eff you, menopause and your dark, foggy room

Posted: May 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

Today was my annual doctor checkup.  Across the span of my life, I have not been a check-in-once-a-year lady, but after returning from JPUSA I found myself more inclined to that sort of thing, and as soon as I got married G and I fell into doing all the right things like annual physicals, regular dentist appointments and such.

This time last year, I showed up to my exam with two typed pages for my doctor:  a list of my supplements, and a detailed accounting of my dietary habits.  She appreciated my thorough preparation, and I was keenly aware that I’d stepped up to a whole new level of paying attention to this temple that is my body.

Today, I had two pages again, but they were different.  This two pages was a detailed litany of things I’ve been having trouble with, all for at least 6 months, and some of them longer – one dating back at least three years.  I apologized up front before giving her the list.  I’m not a person who takes every little thing to the doctor, I told her.  My general approach to life and health difficulties goes like this:  first, wait awhile and it will probably work itself out.  If that fails, examine and change life choices ’til it’s fixed.  Everything doesn’t need a drug.  This approach has worked fine for me for 50 years, and felt sheepish handing her those single-spaced bullet points of my various discomforts and woes.  But I can’t figure out how to make them better.  I was starting to worry that maybe something was seriously wrong with me – something failing, some major illness, whatever.  So I was willing to bring her the whole list, no matter how silly it made me feel.

At the top of the list was fatigue.  All-the-time fatigue.  General tiredness, difficulty focusing, especially for part of the morning and then again for the early afternoon.  How tired?  Try:  falling asleep at my desk while working actively on something of interest to me.  Not bored, not sitting still…just working along and then literally my head is bobbing, though I’ve gotten a full night’s sleep the night before.  Try:  the awful feeling in my body as if I’ve pulled an all-nighter – eyes aching, sometimes all the bones in my body aching, leaving me rubbing my face and stretching compulsively, trying to shake the yuck.  Try:  what I call “yawn attacks,” in which I yawn every 30 seconds to 1 minute for long runs of time (like 20 minutes or more).  This happens many mornings and basically anytime I try to drive a car more than about 5 minutes.  Big yawns, so big they make my jaw hurt.  Tears run down my face.  It’s almost, but not quite, disabling for driving.  Right now, if I drive 35 minutes to visit the grandbabies, I like to have G with me, so he can drive home while I sleep in the passenger seat, worn out from the drive out.  I go to bed at the same time every night, with not more than a 1-hour variance, and even that, not often.  I get up at the same time every morning, meaning even on weekend mornings I rise at 3 AM.  I don’t like that.  But it’s supposed to help with fatigue.  It doesn’t feel like it’s helping.  I am so tired of being so tired.

Next on the list was headache.  I have had a headache more often then not, for at least the last 6 months.  Not a *bad* headache, but my head hurts almost always.  My eyes hurt and dry out frequently.  My ears ache and itch.  Sometimes my teeth ache.

Then there is the darn drippy nose.  It’s all the time, all seasons.  When I wake up in the morning, I start with a series of nose blows and sneezes.  All day, I wipe and blow my nose continually.  If I get chilly, it ramps up from every hour or so to every 10 minutes or so.  And I get chilly very easily.

Also on the list is that arthritis in my feet.  At this point it owns me.  My feet don’t hurt me a lot, but that’s because I’ve surrendered and stopped trying to walk or stand, almost ever.  I sit down at every opportunity.  Last time I spoke in church (and greeted before that, leaving me on my feet for most of 3 hours), my feet hurt so bad I almost couldn’t walk for the rest of the day.  That’s kind of standard for me at this point.

And then (men, skip this paragraph, if you haven’t quit already!) there are the killer periods.  Their timing has gone all wonky for at least 3 years.  Extra weeks in between, but also sometimes only 2 weeks between.  Heavy and cramp-laden enough to make it almost-but-not-quite impossible for me to show up for work.  PMS days of sensitivity so severe I could kill somebody when a single hair touches me twice.

The list was more detailed, but you get the point.  I read it over after writing it and laughed in wonder, that I’m as insanely happy and satisfied with my life as I am, despite these obnoxious physical challenges.

The doctor read through them.  A few things might be allergy-related; she prescribed Flonase to supplement my local-grown-honey approach.  A few things call for extra blood tests, which she added to my lab orders – checking my vitamin D, vitamin B, and iron.  The yawning attacks she’s never heard of and didn’t know what to make of them.

The rest?  Menopause.  Apparently I’m doing that now.  She told me thing things I know that make me crazy:  you can’t know you’re “through” menopause ’til you’ve missed a full year of periods.  And “the change” itself may take up to 10 years – a fact which always makes me want to break something when I read it.  How can that even be a thing??  All the ladies at my stage of life tell her about the fatigue and the trouble focusing, she says.  She can’t explain the why, but it just IS.

So why am I blogging about this?  Partly because that’s how I process.  But also because her best advice was “talk to your mom about how it went for her.”  My mom had a hysterectomy at like 30, so she can’t really help me with that.  She wondered aloud whether I have an older sister.  Nope.  Mine is 8 years younger than me.  “Document this for your sister,” she said.  “She needs this information.”  And then I thought of my daughter, and my nieces, and my granddaughter, and I thought HECK YEAH I’ll document this.  So here’s to you, my family ladies, and also here’s to you, any fellow sufferer who has tried to read up on menopause at any point and found, as I have, that though half the humans on the planet who survive to middle age will go through menopause, the information about it is nebulous at best.  I’ve yet to find any very helpful resource that’s not maddening in its sweeping and unhelpful generalities.

I am just one woman and therefore not a significant statistical sample to quantify what generally happens for everyone, but by golly I can share what I go through, and if a bunch of us do that, maybe eventually it won’t be like walking through a dark, foggy room.

I am here begging: if you are going through this, if you have gone through this, for the love of your fellow women, as a favor to me, PLEASE share your experience.  Please.  Don’t be brief.  Don’t be coy.  Don’t be bashful.  TELL.

I can’t dodge menopause.  That’s fine.  I’d like to at least walk through it with come semblance of a clue.  TALK TO ME, ladies!

Please?

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Comments
  1. Kathy W says:

    We need to talk.
    Like you, I am going through menopause.
    Like you, all my older female relatives had hysterectomies or are dead.
    So…no genetic roadmap to follow.
    But I am 54. I’m a little older than you. I haven’t bled since Christmas, so–cross your fingers!–I might be out of the woods.
    But yeah, the feet are terrible. And my left thumb.
    Kathy

    • karen says:

      Oh! For some reason, when I got my email notifications about replies, I got the NEXT one from you, but not this one. Thank you, Kathy. I’m so glad we’ve reconnected here!

  2. Kathy W says:

    I’m trying to think, here, of what to tell you. Heading out the door w kids to 4H, whish isn’t helping. For arthritis, have you tried cherry juice? Helps me. Not a lot–$$$–just a small glass daily. And Salonpas (active ingredient menthol) has a spray and patches for your skin. They help with arthritis pain. At walgreens, Wal-Mart, etc. Sometimes dollar tree has their version of the patches for a dollar.

    • karen says:

      I tried the cherry juice for awhile a couple of years ago. I couldn’t tell if it was helping with the arthritis or not. And then I got sick once (not from the juice – just a passing stomach bug) and after I had thrown it up, I couldn’t face it anymore!! I’ll be checking out the Salonpas – thank you for that tip! Capsaicin does help too.

  3. Sheina Renée says:

    I’m not sure you really want me sharing my experience as it was the easiest most non-eventful thing for me. I started menopause VERY young… at the age of 41 I started having irregular periods. They were spaced out four to six weeks and when I had them they were very light and almost nothing. This went on for just over three years and in that time I had no other issues. No hot flashes. No fatigue. Just irregular periods. In January of 2014 at the age of 45 (turning 46 in April) I had my last period for over a year and a half. Then in June of 2015 I had a random period but nothing since then.

    I guess I’m sharing because I think it’s helpful for women to know that every one is different. I have friends who have gone through much worse. Going through menopause young is common in my family although after talking with my Aunt it seems I have had it easier than others. I have had issues with depression and anxiety that seem to have worsened but I’ve struggled with those things my whole life. And life circumstances aside from menopause were part of the reason for the struggle.

    I’m so sorry for those who experience harsher menopause but since it was easy for me I have no helpful advice.

    • karen says:

      Thanks for sharing, even if yours is a different journey than mine. I’m supposing that’s why the information about menopause is so darn nebulous – because it can be so many different things to so many different people! Glad you got through without major trauma – you’ve got enough challenges, without that one adding to it!

  4. billsmockins@frontiernet.net says:

    Karen, One thing I can share about menopause or at least about hot flashes…….mine dissipate when I reduce sugar intake.  I don’t think it’s timing, I really believe sugar intake brings me a lot of issues.  I had a hysterectomy in 2005 so I am not sure when or if I have “officially” gone through menopause.  My gp won’t say I have but I cannot imagine I haven’t. 

    • karen says:

      Isn’t it interesting, all the rotten things sugar can contribute?! I’ve never yet had a hot flash, but I wonder what other of my symptoms sugar might be exacerbating. I’ve gotta get that addiction back under my feet – it’s winning way too much just now!

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