I've finally figured it out. It only took about a year. But the clues kept piling up and I had to look at myself one day in the mirror and shout, “Who ARE you?” I wasn't having hot flashes or night sweats. No insomnia and my clothes pretty much fit the same as they have for the past several years (not counting my new British beer belly, which is an inevitable side effect of living here). My body did what I wanted it to at the gym and, honestly, I felt as though I was still operating as a forty year old.
But I was losing my mind.
Now, menopausal brain fog is frustrating enough for the average woman. But for someone like me, who routinely suffers from absent mindedness and borderline clinical attention deficit, it's downright terrifying. It wasn't just walking into a room and wondering why I was there. It was the inability to focus enough to finish a single paragraph, the anxiety of feeling I was no longer capable of completing a project, let alone writing a book, and fear that nothing I did was any good or mattered to anyone. And that led to the crying.
I would cry over sad songs. I would cry walking down the diaper aisle knowing my son would never again be a stinkin’ cute two year old. I cried reading Captain Underpants. I know. That makes me want to cry.
And the thing is, you don't really know you're in menopausal brain fog until you've had about two hundred and sixteen mortifying moments. Then, when you notice the tampon box is gathering dust, you put it all together and realize, ‘Crap. This is it. This is the slippery slope to old age and I just stepped off the trail.’
What’s interesting is that I am part of an entirely new demographic of menopausal women. I'm leaving behind my fertile years while I still have a young child at home. We are the mature mamas. This is menopause meets puberty. And things could get ugly. Did you know that progesterone is responsible for nurturing, bonding and remembering your mother’s birthday? And that when you lose that progesterone, it's very possible you'll buy a Vespa and flip everyone the bird as you're riding off into the sunset?
I think there's a few ways this could go. Just about the time my son begins acting like an adolescent asshole, I will start throwing dishes OR I will account for the fact that we’re both experiencing raging hormones and realize I need to be the adult. I'm trying to do the latter. When I ask Z to do something and he stomps his feet and announces, “THAT’S not gonna happen!” I look at him and try to admit that’s exactly how I felt about a dozen times already that day.
I feel lucky I'm not suffering from the severity of physical symptoms many women go through. I once watched a woman going through a hot flash. She went from looking normal to looking as though she'd just run up fifty flights of stairs in 96% humidity. Dripping, I tell you.
But I had no idea the moody roller coaster could be so unrelenting. I didn't realise I would become so spacey, feel that my emotions were a lead apron around me, or that I could be incredibly thoughtless.
So if I haven't already asked for your forgiveness, I'll ask for it now, because I've still got a few more years to go before my menopause has officially ended. And I may still manage to piss you off. Hopefully not. Hopefully, now that I'm aware of this particular type of insanity, I can make up for it in other ways. I'm practicing Unconditional Positive Regard which means you can get mad at me and I'll just think you're having a bad day and bring you some chocolate.
The upside of menopause is that it feels like a fresh start. Even though we may be quick to snap at our children, there's a new kind of energy in midlife. Personally, I've decided that I will likely never practice medicine again. That's scary and liberating. I want to follow my old dream of living by my words - even though it's one of the toughest times to make a living as a writer. But menopause means less fear of failure. Less fear in general. And I've made enough friends now that if I get really desperate, I can move into someone’s basement.
You're going to hear more and more about menopause in the media. Women between 40-60 are now the largest demographic in the United States. And, now that I've realised I'm part of this new tribe, I'm going to be one of the voices writing about it. Stay tuned...