When I was a teenager, my mother began to go through menopause around the age I am now. The only real information she gave me about it was that it happens to all women, it’s called “the change” because you stop having a period and can no longer bear children, and there are mood swings involved. She was a woman of few words when it came to explaining anything biological.
There are a few important things she left out, however, that I have been experiencing myself, now that menopause is knocking at my own front door, and could’ve used a little insight on what to expect in more detail.
Allow to me elaborate.
First of all, you don’t just go right into menopause. Oh, no. First you get to experience all the joys of menopause – the hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, etc. – before you even GET to actual menopause. This period is called “perimenopause,” and can last a number of years. In fact, I have been in this fun-filled phase of femininity for around 6 or 7 years now. Yes, you read that correctly. My gyno tells me this time can last up to 10 years in some cases! Oh, fun!
Two years ago, I had a hysterectomy, during which I had them take everything but my ovaries. Cervix, uterus, Fallopian tubes – all gone. The only reason I kept my ovaries (which, in hindsight, I realize I really only needed one) was to keep the lady hormones flowing. Removing both ovaries causes immediate menopause, and I chose to ease into it instead of leap into it.
They did tell me that, after you have a hysterectomy, it’s likely that menopause will arrive within around two years. So, there was that to look forward to.
Let me add here that, although the surgery went well, recovery did not, and I experienced enormous amounts of pain and discomfort that no one could explain or fix. A dozen trips back to the gyno (and all the patient co-pays that went with them) and, nine months later, I was finally referred to a specialist who took one look and knew exactly what was wrong: I wasn’t getting enough estrogen. He put me on estrogen patches and (no exaggeration) they changed my life.
Anyway, last year, the hot flashes began coming more regularly, the mood swings more severe, and I was sure this was it. The big M was finally happening. Yeah, no such luck.
Since I have no uterus and, hence, no periods, there is really no hard evidence to point at and say, there, that’s it, it’s menopause. Only a blood test will tell for sure. My blood test at the time revealed that, no, I was not yet experiencing “the change.”
So, let me tell you about a few of the fun things you can expect as you take that last long slide into maturity (which, of course, is a relative term). 😉
First of all, you will cry. A LOT. By that I mean that not only will sad Netflix shows make you cry. You will cry in the shower, in the car, in the bathroom at work, in the bathroom at home; you will cry when there is absolutely no reason to cry, because the hormones that are having their last hurrah in your lady parts will mess your emotions up so thoroughly, you will hardly know up from down.
In addition to the emotional roller coaster, you will be tired All. The. Time. No matter how much sleep you get (trust me, it won’t be much), you will be tired. And you will be confused. I don’t just mean “where did I put my car keys” confused. I’m talking “how did I get here” confused. I could be driving to Home Depot, a trip I’ve made a thousand times, and forget where I’m supposed to be going.
I have tried to turn off the television with my landline phone, when I had a landline. I have had conversations with my husband and daughters where I literally can’t remember what we were talking about ten seconds later. While this concerns me (and my family), I typically regain my memory shortly thereafter. Although not always.
You will have night sweats so bad that they will wake you from a dead sleep and you will need to throw off all the covers, even if your room is cold. Once the heat passes, you will become so cold that you may even shiver. I’ve had friends tell me they’ve experienced night sweats so badly that they’ve woken up literally drenched in their own sweat and had to change their sheets and clothes. Thank God, I haven’t reached that degree yet.
New in the last few months are the bouts of agida. For those of you who are not married to an Italian, agida is slang for heartburn. I experience this excitement almost daily, typically a few hours before I go to bed. I don’t have to eat anything spicy or drink too much coffee. I pop those Tums like we’re going to run out of them.
The mood swings may also include moments of extreme and sudden anger (which has frightened my family on more than one occasion, as it comes out of the blue with no warning), or you may feel completely at peace with the world. You may sometimes despise humanity and all its evils and lash out, or you may be thanking the good Lord for this wonderful experience called life. The emotional spectrum can be extreme and surprising.
I don’t know yet if I’ve finally crossed over that big life-change threshold yet, but with symptoms coming on faster and more furiously, I can only guess that I must at least be close to the precipice. Other “tells” have included weight gain (yes, I will blame it on menopause!), slight vision changes, and general crankiness with the smallest of inconveniences.
Yet, still, with all of that and more to come, I totally love being a woman. As much as we have to go through physically, emotionally, and mentally, I wouldn’t take back or erase any of it. I almost feel bad for men sometimes, to not be able to experience amazing miracles like childbirth, and every single contraction pain that goes along with it. lol Or cramps! If they could experience cramps now and then, that would be great.