Friday, June 11, 2010

The M Word

Over the winter I had dinner with an old college friend, Nancy. I hadn't seen her in years and we couldn't talk fast enough, trying to catch up.  Amid all the news of kids, jobs, and husbands, Nancy matter-of-factly dropped this bomb.

"Oh, and I'm completely post-menopausal," she said. "I haven't had a period in two years."

Really? I was shocked. Nancy is 47, my age. Isn't all the menopause stuff supposed to happen when we're much older, like in our 50s?

Apparently  not. Because for the last month I've been having hot flashes. Constantly. When I'm driving the car, playing tennis, typing at my computer, making dinner, talking on the phone, walking my dog. All the freaking time.

It's the strangest sensation. Without warning, a wave of heat will well up and build in intensity before it bursts out of me, leaving me flushed and damp with perspiration. It's unsettling, especially at night, when it morphs into the "night sweats" and wakes me up. I lie there, anxious and clammy, enviously listening to my husband's deep breathing.

After a couple weeks of this, I made an appointment to see my gynecologist.

"Do you think I have a thyroid problem?" I asked her, hopefully, after describing my symptoms.

"It's possible but .... female, late 40s, irregular periods," she shrugged. "Most times, when you hear hoofbeats, you have to assume it's a horse."

I tried not to whine.

"I'm not ready for this. I can't sleep, I'm cranky, and I have this deep feeling of unease."

My doctor nodded sympathetically. "Yep, that's it, all right. It's awful, but you'll get through it."

This was not what I expected. I was hoping she'd reveal to me the secret power of menopause - how it leads to enlightenment, freedom, and the development of my true womanly-ness. Sitting on that examination table, huddled in my paper gown, I did not feel one bit forty fabulous. Shit.

My doctor said my symptoms could go away or continue for several years. The average age of menopause, officially defined when a woman hasn't had her period for a year, is 51. She discussed how taking hormones or even anti-depressants could cure me of hot flashes, but I'm not ready to go there.

Instead, I've put myself on a course of herbal remedies and positive visualization. Here are a couple thoughts that are helping me cope.

I'm a hot flash hottie!
Menopause means the end of reproductivity, not sexuality. Many women find greater satisfaction and closeness with their partner after all that child-bearing stuff is out of the way. I'm looking at each hot flash as a reminder that I am one smoking hot babe. Wait, here comes one now. Excuse me while I wipe the drops of sweat off my keyboard.

Let the creative juices flow!
There's a lot of ancient lore and modern day evidence that going through the "change of life" really amps up a woman's creativity. According to the experts at,
Many women feel more creative as they enter menopause. They report having flashes of deep creativity and insight. They begin to look at the world in a different way and to see their relationship to it differently. They also feel more independent and more grounded in the present. 
When I turned 40 I felt like I was entering the the most creative, confident, exciting time of my life and I  feel the same way today. Women over 40 may be grown-ups, but that doesn't mean we've stop growing - and if that means suffering a few hot flashes along the way, bring it on!


Anonymous said...

You will ALWAYS be a smokin' hottie...menopause or not. They say that it never ends...can have symptoms for the rest of your life. (hot, cranky, etc.) At least that is my excuse when I am a raging bi#ch!!!! Bring on the estrogen!!!

Marjie Killeen said...

Anonymous - you're on fire, girl. I am toasting you with my black cohosh herbal supplement! PMS, menopause - our hormones are definitely keeping us on our toes.