Previously in Episode 11 we found out that HRT patches are sticky little buggers, sticking to knicker elastic as well as butt cheeks. We also discovered that flume rides can remove them! As the Dean family prepare for the departure of Cost Center 1 for university life we join Cath as she adjusts to an emptier nest.
… and then there were three!
With a heady mixture of excitement and sadness, Mr D and I drop Cost Center 1 off at her university halls. Her room is pretty and much better appointed than the room I had at university all those years ago. I still can’t quite believe I’m old enough to have a child at university. After much hugging and soggy goodbyes, we arrive home. As I go to her room to put some things away, I glance at the empty wardrobe and burst into tears. Not my usual quite sobs but full on howling and bawling my eyes out. I can barely breathe. With Cost Center 2 spending all his time with his girlfriend, the house is so empty, and for the first time since CC1 was born, I am completely on my own through the week.
I keep myself busy with evening classes and yoga, anything to avoid being on my own. In quieter moments I wonder who am I? I am not needed to be the mother I’ve been for the past 18 years. With Mr D away through the week I am not a wife either. So who am I? What am I? At the moment I feel I am a complete mess. As predicted by my doctor, the increased patch dose has not helped one little bit. Sleep is more elusive than ever. When will this rollercoaster ride end? Surely all this crap is not menopause-related? Or is it? Maybe I should see Dr Siskin again. I think I have more stuff I need to work through. Maybe that’s the root of all this turmoil.
Damn you, Hot Flush! Bad timing!
To cheer up the dark nights, Mr D and I book a night away in a country inn. A day wandering through the countryside followed by a romantic meal and who knows what afterwards. It sounds idyllic, just what we need. The reality is somewhat different. Wandering around an old country estate followed by a pint of local beer and a crossword was so relaxing. So far so good. The evening meal was delicious, the mood hot and suggestive, right up to the point where desert was served. Out of nowhere came a rush of heat and the overwhelming need to escape the room as soon as possible. I excused myself and headed outside, feeling nauseous. What a terrible advert I must have been, hunkered down by the back door, retching. The cold night air was just what I needed but I began to shiver shortly after. On returning to the dining room, I was hit by a wall of heat again. My heart hammering as if I’d been chased by an angry wasp, I tell Mr D what happened. We finish our meal and head back outside for more cool air. I have still not cooled down yet and am feeling very out of sorts, and a little scared.
‘What the heck was that?’ I wonder, ‘I’d no idea a hot flush could make you feel sick too. It’s like a feeling of impending doom!’
We decide to skip the nightcap and head to the sanctuary of our room. I try to get my head in the zone for some bedroom olympics but my body has other ideas. With adrenalin still zooming round it becomes apparent that a night of passion is now off the menu. Bugger! Mr D falls asleep quickly and easily (boy am I jealous of his knack of falling asleep within seconds of his head hitting the pillow) but I am left wide awake, feeling as if I have ruined our evening. Why do my erogenous zones not have the sensitivity they used to have? It’s not as if I’ve fallen out of love with Mr D. I long to feel sexy and carefree in the bedroom again, but at the moment I feel a fat failure.
Not that horrid old chestnut again!
Following our somewhat ruined night away, Mr D has declared, yet again, that sex is off the menu unless I am able to have an orgasm. I kinda see where he’s coming from (oOo! pardon the pun), but what if I can’t? What if it’s stopped working? Does this mean we can never have any intimacy ever again? It seems a very extreme stance to take, given that all is in fine working order with himself. What if I’ve condemned him to the life of a monk for the rest of his life? It seems unfair. What is also unfair is the pressure on me to perform. If I don’t perform I am denying poor old hubby any pleasure. How on earth do I sort this out? A messy head certainly doesn’t help the situation. Such is my distress that I actually discuss this at my session with Dr Siskin. I’ve asked to restart regular weekly appointments again. I will be damned if I am going through the rest of my life feeling this shitty, guilty and anxious.
Time for some bravery
Even when I feel a glimmer of sexiness I am now so unsure of myself, and how things are between Mr D and I, that I don’t dare approach him in case I make a bad situation much worse, irretrievably worse. My innards are in agreement, still alternating between being chockablock and whoosh!. Time to be brave and ask the doc to book me in for the sigmoidoscopy. I guess I will be seen early next year as Christmas is fast approaching.
Meanwhile, my own hormones are jumping up and down so much that my periods are coming sooner than expected, even with the HRT. They are actually overriding the patch and arriving when they feel like it. To add to the fun, the old breast cysts have flared up again. I feel as if I’m having breast reduction by syringe as I have them drained yet again. Even the breast surgeon is surprised at how much he managed to extract in one sitting!
Taking advantage of an unexpected trip to London for the weekend (Mr D’s company Christmas do), I pack some super-sexy matching undies, stockings and killer heels. It’s not exactly stocking weather but I don’t care. I’m going all out to entice Mr D back into my arms. However, the body language on the train journey south indicates that there’s no change yet. The physical a gap between us looks small to the observer but to me it is a gaping hole. He is more interested in his phone and iPad than he is in talking to me. I can see it in his face. He smiles but the smile does not reach his eyes.
Baby it’s cold outside…
That evening I find myself knee-deep in young people, all looking beautifully turned out and I feel like a frump. The lovely matching underwear and stockings remain unpacked as Mr D told me not to bother, just wear tights (yuk) as it was cold outside. Now I know I am in deep trouble. Up til recently, he’d never pass on the opportunity to admire my stocking-clad legs. Once again I fear for my marriage. Has gone off me as I am getting old and useless as a wife? Look at all the beautiful young women he works with. I now know what it is to be lonely in a room full of people. Normally I’m up for a good night out on the town, especially with all expenses paid. But this time I can’t wait to get back to the hotel to escape the pitying gazes of the beautiful, sexy women.
Dusting off my bravery the following morning, I decide I have to say something. I can’t let my marriage just fizzle out without trying to mend it. In a tear-stained heap, I spill everything to Mr D. I tell him how old and unattractive I feel, how unwanted I feel. I understand that he does not want to feel like a sex pest but if we give up on being close and intimate we will lose. I make up my mind right there and then that this bloody menopause menace will not beat us. I will find a way to fix it one way or another.
Well something is getting fixed sooner than I thought. My appointment with the bottom clinic (flexi-sigmoidoscopy) has arrived and is scheduled for the day before Christmas Eve. What fun! I hope to put the bowel worries behind me. At the moment I worry when my bowels are too loose, to concrete, what it looks like (yes I am even worrying about that too). You name it, I can worry about it. Note to self, do not binge on beetroot! That really scared the hell out of me. The patient leaflet allays one fear… what if I have to “prepare” before heading to the hospital… it’s a 40 minute drive? What if I get caught short on the way? Fortunately all the pre-exam preparation takes place at the hospital, in a private room with en suite facilities. Phew!
Who knew that practising yoga breathing would be so useful?! Even the doc was impressed with my level of relaxation. This is a major achievement for a worrywart, lying there with the equivalent of a garden hose stuck up her butt. As an early Christmas present, the surgeon pronounces my colon to be squeaky-clean and the picture of health. I tell you what, after the preparatory enema, you can be sure I am exactly that – squeaky clean.
It is the best news I’ve heard in months. I’m so relieved I hug the nurses and the surgeon, much to his surprise. As a parting comment, he warns me about the after effects.
“Mrs Dean, there will be much rumbling and gas still to escape as the day goes on. Please do not assume that what needs to escape is purely gas, it may just be accompanied!”
Aha, I will need to employ the old pelvic floor muscles if I’m going to avoid accidental sharts! Practicing some yoga moves helps the remaining gas to move on (in a safe environment away from naked flames!), as does sipping mint tea. With a clean bill of health I can now get on with Christmas. It is so long since I felt this relaxed, relieved and happy.
It also turns out the family have been keeping a close eye on me. They all think I need to see the doc for some anti-depressants. I agree I am not at my most chipper but disagree with the medication idea. I mention this to Dr Siskin in my next session so we do some bench marking tests to see what’s what. Yes, I am clinically anxious, but the majority of the symptoms also appear in the list of menopausal symptoms. Given I am well and truly in the grips of Perimenopause, it seems like a better idea to deal with the root cause, not mask the symptoms with medication. For the majority of my adult life I’ve done nothing but put stuff down feelings and look where it’s got me. It is time to face the causes head on. So far it has been five years since the first perimenopause symptom reared its ugly head. How much longer till it stops?
Tune in to episode 13 when Cath tackles the approach of her 50th birthday, faces down her fears in therapy, and comes out of her corner ready to beat perimenopause to a pulp!