I think for many women, the most unsexy word in the English language must be “Menopause.” I have never uttered the word, until recently.
Last week I woke up, twice, at 4 a.m. with this burning sensation throughout my body. I was so, so, so hot, that I whipped off my tank top and lay naked on top of the comforter. What is happening, I thought. But deep down, even though I didn’t want to think about it, I knew what it was; I am of the age where menopause symptoms can and do start. So very sexy, I know!
It was only after I told some of my friends about these “night sweats” that they chimed in with their own stories of menopause symptoms—hot flashes, missed periods, weight gain, and the worst symptom, at least to me? Mood swings! I’ll revisit mood swings in a bit…
Obviously the stigma of menopause needs to go away. I don’t want to talk about it either, but I also feel like screaming at my friends, “Why didn’t anyone warn me about night sweats! They are terrible!” I don’t recommend them.
I’m also mad. Menopause symptoms, and the word itself, sound awful! So, understandably, I get this is not something many women want to share with good friends, let alone their spouses. I can only imagine how that conversation would go down. “Hey honey, for possibly the next 7 to 14 years, I may be more irritated with you than I normally have been during our 17-year marriage. I may not want sex anymore, because of my lower sex drive, and during these years, I will experience vaginal dryness, which will be painful for me. I may be extra forgetful and…what was I just saying? Right! My anxiety level and my moods may swings may make your head spin. Heads up!” This is not a very sexy thing to say to your partner, and not, frankly, a very sexy thing to admit to yourself either.
The other night I found myself laughing with my boyfriend after mentioning to him that my biggest concern when it comes to menopause is “mood swings.” I only brought up menopause to him because I said I wanted to write about it.
“I can’t go through a pandemic, parent and possibly homeschool my kids AND start getting menopausal mood swings at the same time! It’s the perfect storm! I will implode and leave a trail of destruction everywhere I go!” His response was that he would build a bunker for himself to hide.
I didn’t even want to know what menopause is because, again, neither my mother nor my best friends had forewarned me about entering this unsexy stage. Which I find odd. Women talk openly about periods and cramps. Women talk openly about intimate details of their relationships and sex lives. Women talk openly about mental health. Women talk about what “nips and tucks” they’ve had done. Women talk openly pretty much about everything except the “M” word.
A few nights ago, lying with my guy beside me in bed, I found myself ranting, “Why can doctors and scientists come up with 937 ways to keep a guy hard but not ONE person out there can come up with just ONE pill to conquer at least some of these symptoms?” I do not know the answer. Anyone want to chime in?
When I mentioned how worried I was about mood swings, because I’m emotional at all times except when I’m asleep, my boyfriend looked at the time on his phone, looked at me, and said, “It’s 8:45 p.m. I arrived at 7 p.m. Since I’ve been here, you’ve had about three mood swings.” I know, right?
We both burst out in the type of laughter where you think, “I won’t have to do any sit-ups tomorrow, my stomach muscles hurt so much.” Basically, even if there was a world where menopause didn’t exist, my mood swings, according to my boyfriend, change THREE times every hour and forty-five minutes? And if that’s the case, if I do eventually get menopausal mood swings, would that then mean I would have about EIGHT mood swings every hour and forty-five minutes? And how can I tell if the mood swings and/or being extra irritable is, you know, just me being me, or if it’s because of menopause and stupid people who piss me off?
I finally took the plunge and looked up what exactly menopause is and what potentially is in store for me. First, I can see why many women don’t want to openly discuss it. There’s a sadness to menopause, or in the Perimenopause stage, which is the start of the long transition to menopause, when your periods stop permanently and you can no longer get pregnant.
Even if you are 100 percent certain you never want another baby, it’s kind of gut-wrenching when this realization becomes, well, reality. It IS sad. It makes you feel old. So maybe many women just bury that thought deep down, which is why so few women talk about it openly.
But I’ll also tell you this; I did instantly become very fucking irritated when I saw an article stating there are 34 — 34! — symptoms of menopause. WTF? Seriously? This list includes everything from breast soreness, itchy skin, memory lapses, dizzy spells and brittle nails. But what really put me over the edge was reading, “….your periods will start to dissipate as your hormone production decreases. These can, therefore, become very erratic; sometimes you may get PMS but with no bleeding.” That was a definite A-HA moment! We basically spent all those years wishing for our periods to stop, only to learn that we may still possibly get PMS, just without the bleeding? I mean, how fucking unfair is this? I thought this was the one and only plus about the “M” word.
Then again, when there is anything Michelle Obama, there is hope! And in this story I highly recommend reading, even the former first lady shares her first symptoms and why more women need to speak out. “It’s a problem…Many people who experience menopause are reticent about openly sharing their personal stories.” She continues, “It’s an important thing to take up space in society because half of us are going through this, but we’re living like it’s not happening.”
It really does feel exactly like that. I was correct, too, about why women don’t talk about The “M” word. Marie Bernard, deputy director of the National Institute on Aging, says, “For some women who are having trouble talking about it, it’s scary thinking about making that transition…It’s really a marker that you are no longer a young person.” Well, F**K! I may be a midlife mommy here, but I act more like my shoe size.
(FYI? My boyfriend suffers from at least half of those 34 symptoms, not including symptoms due to a women’s reproductive system. So there!)
Wen Shen, assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Johns Hopkins, strongly encourages open conversations about menopause, and that, “Menopause should be looked at as an opportunity…A time when women should be looking much closer at their overall medical health.” Meh, anything to do with The “M” word is still unsexy!
But menopause is one of the last remaining taboos, and of course, I encourage others to share their stories, even though I equally want to hear them and not hear them. I would rather hear my kids scream the other “M” word — Mommy — a million times than go on this so-called “transition.”
The closest I came to finding a “cure” is some researchers seeing how swimming in cold sea salt water helps. So I ask again, why can’t anyone come up with one damn pill to pop for menopause? You can get us to the moon, for Pete’s sake!
I’m sorry if I sound harsh. I’m not quite sure if I’m irritated because of the pandemic, the anxiety of possibly having to homeschool, or if it’s because I’m going through a possible mood swing because of the start of The “M” word, or if it’s just me.
I am due for my next mood swing, after all, in about 18 minutes.