My Photo
Midland, Texas, United States
I write. I make stuff.


Friday, September 03, 2010

Again With the Menopause

I know some of y'all--the young, the male, the way-past-it-so-let's-forget-it--are tired of my periodic postings about menopause, but I think it's so, so important to spread the word, to talk about this. Menopause can be nothing more than a blip on your radar, but it can also be a big huge deal that takes your life and shakes it up and throws it to the ground, not unlike the guys in tight shorts who "wrestle" on "tv."

I know. My mother had a horrible, horrible time and was institutionalized for repeated suicide attempts. I firmly believe that if she'd had 1) a good OB/GYN, 2) other women to talk to about this and 3) some emotional support from her spouse, things would have been so, so much different.  

So periodically I'm going to post about this. Even if you'll never experience it, it's like The EGE used to tell the 9th-grade boys in his health class about menstruation (it always came up when someone would, at some point in the semester, toss a tampon into the aisle of his classroom. Still in its shiny little package, it nevertheless would have the effect of a stinking dead rhino carcass dropped from the sky. As you can imagine:  9th graders): Even if it doesn't effect you personally, it will, at some point, effect someone you love:  your mother, sister, wife, partner, daughter, friend. Someone will experience this, and they will need your support. And probably your willingness to drive to the drugstore in the middle of the night. Do it. 

He hopes the message got through to some of them.

If you're anywhere in sort of middle age, from somewhere in your 40's or so, you might (and, again, this isn't true for everyone) begin to have the odd symptoms of perimenopause and/or menopause. I know something about these because I've had most of them, sometimes all at once. 

Pay attention here! Menopause doesn't just mean hot flashes. You can have all kinds of horrible stuff going on and never have a hot flash. I didn't have one of those until a couple years into it. Your OB/GYN may not be all that marvelously informed about all the symptoms--mine asked, "Are you having hot flashes? Then it's not menopause." He was wrong. I persevered. I got the estrogen (which I can take by itself because I don't have a uterus), and my life got oh, so much better. Eons better. Tons better. It was the difference between night and day. If your doctor doesn't listen to you and work with you to find out what's going on, find someone else. Find a nurse pracitioner, go to your local women's clinic, call Planned Parenthood (yeah, they're about more than birth control--they're the ones who put me in touch with Mendez, my ob/gyn, over a quarter of a century ago).

Here are some of the things you might experience that could (and I am *not* a doctor, and you should not take this as medical advice; this is Girlfriend Advice, and it's what you take with you when you go to an actual medical professional) indicate you're NOT losing your mind (which is what we often think is happening--I sure did) but are just experiencing the fun of hormonal upheaval. Adolescence, but in reverse. Ack.

If you think you might be in the middle of any of this, grab your notebook and pen and make some notes here, please. 

~~constipation and horrible gas pains
~~dry eyes
~~dental problems

Now, all of the above, plus the more-well-known vaginal dryness, are all about the same thing:  mucus membranes that are too dry (see #8, #31). We all hear about the vagina, because, hey! That's the kind of thing people care about--like your partner and stuff. You know. But nobody else really cares if your eyes are dry, or your nose. So nobody talks about that. I had 6 baby teeth going into my 40's, and suddenly 2 of them died and had to be removed, with bridges. So I started wondering about this. And doing a lot of reading. Take a minute and think about the body's mucus membranes. Make some notes.

~~palpitations (see #2, #10, #11)
~~formication--this is the feeling of ants crawling on your legs. I do not know why this is sometimes a symptom of menopause, but it is, and it's very weird. I thought I had ants in the studio. When I couldn't find them, I thought I was losing my mind. (see #15 and note)
~~waking up in the middle of the night, completely terrified
~~increased anxiety
~~joint pain, increased symptoms of arthritis

OK, are you beginning to get the picture here? Your hormones are kind of a big deal, and when they get out of whack and start changing, they can affect almost every part of your body. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. You might have no symptoms (the rest of us will try not to hate you); you might have all of these and more. You'll probably have some of them. But if you have *any* of them and they're making your life miserable, there are things you can do, from herbal supplements (I take St. John's Wort, along with vitamins), soy (you can't get enough in your food; you need a supplement--find a doctor who understands this and will help you find the proper dosage, if this is the way you want to go (I heard about this from my ob/gyn, who says people think they can eat extra tofu and get enough soy that way but can't--you need much more than that)), to hormones. 

As I said, I take estrogen. Will it cause breast cancer? Heart attack? Alzheimer's? I don't know. I made the decision to take it because I wasn't willing to be miserable. For me, a possibly-shorter life is better than many years of the symptoms I was having. My ob/gyn and I talk about this regularly. Next year, when I'm 55, we're going to cut back and see how things go. For me, it's a quality of life thing. I saw what untreated symptoms did to my mother, and I don't want to go there. You may make another choice, but here's the thing:  if you're informed and have an idea about what's going on with your body, you'll be able to make that choice, the one that's right for you. 


Jamie Lynn said...

well, duh on the dry eyes and ants thang

thanks sistah

Karen Wallace said...

Thanks for posting this. It is important information. Warmly, Karen

mo said...

thanks, rice, once again for a terrific blog post! i have so many of those symptoms it's ridiculous, and so many of them came on at the same time. all my doctors automatically chalk it up to weight and blood pressure. which of course it could be. but gee whiz, it also could be related to menopause. i'm so glad i found this, because i'm working now on charting my health issues and questions for upcoming appointments, and i'll be armed with info this time, baby ;)

Ricë said...

good for you, mo--and don't forget to check out some books on the subject. i'm sure you can find some current ones, but if you need a few suggestions, shoot me an email, sweetie--

Megan Noel said...

Christine Northrup, an expert on women's health and the author of _Women's Body, Women's Wisdom_, has some interesting things to say about menopause. Her premise is that every month, for those of us who get PMS, we get a little taste of what we need to deal with. Sure we may over reacte to ever little thing but that does not mean that there is not a kernal of reality in there, some issue we need to face. And if we DON'T face it as we mature, we will get hit by it like a freight train at menopause. Because then, aparently, the estrogen gloves come off! So it's good to take a little notice of what issues come up on those days-of-the-month. She has other intersesting things to say, too, I recommend her book.

Anonymous said...

Oh! You are so right, we NEED to talk about this! I was in a psych unit for 10 days when this came on after missing my period for several months. I thought I was losing my mind.

It starting with waking up in the middle of the night thinking I was dying, chest pain, couldn't breath, heart palpitations, hot AND COLD FLASHES! No one every talks about cold flashes though. They feel as if someone is putting ice water directly into your veins.

This rolled into round the clock panic attacks and the inability to go into public places and being terrified when my husband left for work.

I am on effexor and klonopin. It helps... some... but i am going to look into hormone therapy thanks to you, Rice. Keep talking about this!


haphazardlife said...

Oh yeah. And I'm not having a really hard of it. Until now I haven't felt the need to take hormones because I can deal with it by breathing and slowing down. If and when that changes, my doctor will have to take care of it - or she will be unhappy. These days, people tend to be unhappy when I'm unhappy.

The worst is the anxiety and the rage. The rage that just rolls over me in waves sometimes...

Kathy said...

When people ask me if I had problems with menopause, I just say 'no, unless you count the divorce'. I didn't get the significance of the emotional symptoms and he didn't either. I had started a mild hormone replacement to deal with irregular periods, so the physical symptoms were minimal. Took years to realize how much it affected me mentally and emotionally. I don't think he gets it yet.

flying fish said...

I thank Fuck that I figured out the "when I want to sit in the corner and bash my head against the wall-the whole world is against me" is hormonal. Seriously, when I start having "everyonehatesme" feelings I know it's hormonal... yup, I believe PMS is prep for menopause.

Michelle said...

Thank you, Rice, for sharing this - as you say, it will effect us (or someone we know) and SO LITTLE IS SAID!!! It is good to know you aren't going mad.

@ Megan - thank you for your comments about getting our mini-taste of menopause each month; that certainly puts things into perspective (although a little scary!!)

Velma said...

good info, rice, and for me i decided to embrace all that menopause has to teach me. i am not happy about the weird symptoms, but i accept them. it's making this journey ok. really. just a little idea...altering how we think about it all, with knowledge about what is going on, is useful to getting through it all with grace and wisdom. i feel strong and powerful. a great site by the way. good info!!!!!

Ricë said...

that's a great attitude, velma. and it does help. but when you're talking nosebleeds and intestinal cramping that's so severe you're doubled up in bed with a heating pad, more intervention may be necessary. i could live with hot flashes--oh, if those had been the worst of it! but yiiii!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so for these articals you have. Im 63 and have had a bad time of with mine. Then I had a heart attack which who knows about this I have clogged arteries and it comes from my parents have stayed healthy ect but this sure did put me down. Want to go on hormone replacement of my own not the fake stuff but can not find a Dr to agree with me because of my age and heart but feel this would makeme feel so much like myself.
Have you any info on this or advisment?
Thank you so,

Maria said...

What a great post! I had no idea there were so many other possible symptoms outside of mood and hot flashes. Thanks for sharing all the info.

Ricë said...

im sorry, linda, i don't. i wish i knew where to point you. maybe someone else does? any ideas?

Judith said...

My trip thru menopause was weird, cause it was uneventful. Period stopped, some MINOR hot flash's.... besides that... nothing. fine, healhy, fit, still love sex, and no drugs from the doc needed. everyone says I'm the weird one out of the bunch! giggle

Magpie Sue said...

I already knew I was experiencing perimenopause but I had no idea the nosebleeds and the gas were connected to it. Thanks for the info and the great references!

Jean said...

ALL of ME offers a sincere, heartfelt thanks to you, Ricë. This is valuable information, and what you've stated had been my personal experience. I will indeed share it with others who are beginning/currently on this journey.

The "me" in this physical consciousness truly wishes I had known you (and other awesomely informed and supportive sisters), years ago when the nightmare began.

Fortunately, it took its course, and I am grateful.

Carolyn said...

Thanks for discussing this. Doesn't get talked about with friends or siblings. I got a kick out of the hot flashes, since I tend to be cold, and they didn't last long, were only at night. I'm with Velma, for the most part, but I didn't know teeth and gum problems were related until recently. I had dry eyes before and now they are Very Dry, which is a bother. Now I'm getting minor nosebleeds. Dang. BUT I am so relieved not to have the PMS or my periods.

Carol said...

Thanks Ricë, a valuable insight as usual. I can see from the comments how important this is to your readers. I'm old enough to be beyond most of this myriad of symptoms but I just learned two things. 1. I'm NOT the only person in the world to experience cold flashes, though I felt a complete idiot whenever I mentioned it to a doctor or anyone else. 2. The nose bleeds - I never connected them with menopause and neither did any one else I told. So warm thanks to you and your readers.

Marie said...

Just wanted to say thank you for the info. on menopause. I am the big 50 this year and have experienced some things and reading your post helped ease my feelings about it all. Yes, I do believe in alternatives and what ever help is available. Also, thanks for the post about fears...I needed that one too!

Ricë said...

i'm so glad this info is being helpful to people--there's a ton of information out there, and much of it is really useful--but you never hear about it. like it's a nasty secret. sheesh.

MaryWig said...

Good post. I found it helpful when someone told me about the existence of a "men-o-pot," that poochie thing that appeared out of nowhere on my stomach. I swear, i woke up and *poof* it was there. Jeez.

m said...

Men-o-pot! Good grief, is that what that thing obscuring my hips is called? I swear, I haven't gained a pound in 5 years, but I turned 50 last year and suddenly my waistline is spreading like instant pudding.

michele said...

Holy crap...all that's me. At 46 I was told I was too young to be having this stuff happen. Cry me a river has taken on a whole new meaning in our household. Think it's time to change doctors and get a good book. Thanks for the info.

Sharon Robb-Chism said...

Ah, the Big M, or as I refer to it, the Big Ego Buster. Mine crept in on insidious feet, starting with depression, and bouts of :Gee I wanna throw something" frustration and anger. All the while I had no clue what it was, and thought I could "handle" it myself. Until I had a meltdown. Fortunately, I have a great GP, who rather automatically putting me on hormones, put me on a very mild anti-depressant for six weeks. It was like I woke up from a real bad dream. Yes, I still have mild hot/cold flashes, and dry eye, but I can deal with that. I'm not overly-thrilled with the gravity switch the Big M has on my body, but I'm healthy and in shape, and have given up the idea of hanging from a bar in my bedroom doorway, in an attempt to reverse the southern drift.