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avatar men. oh. pause. rewind

(FOR DEB DeANGELO WITH GRAND, GRAND LOVE)

Imagine this scenario if you will: you’re in the Holland or Lincoln Tunnel, all of a sudden, without a warning, all the lights go out, including all the headlights on all the cars. You’re stuck. There’s no going forward; there’s no going backwards. Complete and utter darkness. And you know in your soul that others are going through the exact same thing – but no one, not one person gets out of their car. Doors are locked. Windows are rolled up. Seatbelts are tightened. Every one just sits, looking straight ahead – waiting, waiting, waiting.
For. A. Light.
To. Flicker.
At. The. End.
Of. The. Tunnel.

Welcome to menopause.
Exit 36 B on the highway called Life.

Perhaps this is a good time for me to rattle off some of the symptoms of my personal menopausal journey. This journey; by the way, began with one step. While I don’t consider myself ‘an exercise type o’ gal,’ I have been fucking spinning almost nonstop for the past few years. I have been depressed, anxious, forgetful, lost in a fog, angry, and resentful, with an emphasis on ‘angry’. I have been filled with tremendous hope, and in the next unexpected moment, filled with the exact amount of despair. I have cried uncontrollably from my gut, and I have laughed from the depths of my soul. I have felt like throwing my life away, as in literally jumping off a bridge. I have witnessed my body grow one full size while sleeping soundly; and just like Play-Doh, I have been able to pull and form my new love handles into the same animal like shapes that I was once able to create out of balloons. I could continue, but I think you get the idea.

In the midst of this fresh hell, I decided to quit smoking. I’m not sure if it was an act of courage or just simply self-destructive behavior. After 32 years of smoking, I wanted to stop filling my lungs with tar and nicotine, even though, simultaneously, I was looking for that perfect bridge. For whatever reason, the ‘clean panty theory’ played over in my mind. I could actually hear my mother (and I believe all mothers) saying, “Don’t forget to wear clean panties incase you get into an accident. You may need to be rushed to the hospital.” I simply substituted ‘clean panties’ with ‘clean lungs.’ Dare anyone find me with dirty lungs after I took the plunge off a bridge.

So, I quit smoking. Much to my husband’s grand delight, not to mention my friends and family, I decided to divorce the one constant that kept me from experiencing my feelings fully. Every time I would feel anxious, sad, depressed, nervous, bitter, resentful, fearful, and hopeless, I would light up – and almost instantaneously, those feelings would dissolve. Well, actually, in truth they didn’t dissolve – they were simply pushed down to the sub-terrain level of suppression where they had lived and thrived for my entire adult life. Oh, were they in for a treat, they were about to experience sunlight for the first time.

So, not only were my hormones doing a ferocious nut-dance – now my suppressed, discarded feelings were vying for attention.

This is the point in the story I get to introduce my husband. Please raise your hand if any of you have turned into the devil doll on a dime. You know what I’m talking about – that moment when your husband (or wife, or partner) says or does something trivial, innocuous, a casual throw-a-way and without a moments hesitation you respond by burning a hole in their heart with your tongue. And it’s all down hill from there. The only word that comes to mind to describe my behavior is vile. The only word to describe my husband’s reaction is stunned. Although I have a feeling that a psychiatrist (not even necessarily a good one) would say that he was scared to death of my irrational and unpredictable behavior and staying as far away from me as humanly possible.

Along with herbs – black cohosh, peony, passionflower, and a dab of progesterone cream twice a day, I decided to go back to weekly acupuncture treatments. My acupuncturist said, and I’m quoting, “I feel a deep seismic shift occurring inside of you, Amy.”

Uh huh. So in other words a 10.5 right on the fault line.

Most everyone who knows me knows I am a Buddhist for over 38 years. One of the exquisite tenets of Buddhism is embracing and honoring the ‘whole’ of our lives. Not just bits and pieces, not just ‘the good’ or the ‘nice’ but every inch – head to toe. Buddhism also encourages and teaches that one can find – through inner resolve – the enlightened side to anything.

Along with weight gain and mental anguish, insomnia is yet another ‘side dish’ accompanying menopause. So, late one night while unable to sleep and tossing a coin – heads, Ambien, tails, Ambien – it occurred to me that it was time for me to put into practice what I deeply believe. To a) truly embrace and love every single part of me. Not just the good and kind and generous, but the bad and unattractive and mentally unstable. And b) find the enlightened side. Just because my mother couldn’t deal with my feelings, wanting me to ignore them, suppress them, HIDE THEM, it was my obligation and responsibility to acknowledge and hold dear the privilege of my very own life.

Every single woman I know, without exception, has or will experience some deep inner turmoil or upheaval because of menopause. It is a part of being a woman. Period. I have known women of great equilibrium to wobble horrifically because they were in the process of dealing with this huge change of life. The good news: most women credit this hell as the single most profound experience, which has enabled them to uncover their own greatness. I can definitely embrace that.

And here’s the enlightened side:
Menopause is just like couture fashion. Some of it is just really fucking ugly.

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Category: Uncategorized 3 comments »

3 Responses to “men. oh. pause. rewind”

  1. avatar
    Madgew

    I am one of the lucky ones in that I have not had any of these symptoms. I must have amazing doctors because I had a emergency hysterectomy at 39, forced into menopause, took hormones and still do at almost 63 and only when I went off them for 10 weeks to see how I would feel did I decide I would take them the rest of my life. That combined with Trazadone for sleeping and I have not had a day of menopause symptoms. I feel blessed after reading your blog today, Amy. Everything you describe sounds bad to me and I think I will continue on this path until I am no more.

  2. avatar
    Bonnie B Matheson

    I believe in hormones. I took them at the first sign of vaginal dryness and continued for 6 years. I did not know about Bio-identical hormones so these were the horse urine variety. And I added a bit of testosterone to the mix (or my doctor suggested I might enjoy that, and I did)

    Now, knowing what I know about the difference between artificial and natural hormones I wish I had taken the latter. But in any case I sailed on through and never lost a night’s sleep. My mother is 93 and she takes a sleeping pill every night of her life. I did not want to do that. I knew that the drugs would be temporary and I just took them and did not think much about it.

    I think a lot of people have different experiences some of which may be genetic. But menopause does NOT have to be a horror. There are treatments for it.

    It is a shock to the system to realize you must do something or else lose the joy of youth. That part is very sobering. I remember being shaken by the realization. And I remember thinking that it must have been ghastly for our ancestors, because without help you really do experience huge changes, lose your “juiciness” and if you are losing sleep you will be irritable and unstable just as torture victims are if kept awake for too long.

    So my advice is “Take the hormones.”

    As for Cancer scares, I truly believe that women are being scared into getting cancer by all the hype about it. That is a whole different “rant”.

  3. avatar
    Michael Ann

    Man, I have all those symptoms and am not going through menopause yet! I must just be nuts.


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