Guest blog from menopausalme.com
I always thought that by the time I reached my 50s, I would be sorted – calm, happy and accepting of who I was and maybe even love myself a little.
Instead, I have been moody, mad and miserable – or MMM, as I like to call it. It transpired that instead of growing into a loving, balanced and self-assured woman, I became menopausal and had done so in a secret kind of way, for my eyes only.
Simply put, the most I’d ever known about the menopause was that it involved a hot flush or two, and then it was over.
But I was wrong.
And with so little spoken of it, I can see why that might have been the case.
The first time I experienced a hot flush, it was not one of my own. It belonged to a lady on the train. I was young and curious and recall being captivated as I watched her turn crimson right before my eyes.
The second flush did belong to me and it occurred in my mid-thirties as a result of treatment for breast cancer.
The potency of the drugs affected my ovaries and threw me into a temporary state of menopause.
I was hot.
Very hot and very sweaty.
And it was gross.
Thankfully my treatment was successful, my cycles returned to normal and life moved on – though it was never quite the same. I’m not sure it ever is after a cancer diagnosis.
As for the menopause, I don’t recall giving it another thought until some 15 years later, when it became apparent that my periods were less frequent.
Then they stopped.
And I was menopausal, I think.
Or was I ‘pre’?
Or even ‘post’?
I still find the stages of menopause to be somewhat confusing and like to refer to them simply as ‘the menopause’ with no ‘pre’ and no ‘post’. This requires less effort on my part, plus it keeps things simple for my brain.
These days, I like plain and simple.
Very plain and very simple.
Truth told, I’d always expected the menopause to be a defined moment, like a period – you don’t have it, and then you do, and that’s your moment. But it’s not quite as straightforward. It’s more of a gradual thing, a process thing. An annoying thing.
However, more annoying was learning that I carried the BRCA gene, for which the suggested course of action was a) removal of my breasts and b) removal of my ovaries – more formally known as an oophorectomy. I find that word to be far too cheery (bordering on happy) and suggest that it be changed to something more fitting. After all, there is nothing happy, or even cheery, about an ovary removal, whether or not you are menopausal.
With that, I sailed straight into my gynaecologist ’s office and asked him to whip ‘em out.
My ovaries, that is.
Plus their respective tubes.
My speedy decision was based on the fact that I was already menopausal and no longer needed them.
The breast decision was a longer process.
The oophorectomy went well, I recovered well and other than experiencing some mild symptoms of what I considered the ‘ageing process,’ all was well in my ovary-less world.
And I was grateful for that.
But as time went on, and the months passed by, my ‘ageing’ symptoms gathered a worrying momentum and a power of strength.
I was sleepless and overtired, and I was always very hot.
I was angry and moody, and I felt miserable a lot.
And I’d lost my zest for life.
Getting old is hard, I concluded.
The process sucks.
However, early one morning at the height of summer, and in the midst of an extended mood swing, I had a moment of clarity.
And my penny dropped.
I saw that what I’d thought were signs of ageing and a natural part of life were not that at all. Something else was at play.
The ‘M’ word.
And its entourage of symptoms.
It was hell.
And I was hot.
At first I kept my findings quiet, as a secret just for me. I was embarrassed, I think, and partly ashamed and so my silence was key.
But as things got tougher (and as I got hotter), I decided to share what I was going through. I was open, I was honest, I was me. To my surprise, this paved the way for other women – and even the occasional man – to share, too.
I was reminded of how important and reassuring it is to know that we are not alone in how we think and feel and that somewhere out there, another human being is experiencing the same thing – not only in menopause but also in life.
Unexpectedly, I began to write and keep a journal, where I noted all my thoughts. It later occurred to me that a great way to spread the word and possibly do some good in the world would be to share it. I wanted to add a touch of lightness and brightness to the subject, as well as help women know that they are not alone in the madness of the menopause or the mayhem of their lives.
And so, Menopausal Me was born – a mini-blog where I share my diary from recent years, with current entries, too.
It wasn’t long before I got a spring back in my step, woke up my creativity (which had been dormant for so long), and, most importantly, connected with fabulous like-minded women going through the same thing.
And as I started to consider what other good might come in my menopausal years, I felt a wave of excitement I had not experienced in a long time.
Or possibly just a hot flush.