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Menopause Is a Laughing Matter

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Flashback: Five years ago and I was seeing my ob/gyn every few months. Always the same complaint: “I’m having my period every two weeks! I qualify for a PMDD diagnosis! See—here’s my mood chart! I want to kill somebody!” Testing would reveal nothing amiss, and we tried everything from herbs to Prozac to calm the irritability, insomnia, and mood swings that dictated my life. I did get a diagnosis: perimenopause.

My doctor explained that these symptoms could last for years, for as everyone knows, menopause has its own time table.

He wasn’t trying to be cruel, he was just stating facts.

I surrendered. I decided that I would just have live with the craziness and try to emerge with my sense of humor intact.

And as abruptly as my periods were frequent, they waned. “You aren’t officially menopausal until you have gone one year without a period”, my doctor had told me. I went from having them every two weeks, to having them every two months. But as they became fewer and far between, I lost the irritability, moodiness, kept the insomnia and started growing facial hair.

My eyesight went from perfect to trifocal lenses.

Nature was slowly turning the screws on my youth, and then played her trump card: hot flashes of such horrific intensity and onset, they made childbirth look like a day in the park.

I felt my sense of humor fading with each surge of heat, and I was certain that the rush of blood to my skin was fueling the unstoppable growth of my mustache and eyebrows.

I bravely went on with my life, as one month, then two months, then six months, then nine months went by with no period. And there seem to be a rhythm to the hot flashes, a couple of months of sheer agony, then a lull, then a couple of months in hell again, then a lull, and so it goes and continues to go. For a couple of years now.

My periods ceased somewhere around my fifty-first birthday. The flashes and hair growth remain, and I am best friends with the facial waxing attendant at the nail salon down the street. I never considered synthetic hormone treatment for my hot flashes, as I would rather heat up than die of breast cancer or a heart attack. I have an amazing array of herbs and phytoestrogen and progesterone creams. Do they work? I don’t know. I’m afraid to stop using any of it, for fear that the lull in the hot flashes will stop altogether and I will have them 24/7 365.  

I have regained my sense of humor, and the money I spent on feminine hygiene products now gets funneled into the health food store. I have successfully resisted the urge to strip off my clothing from the waist up in public when a “power surge” hits….though I have gotten up from the family dinner table and stuck my head in the freezer on occasion. My kids fan me if my face gets red, my husband bought me a fan that blows like a jet engine and mounted it over my side of the bed, so I can reach up in the middle of the night and switch the fan from off to TURBO.

What else is up Mother Nature’s sleeve? There’s more horror yet to be experienced, as one almost eighty-year old stunningly beautiful woman told me, over dinner with seven other friends, quite in public. “Do you want to know what is yet to come?” she asked, upon observing me stop eating abruptly, and start fanning myself with a fan I carry in my purse. “What would that be?” I asked, not really wanting to know. She nodded, motioned me closer, leaned into my ear and whispered: “your pubic hair will fall out!”

At such pronouncement, I choked and nearly fell off my chair laughing.

And I keep laughing, and am still laughing. I laugh with the lady that waxes my face, I laugh with the lady that streaks my hair to cover the grey, I laugh with my kids as they fan me. And I hope to laugh with some young fifty-year-old, when I’m eighty and get to tell her about how wonderful it is to not have to worry about bikini waxing!

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