I’m interrupting my regularly scheduled “real” work because…hell, because I’m so angry and frustrated I could punch a baby sea otter in the mouth. Every time I’ve thought about posting a Coconut Chronicle on this subject I have wimped out, for reasons that also make me otter-punching mad.
I am in perimenopause. There, I said it. Some of my close friends know this already but it’s not a fact I’ve shared widely. My doctor gave me the news a couple years ago. It’s not life threatening or anything, it’s just life annoying, especially at my “young” age.
What bothers me most about this condition (is that the right word?): no one talks about it. When the symptoms first presented—non-stop bleeding, fatigue, crazy hormonal swings—I panicked. Out of the blue, my body went from normal to WHOA, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE? There was only one logical conclusion: I was dying of cancer or some other terrible disease.
When the blood results came in and I found out I had what every woman eventually gets, just a lot earlier, my first thought was: Well, why didn’t anyone ever warn me about this?
Why? Because we live in a society where “female problems” have been taboo for a long time. Dirty, dark little secrets, involving blood and other ickyness. Nice women don’t talk about such things. I don’t think I even knew what menopause was until I heard it on TV in my teens. In our family, it was referred to as the “change of life”.
“She’s going through the change of life.”
Makes it all sound so pleasant, as if women wake up out of their cocoons one day with beautiful multi-coloured wings and gently float away on the breeze.
How about a new phrase that captures the pure hell menopause can be for some women? Sweaty Blood Bath of Rage, for example.
Honestly, I know it’s not the most pleasant topic but it sure would have been a lot easier on me (and other women, I’m guessing) if I’d at least had some inkling of what to expect. The few menopausal and post-menopausal female friends I’ve talked to since my “diagnosis” have shared a similar story.
“Oh yeah, I thought I was dying of some horrific disease until my doctor told me what it was.”
What? How do we go through decades surrounded by older women who have been-there-done-that and still find ourselves in shock at this bizarre body change? Is this some kind of hormonal Fight Club initiation? The first rule of menopause is you don’t talk about menopause.
What kind of society would rather let women think they’re dying rather than just openly talk about a natural human process? Hm, well, maybe the same society that gets a collective case of the vapors if a woman on stage accidentally reveals a bare nipple.
So, younger women or women my own age who have not been visited by the hormone fairy yet, consider this a public service announcement. At some point in your forties or fifties, your body is going to go whacko. If you find yourself crying at a Taco Bell commercial—Oh, the shredded beef reminds me of my shredded dreams WAAAA!—or bleeding so much you are certain you must have accidentally swallowed a Swiss Army knife, or becoming oddly tired to the point of narcolepsy, or waking up so drenched in sweat you need a pint of Gatorade to rehydrate, don’t panic. I repeat: don’t panic.
Do go to your doctor and get your blood tested.
Ironically, of all the weird symptoms I noticed (and mine are mild, apparently), it was the flood of emotions that first made me think that something was very wrong. I felt myself tearing up over some stupid scene on television and a voice in the back of my head said, “Um, dude, you did not even cry at the end of Old Yeller. Something is messing with your wiring.”
Yes, for the first time in my life I had big emotions that came right to the surface and that was a sign to me that I was probably dying. Not sure what that says about me.
Here are 35 symptoms of perimenopause. Fun, eh?
And why am I so frustrated this morning? Well, in short, I’m tired. Not “I just ran ten miles and I sure need to sit down for a minute” tired, but stupid, hormonal, “I just slept for eight solid hours and I still need a winch to drag my ass out of bed” tired. And I will nap today. At some point the hormone induced narcolepsy will hit and no matter where I am I will be seized with the need to get horizontal and inspect my inner eyelids. That’s not the worst part though. The worst part is that, like everything else female, I feel guilty and ashamed for being weak. It doesn’t matter that I have little to no control over what my body is doing these days, it’s a “woman thing” and our society automatically judges women things as weakness. For someone who has spent a lot of years trying to prove she is just as tough as the guys, this sucks non-existent balls.
So, screw all this secretive business.
I am perimenopausal.
I am not weak.
Sometimes I’m going to be tired for no good reason.
I am not weak.
Sometimes I’m going to cry at things I never used to cry at.
I am not weak.
Sometimes I’ll punch a baby sea otter in the face.
OK, I’ll never do that.
But even if I did…
I am not weak.
And if you’re perimenopausal or menopausal, you’re not weak either. Now go get a Kleenex, dry your eyes, and take a nap.
Until next time, I hope this finds you healthy, happy, and lovin’ the change of life,