Not My Mother’s Menopause- Chapter Nine

Chapter 9

 Here’s the Good News

It wasn’t until the second month of menopause that I realized the source of my continual weariness was caused by hormonal fluctuations. Every month, from the age of 14 to 50, my body has been engaged in a battle with itself. For the past 36 years, my hormones have been racing up and down every month, doing an unpredictable dance on the inside of my body. 

Bloating to the point of agony.

Back to my regular belly.  

Bleeding and clotting.

No more bleeding and clotting.

Emotions that are out of control.

After that, damage control. 

I’m not alone in feeling this way. This is something that most every woman experiences.


The devil’s waterfall. 

Aunt Flow. 

Falling off the roof. 

Monthly bill. 

Shark week. 

On the rag or O.T.R.

Ketchup season.

Red tide.

Surfing the crimson wave. 

There is a good reason that menstrual cycles are referred to by such nasty nicknames: they are physically (and mentally) grueling. The good news is that once you reach menopause, you can potentially leave all of that behind.

Prior to menopause, I only had one good week each month, during which I felt decent, healthy, NORMAL. During the remaining three weeks, I was either approaching my period, experiencing my period, or recovering from my period. When I stop and give it some serious thought, I can’t help but compare my hormonal experience to a Greek tragedy, complete with suffering and carnage. It’s a relief not to have to take part in that play any more.

For the majority of my adult life, I felt depleted, both emotionally and physically. I felt heavy on the inside and occasionally on the outside. It wasn’t until the second month of menopause that I realized the source of my continual weariness was caused by hormonal fluctuations. Every month, from the age of 14 to 50, my body has been engaged in a battle with itself. For the past 36 years, my hormones have been racing up and down every month, doing an unpredictable dance on the inside of my body.

Bloating to the point of agony.

Back to my regular belly.  

Bleeding and clotting.

No more bleeding and clotting.

Emotions that are out of control.

After that, damage control. 

 I’m not alone in feeling this way. This is something that most every woman experiences.

After going through menopause, I can at last appreciate the freedom that comes with not having any estrogen in my body. I have regained a sense of self since I am no longer bound to a schedule that brought me nothing but unpredictability.

“Are you on your period?” I was typically asked in relation to my behavior, as if it were a clue to a puzzle. In the aftermath, when my emotions recovered, I felt ashamed. I never was even keeled. I felt ridged and convoluted, as if I couldn’t trust myself to be anything other than unpredictable. So much shame in those 36 years for feelings I couldn’t control.

I won’t be able to predict how your menopause will unfold, but I will tell you this: now that my hormonal adventure is finished, I feel like a much more powerful and confident person. I’m not continuously rebounding from a hormonal tsunami that’s raging within my body. I can show myself compassion for what I went through. I hope you can do the same.

The good news is that I am not getting my period anymore, which has helped me feel infinitely better. In body and spirit. 

Here is even more good news..


No more bleeding. Sort of.

After doing the math, I determined that from the time I was 14 years old until I entered menopause, I had been bleeding from my uterus for more than 2,200 days. This is the equivalent of having bled for a period of six years straight.

My periods equaled a six-year-old!

My periods added up to a first grader!

If you look at a six-year-old first-grader human being, that is how much I have bled! 

In human form!

I don’t miss the accoutrement that comes along with having a monthly menstrual cycle. Pads, tampons, panty liners, diva cups, you name it. I absolutely don’t miss having that accoutrement in my handbag or car. At the end of my perimenopause, it was annoying to have to remember to carry a pad (not a tampon because I’m getting too old for this shit) with me in case I got a random period four years into perimenopause

I do not miss the experience of bleeding through the aforementioned products and then rushing to the bathroom to see if my worst fears had come true. How many pieces of clothing, undergarments, and so on have I ruined by bleeding through them? A lot. The answer is a lot.

I had a polyp on my uterus and was bleeding when I was six months into menopause, so I had to wear a panty liner. Wearing a panty liner after not having to for over a year and a half was eye opening.  It provided me with a much-needed reminder of how appreciative I am to be through perimenopause and no longer have to deal with menstruation.

Will you still bleed after entering menopause? Probably. In the year and a half that I’ve been in menopause, I’ve bled three times. One time was actually a period. Yes, you can get your period during menopause, and no, I didn’t know that until I went to see my gynecologist. But it happens very rarely and only for a short time. But for the most part, you won’t bleed anymore, which is good news.


No more PMS

The dramatic variations in hormone levels that occur just before a woman’s period are the root cause of the symptoms that make up premenstrual syndrome (PMS). These symptoms include rage, cramping, excessive cravings, bloating, diarrhea, migraines, and an overall sense of being unwell. Even while perimenopause is taking place, such variations are still happening. When they occur at the same time, the results are CATASTROPHIC. When I was going through PMS and perimenopause at the same time, I understood that hell does exist, and that it is right here on earth.

I understand that for some women, approaching menopause means swapping out one set of symptoms for another. However, those symptoms should fade with each month that you are not having your regular periods. The realization that this period of my life was drawing to a close felt liberating, almost like a release, or even better, like breaking up with a toxic partner. 

Take a long, deep breath. 

That monthly dance has come to an end. 

Isn’t that a satisfying realization?


Give yourself some grace

When I got my first period, I had only been alive for 14 years. Before that, I don’t remember much about how I dealt with my emotions. I’m rediscovering myself now that I’ve gone through menopause because I have the patience to do so. I can let go of the mistakes she made while attempting to navigate life with a menstrual cycle for so many years.

If you weren’t able to meet your emotional needs when you were younger, my hope is that you will be able to do so when you reach menopause. By using whatever means that are available, such as reading, journaling, going to therapy, taking medications, or turning to spiritual means. As you approach this new phase of your life, it is essential for you to start showing compassion to yourself if you haven’t previously done so.

When I think about everything I’ve done while having my period every month, I’m proud of myself and, without sounding too corny, all women. We don’t get enough credit for all that we do each month while we have our periods. Think about all the things you do while you’re still having your period. Imagine what the other half of the population would do if they had to menstruate. We women really are pretty incredible, don’t you think?

My wish for those of you who have experienced any hormonal event in your lives is that you take good care of both your body and your mind during this season of your life. Honor yourself for all you’ve been through.


Reconnecting

My husband and I both experienced perimenopause. It was unquestionably a collaborative effort. Even though he was putting in long hours at work, I could still feel his presence with me. I have no doubt that he would have alleviated my anxiety, despair, vertigo, and pain if he had been able to do so.

But perimenopause wreaked havoc on both of us.  

My husband and I are gradually repairing the damage that perimenopause did to our marriage. Now that I’m past menopause, it’s easier for me to spend time with people because I have more patience than I did before. I no longer hurt, I’m healthier, and I worry less. I’m getting used to me being a different person, and so is my husband.

It’s not like we’re going to wake up tomorrow and pretend the past five years never happened. We are coming to terms with what has happened to us and determining how we can make it work for us in this new phase of our life. This is not something that is done easily. It requires a great deal of time and effort before it can be accomplished.

The quote “Obstacles don’t block the path, they are the path” is one I really like and that I try to live by in my everyday life. It has altered my perspective on everything, even perimenopause. It wasn’t simply an obstacle; rather, it was the path that led me here. This can apply to any relationship; your spouse, or friendships that may have deteriorated as a consequence of the interference of your hormones.

I couldn’t have gotten here without that terrible path, and neither could you. The path taught me a valuable lesson; perhaps it did the same for you?


Not everyone needs closure

When I first started experiencing the symptoms of perimenopause, I had a handful of experiences that I like to term “eye-openers.” The first item that “opened my eyes” was something that was actually more of a fallacy. I had convinced myself that because I was entering perimenopause, I must be more than halfway done with my life. Having regular periods, regardless of how inconvenient they may be, was my link to staying young. When I found out that I was going through perimenopause, it completely altered the way that I viewed my life at that point in time. I felt like I was hurtling towards death. 

After I was told that I was in perimenopause and nearing the end of my life (not true), I had another “eye opener” when I realized I wouldn’t be able to have any more children. Even though I didn’t want to have another child the day before I found out I was in perimenopause, I wasn’t ready for the idea that I couldn’t have any more children in the future. I chose to disregard my feelings since I believed at the time that it was silly and self-centered to feel this way.

In retrospect, I should have allowed myself to properly feel those feelings. Being a mother to my two daughters fills my heart with joy. I enjoyed being pregnant with both of them (for the most part). It stands to reason that the first thing I would do when I approached perimenopause would be to grieve the fact that I would never be able to conceive again.

It’s okay that I wasn’t prepared for perimenopause when it started happening. But it’s understandable if you couldn’t wait for your period to end so you could move on with your life. There is no one right or wrong answer. We view our life through filters and lenses that are shaped by our emotional suffering, relationships, and our worldviews. Some people may require closure, while others may not.

Some of us may need time to mourn the loss of our ability to carry babies in our wombs. Others will be heartbroken at the loss of the children they were unable to bear. Some women will grieve the loss of a monthly cycle that they had grown accustomed to over the course of 30 years since it was the only thing on which they could rely. For others, it’s “Good riddance, get the hell out of here, I hate your guts.”

Do I miss my period? God, no. 

Do I miss my period? Sometimes, yes. 


So here’s the good news that you’ve all been waiting for: menopause does not mean a woman’s life has come to an end. For a long time, it was associated with old women who were nearing the end of their lives. It was not a sign of a new beginning; rather, it signaled the end. It was about gray-haired women who shuffled around the home in housecoats and soft fuzzy slippers. It was grandmothers and great aunts. Chin stubble and bunion relief cream. Secrets, murmurs, and hushed tones.

Here is what I did not expect menopause to entail: being healthy and vibrant, having an endless amount of energy and flourishing; being filled with joy and happiness, feeling enlightened and compassionate, and desiring to be present in this authentic life. A new nose ring, compliments on my clothes, and wearing makeup that makes me look young. I felt and did all of these things during the first year of menopause.

The transition from perimenopause to menopause might be described as bittersweet. Perimenopause was the bitter, and menopause is the sweet. A lot of good things are headed your way. Be open to them. Menopause is in no way synonymous with the conclusion of a woman’s life. This is also the start of something.