About six months ago I noticed that the key details of my communications were disappearing. Literally falling out of my brain mid-sentence. I’d be in full flight conducting a conversation and then suddenly I’d forget what I was talking about, or who I was talking about, or even who I was talking to.
This is a little perplexing for someone who has always been extremely articulate. Suddenly I’m substituting major nouns with ‘thingie’ and referring to family members as ‘whatsername’.
I was sitting in a trendy Melbourne cafe last night, chatting with a girlfriend, telling some fascinating story that hinged on a crucial detail, something I actually know, but it just evaporated. I could see the picture of the person I was talking about but couldn’t access the name; it was like my hard drive froze and, not being in a position to reboot, I said, ‘You know, whatsername, she’s a famous Australian thingie with a paintbrush’. That’s fairly general. It wasn’t meant to be some sort of elimination quiz. There was an awkward silence. My friend smiled and patted my arm gently. ‘Welcome to peri-menopause’.
For those of you who don’t know, peri-menopause is that time in a woman’s life that comes immediately before menopause. If menopause is the marriage, then peri is the engagement. It’s as fleeting as adolescence, but just as insane.
Being an egg-bearer has been quite an emotional rollercoaster, and now as my body gets ready to make the transition from hormonal hornbag to cranky crone, it seems the ride is nowhere near over. So I started reading up on what I’m in for. While I was relieved to discover I don’t have early-onset dementia, I was a bit perplexed about the 35 exciting symptoms I have to look forward to.
I clearly have the ‘disturbing memory lapses’. Next on the checklist was irritability. Tick. It’s hard to know whether it’s a symptom of hormonal change or a personality trait. If I am to be honest I reckon I’ve alway had the shits. I can’t blame peri-menopause. My mother had the shits. Her mother had the shits. Her mother’s mother had the shits. So yep, I’m irritable and easily annoyed, but that happens when you live a life surrounded by idiots.
True easy-going mindfulness is harder than you think, and if you can call Centrelink to ask a question without breaking into a sweat then congratulations, you’re probably the next Dalai Lama. Speaking of sweats, I don’t have that one. I am also happy to note that I haven’t got ‘vaginal dryness’. I didn’t even know that it was something that we women have to look forward to. Just when you learn to manage your vagina, it pulls some new tricks.
I get the odd irregular heartbeat, but I just figured I am a pretty irregular girl. Mood swings and sudden tears? Hmmm… sometimes I cry in the car. But that’s generally when I’ve sped past a speed camera. I’ve definitely got the ‘weight gain’ and yes, I do have the bloat. And flatulence? Christ – angry, fat, farting bitch with a dry vagina. What’s not to look forward to?
And of course let’s not forget the pervasive sense of doom. I’ve had that since I was six years old. I was growing up in a hick country town with a violent alcoholic father who was soon to end up dead. I was big on doom.
Maybe I was peri-menopausal even back then. Of course there’s fatigue, I am tired, but then I get up at 6.15am, crack out three lunches, clean the kitchen, make the beds, do the washing, do a full day of work, drive kids to school, to sport, cook dinner, do a late-night gig, and get home by 1am. I think fatigue is a normal response to my daily routine.
I am happy to say I haven’t suffered a loss of libido. I doubt I ever will. Although I guess if the dry vagina hits I might have to reassess. And then there is the occasional incontinence. Or as they call it on the telly ‘light bladder leakage’. That’s a polite way of saying ‘just did a little bit of wee’. Previously I would have said No to that but recently playing basketball on two occasions I came down from a rebound and found I’d created an improvised moat.
Why is it all so negative? Why can’t peri-menopause give us symptoms like ‘sudden onset of flat stomach’ or ‘moments of intellectual genius and insight’? I’d be happy with ‘disturbing incidents of tolerance’, unexplained rushes of joy and a sense that the world and the people in it are good. Peri-menopause will cause a generalised sense of your own awesomeness with extended periods of insanely good well being.
I’d be so excited I’d bloody wet myself. In the meantime, I’m going back downstairs to yell at the kids.