health

Menopause at 42. Holy hell.

Hot flushes, anyone?


BY JENNIFER MCKENZIE

At 42, menopause was not even a friend of a friend on Facebook. Hell, six months ago, my partner was considering a vasectomy reversal so we could try for a baby. Now, I am guzzling hormones like they’re M&Ms and extending my baby-fix horizon out to grandparenthood.

My first thought, when my period went AWOL and I mentally lined up the candy was ‘OMFG, I’m old.’ (That was pretty much my second and third thought, too.)

Finding out you’re menopausal is pretty similar to getting your first period – except nobody gives you a bedside heads-up chat and a booklet, and you don’t get a Pandora bracelet or high tea with the girls to ‘celebrate’.

I didn’t recognise the symptoms. Then again, why would I? I probably just shrugged when my mum graduated from sniffling in Ghost to bawling and blubbering through Lassie re-runs and Christian Television Association ads. I know I laughed when a colleague suddenly became surgically attached to the May issue of Gardening Australia, fanning herself with it whenever she turned that peculiar shade of beetroot.

I can just see the older generation, squaring their shoulders, zipping their lips and stoically soldiering on through the fatigue, strange BO, boob ache, fatigue, fatigue, chronic pains, moodiness, bloating, fatigue, itching plus those sneezes where you wee yourself a bit…

Did I mention fatigue?

The seven dwarves of menopause. Accurate?

I’m not talking your run-of-the-mill ‘should have skipped that 10pm glass of red and the accompanying episode of Gray’s’ type tiredness.

I’m not even talking the ‘had marathon sex with a new partner all weekend and need to go back to work for a rest’ kind of tiredness.

It’s more like ‘went a few rounds with Anthony Mundine’ tired. Or possibly, ‘trampled by a herd of marauding buffalo’ tired.

The continuous dragging caffeine- and Berocca-proof zombieness is punctuated by episodes of what they’re calling ‘crashing fatigue’. As described, it feels like something between a head on, high-speed car smash and mainlining thirty margaritas, all at once. Your head is going for gold in the pool and each eyelid suddenly weighs more than Fat Amy. In moments like this, you cannot stay awake for an urgent tête-à-tête with the CEO, a snap of Prince Haz in his undies or even strawberry macaroons.

Part of the reason I was so tired was probably the night sweats – my internal thermostat shat itself every single night for months. We’re talking waking at stupid o’clock feeling like a nuclear reactor in meltdown; towel drying streaming hair; lathering weird body parts in Clearasil; and throwing out a succession of beyond-washing skanky mattress protectors. At any given oh-dark-thirty, I could follow a set of Lean Cuisine directions using body heat alone.

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Now, here’s a left field question. Where did that stomach come from? All of a sudden, I look like a ‘before’ photo. No amount of sucking in, crunches or skimping on giant Freddos make a dent in The Belly, which can probably be seen with the naked eye from space. I no longer pooh-pooh shapewear as a lazy-person’s bandaid. I veritably salivate over the promises of infomercials featuring things called AbBuster, AbShredder and AbTyphoon. Let me be clear – Spanx makes my life.

If looking like you swallowed a cantaloupe isn’t bad enough, there are the bouts of crazy-making confusion to contend with.

This.

Here’s an example: I always have the green toothbrush. Always. So, I’m standing in the bathroom, staring at the toothbrush cup, utterly perplexed. If my life depended on it, I could not tell you which toothbrush is mine.

For a million dollar ModCloth voucher, I could not tell you which toothbrush is mine.

If Ryan Gosling appeared and begged, ‘Grab your toothbrush and take me,’ he’d probably remain a fantasy on my freebie list as I wrestled with the first bit of the instruction.

The confusion is sort of funny – until it happens twenty times a day. Every day. Common verbs evaporate from your vocab; you forget where you parked your car; Droidian slips abound; you would give your Prada pumps to remember whether you’re meant to include garlic in the salsa you’ve been making for thirty years; marketing reports look like hieroglyphics; and even online shopping is perilous (the words ‘expensive orange velour’ should give you the picture – thank goodness for free returns). Not only did I figure getting fired was only a matter of time, I dead-set seriously thought I was in the throes of early onset dementia.

I figure they call it ‘the change’ because you feel a bit like David Banner morphing into the Incredible Hulk. Did I mention that while you’re dealing with symptoms that make you want to rip out the sickly-cheery barista’s throat with your teeth, and that make teeing up a manicure appointment seem like rocket surgery, you have to simultaneously: go to meetings, wear appropriate clothes, keep your kids on vegetables and off drugs, maintain a semi-hygienic home, pay bills, feed pets, drive places without killing anyone and generally function like an actual human being?

If my experience is anything to go by, menopausal women should have to surrender their driver’s licenses, credit cards and smart phones until their hormones are sorted.

So, now that I know what I’m up against, will I square my shoulders and zip my lips?

Hell no.

I will whinge and bitch and moan to anyone who will listen (I have an excuse – I’m menopausal), and I’ll do it all under the guise of giving you a heads-up chat.

Jenn shares her renovator’s delight with a gorgeous man, a teenage daughter, a high-maintenance dog and a satanic cat. She has a Creative Arts degree and a grown-up job in financial services. At any given moment, she would probably rather be on a motorcycling road trip or shopping.

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