bipolar will have some bipolar in a few years). Hugs to you ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It took me 7 years from start to finish. My way of making peace with the long time was that by the time the “day of menopause” (1 year since last period) occurred I was more emotionally ready for it. Do I still feel sad about not being younger? Yes. But there is a certain peace I have now. And wisdom. And wrinkles. But peace and wisdom. And quiet inside myself. No longer the wild horse rage.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kari- so sorry to hear that you have been dealing with this. How awful! I often wonder have I started menopause or is there more to come? It is an unknown for sure. You’re right- hot flashes is the only thing I ever hear about. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences here. You might be changing paint colors often, but you are a brave changing-paint-colors gal! Hope this gets easier for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes, yes, yes. I relate to what you’re saying and applaud you for saying it. I survived menopause, something that for me pretty much jumped out of nowhere unexpectedly and said, “screw you, darling. Time to be a different woman now.” In the end I’ve decided that getting through the process was lousy, but necessary. Menopause ain’t for wimps, I’ll say that. Of course you know that, right?

    Like

    1. AMEN. Maybe we should make tee-shirts that say, “Menopause Aint for Wimps”. I will share the profits with you. 🙂

      Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. It is so good to hear from women who are on the other side of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m so sorry you’re suffering like this and hope you’re wrapping up this BS. Women get SO SCREWED with our bodies and then how we’re treated/paid on top of it all and men are all “weeeee, I’m writing my name in the snow with my wiener!” *smack* Thank you for writing about this because I’m seriously ticked at our mom’s and grandma’s for this line…”just you wait!” “For what?” “YOU’LL SEE!” That does us a disservice and it’s something to share and prepare those we love for this time that can make you feel like you’re alone. When I talk to my cousin and she gripes about getting older (at 28…double smack), I tell her very seriously “you have 7 years until your body starts to betray you in ways you can’t imagine. Enjoy leaping out of bed without thinking about it. Enjoy not picking something up and say “that’s gonna hurt tomorrow.”” I’m as honest as can be about getting older and tell people “you swear you will never be that way…you will. Accept it and plan for it.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comments make my day, I hope you know this.
      Betrayed by the women before us. That sounds like a great title for a bestselling book about menopause. Dontcha think?

      And thank you for the comment about men and peeing words in snow and not getting “it”. There is a line from the show Mad About You when Jaimie (first STRONG female character for that time period) says to her husband Paul something like, “oh please, you’d have one cramp and kill yourself” about being a woman.

      Like

  11. Write the book! Write the book write the book write the book. WRITE THE BOOK! Kari, I don’t believe in god. I haven’t for a long time. I don’t believe in souls, afterlife, deja vu, karma, or any of that. I wish I did, but I don’t. But you know what? When you said Nibbles had a soul, I believed you. When you said that you believed in old souls and young souls, I believed it too. When you smudged your house and talked about bad juju, I believed it. You are an amazing writer with the capacity to change minds. You write with passion, and truth, and humor. You said you didn’t know what to write a book about, and then in this very post you said someone should write a book about menopause. You’ve written about it 31 times. WRITE THE BOOK! Write the book, Kari. Write the book.

    Write the book so that when I go through it I can read it. And write it so that when your daughters go through it they can read it. Write the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re making me cry. For real. I am not being dramatic.
      Thank you so much for saying all of that. I know you aren’t just saying it, I know you really mean it. So thank you so fucking much from the bottom of my heart.
      Now I need to get off my butt and take your advice and write the damn book already.

      Like

  12. Hey lady! I read this post the other day but had to return and comment because I’ve thought about it a lot. First, I’m sorry you’ve been in the thick of menopause madness. Last year I read an article on HuffPo titled “This is what no one tells women about what happens to your body in your 40s” and it was so validating and helpful as I was experiencing so much of it, but feeling crazy. I shared it with all of my college friends. And we all agreed. And also, why did we not know any of this?!? So I applaud you for writing this. It will help others! And I hope it helps you too.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m not even going to pretend to understand everything that you’re going through. I’m not in the same situation that you are. You are in the thick of it and I’m not. No two women have the same experiences. The one thing I can do is be here for you. I may not know the right things to say or the right things to do but I’m here for you, no matter what.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Kari, this is so beautifully written from your heart; it touched me. I’m teetering back and forth from starting menopause to being that damn girl buying the tampons. Hot flashes and moody when I’m not bleeding to death. I never knew it until I started going through it that there was such an emotional side to menopause; and by emotion, I mean anger. I found myself snapping at my sweet husband for no reason other than he was in the vicinity. It’s horrible.
    I’ve not experienced as much as you, even though I’m older than you, I’m probably just late to the party. (I didn’t start my period until I was 16-so, I’m late for everything I think)
    I love that you shared all the things that are racing through your head and I think it’s pretty awesome that you are acting on some wild little things such as painting rooms, and possibly starting new careers; where is the harm?
    I’m happy that you have a therapist where you feel safe to vent your ‘craziness feelings’ to because we all need an outlet.
    I also loved reading Mary’s piece; what a poetic writer she is as well.
    Take care-

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for all of this. ❤️

      The most FUN part of menopause is that you need to be without a period for a solid year to be “done”. Not having one for six months then getting one sets you back. And it begins all over again. 🙄

      Side note- I love your blog. I’m new to it but I love your writing.

      Like

  15. Hi Kari,
    I’m sorry I never got back to write my real response. It has been such a shit week. And I’m still wrecked and can’t remember everything I wrote, which wasn’t that important anyway. I’m just gonna go with what Ani said, because it’s better than anything I said anyway. Write the book.

    xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you for pointing me to this post, Kari! So much truth here, and so well written. I love being on the “other side” now, after decades of being held captive by my fluctuating hormone levels. I hated going into puberty and the loss of control over my body and my emotions, and I feel like I have my pre-puberty mind back (New and Improved! Now with added wisdom and experiences!) and IT’S FUCKING FANTASTIC. I wish the same for you,

    Deb

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s