Menopause is when menstruation stops. Perimenopause is when the body prepares for menstruation to stop. “Going through menopause” is really experiencing perimenopause , which most people don’t talk about, to such an extent that the spell checker refuses to accept it as a word. (It doesn’t accept my last name, either, so screw you, spell check. But that’s another rant.)
I absolutely could not WAIT for menopause. I wanted my periods to stop, you know, as they did when I was pregnant. And I had a happy, easy pregnancy, only some sleepiness at the beginning, and some swelling of ankles in the end, the barest minimum of cravings—I could live with that again.
Or maybe it would be like menarche, but in reverse. THAT would be cool. Well, apart from the acne. But otherwise, you know just kind of easing into it. Before you menstruate, there are incidents of moistness, then very light periods, then real ones. I could live with that in reverse; my periods would just fade away.
I remember my great-Aunts, Tootsie, and Nellie, and Nan, discussing “the change” but hushing one another up in front of the children. Now I know why. It was gross. Disgusting. Not dinner conversation.
OH GOD. As the body prepares to not be fertile, and fights the idea, estrogen and whatever the hell fight it out. Hot flashes were the least of my worries. I only had 2, which I welcomed, because I suffer from Reynaud’s Syndrome and any warmth is a relief.
Soaking periods. I do remember my mother talking about these, but only briefly, because she was embarrassed. My family has heavy periods to begin with: we laugh at the concept of “3 to 5 days.” We never used anything but Super Plus OBs, which we thanked god for.
Imagine using 5 of them between getting up and going to work, and still having to change your clothes. Getting to work and going immediately to the bathroom. Going through another 5. The expense alone is depressing.
One time, I had just changed my tampon, sat down, stood up again, and the menstrual blood in those few seconds went all the way down my pants and to my knees.
Yup. To my knees
And NOPE, nothing wrong with me except perimenopause.
My doctor said I didn’t have to go through that. I could just get a D and C once a month. Yeah, some person I don’t know could go through my vagina and cervix and scrape my uterine lining for me. Great, thanks. I’d rather invest in a tampon company and wait til this is over.
Clots. I had always rather liked clotty periods because they were, frankly, less sloppy than plain old blood. But when one is passing clots the size of a York Peppermint Patty it is horrifying.
Breast tenderness. My god, I felt as though I was nursing, but there was no breast pump to relieve the pressure. This happened once a month for about 5 months, but I had never had breast tenderness during my periods. It was a new and horrible concept.
Another little lesson in compassion—having never had breast tenderness during my periods, I thought women who did, and complained about it, were exaggerating. I apologize. SO MUCH.
Mood swings. Another thing I never had experienced during periods or with any frequency during pregnancy. Wanting to kill myself or dance naked in the park within a few seconds of the other feeling. Another lesson in compassion: Is THIS what it is like to be bi polar? I don’t know. But I know that out of control feelings are real and scary and to be taken seriously.
Vaginal/labia pain. As the estrogen level adjusts and you don’t have to be prepared to carry a child, things dry out. Yay for gynecort.
Acne/rosacea. Just like adolescence except in High School you are surrounded by people your own age going through the same thing. If you are the only person of your gender and age at your place of work, too bad for you.
I am on the end of perimenopause according to the charts I have. No more tenderness, fewer mood swings, making peace with the pain.
Not, not not making peace with the weight gain. So it gets its own post. Next week.