The bed is on fire. I am on fire. I am hot. My hair is dripping wet as if I’ve just stepped out of the shower. The bedclothes are a tangled mess around me. I kick them out of the way and fall into a fitful sleep only to awaken several hours later cold and shivering. The mattress, instead of being on fire now seems to be floating in a pool of sweat. I lay awake and count the hours until morning. Six. I toss, I turn. I count. 5 hours 45 minutes. I wonder if I should go to the gym. I wonder why I’m not in a relationship. I wonder what other people wonder about at night. I fall back asleep. I wake up and the bed is on fire again. I throw the covers off. For the rest of night I perfect my two-step hot flash dance. Menopause.
In the morning I stumble out of bed exhausted and cranky. The reflection in the mirror looks vaguely familiar. Wisps of gray hair, curly like my own. Circles under the eyes, not yet completely sagging and hollow. Wrinkles telling stories and forming a delicate creased pattern across her face. Ah, my mother. I wonder when my mother arrived and more importantly; why is she starring at me like that? I look again and realize with a tightening in my stomach that I am the woman in the reflection. It is my 48-year-old self-staring back at me looking more and more like my mother every day. Menopause.
At work I notice I’m edgy. Little things like paper clips out of place on my desk send me into a rage. Sometimes I run out of my office because it, like my bed is on fire. Basic words now elude me and often I stop mid sentence, stare blankly into space and wonder what I am talking about. I find myself feeling impatient with the 12 and 13 year olds I work with and sometimes I actually want to scream at them for no apparent reason. The question begs, who is this person that appears to have taken over my usual jovial self? And more to the point, how can I get rid of her? Menopause.
The last time my hormones were raging like this I was 15 years old. Some of the symptoms were the same. I was cranky and moody. My mother stopped getting up with me in the morning because as she put it, “you are just too damn bitchy and moody.” I remember watching women my mother’s age and thinking I will never be “like that.” “Like that” meant old and wrinkled, skin sagging at the elbows and knees. “Like that” meant thick stomachs from what I assumed was lack of exercise and discipline. Creased toes and fingers, gray hair and memory lapses for no apparent reason. Ah, menopause.
Recently at the doctor’s office I explain my symptoms in great animated detail, jumping off the exam table several times to act out my part. My 30 something OBGYN with a winkle free face and compassionate blue eyes explains to me that I am describing the symptoms of menopause. She reviews my chart and confirms that since my last visit a year ago my symptoms have increased. No kidding I want to scream at her! I smile instead. We discuss HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and other non-traditional remedies.
I leave my beloved OBGYN office prescription in hand for a small does of estrogen and progesterone. The first night I take the “magic potion” I sleep more than I am awake. The bed does not burst into flames, nor does it turn into a puddle of sweat. After a few days I begin to sleep through the night and wake up feeling almost refreshed. At work when I find my paper clips out of place I barely notice. Once again the kids I work with make me laugh and cry. My vocabulary remains stunted at times and I still forget what I’m talking about mid sentence. My face is full of charter lines, not wrinkles. My arms, toes, legs and hands are creased like a well worn map revealing the story of my life. My jovial self comes out to play more often. I’m happy to report my sense of humor is fully intact and I’m beginning to make friends with the reflection in the mirror. Welcome Menopause.
Editors note: This post first appeared in Epochalips in November 2010. in light of so many friends going through the change, I thought it deserved a re-post.
Bren Fraser has been camping and exploring wild places since she was in her mother’s womb. Bren is a Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in working with teenagers and those who love them. Bren combines the therapy process with the healing power of nature, her love for the outdoors and her passion for witnessing and honoring growth in others.
Visit her website at brenthetherapist.com