My husband once observed that I ascribe my bad behavior and unpleasant physical changes to the ‘woman’ baggage I carry. There is always something happening in my life - sometimes it is pre-menstrual, other times post menstrual symptoms; pregnancy blues or postpartum depression; fatigue and irritability because children were young, or panic attacks that they are all grown now; full house stress and empty nest pains. He claims I seldom have normal days, and I blame my mood swings, weight loss/gain, changes in skin/hair, even attitude on hormonal issues.
He may be right, and if I may confess, I do cheat once in a while; it is easier to dissolve into tears and complain, than to stand up and face an issue on hand.
Yet, the day I walked into a doctor’s chamber, and walked out with a long list of tests and prescription medicines, I realized that I had not prepared for the fact that I am getting old. Heck - I am only forty six - and in the best decade of my life. Finally done with the business of birthing and nurturing young ones, I am on the second career of my life that nourishes my soul (if not my bank balance). I have a wonderful family, great friends, and I enjoy traveling and meeting new people. I exercise regularly - I walk and strength train - I don’t lose my weight, but maintain it pretty well.
Or had been doing up until two months ago, when I discovered that in a span of six weeks, I was seven pounds heavier on the weighing scale. I was mortified. I hadn’t changed anything in my lifestyle; if anything, because of spring, I was clocking more walking miles everyday.
I fixed an appointment with a doctor to figure what was wrong. Among other things, the $5000 comprehensive blood work revealed that I was exhibiting pre-menopausal symptoms. The doctor wanted me to take another round of 5 tests (for food sensitivity, metabolic testing, hormonal work and so on). These would assess my body’s metabolic capacity, its detoxifying capability and would point the way to a treatment. I would be put on a HRT or bio-HRT regime. I would also have to undergo a diet program with twice-a-week HCG injections to increase my metabolic rate and make me lose weight.
I don’t know what horrified me more. The fact that I might be menopausal, or the doctor’s bed side manners? Her approach to menopause and its potential treatment appalled me. Menopause is not a disease, but a physiological condition. How then does one ‘treat’ it? Why does it require a battery of expensive tests to be confirmed? Why is it important to inject me with hormones to kickstart the metabolism, and put me on a series of hormonal therapies to make my symptoms better? Why do I need to add artificial hormones to age gracefully? I can afford these expensive therapies right now, but won’t I be adding additional burden when we are retired and our income sources dry up?
Menopause is creepy - it unfolds slowly, and is a scary proposition in times that are so youth obsessed. No matter what books, articles and talk shows tell us, it is a time that we are unprepared for, emotionally and physically. All of a sudden, the one thing that defines us as women is coming to an end, as is the capability to have children ever. (I am not saying I want more children, but the finality of not being able to conceive is chilling). The hormones that keep the skin supple and young, and act as a barrier to many diseases are decreasing at an alarming rate. In my mind I always thought my menopausal days were in some distant future, and menopause only happened to grannies!
I brooded, cried and was sufficiently maudlin for a week. This felt worse than being called aunty when I was in my early 20s . A call from my mother set me right. In her plain, no nonsense manner, she commiserated with me, and then told me to change my attitude. She told me I could either make peace with my body and its changes, or wallow in self-pity and fantasise that tomorrow I will wake up to a fresher, more youthful face in the mirror. Most pre-menopausal changes can be managed with minimal intervention and she advised me to take that route first. As she put it, our bodies are an incredible piece of design. Mine has seen me through an active athletic childhood, given me two amazing children, and helped me build a life on its foundation. I have loved and hated it, and abused and nurtured it in equal measure. It is time to care for it with devotion now, and Mom insists that the slowing down will be a blessing for me.This rich, complicated time will nurture me, my body, my mind and my heart, and hopefully finally instill ‘mindfulness’ in all I do.
I believe Mom. She has been there, done that and know how it all feels. It does not matter if I am 46, because there are some fears that only she can allay. That’s what Moms do for us all our lives - kiss our fears away ! Even though she is thousands of miles away, Mom knows just the things to say and the right buttons to push.
My rockstar mother pushed me out of my gloom and taught me to be real once more. Yes, I am getting older, and will experience symptoms and pains associated with these changes. I will have more wrinkles on my face, more weight on my already plump self, and thinning grey hair. I will have sleep disturbances, hot flashes, headaches, and fatigue. My mood swings will send the family crouching in corners, and I might end up losing friends because of my tantrums. My bones will creak like oil-deprived joints and my brain might begin to slow down.
Peace prevails for now, and hopefully will not walk out soon. Notwithstanding how I will feel in the coming months, I am blessed that I will face these changes in the company of the one I love. When I got back from the doctor, my undemonstrative husband hugged me tight and said, “I am glad we are growing old together.”
What more can I ask for?
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