As middle-aged women, we are constantly learning new and exciting things. The babies are all grown. The teenagers have left the house. We're in that time of life when we are free to make some choices that are all about us. We're ready to learn some new things, to take on the second half of our lives, unencumbered by all those youthful things. Here's one: I am learning that menopause is a process...a L-O-N-G one. My mother told me that when she started her process, her doctor put her on hormone therapy. She was not happy with the results of that therapy, quit it and never had another 'monthly visitor' again. She was done. She never had night-sweats or hot flashes. Now, I seem to recall a period of time when every family get-together had the air conditioner running or the doors and windows open because she was hot (maybe it was us-her children-that caused the heat), but she says that she was never really bothered by any of the typical symptoms of THE CHANGE.
My best friend, who happens to be five years older than I am, and I would share notes when we worked together about similarities or differences in our processes. We shared small fans, we opened windows, and we tried to educate the younger girls about just what fun they had to look forward to (not that they appreciated it in any way, but they'll find out one day we were only trying to give them a heads-up). They would look at us, laugh at us, roll their eyes, and, I know, they were thinking "Look what happens when you get old!" Don't deny it, girls! I know you did!
Several years ago, my friend and I went to San Diego for a conference. We extended our trip by a couple of days so that we could enjoy the sights and decided to spend a day at Sea World. It had been almost a year since her last monthly visitor, so she assumed she was finished, through. Now, when you travel with my friend, you visit a lot of rest rooms and so, of course, our first stop inside the Sea World park was their lovely facility. I couldn't help but laugh when she asked me if, by chance, I'd brought any supplies with me. I know it was wrong, but I just couldn't help myself. Thank goodness Sea World has baskets of these supplies on the counters for their female guests. (I wonder what they have in the Men's Rooms)?
Fast forward to three months ago. It had been nine months since my last period. Nothing. Nada. It was wonderful. I was starting a new job. They were putting me in front of a lot of people, three different meetings and guess what came to visit when I woke up that day! Karma...I'm sure. I laughed at my friend so God was getting even. I texted her and told her. She tried not to laugh but I told her it was OK. It was payback time. I've not had another one, but there have been a couple of times when I felt like I would. No one ever told me about 'phantom periods.' What's that about? Just keeping us on our toes?
My sister-in-law says she doesn't even know how long it's been for her. She just never paid any attention. She is younger than me by four years. She thinks it's been five or six years. OK, how is this fair?
A male friend of mine said that he had spent his entire married life dying of the heat in his home. His wife could just never get warm...until the last few years. He has now invested in several new sweaters and jackets to wear inside his house. His wife is hot all the time. He says no one warned him about this. He thought maybe that should be mentioned in the marriage vows...just a little alert for down the road.
Until a few years ago, doctors put almost all women on hormone replacement therapy. Then the research showed that this particular therapy might not be safe, so the recommendations were to make your own choice, with your doctor. Isn't it amazing that with all of our technology and education we still can't tell women at this point in their lives how their particular process will go and how to help them through it?
I read my books. I read my friend's books and she read mine. We watched the Oprah shows on this topic (she was just a little ahead of us in her process), because we all know she's the authority on just about everything! We talked to the doctors. We tried some of the natural remedies, we tried some of the pharmaceutical remedies. We bought fans. We turned the furnaces down (my son claimed he could hang meat in his bedroom). We wore summer clothes in the winter. All my beautiful sweaters have stayed packed away for the last several.
What I want to know is...what's the lesson here? Remember, I'm the one that says there is a lesson in everything, so what possible lesson is in this? I've given this considerable attention and I'm at a loss.
There is no rhyme or reason to this. The whole process can last as long as twenty years or even the rest of your life (now there's something to be happy about), according to the 'experts.' Some women have a really difficult time with it. Others don't even notice. Heredity doesn't seem to play a big role in it.
The best that I can come up with is that God is giving us one more good reminder that He (it must be a man who thought this up) is in control of everything.
I remember my mother telling me about this monthly cycle after our film at school. Remember the one where the boys went into one room and the girls went into the other? They told us what a wonderful, beautiful thing this was. They said it made us women. Well, I don't know about that. Now that I'm looking at it from this end, I'm thinking that was a great story, but not too factual. Oh, the drawings and the details were accurate, but there's a whole lot more to being a woman than this. And besides, if this is what makes you a woman, what are we now that we don't have it any more?
While our young people have had similar videos their conversations have been a little more 'real' than ours were, but I just don't think it's possible to really understand it all until you've been through the whole thing. It is a journey, a long one. It's supposed to be filled with ups and downs, good and bad. For some it passes without notice. For others it's full of hard lessons. But all of it, every step, is about learning...about yourself.
It's not the process that makes you a woman. It's what you learn through the process that helps you to grow and change. It's when you come through the process and you look back that you see how you are different, how you are better, because of it. At least that's what I'm telling myself.
Common Symptoms of Menopause
- Hot Flashes, Flushes, and/or Cold Flashes
- Night Sweats
- Irregular Periods, Menstrual Irregularities
- Loss of Libido
- Vaginal Dryness
- Mood Swings, Sudden Tears
- Hair Loss or Thinning, Head, Pubic, or Whole Body; Increase in Facial Hair
- Menopause Sleep Disorders (With or Without Night
- Disturbing Memory Lapses
- Dizziness, Light Headedness, Episodes of Loss of Balance
- Weight Gain during Menopause
- Incontinence, especially upon Sneezing, Laughing, Urge Incontinence
- Sudden Bouts of Bloat
- Increase in Allergies
- Changes in Fingernails-Softer, Crack or Break Easier
- Changes in Body Odor
- Bouts of Rapid Heart Beat
- Anxiety, Feeling Ill at Ease
- Panic Disorder, Feelings of Dread, Apprehension, Doom
- Breast Pain
- Headaches during Menopause
- Aching, Sore Joints, Muscles and Tendons
- Burning Tongue, Burning Roof of Mouth, Bad Taste in Mouth, Change in Breath Odor
- Electric Shock Sensation Under the Skin And In The Head
- Digestive Problems, Gastrointestinal Distress, Indigestion, Flatulence, Gas Pain, Nausea
- Gum Problems, Increased Bleeding
- Increased Tension in Muscles
- Itchy, Crawly Skin
- Tingling Extremities
- Osteoporosis (After Several Years)
Really gives you something to look forward to, doesn't it?