My least favorite word in the English language might be vagina, but a very close runner-up is no doubt menopause. In theory, biologically, that phase of life should still be more than a decade away for me, but I’ve been petrified ever since I became a mom of what that next milestone of the female reproductive cycle will entail. Since all the war stories I heard beforehand of pregnancy and childbirth were mere cliff notes of how awful those turned out to be, is the infamous era of hot flashes a one-way ticket to hell physically—and mentally?
At BRAVA, our daily mantra is to keep an optimistic outlook and to do our best to meet all challenges from a place of strength. Thus who better to help talk me off this premature ledge than a handful of the dynamic female writers and speakers we regularly work with. “Listen to Your Mother” founder and professional humorist Ann Imig tried to console me, despite the big ‘M’ still being well ahead of her, too. “How about this: In my 30s I was convinced I was in perimenopause due to occasional night sweats to the extent that in a dead sleep, I would fling my drenched shirt across the room and wake up half-naked in the morning with no recollection of the event,” Imig recalled. “Turns out anxiety can cause night sweats. Women, we are doubly blessed.”
After making a mental note to start researching new nighttime relaxation techniques, I decided to approach this from a more affirming perspective. Leadership trainer Susan Young initially assured me that because I live a very active lifestyle, I’ll likely be fine whenever my fertility draws to a close. But she was also quite frank that it can feel like “an alien has taken over your body.”
And scientist, author and positive psychology guru Tina Hallis seconded Young’s view. “When my friend went through menopause, her personality changed. Let’s just say, thank goodness for Prozac! She turned into a major grump. But the right antidepressant brought back her wonderful, loving self,” Hallis chuckled.
She also encouraged me to take a deep breath and remember how much hormones affect the feminine existence. “They influence our body in strange and unpredictable ways, but also impact our moods. They interact with so many of our bodies’ signaling pathways; their effects can reach far and wide or have little to no impact,” she explains. “That’s why women around the age of 50 can blame so many of their quirks and physical issues on menopause or even perimenopause.”
According to Hallis, I shouldn’t be surprised if in 10 to 15 years my habitual thought pattern goes a little something like:
“I’m so tired = It must be menopause.”
“I’m so moody = It must be menopause.”
“My skin is so dry = it must be menopause.”
“My feet itch = it must be menopause.”
With a burgeoning feeling of dread, I’m brought back to reality by a candid admission from life coach and cancer survivor Theresa Kim. “I get ‘menopause’ injected into my behind once a month as a follow-up to my breast cancer treatment—technically, medication to put me into menopause early. Instead of sliding into menopause, I’m careening full speed,” she revealed. “My temperature gauge has broken completely off. Every Target run my husband makes is proof of my mood taking a hormonal steep dive. Despite the heat and crazy, I know that if I made it through breast cancer, I can make it through menopause.”
Yep, Kim’s a rock star…and I’m just being a millennial drama queen.