By Lisa Sugarman
So I had this amazing idea for a column that I truly believe could’ve been one of my best. It was the perfect blend of humor and wit and insight and inspiration. Maybe even a contender for some kind of fancy-schmancy small-town newspaper literary award. Only problem is, in pulling out my laptop and plugging everything in and getting situated in my spot at Starbucks, I totally forgot what I was going to write about. Like gone. Completely wiped from my mind. Sorry, these things happen. Problem is, with me, this type of thing seems to be happening more and more often.
Now I’m hoping that eventually, as time rolls along, I’ll recover that lost idea and turn it into something great somewhere down the line. But until then, I guess my recent memory loss (and other annoying markers) is a sign that I need to write about something more globally significant than whatever else I was going to say. Something that touches pretty much everyone at some point.
The something I’m talking about is perimenopause, also known as The Change. And why I all of a sudden think this is of paramount importance to everyone is because I seem to be smack in the middle of it. And since it’s what’s messing with my head right now, I think it’s only fair that it messes with yours too.
So think of this as an elaborate Public Service Announcement. And since PSA’s are messages in the public interest disseminated by the media without charge, with the objective of raising awareness, changing public attitudes and behavior towards a social issue, think of my talking about it as an educational opportunity. I know that’s a bit of a stretch, but do it anyway.
If you’re a guy, I’m clueing you in on why your sort-of-close-to-middle-age wife is so erratic, emotionally charged, constantly annoyed, and high strung. If you’re a kid, I’m holding up a warning sign that says stay away from your mom for roughly the next eight to ten years. And if you’re a forty-somethinger, like me, I’m giving you proof that (A) you’re not going insane and (B) you’re not alone.
Look, I know this isn’t one of the profound topics you’ve grown to expect from me, but when you break it down, it’s actually incredibly relevant to most of us, one way or another. Women bear the brunt of it, obviously, but guys and children aren’t far behind us in the impact zone. So clarifying it, I think, is somewhat important. Because the more you understand the predicament you’re in, the better chance you have of surviving it. And believe me, menopause is a predicament for anyone involved.
Those of you who know me know that I’m a pretty positive person by nature. It’s not often that I drift over to the dark side and complain about anything. (Unless I’m doing it to Dave, which simply doesn’t count because he’s my husband. I’m supposed to complain to him.) Remember, I am human. And because I’m human I recognize that not everything can be unicorns and rainbows, as my good pal Kara likes to say. Sometimes things can just be straight-up irritating or annoying without a flip side. And sometimes, just sometimes, change isn’t good. And in this case, it isn’t.
The Change is inevitable for most of us. But for me, a person who believes wholly in change as a positive thing, it’s one type I’m having a tough time embracing. And if I am, then you probably are too.
Case in point is when my friend Marci and I were in the middle of a conversation (I think about marathon training but I can’t be sure) and then we both abruptly stopped because neither of us had any idea what the hell we were just talking about. (For the record, Marse, I still don’t remember.) Or when I walk downstairs into our pantry to get something and then, once I get down there, I have no recollection whatsoever why I’m there. Or when Dave and I are in the middle of a conversation and a great and totally relevant thought pops into my head only to disappear before I can spit the words out of my mouth. Frustrating. Very frustrating. Or when the word ‘The’ or ‘How’ just disappears from my roster of staple vocabulary words and I stop a conversation cold because I can’t remember how to use words. It’s these things that make me reject this kind of change. And that’s irritating to me because I hate to reject anything.
But when you combine the memory loss with the other charming signs of The Change, like hot flashes, night sweats (accompanied, of course, by morning and afternoon sweats), fatigue, the inability to concentrate, depression, mood swings, trouble sleeping, changing your underwear after you so much as sneeze (or, for that matter, laugh), then all bets are off and The Change can go screw itself.
I know I should try to embrace it and think of it as some beautiful, miraculous woman stage that my body is going through. But truthfully, it’s the time in a women’s life when our equilibrium is tipped upside down and our body starts rejecting itself. It’s the time when the balance and calm we’ve worked so hard to achieve just smashes on the ground in front of us like our grandmother’s china serving platter when it slips out of our soapy hands.
So what do we do about all this? And what’s my real point here? It’s simple, really. It’s to put it out there and talk about it with the understanding that talking about it might make it somehow easier to endure. It’s why I bring up most of the stuff I bring up here. Because certain stuff just needs to be talked about so we can get our minds around it. It allows us to prepare and to cope. Plus, we have to remember that while many of the effects of perimenopause are troublesome, to say the least, the condition is transitory. It goes away. So I guess that’s what’s most important to remember. If there’s anything else beyond that, I forget.
Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItisWhatitisColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at all Hugo Bookstores.