Novelist | Singer
The menopausal demon is real. I seem to have gone through the physical changes in the space of just over a year, which is fortunate. Some women suffer from the unwanted surprise for years. But that emotional stuff – argh. It chases its victim through a maze of dark, clammy gloom, with creepy spider webs hanging down, imaginary people reaching out to grab you on your race to nowhere. You’re not quite sure what race you’re running, but you know you are late. Sleep is episodic. You are tired all the time. You always a bit confused and you can’t remember things. It is easy to feel self-pity. You are consumed with negative thoughts for no reason at all. This feeling follows you into every sunrise as you prepare for work. It is the first time in my life that I feel I shouldn’t have to work anymore. Going to work every day is too difficult. I also attempt to ignore all of this, as women of my generation tend to do.
All of that aside, the hot flashes alone are enough to drive you over the precipice. Though mine started off as real hot flashes, now I’m simply on low flame – I’m constantly hot and sweaty and I stink most of the time. What a wonderfully feminine trait for a woman to have. I’m doing a load of wash every other day, and there are only two of us in my household.
The systemic nature of hormonal fluctuation means you can’t ignore it. As I tell my husband, at least you can get away from me. I’m stuck inside here with all my doubts and insecurities.
Now, you can ask anyone I know, and insecure is not a word they would use to describe me. Then why do I feel that way, almost all the time? I have also recently conceded that I am a workaholic. Menopause has given me a fresh look at myself, and quite honestly, that has been a huge release, a blast of chilly air in my face. Thankfully, there are things that I like as well as things that I don’t, but I’m old enough to live with myself and my less attractive qualities.
Menopause is rough on independent women. We have always been able to rise above, toe the line; the great accomplishers that followed a generation of bra-burning radicals. We are feisty, so life is doable. Menopause makes us feel vulnerable and weak. Suddenly, we are no longer those capable women. We doubt ourselves. We need others to lean on. And strangely, that is part of the solution.
I have a doctor’s appointment in a couple of months, and I have decided to ask my doctor for anti-depressants. If it would fix this feeling even for an hour a day, it would be worth it. I wasn’t aware of how many of my friends were on anti-depressants, and I suppose everyone is a little embarrassed about that subject. I know I am. Our generation wasn’t that soft. We were raised with “get over it,” “take a walk,” “go do something – anything,” which is a very practical solution, although temporary at best.
The need for approval and acceptance is very, very real. At 53, I am just discovering how vital close human relationships are to a happy life. Oddly, for me, it was menopause that woke me up to that fact.
Life is really, really good. It is varied and exciting, full of a myriad of opportunities for most of us, and that in itself is an incredible blessing. So count your lucky stars, ladies. There are millions and millions out there in your sky. Contact a friend. Go out and take that walk. But DO something. No one else knows how you feel but you. And then tell somebody. Let’s take care of each other. We’re all we’ve got. Cheers.