Before I lived it myself, my expectation of what menopause would be like was, well, ill-informed, to put it kindly.
I wasn’t thinking much about it, but if someone had asked me what was going to happen, I imagined a period that would gracefully transition away, ever shorter, ever lighter, ever further apart, until they were gone. I had some inkling that hot flashes would arrive, but honestly wasn’t sure what that would be like. I imagined I’d carry around a mini-fan I could plug into my iPhone’s lightning connector and cool off, all while having my hair impeccably waft in the breeze like I was in a music video.
And then I would don white pants and dance on the beach or something.
Starting 4 years ago I began to realize I was both misinformed and in for a biiiig disappointment on how this was all going to go.
My period getting more erratic, yes, but rather than coming ever farther apart, why was it instead being heavier, longer, more frequent? So much so that I began to call them TsunamiPeriods™️? So much so that on certain days I didn’t feel I could reliably leave my house without risking some teenage, tie-your-shirt-around-your-waist disaster.
Why was I sooo damn fatigued that by about 3PM, getting off the couch seemed like a Herculean effort? (Hint: It was connected to those TsunamiPeriods™️.)
Why was I turning 52, then 53, 54, 55 damn it!?!?! And this was still happening?
And most of all: Why had no one warned me?!?!
Listen, once I connected the dots (without that much help or interest from my doctors) I started to explore my medical options, mega-dosing supplements to shore up the deficiencies I was experiencing, and perhaps most importantly: I started saying this stuff out loud.
When I did start talking about this, why did nearly every woman Italked to who was 40+ have a lightbulb, “Do you mean to tell me it’s not just me?!?!” moment as we spoke?
To be fair, there is such a cocktail of potential symptoms associated with peri-menopause (a word I didn’t even know existed before I realized I was going through it) that no two women seem to have the same experience. There are numerous different symptoms. It can last for an indeterminate number of years. It can hit people with completely different levels of intensity. So much so that my own mother basically said, “I don’t remember when I hit menopause, and I don’t remember experiencing anything particularly bad before or because of it. “
Super helpful, Mom. I mean, I’m your one kid who didn’t have kids, so I feel like preparing me for the big M was kind of your only job!
Women’s bodies and our health has always been regarded as something not talked about publicly and openly. Here’s the point I could get political and talk about how the lack of women included as research subjects for new treatments and medications has probably killed women.
But society is changing, and it’s about damn time.
You can now read books and web sites and order special products to celebrate that moment when a girl gets her first period. It’s time to have an equal plethora of resources and storytelling and products designed for those battle-scarred YEARS when a woman is trying to make it through to her very last one.
I’m ready to talk about it. In fact, I’m waiting for an episode of a podcast I recorded to go live where I talked about how experiencing peri-menopause really made me think about my life purpose and how I was spending the precious energy I had…with two male hosts who conceded they’d never had that discussion on their podcast before. I hope it’s eye-opening for their male listeners and creates a few lightbulb moments for some of the women who listen too!
I just don’t want any more women to be taken by surprise like I was. And I don’t want them to wait to start figuring out what might make them feel better.
I feel like I may (finally) be nearing the finish line…although to be transparent I’m still 45 weeks away from being able to say “that’s it, I’ve hit menopause.” And no, I’m no happier about it now than I was four years ago.
I’m hoping I and my cohort of badass women are going to be the ones who shine a light on the experience of perimenopause (and ultimately menopause itself) until it becomes a rite of passage we’re all a little better prepared to live through.
Who’s with me?
This post is made possible with support from AARP’s Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.