I am a “young” 43. I still get carded (to my glee), I wear my hair long, I don’t have wrinkles (yet), I am up to speed on the coolest bands, I know how to use Snapchat and Instagram, and even though I have a child, I don’t drive a minivan. I embrace millennials like long lost orphans that I must mentor. In turn, they share information like why Post Malone is a modern poet and how to update my fingernail color and shape (yup, buh ‘bye squared, french manicured acrylics). Alas, I know I am aging. And by telling tales of the long-before time when I went to the very first Lollapalooza tour in 1991 I am making myself look more like a relic than I want to admit.
Also, where the holy heck did my period go?
About a year ago, I missed my period and really, it wasn’t a big deal. I have an IUD and my periods just seem to come and go. Then not too long ago, I skipped it two months in a row and I was forced to take a pregnancy test. Of course it was negative, so what gives?
I heard the dreaded “P word” after I visited my gynecologist: PERIMENOPAUSE. “Whoa, what’s that?” I wondered. I learned that menopause is actually made up of three phases:
- Perimenopause (gearing up to say goodbye to Aunt Flow);
- Menopause (up to four years of hot flashes and sweating); and
- Post Menopause (the year anniversary since your very last period. Now you get to throw a party).
Around the time that my period starting to go missing my doc told me I was fairly young for perimenopause at 42. (See, I am still young!). But, I found out my mom started menopause early too. The timing of your last red river may be thanks to your genetics. “My periods were sporadic, says Karen (my mom). “This happened in my early 40’s so there were many times when I thought I was pregnant.”
Neat-O: this is the same exact thing I experienced. If you can, check when your mom went through “the change.” You can possibly look forward to the same experience.
I decided to chat with more ladies to find out if I should panic, cry or rejoice.
“I was was anxious for my period to be over with,” says Karen. “No more periods meant no more products to buy,” Oh mom; always with the silver lining. “I was 54,” says Carol. My periods were irregular and light. And I started having hot flashes.” Tracey, agrees with that sentiment. “All of sudden it would be like I was in an oven!”
Well, this sounds…fun. But wait, there’s more:
“Sex become uncomfortable,” Tracey explains. I experienced vaginal dryness. “I had heard my girlfriends talk about the dryness and how annoying it was,” echoes Carol. But the biggest challenge for me was controlling my emotions. But I found the right people to get me through the worst part,” she concludes.
“I was pretty ok with going through menopause,” says Tracey. “It’s natural and I think a lot of symptoms can be driven by emotion or expectation and ignorance. A lot of women think it’s the end of being feminine,” she says.
This explains a lot about the stigma the word “old” conveys – especially when it comes to our youth worshipping, sex obsessed culture. But really, why should the loss of the ability to create a human indicate that you are no longer desirable? Hooey, I say! “I felt kind of liberated,” Tracey concludes and explains that it meant no more hormone driven mood swings caused by PMS.
What should you take from this?
Well, make sure you check in with your friends and let them in on what’s going on. Chances are, they’re going through the same thing, have already experienced it or will be sometime soon. You’re going to need support through this transition. Remember puberty? Karen reports it’s almost like that. But you’re a grown up so you should try to handle yourself like one. That doesn’t mean that you can’t cry from time to time, but even if you want to throw a temper tantrum, you should probably choose the time and place.
Vaginal dryness got you annoyed? Check out these organic lubricants that can help!
There are many products that help with those roller coaster emotions, however. You can choose from hormone supplements to all-natural therapies to meditation. “My doctor was real quick to prescribe Premarin,” says Karen. “I took it right away but someone suggested a homeopathic supplement called Black Cohosh. That proved to be most helpful with the night-time sweats.”
Empower your Menopause mind
With the advent of the internet and having almost all information in the world at your fingertips, you have the power to do your own research. Empower yourself to learn about what hormones are made of, their side effects, as well as their potential to actually help you. The same holds true for holistic remedies. You have to know what you are putting in your body.
“I tried natural treatments from the health store, I tried oral meds and some creams, but I stopped them all,” reports Tracey. I didn’t feel like my symptoms were really that bad anyway,” she says. So, you may find out you’re like Tracey. Don’t believe all the hype surrounding this transition. If you need help, seek it out, if you don’t, relax and go into it with an open mind. “Don’t be afraid of menopause,” she says.
“Do your research and understand what is going on with your body. You’re just entering a less complicated phase of your life.”
Amen to that, Tracey. Amen.
Soak your feet and watch what you eat?
Carol admits she did take a unique approach to menopause. “I went to a woman who had different holistic supplements. She put me on a food program and I did detox foot soaks.” Ok, hold on here. Foot soaks? “They worked. I started to feel better, the hot flashes stopped and I lost 30 pounds.” Scientific research shows that monitoring your food intake is a good idea especially during menopause.
“My biggest challenge during menopause was weight gain,” says Karen. “Weight was always an issue for me, but with the changes in my metabolism, it was more difficult to keep it in check.”
A change in metabolism is tied into menopause because of the changes in body composition (less muscle and more fat). Scientifically, the less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism.Yet another reason to add weight lifting to your cardio routine as soon as you can.
Carol admits she fell off the diet wagon and started to feel hot and miserable all the time. She ended up on estrogen and progesterone and a prescription for testosterone that is inserted into the vagina for vaginal dryness. “That really helped,” she said. “And, I had no side effects from the hormones.
I hope Carol is still soaking her feet. It sounds nice.
Information is power!
Back to my mom. She believes that society is better now because of the willingness to share information and the amount of resources available. “Menopause was always kept a secret in the past,” she explains. “I believe that the more educational material you can have, the better.”
So, empower yourself, take control, talk to your doctor, talk to your friends, ride out that hot flash and go with the flow. And seriously, go on a cruise with all the money you’ll save from not buying tampons, pads or Advil.
Special thanks to Carol, Tracey and Karen. These aren’t your real names, but you know who you are.