Category Archives: Menopause

Menopause: My New Best Friend

I was born a woman, and have always been comfortable as a woman.  There are many ways to be a woman, and declare your “womanhood”.  Some women follow societal norms and portray themselves in the way that society and the media desires them to be, which is “feminine”, “womanly”, “compassionate”, “Nurturing”, and in most cases heterosexual.  Some women choose to be the antithesis of what the “norms” tell us to be, and portray themselves as “masculine”, “Butch”, “hard”, “lesbian”, and some women fall somewhere along the spectrum of these two.  Some women were born with male sex organs, and have never felt “right” as a male, and have gone to great lengths to make their physical bodies align with who they truly are.  There are many many types of women in this world, and in 2015, it is becoming more common for women to be allowed to express their gender in the way they choose with acceptance.  Unfortunately this is not the case for all women, but it is slowly getting better.

However, no matter how each woman chooses to express her gender, except for the women who were born with male sex organs there is one thing we all have to go through, and that is:

Menopause. 

hot_flashes

Menopause affects each woman differently, and at different times in their life, and for different lengths of time, but it still affects women who have female hormones.  Some women have hysterectomies because of health issues.  They can still experience menopause symptoms if they have their ovaries.  Menopause is defined as: the absence of menstrual periods for 12 months.  Now just to be clear, that is 12 months IN A ROW!!  Meaning if you don’t have a menstrual cycle for 11 months, and then have a cycle, the 12 month count starts all over again….

ain’t’ that a bitch???

But to be honest, even that isn’t the part that bothers me.  The part that bothers me is this:

Menopause does not occur overnight, but rather is a gradual process. This transition period (Perimenopause) is a different experience for each women, and there are some websites I have read that state it can last as much as 10 YEARS!!!!

Oh, and this:

The average age of menopause is 51 years old, but perimenopause may occur as early as the 30s. What???

And this:

There is no reliable lab test to predict when a woman will experience menopause, or perimenopause.

Wait, what??  so with all of the incredibly smart people in the medical field, we have no way to know when this will happen to us, how long it will last, or even exactly how to treat it??

Of course some doctors will recommend Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), but not all women can, or want, to go that route.  For those who can’t or don’t want to use HRT, there really is nothing they can do except walk through perimenopause.

Here is some of what that walk looks like (some women experience some or all of these symptoms, or even others):

Mood swings– or as I call it, wanting to throat punch someone one minute, and being a sobbing mess the next minute.

Hot flashes– or as I call them, “personal summer”, and Karol calls them “Power Surges”

Insomnia– although  this makes me either very productive, or a person who can perfect her late night World of Warcraft skills

Lack of libido– this one sucks…….a LOT!!!  (or if you are hetero, I guess maybe it makes you suck less???)   sorry I couldn’t help myself…..

Night sweats– this one is fun.  Especially if you have a partner, and you don’t go to bed at the same time, because it is super fun to get into bed, and it feels as though someone wet the bed because the bed sheets are damp…..ewwwwww

So how does this stuff qualify as “best friend” stuff?

well, think about it, when you laugh with your best friend, sometimes you pee a little, and that is like night sweats,

and you might not love your best friend “like that”, so there is a lack of libido in the relationship,

and your best friend can really make you mad, and also really make you happy, sometimes during a single conversation: Mood Swings..

Insomnia?  How about all those nights staying up talking until the wee hours of the morning?????

Hmmm Hot flashes, okay, how about when you see a piece of eye candy, and you get a little flushed???  Yup, there it is

so let’s reevaluate Perimenopause, and think of it as our new best friend, one that can last up to 10 years!!!  I know I have had best friendships that have lasted for shorter time periods than that, so I guess, it works out!

So perimenopause is my best friend….is it yours??

C’mon ladies….amiright????

#womenslives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perimenopause and it’s symptoms can suck it!!

I have written about Perimenopause before.  Looking back over my posts I have written about it twice.  Once in October 2012, and again n October 2013.  Not sure whey October seems to be the month to write about it, other than all this crap started the week of my birthday the year I turned 46, so maybe my birthday month (October) triggers something.  Not sure.  But I suppose if that is true than writing about it today makes me a month early.  And for those of you who may be squeamish I will warn you in advance that this article is filled with details about mine and other women’s bodily functions, so if it is TMI, I apologize in advance.

Perimenopause is a bitch.  Truly.  For any woman dealing with it, and that can be ANY woman in the mid to late 30’s until actual Menopause sets in, the time (which is often years) is full of unpleasant, and even painful or embarrassing situations.

I told someone recently that every month that I get my cycle I rejoice because that means I still have enough female hormones to induce a menstrual cycle.  However, while doing research about perimenopause what I have found is that I was dead wrong.  In fact some scientists believe that  perimenopausal women have an increase in Estrogen and a decrease in Progesterone, which is what causes us to have increased symptoms of bloating, cramping and breast tenderness. These scientists also believe that FSH is a major culprit in causing a change to our cycles from a regular 15 days to 10 days plus or minus 4 days.

GREAT!  So instead of being able to plan (somewhat) and count the days between cycles now we have a shortened cycle and can be on either side of our “due date” by 4 days.  Are you kidding me?

These symptoms are also noted to happen to perimenopausal women:

New heavy and/or longer menstrual flow (yep)

• Shorter menstrual cycle lengths (≤ 25 days) ( so now we have to carry feminine hygiene products ALL the time because we NEVER know when we might start bleeding)

• New sore, swollen, and/or lumpy breasts (This has definitely happened to me to the point where it hurts to even work out)

• New or increased menstrual cramps (I know this is TMI, but now I start cramping days before I start my cycle…..YAY)

• New mid-sleep wakening (this has not happened to me, but I do wake up in the middle of the night sweating….)

• Onset of night sweats, especially around flow (see above comment.  This can even happen in wintertime)

• New or markedly increased migraine headaches ( This has not happened to me, but I do have friends who have noted an increase in their migraines as they have entered their 40’s)

• New or increased premenstrual mood swings (Ummm, I have always been a bit moody. However, since I turned 46 I definitely cry more often and want to cut people more frequently…. not sure if that is perimenopause or just lack of tolerance for stupid people. )

• Notable weight gain without changes in exercise or food intake (That has been my ENTIRE life, so nothing new there)

Image from : www.rottenecards.com

Image from : www.rottenecards.com

I mean honestly, is this fair in any sense of the word?  We have to deal with these symptoms, and more I wager. For my own experience I have the lovely experience of having cramps for days before I even have a cycle and wish I would just start already so I can stop having the cramps and bloating.  Also, I never know exactly when I am going to have a cycle.  I will be “regular” (meaning a cycle every 28 days) for three or four months, then I will have two cycles in one month, then I will go back to “regular”.

I never know how long my bleeding will last.  Some months it is 4 days, some months it is 7 days, some months it is 10 days. And according to these scientists and doctors this shift from pre-menstrual (meaning normal 28 day cycle every month). And my gosh, (super TMI) the bleeding can be so heavy at times!  Seriously, the flow can be so heavy you think you are bleeding out.  And then, you realize nope, it is just my stupid perimenopause.  (well that is what I think anyway, not sure what other women my age call it)

I know my peers are experiencing these symptoms and others.  I know because we sometimes talk about it.  I don’t know why it is not a more open discussion.  Why don’t we talk about these things more?  I mean seriously come on, these symptoms affect EVERY woman at some point in her life. Even if you have a surgical removal of organs you will have a “surgical” menopause.  Karol had a hysterectomy due to cervical cancer and removal of one ovary and she still has symptoms.  One of my BFF’s only has one ovary and she has symptoms.  Since millions of women deal with this why don’t we talk about it more?  Why isn’t there more research to find treatments or ways to make these symptoms less intrusive for women?

I know part of the answer is because women’s medical issues are not as important to the medical community and researchers as medical issues affecting men. Part of the answer is because it is “impolite” to discuss these things.  It is not “nice”.  Really, that pisses me off because I can see commercials on tv for medications to help men with their erections (or lack of erection to be more correct), and that is mainstream conversation about men’s health issues as they age.  Why can’t women’s health issues about aging be a mainstream conversation?

I for one will do what I can to enlighten women and talk about these issues.  Hopefully in my very small part and my very small sphere of influence I can open a conversation that women will participate in with each other, with their health care providers, and with society as a whole so this topic becomes less taboo and more “normal”.

Women who are dealing with this I would love to hear what you are going through and whether this list is all you are dealing with or if we need to add to it.

Perimenopause AKA “I can turn you from a bitch to a blubbering idiot in 30 seconds, all while having a hot flash”

I have been healthy my entire life.  I have never had a broken bone, and have only had the flu once that I remember.  However, since I was pregnant when I had the flu that should count as if I had it 3 times.  I mean really, it was pretty awful that as soon as I was done with the first trimester nausea, puking nonsense I came down with the flu so I was right back to puking.  TOTALLY not fair…..

Seriously, being healthy is a good thing.  Karol has many, many health problems she has had to deal with.  She has had cervical cancer, eye surgery, surgery to put a prosthetic ear drum and ear bones in her right ear, a Radical hysterectomy, knee surgery, and since she had the hysterectomy she now has lymphadema in her right leg.  Oh and lets not forget that fact that she has a brain tumor.
Not only have I always been  mostly healthy throughout my life, I have also always had regular periods.  Yes periods….I went there.  Ladies, you know how important it is to have a regular menstrual cycle.  To know when that crap is coming makes life so much easier.  Being able to plan for the bloating, cramps, mess, etc is always a good thing.  Although, that really makes me think that the whole thing really isn’t quite fair.  I mean what do men have to deal with?

Women start out in their early teens dealing with a menstrual cycle, then we have to deal with birth control (which brings it’s own brand of bullshit into your life…weight gain, acne, etc etc), then we have babies if we choose and then deal with the physical aftermath of pregnancy, (which for most of us means weight gain and for those of us with c-sections flabby tummies for LIFE). THEN after childbirth and all the “loveliness” and the pain free experience of that (note the sarcasm), we go back to having our menstrual cycle on a monthly basis, and THEN, when you are in the middle age of your life, and you are through having babies, and by all rights you should just casually and calmly  stop having your menstrual cycle, is that how it happens????

HELL NO!

My friend Rikki gave me a birthday card with these ladies on it:

My new best friends

My new best friends

My new best friends!!! (thanks Rikki)

After a lifetime of dealing with bleeding on a monthly basis that also includes cramps, bloating, backaches and a million other kinds of nonsense, the Universe is kind enough to have women go through MENOPAUSE.  Oh, but you don’t just get to “go into” menopause, nooooo, that would be too easy.  Instead of gently just going into menopause, we have this whole period of “perimenopause”.  Which in non-medical terms just means your body is going to mess with you and make your life even MORE complicated…….  oh, and just to make it a little more interesting, this “perimenopause” can last up to 10 years!!

What a cruel joke!! And oh yeah, by the way, the Universe has a sense of humor, and likes to gain amusement at my expense, it isn’t enough that I have started down this slippery slope of perimenopause, nope, my body decided it was a good idea to start the crap the week I turned 46.  Really???  Thanks!!  Like I needed that not so gentle reminder I am aging…..  NOT!!

I am telling you the truth when I say that unless I was pregnant my cycle has come EVERY 28 days.  I was always one of those women who could circle the day on the calendar and KNOW when my cycle was going to start.  A few months before before my 46th birthday (two years ago),  my cycle was a couple of days early, then the next month a few days late, then I was right back on track. So I thought nothing of it.

THEN the month before my birthday, (September, 2011) I started getting the typical PMS symptoms.  Bloating, water weight gain, tender breasts, some mild cramping.  The day my cycle was due came….and went.  Then it was day after day after day of waiting.  Two weeks passed by and still no cycle.  So I called a friend who is a couple of years older than me and has gone through this already to get some advice.  And what did my wonderful compassionate, loving friend  do?  She laughed……..LOUDLY!   To be honest, she was helpful, after she finished her cackling…

I decided I was not going to let this perimenopause stuff beat me, so I went to my local health food store and bought an herbal supplement that had the most milligrams of every herb I knew to be associated with menopause symptoms and plant hormone regulation and I found a bottle of pills called Mensosense that has Dong Quai, Black Cohosh, and Chaste Berry.  After taking these every morning for a week I felt MUCH better, and lo and behold, my cycle started!!  Coincidence?  Magic?? Herbs??  Probably some of all three.  Whatever, I started taking those magical beauties every day……..

mensosense

In October 2011 after I had that horrible experience in September I had my annual physical.  I love my doctor.  She is amazing.  I told her what I was going through and asked for advice.  Did I mention I love my doctor??  Her answer to me was, “Every woman is different, perimenopause can last up to 10 years, and you just have to be prepared for the unpredictability.  Carry an extra pair of underwear and all the feminine hygiene products you will need in case of a surprise.”

Wait, that’s it???  All medical science has to offer is “carry extra undies, pads and tampons”    ?????  That’s it???  So in other words I need a bigger purse than I already have??  Shit!  I still do love my doctor though!

Fast forward two years. My symptoms have all but disappeared, except for the fact that my bleeding issue is all over the map now.  Worse than it was two years ago.  When I went to my physical this year, my doctor told me the same things about the menopause issue, and this time added, “well, your blood pressure is great but even though you have lost over 20 pounds your sugar is still high and we will need to check that again in three months.”

I am surprised my blood pressure was so great to be honest.  I live with two teenagers and two non working young adults, am taking Statistics this semester in college, and am also facing the prospect of 10 years of perimenopause, to which the answer is: carry extra undies and period accoutrement. Seriously???

My blood pressure should be higher than 120/72!!  To be honest, given what is going on in my life right now 120/72 is amazing blood pressure, not just great!!

Maybe the mensosense is helping my moods enough that it is keeping my blood pressure down…..they truly are little magical pills!!!