Tag Archives | GOOP

Perimenopause: Nature’s Way of Reminding Us that Adolescence Was Hell

The amazing Viola Davis was on Jimmy Kimmel the other day, talking about, among other things, the care-and-tending of an Afro, the dangers of an MRI, and menopause. Jimmy asked her how long menopause lasts, and Viola said—without missing a beat—that someone needed to tell her, because it had been going on for five or six years with no end in sight. Her interview reminded me of a piece I wrote a while back for You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth, edited by Leslie Marinelli, about life on the floodplain: the endless hell known as perimenopause, the swampy induction to the joy of menopause.  Here, slightly revised, is my paen to the peri.

 

God, I hated my period when I was in high school. It seems to me one of Nature’s cruelest jokes that just when my adolescent body was already subject to veritable tsunamis of emotion, ol’ Aunt Flo ushered in monthly waves of agita that left me wracked and sobbing on my bed at least once a month. Adding to my misery were the cramps that sent me to the school nurse, muttering shame-facedly about “that time” and asking to lie down in her dim, antiseptic-smelling office. And let’s not even mention that every month, like clockwork, one perfect zit would bloom on my chin, like Rudolph’s misplaced nose, gleaming like a beacon beyond the capacity of any concealer ever invented.

The moods, the tears, the zits, all functioned like storm clouds, letting me know that a storm was soon to descend – but like weather, Aunt Flo often took her sweet damn time to actually show up. Other girls my age clocked their periods like trains; a menses express that arrived and departed on regular schedule.

Not me. There’d I’d be, sitting in Earth Science, doodling the name of my latest crush in the margin of my notebook, and then I would have to scuttle out of the room to the bathroom, borrow a maxi-pad from the cool girls smoking in the last stall, then waddle back to class. I didn’t use a tampon until I was almost a senior in high school, for reasons I don’t fully understand–maybe  my  mom didn’t think it was “appropriate” or maybe I wasn’t ready to negotiate the intricacies of my own plumbing until the ripe old age of 17.

Eventually it all settled down and for decades, my lady plumbing has run pretty smoothly.

Until a few years ago.

I’d gone to my midwife, who served as my gynecologist, because I’d gotten worried about the intensity of my periods. Gushers, people. We’re talking entire boxes of super-plus-plus tampons being used up in three days; we’re talking lying awake in bed wondering how long it takes to hemorrhage to death.

“Nope,” said the midwife. “No death, just flooding.” I blinked. Flooding is now a medical term?

Yes, it is: “That’s a sign of perimenopause,” she said. “You might want to buy your tampons in bulk for a while.”

Say what?

No one told me that something happened before menopause. We had this conversation long before Gywneth decided we needed an “aspirational menopausal woman” (she is, apparently the only candidate in the category).

I figured that menopause would just be a few sweaty months and then voila, I’d emerge on the other side of The Change  with gleaming silver hair like Emmylou Harris and extra pocket money from never having to buy tampons again. I’d even thought about putting that tampon money in a jar and saving it up for a little me-splurge, the way people do when they’re trying to quit smoking.

My friends, perimenopause is like Mother Nature ‘s last joke. It’s the swampy marshland of menopause: frequently flooded, difficult to map, and hard to recognize until you’re in the middle of it.

Perimenopause means that your chronological age is maybe circling somewhere around 50ish but your body is behaving like it’s 15 again: hormones carousing through your body like teenagers on a drunken joy ride, causing you to hate husbands, children, careers, even the nice person who ushered you ahead in line at the coffee shop (perhaps afraid of the glower on your face). And it’s not one day of hormonal wackiness, oh no. It’s weeks. Those hormones have developed stamina by this point. They’ve moved in and are hanging out on the sofa of your psyche eating popcorn.

The only good thing is that unlike my teenage self who was sure the world was ending, I know that I should sleep early, go for a walk, and stay away from sharp objects lest I eviscerate my husband because he’s left his socks on the coffee table again. Not that I do these things, I just know that I should.

Perimenopause means you’re not yet a candidate for nicely regulated pharmaceutical hormones (which, probably, you don’t really want anyway because of the whole maybe-they-give-you­ cancer thing, and I’m not sure you want Goop’s zillion-dollar vitamins) so instead you’re subject to periods as erratic as they were when your body was first figuring it all out.

So there I was a few years ago, in that swampy peri-land, hanging out on the sidelines of my son’s soccer practice, half-watching the scrimmage and half-reading my email, when…yep, there it was. Aunt Flo had come to soccer practice. There were 45 minutes of practice left, I was without tampons, and there was nowhere nearby that I could drive to for supplies and make it back in time. The sidelines were mom-less; there were no cool girls smoking in the bathroom who might bail me out. In fact, there was no bathroom, only a slightly glorified port-a-potty.

And that’s why, just as sometimes happened in high school, I became the woman standing (very still) on the sidelines, a wad of toilet paper in her pants, wondering when the joy of womanhood would stop giving.

Maybe, however, the swamps of perimenopause are designed to make us grateful when we finally reach the stable sweaty ground of menopause. Menopause, I figure, is just our bodies off-gassing what’s left of our youth; perimenopause is nature’s way of reminding you that youth was hell.

 

Continue Reading · on February 1, 2019 in aging, Feminism, Gender, health

in which I share a cup with Gwyneth Paltrow

I have a Very Big Birthday coming up in  two months.  REALLY BIG.

As if to celebrate that fact, my body has started to disintegrate. I have this twingey thing in my knee, and then there’s that little hitch in my hip, and my neck sounds like there are cornflakes in it. Plus I have a shoulder thing.  I don’t know if years of waitressing, back in the twentieth century, have finally exacted their toll, or if I hurt myself doing something stupid, like exercising, but my shoulder has been out of whack for almost a year.

I went to an orthopedist and we did the whole healing-by-technology thing: MRI, Xray, electro-stim.  The shoulder got better . . . but it didn’t get fixed.  But now, with that big birthday looming in front of me, I decided that dammit, I don’t want to take a crunchy stiff shoulder into my next half century, so I went to an acupuncturist.

I’ve never been to an acupuncturist before, not out of any sense of doubt but because I am a freaking coward and so why would I deliberately choose to have someone stick needles into my flesh?

I walked into the office and saw these on the little table:

cups

Well, I thought to myself, I’m here for the needles. Not the glass cup flambé.

Wrong. Before I could say “gwyneth paltrow,” the doctor had a wad of flaming cotton waving way too close to my hair, thank you very much. Like a magician, she waved the flame, then did a press, twist, and pop with about ten little glass jars, all along my shoulder and collarbone.  “Thousands of years old, this cupping practice,” she said. “Dries out humidity in the muscle. But don’t worry,” – press, twist, pop – “I’m not doing it for long enough to leave marks.”

"Anchorman The Legend of Ron Burgundy"- New York Premiere - Outside Arrivals

Humidity in the muscles? Sounds dangerously close to the Elizabethean idea of each body being composed of four humors (sanguine, choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic), but I didn’t want to argue with someone holding fire so close to my head.

Then the needles came out. I expected needles in my right shoulder because that’s the shoulder with the problem.

Wrong again.

The needles were carefully stuck along my eyebrows, on both sides.

And as for those people who told me “don’t worry, the needles don’t hurt” … wrong again.

Ouch. And ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch.  One ouch per needle stuck along my eye socket. I could see the needles in my peripheral vision, waving slightly, like whiskers or oddly placed tentacles. It’s not a look I recommend.

Those needles went out and another set went in on my left knee and left calf, which are still really marked up from the horrible fall I took this summer.  The doctor tsk-tsked at my injuries. “You are very active,” she said. I think perhaps she meant that I should cease and desist from all forms of exercise, advice that I’d be glad to take except then my incipient insomnia would come roaring back, I’d stop sleeping, become even grumpier with my children than I already am, take up drinking in order to help myself sleep, give myself a headache, and the entire grumpy cycle would start again.  So I will have to keep exercising in order to prevent verbal child-abuse and alcoholism.

Here’s the thing: when a needle goes into my left calf? It sends stabbing pains up and down my leg.  “Yes, that’s an old injury you have,” said the doctor, noticing my white-knuckled clutch on the edge of the table. “It’s going to take a while for the pain to go away.”

Oh goody.

I wish I could say that after my session with needles and cups, which  sounds more like I went to a tarot reading than a doctor,  I went off to play three sets of tennis with no problem.

Not exactly.  The shoulder feels better but still makes a whole variety of odd noises as I move; clearly it’s going to be a while before I’m ready to challenge Nadal on the court (like, um, never).

In the meantime, though, I’m feeling quite goop-y in my use of alternative medicine and have a strange desire to re-name my children after pieces of fruit and old testament prophets.  I think maybe the needles along my eye socket went into my frontal lobe.

 

Continue Reading · on November 8, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, aging, exercise, health, NaBloPoMo, pop culture

split screen

3:47AM

“Mommy my head hurts so bad and I’m freezing,” says the whispered voice in my ear.

I am awake. Check the clock. Groan (quietly, I hope; don’t want to psychically scar the sick child).  Usually these pre-dawn wake-ups are Caleb with a bad dream. He tells me about the dream, then flops onto what we call the dog bed (see above: children may well already be scarred, who knows). The dog bed is a crib mattress we put on the floor of our bedroom for nightmares/sick/can’t sleep, thus removing the whole “can I sleep in your bed” question. Because the answer to that, sweet darlings, is always “no.” No to horizontally spread children,  no to the outflung arm in the face, no to waking up shivering because all the covers have migrated to children and Husband.

Thus the dog bed.

I pat Liam into the dog bed, cover him up, bring him an aspirin (let’s hear it for no more bleary-eyed attempts to pour liquid tylenol to the correct measure and then force that little cup into an unwilling child’s mouth), some cold water, a compress for his feverish head.

Poor thing is miserable. His head hurts, he’s feverish, he’s whimpering a little.

I’m not usually prone to dramatic medical narratives but given all the illness in friends’ lives these days, I am suddenly convinced he has a tumor. Or cancer. Or a cancerous tumor. Or meningitis. Or lupus. Or meninlupaltumors. Or something.

I pat his hot head with the cool compress, murmur that it’s okay, that he’ll feel better as soon as the aspirin kicks in.

The very picture of a doting mamma, right?

Yeah. Well. Inside? I’m frantically flipping through my calendar for Monday, wondering if Liam could sit in my office for an hour while I taught, then maybe the sitter could come, and what’s Husband’s schedule and could we pass Liam back and forth until a sitter could be found, would the neighbors watch him in the morning, should I cancel a class, no can’t do that have too much to do, and oh god what if he has cancer, I really have to get him to the eye doctor maybe that’s what these head aches are, what time is it, maybe I should text the sitter now to  see if she could come over around 9 because maybe she’s still awake, and dammit why does he have to be sick, and why on earth didn’t Husband and I figure out that teaching on the same days instead of alternate days (as we’ve done for the past five or six years) was a really bad idea?

Pat, pat, pat, shush, shush, shush.

Somehow, you know, I think the working mothers interviewed by Gwyneth Paltrow in her “lifestyle blog” never find themselves half-asleep, draped across a crib mattress next to a feverish child, contemplating a 4AM SOS text to the babysitter.  And, furthermore, if they were to find themselves in such a position, there would magically appear a masseuse the next day to iron out the crib-mattress kinks from their necks and lower backs.

Good news: Liam went to school about half-way through the morning, Husband’s schedule allowed him to stay home, I went to work; we don’t think it’s lupameningitumor.  Bad news: it’s 9:42PM and still not one masseuse has showed up to rub my neck.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Continue Reading · on March 28, 2011 in Children, family, Parenting

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes