Creating Myself Endlessly

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” ~ Henri Bergson

PUBLIC NOTICE

Dear Readers,

This post is going to talk about menopause. Well, more specifically about perimenopause, the period leading up to the point at which a woman’s menstrual cycle ceases permanently. Now, just hang on and read this notice before you decide to move on to another post about funny cats.

Women going through or having gone through perimenopause: Read on. I know you’ll relate.

Women yet to go through perimenopause (yes, you will): Read on or at least bookmark this post. One day you will want to know that you’re not the only one feeling the way you do.

Men: Please read. Please understand what this is like for the women in your life (there must be at least one, even if it’s the barista in your coffee shop). Be as awe-inspired and sensitive as Dylan Moran.

Hahaha, I was kidding. But I do love his acknowledgement that a woman’s body is just a bit more complicated than a man’s.

 

I’ve been trying to write this post for months. I add a bit, change a bit and then leave it in drafts. Do people really want to know about this stuff? Other than those of us currently going through it, that is.

Today, I was watching the Amazon Prime series Fleabag. (I know, I have ethical problems with being signed up to Amazon but I wasn’t prepared to wait for the dvd release of Good Omens (based on one of my favourite books by my favourite author (Terry Pratchett) and another author I love (Neil Gaiman) ) and then I got predictably sucked in by the cheap annual price. It was worth it for Fleabag alone.) And (I had to start a new sentence because the parenthesis discussion got a bit unwieldy) there was a fabulous speech by Kristin Scott Thomas’ character in an episode I watched today that I just had to include in this post. So, I’m sending the whole post out into the blogosphere with some tweaks here and there. Finally.

Here’s the speech from KST:

(To be honest, it’s worth watching the whole KST scene. You can find that here.)

And here’s the rest of the work-in-progress-now-hesitantly-posted post:

Here We Go

About a decade or more ago, I went to see Menopause – The Musical. I laughed because it was funny and I understood most of the references from my general understanding of menopause but I couldn’t empathise. It was a bit too early for all that.

Here I am now, however, at a far more advanced age and not only facing but experiencing The Change. It may be time to revisit the musical.

The thing is, what I most remember of the show is the jokes about the physical symptoms of perimenopause such as hot flushes. While I get the occasional warm moment during the night, I’ve not experienced them to any great extent.

What perimenopause did do to me is turn me into a lunatic. Well, you know, more of a lunatic than usual.

It took me a while to realise that I was going just a bit more crazy than usual at certain points of the month.

Psycho Me was taking hold of the wheel and in the back seat was a chorus of disapproving voices who liked to point out all my deficiencies and how much better the world would be without me.

Now, I’ve always suffered from the psychological effects of PMS but this seemed different. I felt a bit more unhinged than normal.

After a particularly troubling event in which I transitioned from making jokes on Facebook to writing and sending some pathetic poem about what a lousy friend I am in a matter of minutes with no apparent cause, I consulted Doctor Google.

I learned that those women who have suffered from PMS in the past will find those symptoms exacerbated by perimenopause. Oh joy.

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Then I read this line: “The average length of perimenopause is 4 years, but for some women this stage may last only a few months or continue for 10 years.”

I burst into tears. I seriously didn’t think that I would make it four years let alone ten. I would have no friends left by then, turned away by my insanity. That was assuming I’d even live that long. Those negative voices could be nasty and I was finding myself in some dark places.

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The next day I made an appointment to see my GP. I knew that I was going to need pharmacological help to get through this and I wanted to see my youngest finish school and to see all of my boys become independent productive citizens of the world.

I was about to head overseas to Nepal and since I didn’t really want to be starting new medication when I was hours away from a hospital, I made the appointment for after my return. It did mean that while I was away I had a weird day with inexplicable tears at dinner and rage eating half a block of chocolate and a bag of snacks in my tent but I had a friend by my side so I made it through intact.

At the appointment with my GP after I returned from Nepal, I was prescribed a half-dose of an anti-depressant which I was to try and take only for the 7 days prior to my next period, the time it was presumed I would be most crazy. There was a problem with this plan. I was trying to predict a cycle that was becoming increasingly unpredictable.

But I followed the plan and kept notes on when I started and stopped medication and cycles and when the Mad Days came.

And the Mad Days were most certainly mad. On one occasion, I drove home from my singing group planning to email the leader and resign from the group because I was convinced everybody in the group hated me.

On the scariest day, I was carrying such an undercurrent of intense rage, I had to fight against the urge to floor the accelerator in the car and slam it into a tree. Even scarier, I didn’t even know what I was angry about.

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The most interesting discovery was that the Mad Days came not at a consistent ‘before’ date but at a consistent ‘after’ date – nearly always exactly two weeks after my period.

At my next check up with the GP, this was all discussed and it was agreed that I should take the medication every day. Once I had made my way through menopause, we would work at taking me off the medication.

At a final follow up two months later, the GP was astonished to learn that I had not had a psychotic incident since our last appointment. “But you’re on such a tiny dose!” he said. “It’s amazing that it’s had that much effect.” I could see him mentally filing away the information for the next patient that came in with similar symptoms. Lucky woman.

I’m not saying that my life is smooth and uneventful. I still struggle some days. But I no longer feel like some psycho has control of me.

I’ve reflected this week, in the wake of the arrival of a period that was some six weeks in the making, that in all likelihood my mad episode of dieting was probably hormonally influenced. Still a bit crazy then.

So. I travel on, creating myself over with each step of the journey and looking very much forward to that post-menopause stage of life when I can be a new, but probably still crazy, me.

pre-menopause

31 thoughts on “Creating Myself Endlessly

  1. Not eating or not eating sufficient also messes with biochemistry and interferes with rational thinking. That’s why eating disorders specialists like my bro-in-law have to focus first on (re)establishing food intake and getting weight back up or preventing further weight loss before talk therapy can be effective with their anorexic patients. Please eat well. And sleep well. Be well xxx

    Btw I remember being aghast too reading that “perimenopause can last up to 10 years” stuff a few years back. Then a crazy old lady wandered up to me in a shopping mall and told me, apropos of nothing, that she’d been menopausal for 20+ years. We are not she. This too WILL pass.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve occasionally found myself in the trap of an event upsetting me which makes me stop eating which then makes me feel worse so I keep not eating and on it goes until either my rational inner voice or an observant friend intervenes.

      Ironically (and somewhat hilariously to my mind), since I abandoned the calorie counting and returned to eating whatever and exercising whenever, my weight has remained dead steady at an acceptable level.

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  2. I doubt there is a woman alive of a ‘certain age’ who can’t relate to this post.

    I’m so glad you found some relief from the crazies. They are unsettling at best and outright scary at worst.

    I too can remember those moments “I was carrying such an undercurrent of intense rage, I had to fight against the urge to floor the accelerator in the car and slam it into a tree. Even scarier, I didn’t even know what I was angry about.”

    Some days I think my husband was a saint for having weathered the storm with me.
    Then of course there are the other days when he’s been lucky I didn’t smother him in his sleep 😉

    We women are SOOO much stronger than we are ever given credit for … just managing to survive the emotional roller coaster our bodies put us through during our lifetime.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Part of the problem is that we’re so conditioned to ‘grin and bear it’ as part of our lot that we don’t talk about it enough. And then we are left to discover the horrible parts for ourselves. I had no idea the onset of menopause would have such an impact on my mental health. Women tend to joke about forgetfulness or vagueness but the very frightening psychotic days get glossed over if mentioned at all. The fact that I sat on this post for months wondering if I should publish it shows I’m not exactly immune to those conditions of secrecy myself.

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  3. I agree with all that Joanne said in her comment. I once said “menopause ain’t for sissies” and that seems to hold true with every woman who is honest enough to admit it. Hang in there. Eat healthy food. Avoid that which triggers you and by all means don’t judge yourself harshly. You got this 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ally. “…seems to hold true with every woman who is honest enough to admit it.” – I think this is a key point. I think we need to be more honest about it so we don’t all suffer in silence thinking we’re the only ones who are going through it so badly. But women are very good at hiding the struggles. Periods, childbirth, mothering, menopause… we are rarely very honest about how hard it all can be. I wish we were. It would make it all so much more bearable knowing we’re not alone. And we’d be better prepared.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t feel qualified to comment, hon, because I suspect I had it relatively easy. I’m 71 next week and there are other issues to deal with, but I’ll go down fighting. As will you 🙂 🙂 Hugs, Heather!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good to hear how you are coping with these challenges. Every woman’s story is helpful to every other woman – yet every woman will still have to find their own unique way of adapting to all the changes of aging!
    I’m past the menopause time of life, I think… but I went on a hormone replacement product years ago because I couldn’t handle the hot flashes!

    Loved the little video by Dylan Moran. I loved his character on the show “Black Books”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I heard this bit from Dylan Moran years ago and it stuck in my mind, particularly as a mother of boys. 😀

      It’s true we all have our own experiences and journeys through these stages but I think the more women can talk about their experiences the more prepared we’ll all be when it comes.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I didn’t suffer the ‘crazies’ but I did have my own central heating system, put on weight (especially around the waist which I had never done before) and suffered badly from menopausal acne – which I knew nothing about! Not only was I red in the face from the hot flushes, I was also red from painful lumps and bumps! I lost confidence, I cried; the kids I taught bullied me and I cried more. My senior managers bullied me and I cried even more. Then I resigned.

    Hugs H – you are one tough lady and with a little help you’ll get through it. 🤗❤ 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I do hope future menopausal women read this and remember it when the time comes. You are so right – when we suffer (and I do mean suffer! no hyperbole here) through the symptoms, the worst part is the feeling that “I am alone.”

    Thanks for hitting the publish button.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Maggie. When I had my first baby, I was lucky to find a book called The Mask of Motherhood which spoke truth about becoming a mother and probably saved my sanity. Recently, a friend had major surgery because it was discovered she was riddled with endometriosis which had gone on for years because until a friend pointed out it was wrong, she had no way of knowing what she was going through each month was not normal. I’m becoming convinced we need to start talking more openly about this stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, girl, Yaaaasss! I am early to the party, IF YOU LISTEN TO MALE DRS. My newish female dr tho, she understands I am not early, I merely started earlier, meaning I am right on time. I’ve had more bouts of cold achies than hot flashes, though night sweats are fairly common. Pity, as I prefer to bathe nightly.
    I can speak to mood swings, and also, a kinda unusual selfishness I haven’t felt since before motherhood. Like I’m a freakin person and I’m entitled and I shall and I — oh fluff off, I don’t have time for this.
    I haven’t had a flood in 8 months. Been mostly every six months for a few year. I just have spots. And estrogen. Yay, estrogen! I look forward to being a crone. Very much as the Kristin Scott Thomas describes.
    Also, I loved Good Omens, both print & film 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting you use the word ‘flood’ as that has been another new fun part of perimenopause…
      I was so pleased with the adaptation of Good Omens but when you have Neil as showrunner and consciously making it for Terry, I was pretty confident it was going to be very true to the book. Although I was sad they didn’t include the Other Four Horsemen as they are one of my favourite parts of the book.

      Liked by 1 person

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