Menopause, The Late Years

How long does menopause last? From everything I’ve read it can be absolutely nothing to ten years or more.   I belive that I am currently in my fourth year of the phenomena.  I have tried soy, black cohosh, hormones, fish oil and nothing has helped.  My symptoms range from frequent insomnia to debilitating hot flashes with several other symptoms in between.  The “experts” say that women will usually have the same symptoms that their mother had.  So, I asked my mother one time what her symptoms were and she told me she never had any.  She doesn’t seem to remember the years where we fled the house as her moods vacillated from Pollyanna to Sweet Baby Jane.  We don’t call our mother “The Queen of Denial” for nothing.

Here is where I am at.  My words fail me frequently. I spend the better part of my days describing the  words I am trying to say.  I will walk out into the living room and say to my daughter “Have you seen my…uh, my, uh, my thing?”  “What thing would that be, Mom?”  she answers sweetly but I can see her rolling her eyes because she knows we are going to play the menopause game, Guess The Word.  So I reply “You know, Honey, my thing, it’s black, and I put my, umm, my umm, stuff in it”.    Again, with the eye rolling but very sweetly still “What stuff, Mom?”.   So, I gather up my courage and say again ” You know, my stuff, umm, oh yeah!  My wallet, my keys, my,  what do you call that thing that takes the tangles out of my hair?”  I hear this big sigh and she will say “Mom, you want to know if I’ve seen your purse and it probably has your hairbrush in it?”   “Yes!”  I almost sob the word.  “Yes!  That’s it!”  I look in her eyes and I can see her brain as it rolls  down the list of nursing homes she is already considering for me.  “Your purse is on the dining room table”. 

Women in the full thrust of  menopause dread presentations, phone calls, long conversations with clients, any public  speaking.  We’re ok with each other because this is something that comes and goes and the Sisterhood will step in and help as needed.  My best friend LB will be searching for a word and I almost always will know it.  She was there for me last night at the club.  I was stuttering and stammering and she came up with every word I needed.  She’s small but I can’t take her everywhere with me so I have someone to find the words for me.  And men just don’t get it.  They look at you like you are losing your mind.  They don’t supply you with the word you need and they start to edge away looking very nervous.

And we don’t sleep.  I’m not saying we never sleep, but we just don’t get that 7-8 hours of recommended sleep, ever.  Menopausal women will go to bed and fall fast asleep at 11:00 but be wide awake by 2:00.  So we vacuum or clean out a closet.  If we can’t sleep  nobody can sleep.  These women become over achievers, have immaculate homes and are on their fourth college degree.  Or we will go to bed at 11:00 and read for a while.  Then we turn off the light and lay there for forty-five minutes or so, turning our bodies over frequently and fluffing our pillows.  We turn the light back on and read some more, turn off the light and repeat this procedure till about 4:00 in the morning.  We will then fall asleep deeply to be woken at 5:15 by our alarm clocks.  These women are usually featured on “Snapped” after they have murdered the first person who asks them if they got a good nights sleep.

One  of the things that increases my hot flashes is red wine.  Am I going to give it up?  Not in this lifetime.  I’m Sicilian, I’m sure that doing so would be against all the rules of Sicilian society.  I frequently will have a glass of red wine before a dance.  Then I get out there and in the midst of a dance I can feel my core turning into molten lava.  Instantaneously, rivulets of sweat start pouring down my face and my back.  My hair starts dripping and flinging droplets of sweat as I move to the music.  My own mini-version of Flashdance!  Within seconds I become an oscillating sprinkler!  This means a trip to the ladies room and a change of top.  I have a code for dances, one shirt, two shirt, three shirt nights. 

I will have to admit, I use my condition as an excuse for a lot of my behavior. I ask people to email me questions or social engagements because I will walk away and not remember.  This is frustrating for somebody that used to never forget anything.   I will run into people I have known  for years, or used to work with and not remember their name.  Almost, as if it’s a badge of honor, I will shake their hand and say “I’m sorry,  I’ve forgotten your name.  Menopause, you  know?”  And if it’s a woman, she gets it!  If it’s a man, he stares at me and backs away.

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