Menopause and the Questions Worth Asking

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Confession. I was a late bloomer. I was 16 when I saw my periods and twenty-one when I first had sex. Both situations were confusing and both times I didn’t tell a soul.

At the time that my periods came my mom had died, my father was not one for feminine confessionals and I had no parent I could tell about the changes in my body. I had terrible pains, my cramps were beyond what a hot bottle on my stomach or a handful of Advil could cure.  Relief came only after I sat wretched over a toilet bowl throwing up my empty guts for what seemed liked a million times.

And still I remained silent.

3 decades later and here I am headed towards what seems to be another body revolt. And just like when I was 16, the onslaught feels like a very bad roller coaster ride with physical changes coupled with  hormonal ones that seem to be rewiring my brain.

My knees hurt. I sweat a little when I’m putting on my make-up. My friends tell me they bloat more readily, cry more easily and if that gift from menopause wasn’t good enough, all the experts say the icing may come with decreased sex drive, headaches, cold hands and feet as well as thinning hair.

But this time when menopause arrives full throttle, I will be more than ready. I won’t remain silent and you shouldn’t either.

Actress Cameron Diaz in her book Longevity writes: “With the menopause, I’ve found that women who were informed and more accepting of the transition typically experienced milder and shorter  symptoms. The stress of not understanding it, or hiding it from the people around you, or not being able to talk to your girlfriends, or be able to help your partner or children understand what you’re going through, makes it physically harder.”

The truth is none of us will experience menopause the same way. It’s like our periods – my twin sister never got a cramp in her life – and yet even as the transition is different for everyone, it’s better if  we understand as much as we can about what’s ahead of us.

It’s also good to have the comfort of knowing that it will pass.

In many ways as I enter another chapter of my life I feel lucky.  I am doing what I love and I am surrounded by love. I am older than my mom was when she unexpectedly died, much to my heartbreak. My great grandparents did not make it past 40.

All these reflections  have led to some deeply personal questions: How can I do my best to live a health span instead of a life span? What contributions can I make? Who can I share my love fully with? What will I leave behind?

These are tough questions but in this chapter of  my life, they are perhaps the only ones worth asking.

  • Irma Augustine Thorpe

    I too experience severe knee pains that go away instantly when my period starts. If I did not tell any one I’d still be having xrays and ultra sounds on my knee. By talking to almost everyone and anyone who would listen I found out from my aunt that her experiences were the same. Funny enough, now that I know and am prepared for it, the pains have reduced significantly. So preparation seems to be an important factor. Having never heard my mother complain of a single symptom, I can say I knew very little of what to expect.
    Thank you for the inspiration to face this with grace.

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