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Diary of my menopause: "It suddenly seems as if I’m surrounded by frustrating examples of everything I’m not."

#1

I’ve had it with creaky knees and muzzy vision, low energy and heart flutters, temperature extremes and interrupted sleep. I’m fed up with fruitless mid-sentence word hunting, burned pots and aimless trips up the stairs. I’m sick of the aches, the spins, the wobbles, and the fatigue?—?the steadily growing spare tire around my middle in spite of all the yoga, the walking, and the clean, light diet.

The shy, barely-there period followed by the crime-scene gusher. The panic over absolutely nothing?—?sipping tea in my lovely home on a lovely morning with no immediate responsibilities, accompanied by the silly, unspecified panic. The looks that I get from my family?—?eye rolling, exasperated, knowing glances when they know NOTHING!

And they really are very nice people.

I don’t want to take another supplement, visit another practitioner of anything, or slather progesterone cream anywhere, anymore. I do not want to read one more book, one more article, about hormones. I want my cookies, my wine and coffee.

I want to make promises and keep them, I want to have ideas again, and I want to be fun?—?and have fun?—?again.

I’m sick of the unknown. How will I feel tomorrow? Is this me, forever? This new needy, unreliable, weak person?—?am I stuck with her?

Writer Lisa Renee kept a menopause diary...this is her experience.

Oh, the tedium.

My daughter just flopped on the bed next to me and declared, “I need attention!” Don’t we all, my dear, don’t we all.

#2

A new acupuncturist is counseling me to relax, embrace the process, not push myself too much. Okay, I can do that. I’ve been working on it for FIVE FUCKING YEARS.

But,ti My sister-in-law just went to Paris for three weeks and had the time of her life. I’m reading about a woman, my age, who travels to refugee camps around the world and actually helps people. A close friend just ended an epic, exhausting political campaign. Women all around me are seizing the day and?—?here comes the whine?—?I can’t even do the grocery shopping. Can’t drive very far, suffer wacky nerves in crowds, am generally over-sensitive. Take that to an airport or a refugee camp and you’re asking for trouble.

Patience, everyone says, patience?—?I am just about out of that precious commodity. I had visions of myself at this age?—?traveling, in charge, seizing days. What happened? Did I spend it all, too soon?

If I go to bed tonight feeling like the only crazy, pissed off boomer chick in the world?—?well, I don’t know what I’ll have the energy for, but it won’t be pretty.

Also, is it okay to be just a little bit drunk until this is over?

#3

My yoga teacher has been talking lately about ‘self-truth’ and the fact that most of us are living our stories rather than our truths. I know, I hear it?—?I’m the first one to tune out if things get a little too New-Agey, but this resonated with me.

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We all have our ‘stories’?—?that series of supposed facts that we tell ourselves, about ourselves. We live and breathe and walk and talk our stories, every day?—?it can become the way we define ourselves. But what if our stories are not our truths?

My story, for years now, has been one of weakness and failing, fear and incompetence?—?“Menopause: Hell on Earth”, or something like that. But if I think about it, about who I really am, that’s not it. That has definitely been my story, for awhile, but it isn’t my truth.

Amen.

There is so much more to me and my history than this story I’ve been telling. I’ve been so wrapped up in the story that I’ve lost touch with the truth. Life has been challenging, yes, and the elements of my story are true in and of themselves, but they do not define my truth?—?ME.

It has calmed me recently and given me some newfound quiet strength to realize that, whatever my experience?—?my STORY?—?it is not my TRUTH. That resides deeper and cannot be destroyed?—?it’s just been buried, clouded by my recent struggles. I am still, somewhere, very quietly and timidly, kind of awesome.

Oh my god, now this has become so much new-age, yoga-teacher bullshit.

#4

I grabbed “The Gifts' by Brene Brown at the library today (because imperfection). Here’s the first paragraph from the intro:

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough’. It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.’

Yes?—?brave and worthy and ENOUGH?—?even from the sofa with a heating pad, even with the world spinning, body temperature rising, sleep-deprived and pissed off.

I think I might read this whole book.

#5

Do they know that the woman driving the train could float away at any moment? Head like a balloon, barely tethered to earth by fear and rage, at string’s end? Are they worried?

And, oh yeah?—?the kids. What must it be like to be the absolute shining centre of the universe?

#6

I’ve been struggling with the concept of acceptance and patience?—?finding a way to lean into this shapeless thing that none of us can really get our arms around, but has happened?—?will happen?—?to every one of us, somehow. It’s tough to let the struggle wash over me. I worry that there is not a light at the end?—?worried that this is the new me, the compromised me. (Of course, I worry about everything under the sun now, so there’s that.)

I try to believe that it is a chapter, it will pass, there are things I can’t imagine on the other side. Life has already been like that, so why not again.

My patience is surely being tested, though.

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#7

The introspection and constant re-evaluation is maddening?—?what have I done, where am I going? I’m second-guessing every major life decision I’ve made. Is this normal? It’s new to me.

I am constantly comparing myself to others and coming up short. It’s difficult to feel confident and satisfied when you may not make it to the grocery store without a meltdown.

It all makes me feel silly and useless and confused?—?why does everyone else seem fine? If it’s not hormones, then I don’t know what I’ll do?—?I am, at times, consumed with the fear that this is my reality from now until death. The old active, confident me is gone and I can’t find her anywhere.

I never got the PhD, wrote the novel, or built anything and it irks me.

On the hopeful side?—?Carol Shields wrote her first novel at 41 after raising four children, Olive Ann Burns published ‘Cold Sassy Tree’, her first and only complete novel, when she was 59, and Harriet Doerr published ‘Stones for Ibarra’ when she was 74 and won the National Book Award for her troubles.

Yes, Teddy Roosevelt was right?—?comparison really is the thief of joy.

#8

I’ve tried to make peace with what a menopausal friend called ‘the humbling episodes’. I have so much new appreciation for the struggle that most people face at some point in their lives. I was, blessedly, so accustomed to life being relatively easy, things generally going my way. I took the basics for granted. No more.

I refer, vaguely, to my ‘health problems’ when explaining things to people I don’t want to explain things to. But, are they really ‘health problems’? I wonder every time I say it.

We are not sick?—?we are changing and it is, for many of us, like a rebirth. Birth is hard! Really, really hard. I did it 4 times and it was HARD.

Birthing this new me is bound to come with struggles. So the anxiety, the flashes, the nausea, the aches and pains?—?maybe our bodies are telling us something. Something different for each of us, probably, but we must stop and listen or they will keep yelling at us.

This morning I read about a book, “Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans” by Karl Pillemer, based on 5 years of research with elderly Americans to discover the most important lessons they learned in life. The sentiment that came up over and over again is this —

Happiness is a choice, not a condition.

So, instead of feeling like a technicolor loser because I’m not willing/able to drive 30 minutes through the thick of town to the dentist, I will find joy in the bucket of blueberries that I picked at the farm around the corner. I’m not going to change the world today, but I made a lovely dinner last night and I will go to yoga tonight and be grateful for it.

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Damn it.

#9

Sitting here, eating my oatmeal, feeling sorry for my tedious self. Things have not been terrible, just mildly disturbing and dragging on and on.

I want my old life back. I don’t need to climb mountains or solve world hunger anymore?—?my ambitions are so reasonable now. Let grocery shopping be the simple pleasure that it once was (when I didn’t notice). Let me take my daughter to the movies or swimming?—?or anywhere farther than 10 minutes away?—?without the fluttery heart and sweaty brow, that constant worry that this might be the trip where I lose it once and for all. Let me manage dentist appointments, kid commitments, odd jobs, minor emergencies?—?life, in other words?—?the way that I did for decades. Competently, calmly, confidently.

Am I crazy for good now? Permanently, officially bonkers?

I told my acupuncturist, it’s one of three things?—?I’m dying of some unspecified disease, I’m crazy, or it’s my hormones. She said, “I’m going to go with the hormones.”

Is she right? Does it really tweak us this much for this long?

I need the success stories?—?I love the success stories. I want the wise women who have crossed the abyss to scream their triumph from the castle walls.

Anyone?

#10

Six years.

I want gin and steak. Pink wine and fried chicken. Pommes frites, chocolate mousse. Single malt scotch.

I feel less crazy?—?still crazy, but less. Hell is calmer, cooler. Slowly?—?ever so achingly, mind-numbingly slow.

There’s a hint of light way up ahead?—?the end of the tunnel, please gods wherever, whoever, whatever you are, let it be the end.

I still bleed like death sometimes, even though having another child would be in no one’s best interest. When will the body figure out what the mind knows?

Life expectancy for American women in 1900 was 48?—?death was the solution. Food for thought. It’s a timid and tender new world?—?am I brave enough?

This better have been worth it.

I better be so blindingly brilliant, so titanically fabulous after this ‘passage’, brimming with strength, creativity and calm. This upcoming chapter has to be the best, the part where I redeem myself, rise above the weakness, roar and pour perfect beauty everywhere.

If it’s not, I’m taking someone with me.

Lisa Renee (Hartman) is a freelance writer, otherwise known as an expert on the subject of rejection. She lives in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York. Born in 1964, she’s one of the younger baby boomers.

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