If you had asked me five years ago, I would have expected menopause to look like this:
My period would fade gracefully away, sort of like Ali McGraw’s character in Love Story. I’d have some hot flashes (not that I really understood what that entailed exactly) which I would resolve with a portable fan...perhaps some high tech USB fan that I’d plug into my iPhone...but I’d be sort of like Beyonce, at the ready to have my hair flowing in the wind at a moment’s notice.
Basically, this is when I’d be dancing in white on the beach, finally free of my period and happy as a clam.
Now, it’s not like I was spending time thinking about menopause, but if you had asked me, that would have been my limited (and deluded) vision.
Cut to three years ago, and you’d find me restraining myself from grabbing every woman I met who was 40+ to ask to hear their experience of (and potential solutions for) this mysterious no woman’s land called peri-menopause.
How did we get here?
Why was I so clueless?
And in fact, why aren’t we grabbing each other by the collar and sharing our collective wisdom, and if not wisdom, at least commiseration?
Maybe it’s because every woman’s experience is different, comprised of a different set of symptoms, lasting for a different number of years, and experienced with differing levels of intensity.
Maybe it’s because women’s health has never been something talked about freely in “polite company.” I mean, we’ve only recently seen a proliferation of products and books and marketing around a girl’s first period, so society should be getting to dealing with peri-menopause in a century or two, right?
Whatever the reason, I’m ready for the silence to be broken, for women to stop being taken by surprise, and for it to become as normal for women to compare how quickly we go through super plus tampons as it is for men to compare Fantasy Football stats. “Two hours? Ha! I’m lasting ninety minutes, tops!”
My own experience? After years of light or no periods thanks to, first, the birth control pill, then the IUD, I started getting my period again more than three years ago...when I was already past 50 years old, y’all!
My OB GYN had imagined that the IUD would stay in about 7 years, and transition me right into menopause, so you can see why I might feel mightily dismayed and even misled.
Instead, as the IUD outlived its usefulness, my periods came back with more and more of a vengeance, and with less and less time between them. We checked to see if I had fibroids. Nope, none of problematic size. We took the IUD out (what a party that was!) but it didn’t help, in fact the periods got worse.
And I finally started putting two and two together that maybe my increasing and utter fatigue was at least partly attributable to my body refusing to give up the menstrual ghost.
Last fall, when I had a period come only 18 days after the previous one had started, I went to both my OB GYN and my primary care physician and threw myself on their mercy.
More tests, more ultrasounds, and at least I got validation that yes, I was now deficient in both B12 and iron stores, which would cause fatigue, and likely it was indeed because I was just bleeding too much too frequently.
We’ve now started some tactics to address both my symptoms and the causes.
My gynecologist put me on the mini-pill to try to regulate the periods, and my doctor has me mega-dosing iron, B12, D, and omega acids.
I’ve started bringing peri-menopause up frequently, and have discovered that nearly every woman I know over 40 has a tale to tell. And tips and tricks. And a feeling that they were alone in all this.
Things are slowly starting to look up for me, but I still wonder: Why did I wait more than two years before demanding my doctors do more to help me? Why weren’t my friends and I sitting around talking about this phase of our lives and its impact on our bodies, minds and spirits?
Finally: Are we the generation who will finally turn a whisper to a shout and make sure women have more solutions and less suffering?
If I have anything to do with it...yes.
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