“That isn’t menopause,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked, my voice barely audible above the noise in the room.
“Perimenopause doesn’t last that long.”
I began to choke, so I drank some water. I was going to rebuke her comment when she started talking to the person next to her.
I got up from the table and stumbled through the restaurant, barely making it to the tiny restaurant bathroom.
I had vaped marijuana that morning before the event, and I was worried that everyone around me knew I was high.
In the mirror, I see familiar red cheeks. I look like a child who has been slapped across the face. My eyes fill up with tears.
“It’s okay,” I tell myself. You are going through it. You are feeling every bit of it. It is real.”
While I was going through perimenopause, I had no idea when my menstrual cycle might come to an end for good. Every time I got a period, I’d ask myself, “Is this the last one ever?” Then, three months later, I’d get a period, and the never-ending dance of perimenopause would begin all over again.
This is the cruel joke of perimenopause: no one, not even your gynecologist, knows when it will end while you are experiencing it. There is no timeline, no schedule, and certainly no flowchart. Because there is no diagnostic test for perimenopause, I had no means of knowing how far along I was in the process or how long it would persist.
Every month, I wished that my period wouldn’t come because it meant that I would have to endure another year of unpleasant perimenopausal symptoms. I was under the impression that once I reached menopause, all of my pain and suffering would end. Menopause would be my savior, swooping in like a superhero to free me from my agony.
By the time winter arrived in 2020, I had gone almost six months without a period. I had been through perimenopause for five very long years, and I was exhausted. When is all of this going to be over? Will it ever be over? When my doctors told me that there was nothing they could do for me, I didn’t want to be a bother, so I’d smile and thank them before paying the co-pay and leaving their office. It never occurred to me to disagree with a medical professional or request a better level of care.
In January of 2020, everything came to a head when someone told me that what I was going through couldn’t be perimenopause. “Perimenopause doesn’t last five years.” It’s worth noting that this person was a female who works in the medical field. As I sat next to her at an event, I was coming down from a marijuana high. I vaped earlier that day just so I could get to that goddamn event. As I was in the midst of experiencing a hot flash, she informed me that what I was “going through” wasn’t perimenopause.
Isn’t that hysterical? Someone from outside my body telling me what I went through?
Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I can laugh about it, but at the time it was overwhelming.
I didn’t argue with that woman. I quietly excused myself to use the restroom and cried in private so as not to make a scene. I couldn’t trust my emotions in perimenopause, especially when I was high. The previous fall, I started smoking marijuana for relief. I didn’t care if anyone understood what I was going through; all I wanted was for the journey to be over. I made a decision that I would stay high on cannabis for the duration of my perimenopause, regardless of how long that might be. I could not live with myself any other way.
It’s possible that a lot of the difficulties I had throughout perimenopause were caused by the fact that I frequently answered “yes” when I truly meant “no.” If I had said no more, I might have gotten better treatment and answers. Because of all of this, I had become each and every one of my symptoms, and the boundary between where I began and where my symptoms ended had become extremely blurry.
I AM MIGRAINE
I AM ANXIETY
I AM DEPRESSION
Menopause couldn’t come fast enough.
It has to be better.
It couldn’t get much worse.
“People are rivers, always ready to move from one state of being into another. It’s not fair to treat people as if they are finished beings. Everyone is always becoming and unbecoming.”
On September 23, 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, I officially entered menopause. While the rest of the world suffered, I was at last experiencing relief. The irony was not lost on me. If you’re thinking to yourself, “How in the hell did she know what day she entered menopause?” You are clearly not a female.
You see, women know about things like this. We were taught to put little red dots on a calendar. We keep journals on our phones and have period trackers on our watches. We women pay attention to these details because we’ve had to. We have been keeping track of time for most of our lives. Ask any woman what time it is or what day it is, and she will know the answer without even having to look.
I was almost certain that my body had gone an entire year without having a period. But, just to be sure, I checked my calendar, and sure enough, there it was. I had all the proof I needed.
On September 23rd, 2019, I marked my calendar with a little red dot.
A few months after I entered menopause, I started to become aware of the changes that were taking place in my body. It took a few months for the antidepressant that had been prescribed to me for my migraines to begin working, but once it did, I saw a significant improvement in the severity of my hot flashes. Something that I had absolutely no idea would happen but was grateful for. My estrogen gradually departed my body, and with it came a slow decrease in the frequency and severity of my migraines.
Because of these changes, I was better able to concentrate on improving my mental health. I began devoting a portion of each day to what I referred to as “soul homework,” which included activities such as reading, meditating, listening to music, and writing. I started to feel gratitude for my transformed body and spirit.
My entrance into menopause for me was the the beginning of my (un)becoming. When I realized that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life being the person I had previously thought I had no choice but to be. For so long, I had been preoccupied with becoming so many things that I had neglected all of the things I needed to (un)become.
I worried entirely too much about what other people thought of my perimenopause. When I saw that it wasn’t the same as my mother’s, my own suddenly didn’t make any sense. When I was going through the seemingly endless process of losing my period, I needed to prove that I was going through something. I needed validation that what I was experiencing was indeed happening to me.
I wanted to shout at everyone I came in touch with: “Please, take a compassionate look at me and understand what it is that I am going through!”
But as I moved further away from perimenopause, I came to the realization that it did not matter what other people thought that part of my life looked like. It wasn’t necessary for it to make sense to anyone else. All I needed was for everything to make sense to me.
In the end, my (un)becoming was more about shedding a belief system than shedding a period. It wasn’t until I started confronting my anxieties and doubts as a result of those beliefs, as well as the aspects of myself that I saw as lacking, that I evolved into the most ideal version of myself. I have finally reached a point in my life where I am content with every aspect of my body. I have no doubt in my mind that it is due to the fact I am (un)becoming.
It is challenging to be a woman who is going through her (un)becoming while simultaneously working with a health care system and a society that does not always appreciate you. You can’t always change other people, but you can focus on changing yourself to be the best version of yourself. Please have compassion for everything that you’ve been through. It is the first thing you need to do in order to get started on the process of (un)becoming.
How do you (un)become some of the things you’ve become since you first started menstruating?
Who would you be if you could (un)become some of the parts of you that you became since then?
Would you still be the one reading this book?