Hey laaaaadiieeeesss… (said like Jerry lewis). Gather ’round, forty-somethings. Let’s talk about the p word. Let’s discuss all the things that are happening to us girls as we go through…. wait for it….. perimenopause. It’s the prequel to menopause, but the epilogue of those awesome 30s. A time when we feel like we are losing our minds, and keep it to ourselves. No more, friends. This isn’t 1952 when we went to the doctor and whispered, “I think I might be about to go through (insert gasp here) the change.” We are going to figure out a better way to handle all of this. I am currently in the middle of my 47th year, and I can attest, this is no joke.
I was having lunch with a friend last week when she said the following: “I yelled at my mom the other day for not preparing me for this! Why didn’t she tell me? Why didn’t any of my family members who have already been through this tell me what I was in for?” I nodded my head in full agreement. There should be an adult class, kind of like 5th grade puberty talks, where you and your spouse get separated into male and female groups and given the rundown on what this whole perimenopause situation looks like. I’m half kidding. A forewarning would be amazing. So, here’s my forewarning for anyone who isn’t there yet, but is close. And also a little information for the spouses, because like it or not, you’re in this too.
Perimenopause means “around menopause” and is the exclamation mark on those birthing years. That would be just fine, if that were all there is to it. But nature gave us a whole host of ways to tell that we are in fact nearing the end of the baby birthing years. It feels like a cruel joke, as the signs of perimenopause are wretched. Simply slowing that monthly cycle down would have been all the information we needed. But nope. We get a laundry list of uncomfy signs and symptoms in addition to monthly surprises, just to really drive mother nature’s point home.
First, there’s the thinning hair. You’ll start noticing more and more hair going down the drain, and think, huh; that’s weird. But you don’t put two and two together. One day you’ll look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Why am I starting to look like Great Aunt Delores?” Because you are in the P word. Hair falls out and bald spots begin to form and you’ll start moving hair around like a dude with a combover. Grab that hairspray and pray for no rain. Don’t bother buying minoxidil; JLo is full of crap, man. Or, try it for yourself and maybe you get better results. Who am I to crush your regrowth hopes and dreams? I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.
Next, there are those fantastic mood swings. “Why are you crying?” I have no idea. No seriously. NO IDEA. I thought I was having a pretty good day, and then all the sudden I was overwhelmingly sad for no good reason and the tears began to flow. For the men in your life, please know that this has nothing to do with you, so stop asking. Google “women and hormonal changes” and take a minute to study up on why we seem unstable. Take a minute to thank baby Jesus in the manger that you don’t have to go through this too. Then do your best to support your wife/sister/coworker the best way you know how. Ask her what she needs from you, and don’t take offense to whatever her answer is. Chances are, she’ll be laughing two minutes after she stops crying. Then comes the rage. Satan takes over for a minute. Don’t call the exorcist, just hang on to something, because this too shall pass. Just get out of the way. Stand back. Duck. Mind your business. The fluctuations in hormonal mood switcheroos are just that weird. Trust me, it feels even weirder than it looks from the outside.
Heat waves. When you finally understand those hot flashes your mom went through, it’s an unfun empathetic “I get it now.” You’ll be sitting there one minute perfectly temperatured and suddenly the flames of hell are seeping out of your skin. It makes no sense. I do notice that stress leads to a flash, so try to mind your anxiety level. Lots and lots of deep breaths. If one finds you anyway, a neat little trick my mama taught me is to blow on a cup of ice water. It’s like a little homemade air conditioner for your face. Stepping outside in the winter during a hot flash is like a smile from heaven. I feel claustrophobic when I’m overwhelmingly hot so it’s extra panicky for me, and unfortunately, I’m not quiet about it. If you see me running outside like my hair is on fire, it’s because I’m pretty sure it is. It might look a little overdramatic, but again, mind your business.
Night sweats. You might find yourself waking up completely drenched and think, “Did I, surely I didn’t pee the bed like a toddler.” Nope. You sweat your sugar plums off like you ran a marathon in your sleep. Here’s the thing; I’m cold most of the time. When I go to bed, I usually do so in a sweatshirt; however, even if I’m frosty when I go to bed, I have learned to ditch the hoodie no matter what. I will no doubt wake up at 2 am roasting like a rotisserie chicken in the Walmart deli. That leads me to sleep problems.
Forget sleeping through the night. I know, your kids finally stopped waking you up and you saw this light at the end of the sleep deprived tunnel where you thought, “Finally, I get some rest.” Not so fast, friends. I currently wake up around 1:30 am, 2 am, 3 am, 3:45 am, 4:30 am, and then I don’t go back to sleep. I lay in bed from 4:30 am until my alarm goes off at 6 am, thinking about all the things I need to do the next day. If it’s anxiety that is keeping me up, I’ll do a brain dump. I keep a journal next to my bed for this very reason. I write down all my worries and woes and get them off my brain. Sometimes it isn’t anxiety that is keeping me up, and there’s no rhyme or reason to it. I use ear buds and listen to guided meditations to help lull me back to slumberland. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, I’ll just get up and try to get something done. Why waste the time laying there looking at the clock? Here comes that rage again….
Brain fog. This part is so fun. I can’t word find to save my life. “You know, that thing that that dude said on that one show?” Nope. If I had a dollar for every time I snapped my fingers over and over in hopes of the effing word I’m trying to find suddenly hitting my cerebellum….wait, what was I talking about again? That’s right, friends. Get ready to feel realllllllly dumb. It’s the cherry on the perimenopause sundae. I have found a few supplements that seem to help. I religiously take magnesium, B12, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Weight gain. Hopefully this isn’t everyone, but it’s definitely been my experience. No matter what I do, it keeps getting worse. I see a lot of skinny old ladies around, so I’m guessing it’s temporary. I can’t decide if I want to just be fat and eat happily or try to lose the extra fluff and hate my mealtime life. It’s a doozy of a decision. Every website you look to for guidance in this arena says “Ditch the alcohol. It adds extra pounds quickly and your liver is suffering.” Ditch the alcohol? AT A TIME LIKE THIS? This is when I need the comfort of a glass of wine the most! I don’t sleep, my hair is falling out, I am a million degrees at any given moment, I’m sobbing because the dog on the commercial I just watched only has three legs, and now you want me to stop drinking alcohol? Here comes the rage again…….
Then we have to take a giant step back and remember every woman goes through this, and has since the beginning of time. They got through it, and so will we. But, my whole point is to not treat it like a dirty little secret. It doesn’t have to be your grandma’s 1952 perimenopause. Let’s talk about it, and share solutions we find for the straight madness we get to suffer through. Don’t let your spouses look at you like you have 12 heads and not tell them what is happening. Communicate what you are going through and give them ways to help. If you are married to a man, they have no idea what this feels like, and they are lost when it comes to helping. It’s not their fault nature didn’t give them this awesome life transition; try not to take it out on them, even when you want to lop their head off with a dull letter opener. If we don’t tell them, they don’t know. If you’re married to a woman, and you guys are the same age both going through it at the same time, peace be upon your house.
Take your vitamins, try minoxidil, sleep in light clothing, try black cohosh for night sweats and hot flashes, meditate, pray, brain dump, talk, and find comfort and camaraderie in those going through the same things you are. Take a nice walk every day if you can, do some box breathing when you feel stressy, and maybe get some bloodwork done to see where your hormone levels are. Don’t take any supplements without talking to your physician first (that’s the “don’t sue me” disclaimer). Let’s talk openly and honestly, and let’s pave the way for those who come after us, so it’s not a shock when they suddenly don’t feel like themselves. Let’s support each other, offer potential solutions, and communicate. Men, that goes for you too. If you go through some life transition phase, talk about it. Ask for help and understanding. Ain’t nobody on this planet meant to charter life’s waters alone. Girls, I am putting three fingers in the air in solidarity like the mockingjay salute. XOXO.