An honest personal look into how a woman’s body and mind could change in her 40’s due to perimenopause, hormones, adulting and life in general.
For me, it happened two years ago. This thing. This life changing, big, but taboo thing. It started off as noticing changes in my body: weight fluctuations or better yet BIG HUGE PLATEAUS. Then a facial hair by itself here or there. Then unexplainable sweating. Like legit sweating. Not just sweating while exercising, but sweating while talking and standing still. Who does that? Why? Who am I? What is this THING HAPPENING TO ME in its slow but steady, and dark way? Then the inability to really hold my concentration. The inability to focus because I’m so distracted. I have perfected the furrowed eyebrow and head nod to at least mimic listening intently in hopes my fuzzy brain will follow. Then came the worry. Non stop, ongoing, incessant almost obsessive, worry. Worry about my children and any ailment major or very minor that I made major by worrying, and also worry about my parents, husband, finances, life, work, work, and more work. You named it I worried over it. And I still do but so much less so and at least now I can name it and deal through it. Then came the crying. I never ever used to cry like this. I was never a cryer. Like out of the blue crying. Crying at a movie, at a show, while reading, or crying at just a thought! Then came changes in menstruation patterns, my hair, my skin and essentially my whole self. I was morphing slowly into a middle aged woman whom I did not recognize. Of course for me during this time, online research became my best friend then later my very ,very, worst enemy. I looked online for symptoms I was having. I was either dying of a disease , losing my mind, or going through perimenopause. So then I googled early onset menopause. That’s the diagnosis I branded myself that I liked best. Oh and by the way, during this time, it was literally dangerous for any of my children or family to tell me they were feeling unwell, as that meant I rushed to visit my friend google again to diagnose them! And EVERY TIME IT LEFT ME MORE ANXIOUS, WORRIED AND IRRATIONAL, which of course helped nobody and further branded me as “#Monaisgoingthroughsomethingeh.” Anyway, all things online tell me these symptoms are due to early menopause or menopause itself. In other words, change of life like what my mama said. It’s not in my head. It’s not in your head either. But you will get through it and you can get help with all of it and live well with it while it passes.
From what I read, they say to look to our mothers to see whether or not we would follow their change of life and menopausal patterns. Well I’m fortunate to look to my mom and talk to her and ask her these questions. My beautiful mom too went through what she astutely phrased in her cute accent, “change of life” (#changeoflife) time. Mom remembers vividly not being able to sleep from non stop agonizing pain in her arms (she said she felt she was being scratched or bit non stop). But what is more true for mom is that she worked so hard and long picking tomatoes and vegetables as a farm labourer that her pain was likely from the back breaking labour itself. And yes her age didn’t help. Back then she probably suffered from carpal tunnel but didn’t name it or visit a doctor who knew about it. Regardless, mom too felt symptoms of menopause in her 40’s. She also had a baby at 41. But soon after that she said she felt menopausal. So there, I’m just like my mama; and for any other reason that would make me feel proud, happy and warm and fuzzy. But for this particular reason and juncture in my life, I’m just warm and hot and avoid anything fuzzy like the plague, and am growing sweaty as I sit just sit here at my computer and write, for the love of all things sacred! And ceiling fans…ceiling fans have now replaced online surfing as my best friend. Ceiling fans in every room please. In every house please. On maximum speed please.
My loving family bought me an Applewatch for Christmas this year. I love it. I downloaded an app, called Pillow, that tracks sleep or in my case lack of sleep down to a science. My sisters now want me to return the watch. Bad watch. Bad app. Bad family.
Actually, the app and watch just really confirm what I already have been feeling. Lately, I don’t sleep. I can’t stay asleep rather. Oh I can fall asleep for sure, but it has to be in front of Netflix, on the couch, under a blanket. Once my hubby gives me the nudge to go upstairs to bed, then all hell breaks loose. Look out! The blanket I welcomed warmly on the couch is now an actual formidable opponent once getting in bed. I can kick it, pull it, tug it, throw it, push it, yet still it comes back to haunt me and heat me up! The ceiling fan gets flicked on like pronto. And here come the joint pains in my arms, hips, ankles. And yes I prefer and can only fall asleep on my stomach hugging my pillow like I have been since I was born probably. Well, I now pay for that position when I wake up because now I have to literally unfreeze my arms from that position in the morning and holy does that ever hurt! Then in go my husband’s ear plugs in his ears ( I really have come to loathe that sound of plastic crunching from him unveiling the earplugs out of their sacred plastic wrapped package) ….oh because yes now my darlings, during this change of life that nobody REALLY talks about, women might start to actually snore or whistle, or hum in their sleep. Like can it get any worse?! Don’t ask that! Don’t! For the love of my children and family please don’t ask that question! Really don’t because yes my superstitious mind in my 40’s is in overdrive so I just try to tame it quietly by not provoking it with questions like that. So please don’t do it either.
As I think about it now, as I drink my warm coffee (coffee now has become a life line that I can actually drink it at all temperatures and really I wonder if I can get in an IV some days), and enjoy the cool breeze of the fan my husband lovingly and yes urgently installed, I wonder if the snoring is due to the weight gain; especially around the middle. So yes ladies, I’m sorry but brace yourself for that too! Weight gain or weight being stuck like glue everywhere…But the actual literature I read refers to it as “weight redistribution.” Yeah. No. It’s not redistributed. It’s new. It’s real weight gain even after not really eating at all! Even my fingers look different okay.
So for me, at this stage in my life, my chat groups with like minded girls, sisters and cousins and friends, also in their 40’s or approaching, have become my lifeline. They help me. They keep the unexpected sweat at bay. They silence the snoring. They calm the worry dragon in my head. They redirect my mind from wandering to deep, dark and far places. They anchor me in the here and now. And they make me laugh at all the similarities, the commonalities, the suggestions and stories of their own changes of life and experiences. Oh and my marvelous Mama Margueritte: She is my rock. She makes me laugh at her own experiences and changes in her body and mind when she was my age. She keeps it real and honest. She also tells me to suck it up essentially, but in her own sweet, funny and kind way. The featured “M” on this post represents her power, myself and hopefully the power within me, and the power of menopause and its passing. For the love of all good, pure and strong things M. Mama also profoundly provided the following bits of mama wisdom:
“What are you going to do about it?”
“Pray. Are you praying? Are you at least saying the sign of the cross?”
“Deal with it.”
“Pray for your kids. Pray for your husband and for everyone.”
” You’re okay.”
“It’ll go away.”
“It happened to me.”
“Oh, it’s ugly.”
“Talk to others, or to a doctor, and see.”
“Yes it can be scary.”
“Take care of yourself first.”
“Take it easy.”
“Go see a doctor then.
“Exercise is the best thing for it.”
” Eat right.”
“Go for a walk.”
“Don’t worry about it: it’s just “change of life.”
Hoping this honest look into my own and personal only experiences can help a fellow woman, a sister in need. Take care of yourselves sisters and friends. This stage can be both liberating and exhausting. Find a way to balance it and communicate with others including a health professional if needed. No shame. No judgement. Just real life. This 40 something lady is taking charge of it all and laughing, and living through it while trying to exercise regularly and practice wellness to minimize it until it passes. #Changeoflife. Remember to laugh and yes cry if you must. Reach out and wonder and talk it out. God Bless us all. Peace to my sisters and friends!