Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Puberty's Bookend

I considered blogging about my experience reading "What's Happening to Me?" with my 9-year-old son. He sees "THE MOVIE" this spring in school, and I don't want him to be surprised by anything in that movie, so we're taking an educational peek at his body with this book.

But since I told him that the information we're learning is his private business, I should follow my own words and keep it private too. (Could you imagine how you'd feel if your crazy mother posted that conversation for the world to read?) Plus, the details of the experience are some that I don't want some internet pervert -- not you, my dear reader -- getting his hands on. So to speak.

So instead, I'm going to blog about "What's Happening to Me". I assure you no perv will find this very interesting.

ME (a few years ago): Doctor, my monthly menses is behaving like a broken water main, and it lasts for about 10 days. Ten days before the flood, I'm all cramped up, my head spins around, and bad words spew from my mouth. So that leaves me about a week of feeling normal every month.

DOCTOR: Uh huh.

ME: And everything I eat other than vegetables shows up as another pound on the scale the next day. And I’m tired a lot. Maybe we should check my thyroid.

DOCTOR: We can, but I don't think it's your thyroid.

ME: Then there's the IBS that sneaks up on me, usually at restaurants. It's so embarrassing, not to mention gross.

DOCTOR: All sounds like perimenopause to me.


What the hell? Perimenopause? Sure, I've heard all about regular menopause in your 50s, but what's with the peri? Nobody warns you that this is what the 40s bring you. So I'm here to warn you. The 40s are definitely not the new 30s. Did I tell mention that a chunk of my tooth fell off a couple weeks ago?

My experience may not be yours, so of course you’ll keep that in mind. But nearly every time the subject of “Why am I so crazy?” comes up in conversation, other women my age are almost always standing on the same cliff.

Those in the know say its hormones. I agree. But what I don’t get is why are those hormones acting up 10 years early? Is it all a biological way to prepare you for the Big Show? The bookend to puberty?

I’m confident in the hormone theory because I’ve luckily been able to control most of my issues with estrogen-laden contraceptives pills -- the “extended-regimen” kind that you take for three months straight before taking a week off and allowing your uterus to shed. You’d think the pills were Paxil the way they calm down my systems.

The pills don’t make the belly fat go away, however. In fact, I'm pretty certain they add to it. Since turning 40 almost four years ago (about when I started taking those pills), I’ve gained 5 permanent pounds each year or so. A doctor-expert on some morning show recently said that belly fat is even harder to get rid of once menopause hits. So I apparently have to work hard to dispose of it now. But as you might have noticed, I called them permanent pounds because they don’t seem to have any intention of leaving no matter what I do.

Sidebar: I once suggested to Husband that the blubber around my waist was a badge of honor for carrying three babies. “Nice try,” he replied.

Aside from medication, more exercise, a healthy diet, and less alcohol and caffeine are likely keys to managing this peri business. (They solve all other health issues, don’t they?) I’ve cut back significantly on red meat and while it has yet to be proven, I think my digestive system is happier. Then there’s the 18 months of
psychotherapy in which I invested. For that, I think my emotional system is happier.

Despite the negatives of these disagreeable yet inevitable changes, it has been my experience that the 40s are a fascinating time of self discovery. You finally realize that all the superficial bullshit out there is irrelevant and that everyone else is nuts. The only thing that really matters is in your heart and in your home.

Be careful of your head though. If you’re in your 40s, your brain is probably bathed by hormones that make you nuts too. So good luck with that.

(748 words)


  1. Yeah, 40 seems to hit you harder. Physically, it's a petty decade.

  2. I hear you, sister! (of the parallel universe)

    I totally get your analogy of a break in water main, I call it "bleeding like a stuck pig". My doctor, a woman, offered this tidbit: "Maybe perimenopause is nature's way of letting us get REAL tired of the whole menses-business, so we're relieved when they start fading away..."

    And I know what you mean in that last paragraph -- my bullshitometer does not take much superficial nonsense anymore -- I think I'm better at staying focused on what truly matters, compared to my younger (skinnier) days.

  3. Same view. We are looking at the SAME DAMN VIEW (off that cliff)! Except that you didn't mention anger (well, maybe you alluded to it with the "bad words from my mouth" comment).

    There are certain days during some (thankfully, not all) months where I can go from normal to livid in 60 seconds. It is not pleasant...for me or anyone within earshot. The only thing I can say for these experiences is that I'm trying to pay more attention to where "the rub" is for me that brings me to anger so quickly. Why am I angry? -- because there's a message for me and some lessons to be learned in answering that question.