Here is another post that I have deliberated about penning or not. It is up there with Let’s Not Skirt Around the Issue– which incidentally remains one of my most popular blogs of all time- however it is raining here, it feels like December, I have a half eaten bag of Liquorice Allsorts to finish and the only alternative is cleaning. Or binge watching Outlander. This feels more productive. But possibly less fun.
Deep breaths then everybody.
I am a woman of a certain age. 48 to be precise. Therefore I have experience of being a woman. Quite extensive experience. And it is safe to say that being a woman sucks on many levels. And one of those levels is the beginning, middle and end of one’s reproductive life.
Currently I am grappling with the end. For those of you possessed of a penis (you lucky, lucky sods I am envious, really I am, seriously you don’t know how lucky you are- what have you had to deal with?- really?- a bit of shaving (if you feel like it- it isn’t even obligatory especially in November- it is more obligatory for me apparently which goes beyond unfair)- the occasional knock to a vital area causing extreme discomfort- and – and- no, that’s it – get over yourselves) I should may be explain.
For some considerable time, when I was happily producing reliable levels of oestrogen, I was labouring under the illusion that I would have a few hot flushes and maybe put on a bit of weight and then that would be it. The menopause would be done. No more periods. It sounded quite attractive. I would be done with the Feminine Hygiene aisle. The years of debilitating cramps and bloating would be over. I could go swimming whenever I wanted. Calendar watching and forward planning would be done with. I would no longer pull something unfortunate out of my hand bag whilst buying tiffin in Costa. I would caper gaily in meadows neatly eating baguettes with my new dentures and going on cruises.
Oh yes from the mire of PMT it all looked quite beguiling.
But no, the end of one’s reproductive life as a woman (and let’s not forget here that a man never ends his reproductive life, ever, he can remain potent up until the day he drops- again beyond unfair) has stages. And those stages can take years.
When I went to my GP about my severe breast pain (I am not a hypochondriac but even I thought something may be up) he quizzed me on the when this occurred and once we had established it was cyclical he put it down to hormones. But, I asserted, I have never suffered from this pain due to PMT before. Well, he patronised, as a woman ages her PMT symptoms often change. He also suggested I might be peri-menopausal and suggested I go away and look it up.
I think I have mentioned this GP before. I can’t remember where, I have had a bit of a look but it escapes me. So I can’t link it. Sorry. Anyway I found this whole consultation deeply annoying. After I had resisted the urge to punch him I trotted off like a good little woman with my frankly debilitating breast pain and googled the peri menopause.
I wished I hadn’t.
So here is the gen. I had my terminology wrong. The menopause hasn’t happened until a woman goes without menstruating for a whole year. The run up to this when the ovaries start producing less and less oestrogen is called the peri- menopause and can take up to 10 years. Seriously. 10 years.
There are all the classic symptoms. Hot flushes, night sweats, weight gain, mood swings.
But there are others. I had spent the previous 6 months gently worrying that I may have early onset dementia. But, no, my inability to remember words, what happened yesterday, my kids’ names, how to make macaroni cheese is also down to the peri-menopause. Seriously. It is called cognitive decline. Who knew oestrogen played such a role in braininess? Well certainly not the other half of the population. And I guess it just backs up the old adage that men think with their… well whatever.
The literature suggested I try Sudoko. My god. I hate Sudoko. I thought I would blog instead. Maybe I should track my vocabulary usage and see if it is declining as I make my weary way through this never ending desert of the peri-menopause.
My perky fitness instructor recently attended a training course to learn to deliver menopause exercise classes (not something she is going to need for herself for an annoyingly long time). Apparently one does a lot of weight bearing lunges (to combat bone and muscle loss and CV decline) whilst counting backwards from 100 in sevens. Once she had outlined this at our group circuits class yesterday she diplomatically asserted that she wouldn’t need to run that for our class anytime soon but that we could ‘do it for fun’ one time if we fancied. Meanwhile I was stuck at 93. She could start running them for me tomorrow as it happens.
And then ‘mood swings’ doesn’t really come close. Homicidal mania may be more appropriate. Seriously there are days in my ‘cycle’, normally when merely dressing is agony, when it is best to avoid me. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend asking for the whereabouts of your glasses or open the new box of cling film wrongly or alter the height of my desk chair. Not unless you want to be killed with a spoon. Slowly. I think this is nature’s way of ensuring men cop for some inconvenience. It’s about time.
I don’t think I get hot flushes. Yet. I am feeling the heat more though. Weirdly I am having arguments with my husband that the house is too hot. Those that know me will find this distinctly odd as I am usually cold. And I still feel the cold. But not at night. Or first thing in the morning when I wake up feeling like I am sleeping in the desert because hubbie has had the temerity to turn up the thermostat to 18.5 degrees. I might buy him flannelette pyjamas.
And then there is hypermenorrhea, a technical term for bleeding like a stuck pig. Many, many women get this in the run up to the menopause. Heavier and longer periods. Great. So now for 2 days a month leaving the house gets difficult. Thanks for that. A right kick in the balls. If I had any. So in order to stop having periods one needs to have worse ones. Is it just so we remember forever? Is the body having one last ‘hurrah’ at our expense? Whatever it is deeply unfair. Deeply.
There are other symptoms listed which I am not going to go into personally as you may have to leave the room… such lovely things as vaginal dryness, loss of libido, incontinence (maybe I won’t have much time out from that feminine hygiene aisle), loss of bone density, a decrease in cardio vascular function, muscle loss, insomnia, worsening of PMT symptoms, fatigue, depression.
I look forward to running the gauntlet of these over the next 5 years or so.
But I guess the hardest thing in all of this is that realisation that soon (if not already no one can tell you in any given month if you have ovulated or are just having a period for ‘fun’) one will be redundant evolutionarily speaking.
Facing the end of one’s ability to birth children, whether one has had them or not, through choice or not, whether one wants more of them or metaphorically runs screaming to the hills at the mere thought, can be hard. More than hard.
So again the penis owning ones amongst you spare a thought for your wives, mothers, daughters and sisters as they ride this particularly scary and frankly not fun at all rollercoaster to old age.
And if any one suggests (especially in those homicidal 7 days a month) that I will be reborn after the menopause into a golden age of my life where I will have much to offer free from the burden of my own fertility I will tell them to fuck off. Seriously. You have been warned.
This is all 100% exactly what is happening to me aged 44. Got so concerned about breast pain that seemed to go on all month that in the end I had a mammogram. While it was oviously reassuring to be told I didnt have breast cancer, the follow up of “it’s your age love, just deal with it”, or words to that effect was not terribly helpful. Copious amounts of oil of evening primrose does seem to help. I too have been seriously anxious that I’m in the throes of early onset Alzheimer’s, so it’s nice to hear that there’s an alternative and slightly less depressing explanation for my short term memory loss. It is all so unfair. Once a month I now get spots. Spots basically on top of my wrinkles. There is no justice! Thanks for sharing – nice to have a “me too” moment.
Me too moments are exactly why I write these blogs which I guess some may find too personal. It’s important no? Not enough is said about menopause. To my mind. It’s shit and that should be out there! S x