The menopause journey. With no clear start or end point, odd diversions, and an estimated time of arrival that can span years, menopause is certainly a trip, and then some, that requires some turn-by-turn directions.
Nobody tells you what the menopause is like, or how bad it is.
My mum never discussed it. The reasons for that were probably twofold. One, she is of a generation that invariably struggled with ‘taboo subjects’, often finding broaching them embarrassing, impolite even. Two, she never went through the menopause, having had to undergo an hysterectomy in her late 40s. Today, mum’s a lot more relaxed about discussing certain topics, gynaecological and sexual included. However, as she’s clueless in the menopausal department, there’s little point in broaching the subject with her, as it’s an experience about which she remains oblivious. Lucky her!
Experience – did I just call the menopause ‘an experience’? Well, what do you call it? A condition, a situation, a phase, a bloody pain in the arse? It’s not an illness, although many women suffer excruciatingly from its symptoms and side-effects.
the ceasing of menstruation.
the period (haha, lexicographer’s comic irony) – in a woman’s life (typically between the ages of 45 and 50) when menstruation ceases.
Anyway, getting back to the point, rarely are women told in graphic widescreen, dolby surround sound detail about the menopause. A high level overview, as they say, being the best we can hope for. Why? Probably because we women are still too embarrassed to a) admit that we’ve arrived at the ‘biological downturn’ commonly referred to as ‘change of life’, and b) discuss the finer details of hot and cold running sweat fountains and the resultant boggy bra and very public perspiration patches, middle-aged acne, and morphing into Fatzilla, queen of the middle-aged spread.
While many arrive unexpectedly at the menopause – “Surprise, surprise. Hello, it’s me, Men O’ Pause. I’m here to change your life completely, let’s get this party started!” – it’s also fair to say that most of us will reach that point with little or no clue of what’s about to happen to us.
Now don’t get me wrong, we women know the basics, no need to be ‘splaining us thank you. The problem is that no-one talks openly about the menopause, so pre-Perimeno (and when did that become a thing?) most of us truly don’t know how bad it is, or rather will be.
So, how bad is it then?
For some, lack of sleep is the worst. Annoyingly, it doesn’t necessarily come with the onset of menopause. Instead, sleep disruption, like a spot on the face of hopeful innocence, can pop up at a time of its own malevolent choosing. Poor sleep mixed with night-sweats is a fate you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Not that I know first hand per se, but I do suffer from random bouts of insomnia and have borne the brunt of hot flushes, and they ladies, and gentlemen – if there are any of you actually reading this – are no bloody picnic!
Hot Flushes: Menopausal Woman’s Bane – Sounds like, giddy middle-aged embarrassment; Feels like, being slathered in molten lava from the décolletage up to the crown of one’s head.
Seriously, no words can describe the combination of shock, confusion, and heat that hit you the first time you have a hot flush. It’s like being ducked into and held down in boiling water for a minute plus, and then left dripping in rivers of rapidly cooling hot sweat, cue the shivers, while your armpits are like two perspiration filled paddling pools cosseted within the sleeves of your now seriously soggy jumper/blouse/tee-shirt.
Anyone who has experienced a heatwave, sat at length on a packed bus/tram/train on a hot Summer’s evening, run for more than 30 minutes, or been cooked in an oven at 180 degrees, will know only too well that the afterglow soon turns to ice cold sog.
Rank isn’t it, burning up until you think you are internally combusting and then having to sit or stand around in clothes wet with cold sweat? Now, times that x five and instead of a running track or bus, place yourself sitting in the middle of a business meeting, surrounded by a few colleagues, mainly men.
It’s your turn to offer up some suggestions on an upcoming project but … oh dear. You’re overcome by a wave of heat of equatorial proportions, beads of sweat have broken out on your brow (oh Jesus, can they see them?) and the floodgates have opened up under your clothes. Your train of thought has run out the door and in a two-fingered salute to your now drenched upper torso and reputation, your tongue is as dry as a camel’s hoof.
That’s a hot flush for you.
The big problem with flushes is they can happen any time, any place, and in any situation, and they recur with irregular frequency. Five in a row can be followed by an hour’s downtime before being followed by a series of anything up to ten in quick succession. I sat crying on the sofa one night as I experienced flush after flush after flush, again and again until I could take no more, ran upstairs and jumped into the shower.
Having broken all possible records by having eleven in forty minutes, I spent most of the following day on Google search seeking remedies (HRT had already been ruled out – that’s for another post). Finally, I found the saviour of my menopausal world – Sage – bought a bottle of Menosan in the chemist, and never looked back. For the next six months, the Sage drops eradicated all traces of hot flushes, after which they started come and go intermittently, a shadow of their former selves. Certainly nothing of the epic proportion I’d previously experienced.
True story – I actually have the ability to bring on a hot flush. If I focus really hard, I can make myself so hot that I can draw on a flush. Another tip – embarrassment is a magnet for hot flushes, so if you think you’re going to feel a bit bothered in a public situation, try to calm yourself (Bach’s Rescue Remedy is a great calmer). Hopefully you’ll fend off the flush.
When I started writing this post, I didn’t envisage going through the granular ins and outs of the menopause but as the late Magnus Magnusson used to say, “I’ve started so I’ll finish”. But not today
To recap. Hot flushes are like flashes of feeling incinerated from the boobs upwards. They last about one minute during which you’ll be drenched in sweat and your concentration temporarily wiped out. They can occur once, twice, thrice, multiple times per hour. Every hour. 24×7. They can’t be stopped by iron will or fresh air.
They can be stopped by HRT if you can tolerate it, or more holistically by taking Sage tablets or drops. You’ll pick up sage in its various forms in pharmacies and health shops. Sage won’t eradicate flushes completely but it will minimise the impact. If there are other remedies, I’m unaware of them.
You’ll still suffer from over-heating particularly during exercise including walking. You’ll need to prep for sweat in places it never was before. Keeping a supply of tissues in your pockets helps. Always keep travel deodorant in your bag. And, if travelling, bring a spare top.
You’ve probably got the gist of hot flushes by now but don’t run away, there’s plenty more crapola where that came from.
We’ll see you back here for the Menopause Manual p2. You never know, if some feminist movie producer happens upon my blog we could end up with Menopause Da Movie! Now, unlike the meno, wouldn’t that be fun!!
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