If the word “perimenopause” didn’t already give it away, this one’s for the girls…the women.
So, much like when I wrote about my annual visit to the Gyno last year, if you are one of the fourteen men who read this blog you might want to use this time to go grab a snack or scratch something or whatever else might take up the five minutes you’d otherwise spend reading this. Or read it and take an extra few moments to appreciate the female species…even more than I’m sure you already do.
Parts of the past 10 days have been hell.
Actually, if I’m being honest, parts of the past 30 years have been hell, but I’ll get into that later (something for you to look forward to).
If you follow me on Facebook and are one of the like 200 (out of 1,362) who actually see my posts in your newsfeed, you might remember that last week I was plagued with over a week of nightly migraines. Like, 8+ on a 10 point pain scale type of migraines. Like, I stopped drinking wine type of migraines. I know, it was serious.
So after a trip to the neurologist and 25 minutes in the MRI torture tube and an additional three nights of Ginger Ale chased by 200 mg. of Imitrex I realized that my hormones were telling me something. Not to drink so much Chardonnay? Ha! Don’t be silly. No, they were telling me that being a 44 year old woman sucks. The end.
I know, I know. Being a 44 year old woman is a hell of a lot better than the alternative, and I agree wholeheartedly. But recently the onset of increased cramps, flow, headaches, spider veins, age spots (they stop being called ‘freckles’ when you reach 40) and the diminishing eyesight, hearing, and hair that accompanies it all makes you have moments when you’re not so sure.
My 10 day headache bender made me hyper aware of all of the above, plus something else — the way I’ve been awakened in the middle of the night a few times over the past month wet with sweat which I just assumed was caused by too many layers of flannel.
Night sweats that are not caused by flannel or fever.
Night sweats that are caused by my new word of the week: perimenopause.
Perimenopause – noun
The period leading up to menopause which some of the symptoms associated with menopause may be experienced. It is not unusual for the duration to last ten or more years.
Yesterday I had an appointment with my friendly gynecologist (remember her?) to discuss things like headaches and cramps and hormones and night sweats. She was kind (as usual) and told me we’d just have to take it as it comes and make decisions based on symptoms I am and will be experiencing. Over the next ten or more years. And then I made her hold me.
When I got home and googled “night sweats and perimenopause” (as one would expect me to do even though my doctor highly discourages me from googling anything health related because she’s known me for almost 12 years and knows the tailspin it will put me in), I was instantly directed to a site called 34 Menopause Symptoms.
I shouldn’t have.
Here’s are the 34 — THIRTY FOUR — things I have to look forward to over the next ten or more years.
1. Hot Flashes
2. Night Sweats
3. Irregular Periods
4. Loss of Libido
5. Vaginal Dryness
6. Mood Swings
8. Hair Loss
9. Sleep Disorders
10. Difficulty Concentrating
11. Memory Lapses
13. Weight Gain
17. Brittle Nails
18. Changes in Odor (Changes in Odor??)
19. Irregular Heartbeat
23. Panic Disorder
24. Breast Pain
26. Joint Pain
27. Burning Tongue
28. Electric Shocks
29. Digestive Problems
30. Gum Problems
31. Muscle Tension
32. Itchy Skin
33. Tingling Extremeties
So pretty much everything horrible you could ever possibly feel is what I have to look forward to…when?…over the next ten or more years.
And by the way, I think I can safely say numbers 20 through 23 are now in the bag.
Yesterday I saw this photo of Christie Brinkley from a Wednesday night event. You guys, there’s no way she experienced any of this shit and looks like this at age 59.
Most of you know I have two daughters, and it’s sometimes very difficult to be a cheerleader for Team Woman when you know what they’re in for. Because a lot of it sucks. I mean, the shoes are great, but for a solid week out of every month, it sucks. It does. I don’t know a better, more proper word for it. I suspect there are a lot of women out there who think bleeding and cramping, not to mention the mess, aren’t a (very literal) pain and that they are just part of the wondrous world of womanhood, but I’m gonna go ahead and say it again: it sucks. Listen, I try to be a positive role model for my girls when it comes to all the growing and changes their bodies have gone (and are going) through (Hooray! Bloody panties and feeling like there’s hot coals in your abdomen is awesome!). But it’s hard to be peppy when you’re lying in a ball on the bed covered in heating pads one day and begging for just one more Imitrex the next. And then one day you wake up at 2 a.m. covered in a sheen of sweat that didn’t come from what it used to come from when you were 24 and you google it and are slapped in the face with 33 other things that make aging sound a lot like ten or more years of hell. Surrounded by Kardashians.
What’s amazing to me, though, is that (other than Christie Brinkley) millions of women go through it, have gone through it, and lived to tell about it. They’ve survived. Maybe barely, but they get through it. I have two friends who I was talking to at Bunco last week who just made it to the other side. And guess what? They both were standing upright, had heads full of hair and smelled just fine. One of the 382 questions I asked them was if they had experienced terrible mood swings for ten or more years, and both said no, they were pretty even keeled. I imagined their families standing behind them shaking their heads violently and mouthing, “SHE’S A LIAR. SHE WAS A TOTAL BITCH” but since they’re both so fun and pleasant I’m sure they were telling me the truth. And since we were only on roll 2 of the dice it couldn’t have been the wine talking (it totally could have been the wine talking).
But it gave me hope.
Because right now I have like 23 days a month when I feel 24 instead of 44. Sure, I have to carry three pairs of glasses with me wherever I go and my ponytail is 1/4 as thick as it used to be and let’s not forget the two pairs of pajamas I’ve been going through one night a week and the hormone-changing-induced-headaches, but I honestly don’t feel much different than I did twenty years ago. Do I sleep (or crave sleep) more than the average person? Absolutely, but that’s been true for me since birth.
So I’m refusing to succumb to the list. I will exercise and use nail strengthener and be as pleasant as always (shut up, Husband)! I will sleep on a sponge and wear ice bags in my bra and take Claritin! I will suck on popsicles and buy K-Y and wear Depends!
I vow to be as lovely at age 59 as Christie Brinkley.
Let’s just hope I smell like her, too.
Any comments, words of wisdom or advice from those of you in the same boat — or those of you who’ve disembarked?
Solidarity, my sisters, solidarity.
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