Ah, menopause. With 38 million baby-boomer women now in midlife or beyond, the subject of menopause is no longer one kept to hushed conversations over a second pitcher of margaritas and a platter of nachos.
Unlike our mothers or grandmothers, Boomer women and those following in our paths want to talk about what weâ€™re experiencing. Maybe we seek opportunities to complain a bit, or a lot!, depending on symptoms, and yet the real intentionâ€” I think– is to acknowledge where weâ€™re at in this age and time. We want to compare notes with our female friends and family to gauge our progress and address our questions.
But what is menopause, really? How do we think about it in general, and how do we think about it when it happens to us? Those are often two very different things! There are an incredible number of layers, nuances, and mysteries that come with menopause and the years that follow. Iâ€™d like to discussâ€”and I mean that, letâ€™s share our stories and realities for the good of allâ€”three areas that relate to menopause: Identity changes, Body changes, and Creative resurgence. Iâ€™ll break this up into several blogs so you will stay with me. I hope!
The women in my childhood world were mostly farmwives–sturdy, plump, and a joy to be around. They laughed easily and often, had strong religious leanings, and seemed grounded in ways that influenced my own views as I grew in their presence. There was a “sisterhood feel” during gatherings, but any talk about womenâ€™s bodies and functions were whispered at best, and more often experienced in silence. I know my mom, Grandma, and Great-grandmother never liked to talk openly about â€œwomenâ€™sâ€ issues.
The reason Iâ€™m mentioning my history is because I had questions not only in my youth, but as I took a running jump towards menopause. The same wall of silence I ran into as a teenager was hitting me in early midlife.
I always had irregular periods, but when I turned thirty-eight they really got crazy. Iâ€™d either go months without them or I had such heavy bleeding I soaked through a super tampon and two layers of overnight pads within an hour. My doctor decided I was in pre-menopause and convinced me I needed to go on birth control pills for six months to regulate my symptoms.
Iâ€™d never used birth control pillsâ€”no real reason, just a personal choice– and was less than happy to start. However, I also was not in a place where I questioned a doctorâ€™s authority or the belief that a medical person would direct me in any other direction but the best.
Yeah, well, “the best” was six months of hell. Even though I was on the lowest possible hormonal doseâ€”or so he saidâ€”I had constant headaches, nausea, and swollen legs. And what was really disturbing was that despite a lot of vomiting–like stop the car I need to run to the ditch, NOW, vomiting–I managed to gain weight.
However, at the end of six months, my periods were indeed regular. At least for about another four years. As I welcomed my forties, my pre-menopausal symptoms gradually grew stronger again. And thatâ€™s what brings me to my first area of discussion, Identity Changes. See you next week!