by Tyran Butler
I used to sleep like a rock. I used to be as sharp as a tack. I used to be relatively easy to get along with, in most cases. I used to be younger. Perimenopause has changed my life. None of what I mentioned remains true. They only used to be. Things we think will never happen to us, indeed can and do happen to us. I am a witness (visualize my raised hand). Perimenopause is happening to me. For some reason, I thought I would be spared. I was not.
“Mama, are you having one of those hot lashes again?” is what my younger brother used to ask my mom when she would act, what appeared to me to be, overly dramatic—throwing her head back, wiping the top of her head out with a cloth, sighing and swearing she was about to burn up. I’d sneak and roll my eyes and look away. I had very little sympathy. I didn’t respect it then, but I sure do owe my mom an apology for the thoughts I thought about her behavior. I have learned to put some respect on menopause’s name. It was ‘lashing’ my mom back then and it is ‘lashing’ me now. I don’t like this at all, and I am here to tell you about it.
I am in a constant battle with the people in my house and those who ride in my car about the temperature. Nobody believes me when I tell them it is hot.
“Mommy, it’s your problems, again.”
“Girl, you have problems.”
“It really isn’t hot,” is what I hear.
Despite what they say during the day, I have compelling evidence for them in the middle of the night. On any given night, I look as though someone has doused me with water. At least three times per week, I wake up drenched because my night sweats are excruciating. I have had to change clothes and put towels in my bed to make it through to the other side. I have found myself wiping my forehead in my sleep, to come away with a hand half-filled with sweat. This shit is ugly. It’s gross. One night, in fact, my husband had to change his pajama pants because I wet him with my sweat. Either my family freezes and I am able to function like a normal person, or the house and car remain at a decent temperature and I slowly self-combust. One night, my husband and I were lying in bed. He touched my torso and exclaimed, you’re hot! I sat up and looked at him (in the dark) and said, and what do you think I have been saying all of this time, man?!? I think he thought, as I thought about my mom, that I was being overly dramatic. He has likely been rolling his eyes. I can’t with the sweat. It is driving me crazy. Menopause is the problem. One bright side is that I have discovered, through deprivation, that a decrease in my sugar intake leads to a decrease in the hot lashes (flashes). There are no win-wins on this front. If being taken out during perimenopause was a thing, it would be the sweat for me. It’s a problem.
Itching is not the business. Downstairs itching is definitely not the business. I know this. Hell, any reasonable person knows this. Menopause does NOT know this. My lady garden (i.e., my vulva) itches often. It itches incessantly. It itches unabatingly. It itches, and I am pissed that nobody prepared me for it. I had never even imagined an itchy vulva. Now that my vulva itches, I know all about itchy vulvas. Apparently, they too, are a symptom of menopause. Why didn’t anybody tell me? This would have been good to know. This is why I am telling you. Maybe you already know. If you do, I am here to co-sign, sister. Nothing is wrong with our vulvas. Itchy vulvas are real and normal and we have them. We should normalize the conversation. We deserve it. Mine itched so much that I went to the allergy doctor. Once I convinced him that absolutely nothing had changed in my routine other than my vulva decided to start itching, we were able to get somewhere. There is good news, though! The Honey Pot Company’s panty spray and soothing lavender vulva cream are my friends and they can be your friends. If being taken out during perimenopause was a thing, it would be the itch for me. It’s a problem.
The Cognitive Resources
I am a reasonably intelligent person. Historically, I have been able to hold a lot of information in my head and elucidate on it as necessary. Currently, this is not true. I can no longer remember a damned thing. In addition, I have the attention span of a flea. When I was younger, I remember a friend in her forties telling me she was forgetting the simplest things. She was flustered and I was clueless. It was menopause. It will have you thinking that you are losing it. You aren’t losing it. Menopause is taking it away from you. My ability to remember things and my ability to recall simple words has been diminished significantly. I am appalled. It’s a problem! My husband and daughters will tell me they told me something, and I will have absolutely NO recollection of the event ever happening. They often look at me like I am the crazy one. For a while, I was convinced they were conspiring against me. Now, I know menopause is the conspirator. To combat it, I have been writing notes. I keep a handy dandy notebook with me at all times to jot down simple things I would never have written down before. Lots of things are happening that have never happened before, and I have to employ strategies that will afford me a modicum of success at continuing to demonstrate I am reasonably intelligent.
I encourage myself to get comfortable in this new body. It is here to stay. An inability to accept my body for the duration of my life would be a problem.Tweet
My belly is fatter than it used to be. Perimenopause is the reason. No matter what I do, I cannot get back the belly (and waist) that I used to have. My shape, that used to be somewhat of a Coke bottle, is turning into a juice box. I don’t like it. If this is happening to you, sis, I am in it with you. It is not us; it is menopause’s fault. Despite the inevitable, I continue to walk miles, to ride miles, to practice yoga, to try to choose foods that will support my desire to be healthy and to look somewhat good (to my eye), and to remind myself I am doing the right things for myself. I encourage myself to get comfortable in this new body. It is here to stay. An inability to accept my body for the duration of my life would be a problem.
My intention in writing this is to share a bit of my experience and to help women see they are not alone as they deal with the crazy things that come along with any phase of menopause. We aren’t real enough with one another about it. I am a firm believer in being prepared…I wasn’t prepared for this, so if sharing a bit of my chronicles helps someone, I am happy to serve it up!
Tyran Butler is a woman in her late forties, fighting the good fight of menopause.
I am afraid.
I fear the mental illness that’s coursed through my blood will surface at last. Thus far, I’ve escaped my mother’s schizophrenia, my aunt’s clinical depression, my sister’s depression, my niece’s trichotillomania, my other niece’s bipolar diagnosis, and my daughter’s anxiety. For women, mental illness appears during hormonal shifts. I thought I was different. I am not. My body has been waiting for the most opportune time.
January 11th: I couldn’t stop crying about all manner of things. I lamented my life’s choices, the latest was taking a job as an assistant professor of education at a community college six years ago. I was just now attaining tenure. Of all the things I’ve done, this has made me feel most like a failure. My brain ran with these thoughts. By traditional calculations, I should’ve stayed at my first academic job and gotten tenure in 2015, like a “normal” person. But I couldn’t because my husband couldn’t find a job in the small racist town we’d agreed to move our family to.
The self-loathing invited me to cozy up in its arms, and even though I tried to writhe free, I couldn’t. It was comfortable, so I stayed a while. I pondered my next bad decision, moving from that small Georgia town back to Florida and commuting two hours and forty-five minutes one way to another academic job. That was stupid. I quit after three years. Maybe if I would’ve moved to that city, I would have tenure by now. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be a professor at all. Or maybe I wasn’t good enough to be at a university in the first place.
My mind raced.
I fear change in general and have spent much of my life controlling myself and my surroundings. When I was sixteen years old, I was caught off-guard by my adopted mother’s death, by her not returning home after a routine hospital visit. She’d been ill my entire life, riddled by the consequences of kidney disease; however, I never anticipated she would die. My adopted father’s behavior changed. Years later, one of his best friends said he’d contemplated suicide. She begged him not to, so he didn’t. But our home life grew as erratic as his moods.
From that point on, I attempted to create a life of predictability. I married a man who enjoys routine: Work. Tennis. Movies. I maintained lists on agendas intended to organize my life into a tidy bow. Anything that veered from the lists didn’t happen. It was too much for my anxiety.
This new way of life is like walking blindfolded into a real-time haunted house on a daily basis.
January 13th: I awoke at two o’clock, then four o’clock, then six o’clock. Each time I lie on my side of the bed, listening to my husband’s soft snores, wishing he’d wake up to notice how I’d suffered. There’s no way I can get used to two-hour increments of sleep. Or is there? The root cause of this insomnia is biology, a lack of progesterone, according to the interwebs. Too little disrupts women’s circadian rhythms. No amount of chamomile tea with lavender matters. Every night is like a crapshoot: How long will I remain asleep?
January 14th: I awoke to drenched sheets. The next day, my husband told me he saw my feet by his nose. I thought he was sleep when I’d flipped around in an attempt to find a cool part of the bed. There was none. Every place I was, the heat was too.
I can’t even ease my nerves with a drink, something I’ve been doing since before I was twenty-one. For years, I’ve relied on varied forms of liquor to soothe and bring me down from the bundle of nerves that tie themselves in a knot in my stomach. Mixed drinks and fancy elixirs have helped calm my busy brain from concocting ridiculous thoughts. The most recent fix is red wine in a time of COVID-19. But even that must change.
Experts suggest avoiding alcohol. A glass or two of my favorite red blend signals my body to heat up in an uncomfortable and embarrassing rage. Droplets form at my hairline and flow down the sides of my face into a pool between the wrinkles of my neck.
“Are you okay?” a voice always asks.
No, I answer in my head. All I want is to escape this new body that’s forming. Every shift does not fit into a beautiful cocoon-butterfly metaphor. No. Change is bad. And no magical number of inspirational quotes, pointing toward accepting change or being brand new will help.
“Yes,” I say, while grabbing a napkin and jokingly referring to how frequently sweating now occurs.
When I look in the mirror, I no longer see my once beautiful, big, brown eyes. Instead, I notice black rings forming underneath, one for each hour of sleep I’m missing. My used-to-be bright caramel skin now appears as a dull ash. Sucking in my belly is futile. Though I’ve worked out four times a week, religiously for the past two decades, somehow, I’ve gained ten pounds all in my stomach.
My husband says, “You’re beautiful,” as he has most days of our marriage.
But his words don’t change the way I see myself. Self-esteem and self-love are both inside jobs, after all. And this change of life has quickly stripped me of both.
January 15th: I texted my mother-in-law.
She experienced menopause when I was in my twenties and preparing to marry her son. She’d mentioned it was tied to when a woman began her period.
“I started mine when I was ten,” I said.
“Well, you better start your estrogen shots now,” she advised, half smirking.
I ignored her, thinking I had all the time in the world to worry about old-lady things. I was right and I was wrong.
I’ve learned to communicate with her the same way she does me, sporadically, without warning or too much greeting.
What natural remedies can I use for these night sweats?
She responded with a list:
Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes
Black Cohosh (Actaea racemose, Cimicifuga racemose) This herb has received quite a bit of scientific attention for its possible effects on
Evening Primrose Oil
Use with Caution.
She also advised me to avoid caffeine and refined sugar and to get a fan and ice water.
Drugs seem to be the universal answer; however, this remedy is outside of my nature. In my house, we don’t even take aspirin for headaches. We take a nap or eat a meal.
Twenty-two years ago, when I delivered my first baby, I was hellbent on having a natural birth.
“Are you sure you don’t want an ep-i-duuuur-aaaalllll?” the nurse mocked.
“No,” I panted.
A few centimeters later, the pain was too much to bear.
“Can I get an epidural now?” I begged.
“It’s too late,” the nurse said. “We can give you Demerol.”
I delivered a baby on the slow drip of pain meds. To now consider a daily pill to quell my symptoms for the five to ten years they say menopause may last seems excessive. But my growing depression, sweating at inopportune times, and getting four hours of sleep are far worse.
January 18th: I found a local doctor who creates and sells natural plant-based medications. Something called Natural Balance Cream for Women promises to balance my progesterone levels and Estrofem will help with my estrogen levels. I received both on January 20th.
Now, I wait.
In 2020, I had the privilege of speaking with one of my dearest blogging friends, Dr. D! We discussed all things anxiety. She explains the difference between anxiety disorder and situational anxiety.
This conversation is especially important for women over the age of forty because anxiety and depression can increase during these peri- or menopausal times.
During our conversation, Dr. Dinardo provides 3 strategies to help us cope with situational anxiety, especially because it may be heightened during the pandemic and times of racial unrest. I also revealed a real-time experience that caused me a bit of anxiety.
If you don’t want to hear Dr. D. and I dote on one another, then you should begin this episode around the 7-minute mark.
Finally, if you’re experiencing anxiety disorder, then I’d like to encourage you to consider and seek cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for treatment.
Josie, from What Josie Cooked shares her recipe for shakshuka.
Josie moved to Chicago in her mid-20’s, in search of something bigger than herself (and for the food, of course). Instead, she found crazy harsh winters and crazy harsh experiences. Her kitchen has become her haven. Her utensils, her family. And her stove, her best friend. There’s no place like home 🙂
Follow Josie on Instagram: @whatjosiecooked
Follow Josie on WordPress: mindjobusiness
Daily daydreams of blowing up idiot drivers?
When I was a teenager, I did not have really bad PMS.
Not mood wise.
I mean I was a little more touchy.
But none of the raging that other friends went through.
Even cramping was minimal.
I was lucky.
Depending on how you looked at it.
I had other issues, so maybe the scales balanced out.
Now let’s fast forward thirty years or so, and I’m now in menopause.
I will preface this with the following: I’m not sure if I have heard this elsewhere, or if I created it, but either way here it goes … my little comedy schtick.
Who on earth named it menopause? I, for one, am not about to decide in ten years or so that I miss the bloating and the irritability, never mind the incessant fear that sex might lead to another child, and say let’s return to that nightmare, please. Can I see a show of hands? Are there any women out there … wait, yes I know there are women out there who believe that giving birth to a wild gaggle of children is yada yada yada … but for a vast majority, I don’t think that restarting puberty is a wish. But hey, that is just me.
Having said that, this week I have cried over every little thing.
I cried apologizing to someone.
Writing an email earlier about my son … cried.
Asking a friend if I had done anything wrong (knowing she is struggling with an issue re: school/her daughter/bullies) and tearing up as I exclaim how egotistical I am to even think it was because of me.
I cried realizing I am a little egotistical.
I cried because a little girl told me I was beautiful.
I cried because a co-worker is hurting.
I cry a lot.
Flipside is the rage that comes out.
Most of it has been at other drivers, but there have been a few times at work …
I work hard not to let that aspect out, but there are times the wolf howls to be let loose.
I am told that it will get better.
I am sure that it will mean puberty eventually settled down.
Jay-lyn is a woman who is in her late forties, who was thrilled to discover that she’s in menopause.
Tired of the bloating and emotional turmoil, the thought that it would be gone was most welcome…until she discovered that neither one goes away. They just get worse.
Jay-lyn is also the mother to a wonderful young man who is twelve going on twenty (but really only thirteen). Her son’s impending teenage years, mixed with her midlife change has her thinking she’d better prepare the fallout shelters now.
She’s also the mom to three fur babies.
Here’s to normalizing menopause as another cycle in life 🙂
Follow her blog, The Wonderful and Wacky World of One Single Mom.