Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Cath’s adventures in Perimenopauseland – episode 17 – the final count-down (or not)

Last week’s episode finished with this question – ‘will I be post-menopausal?’ This week we find out.

The beginning of the end?

Idly flicking through my phone apps, my finger taps the cycle tracker.

‘Gosh. I’ve not entered anything in this for months’ I declare to nobody in particular.

‘What are you doing, Cath?’ asks Mr D, peering over my shoulder as he walked past.

‘I’m clearing out unused or rarely used apps on my phone as it’s running out of space. I’ve just realised it’s almost a year since I last added anything to my cycle tracker.’ I explain.

‘There’s an app for that?’ enquires Mr D, rolling his eyes.

‘There’s an app for just about everything, dear.’ I reply as I work back to the last time I recorded a period.

‘Oh my goodness… three hundred and sixty days since the last one started!’ looking at Mr D in amazement. ‘You know what this means?’

‘Er… you’ve saved a whole heap of money on monthly supplies and chocolate? he quips, ducking out of my reach. Wise man!

‘Yes and no. Yes to saving money on supplies, but most definitely no to reducing chocolate purchases! I’ve needed a good supply of the gooey melty stuff, as well as gin and wine, to survive these past few years since the change began. However, that’s not the big thing!’

‘You mean there’s a bigger thing than gin?’ says Mr D in disbelief. I can see he thinks I’ve temporarily misplaced my marbles.

‘Yup… the biggest thing since the kiddos were born! In five days’ time, if I have nothing more to add to the tracker, I will officially be post-menopausal!’ I say, smiling a little at the idea of it.

‘Oh. That’s … er … nice?’ says Mr D, wondering if he’s saying the right thing. Poor man. Trying to find the right words to say at the right time to his perimenopausal, mercurial wife, has been challenging for him. I appreciate his valiant attempts to tread carefully. I cut him some slack…

‘Yes. I think ‘nice’ will do for the time being.

Three hundred and sixty one days…

Cliff Photo

Looking back through my journals I can see just how much I’ve changed as a person. It’s been an amazing journey; a jaw-dropping mix of weird, mildly odd, and puzzling, all the way through to pits of despair, terror, and relentless anxiety. However, there is a tiny speck of light slowly moving towards me… could this be the end of the line?

Three hundred and sixty two days…

How much have I learned about myself over the last few years, especially in therapy sessions? Loads. I want to share some of it with you. Rather than have you read through screeds of writing, I thought I’d put it in a table. Part of my discoveries came from my sessions with Dr Croskin, the rest come from my well-thumb books by Dr Northrup, Susun Weed, and Louise Hay. This might make sense to you… and then again it might not. The important thing to mention at this point, is that if you are at all concerned with any ailment, please consult a healthcare professional. I’m sharing this table with you because I never realised how power the mind has over the physical state of the body. Perimenopause, while rewiring your brain and body, also gives you the opportunity to pay attention to past issues and sort them out. It’s a work in progress, not a destination.

A-Z symptoms

What you can see from the middle column, is that fear seems to have a starring role in my own personal baggage to deal with. Being the child of a mother with strong narcissistic tendencies will do that to you. I count myself blessed the day I was introduced to Dr Croskin. She certainly opened my eyes to many epiphanies!

Three hundred and sixty three days…

white mortar and pestle

One of the benefits of perimenopause is a sudden surge in creativity. This can take many forms, from taking up a new hobby to starting a new business. In my case, I find a renewed sense of fun in the kitchen by going to cookery classes and learning to create dishes I’ve been too scared to try. I thought I had little skill and tolerance for using hot chillies and more exotic ingredients like fish sauce, lemon grass and rice wine vinegar. It turns out I can cook a mean Thai curry from scratch and can eat reasonably feisty bird’s eye chillies without melting into a puddle or triggering the mother of all hot flushes!

Three hundred and sixty four days…

Moon phases

Is this my last day as ‘mother’? In the biological sense, of course it isn’t. You don’t stop being a mother to your children, no matter how grown up they are. But I’m thinking along the old traditional sense… the maiden, mother and crone tradition. I used to imaging that ‘maiden’ meant one who remained virgin, but now I’ve read more on the subject, I realise that maidenhood is more to do with not having given birth yet. The transition from maiden to motherhood is painful and exhausting, as any woman who has pushed out a baby will tell you (often at length, embellished with gory technicolour details). There comes a point in labour, when most of us tell the midwife that we can’t do this and to ramp up the pain relief to maximum. I remember pleading with my midwife for an epidural only to be told labour was too far advanced and a few good pushes and it would be all over. The look of horror on my face was one Mr D will never forget, or let me forget either. Anyway, this bit, the transition, is pretty much where I think motherhood starts. Having the grit and determination to do what needs to be done in the face of pain and emotional (not to mention physical) exhaustion, all for this tiny wee bundle of joy.

With this in mind, maybe that goes some way to explain the trials and tribulations of perimenopause – the transition from mother to wisdom-filled crone, hopefully minus green tinge to the skin and big old hairy facial warts. Those Disney cartoonists have a lot to answer for. I’d far prefer a more modern and accurate portrayal of the modern-day crone. They should base their sketches on lovely ladies like Julie Walters and Helen Mirren.

My possibly last day as ‘mother’ is spent creating this website, linking it to Twitter, creating its sister Facebook page, and walking the pup in glorious sunshine. Perfect. And in case Aunty Flo has gone for good, I plan how I’m going to celebrate. Hint – it will involve bubbly and/or gin. Who am I kidding? Of course it will involve bubbly AND gin!

The end of the beginning?

Woman crossing the finish line

It’s here. Aunty Flo is conspicuous by her absence!

‘Happy menopause day to me..’ I sing in triumph, already imagining the 5pm gin and tonic on the sun deck. Just to ensure I have an uninterrupted evening I call Mother as I set about creating a couple of epic drinks. Cost Center 1 is joining me in my celebrations and taking a well-earned break from exam studies. Mother was not too keen on the idea of CC1 joining in with the gin quality control but, born of some inner crone-fuelled sparkiness, I disagree with her. If CC1 is old enough to be at university, she’s old enough to join her mum for a little gin or two.

Our disagreement doesn’t stop there. I have the nerve to hold the opposite opinion on CC1’s foreign travel plans… ‘You can’t keep them tied by the apron strings for ever!’ I remind her. All this disagreement goes down like a lead balloon with Mother, but spurs me on to greater courage, enough to bring the pointless call to a stop. I’m keeping my special day chilled and fun, thank you very much!

The weather, uncharacteristically gorgeous, allows the Dean family to stay out till late into the evening, watching the tiny bats wheel around the house on their hunt for flying breakfast. On deck, the giggling, good-humoured chatter and empty Prosecco bottles tell a tale of fun and celebration. Even the boys join in, although they think I’m mad as a box of frogs.

So what happens now? It’s clearly the end of the line as far as my adventures in Perimenopauseland go. Where to now? I think it’s time for a change of scene. I’m looking forward to wandering through Postmenopauseland. After all, surely the worst is now behind me? I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks’ time.

Thank you all for keeping me company in Perimenopauseland. I’m taking a well-earned holiday for two weeks. I suspect the down time and relaxation will help me get to grips with navigating through a new landscape – Postmenopauseland.

Bless you all – Cath xx


Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Cath’s adventures in Perimenopauseland Episode -14 – finding a new path

In episode 13, Cath had celebrated her fiftieth birthday in style, sporting a beautiful red dress, new makeup, all underpinned with a gorgeous set of underwear. Her day was wonderful, but her mother was determined to blight her happiness with some cutting remarks. What’s next for our intrepid menopause explorer? Read on…

There’s only one thing to do with rude comments – walk away and leave them behind. As I’m in a ‘moving onwards’ mood, I do some idle research, also known as getting lost in Wikipedia for a few hours. It’s amazing what you find out from a simple click or two. It started off with me reading one of my favourite books by Terry Pratchett. I have a particular fondness for three of his characters, the Lancre Witches. This particular book referred to the three stages of woman- or witchhood,  the maiden, the mother and the crone.

‘Oooo… let’s look up Crone’

… and hours later, and several websites later, I am buying a new book on menopause – written by a modern day crone, “New Menopausal Years. The Wise Woman Way” by Susun Weed.

photo of pathway surrounded by fir trees

Off down a new path…

In the opening chapters I discover that the modern day crone is radically different from the image most people recognise, the Disney Crone with her warty ugly face and evil intentions. If you type in “crone” into a search engine, the first result tells you that a crone is an ugly old woman.

‘Says who?! Our patriarchal society? What about other cultures… how do they view the menopause years? Old and past it, or full of knowledge, wisdom and vibrancy?’

When I think of women like Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, for me they are examples of strong women who have embraced their menopause years to the extent you can see their beauty shine through. Growing old? Not for me thank you very much. Growing up? Never. Growing wiser? Yes please. I’ll have a slice of that thank you.

As I read on I find an alternative interpretation of flushes and sweats. This gives me some small comfort and novel (for me) way of managing them. I am no longer afraid of turning into a human space-heater. Instead I invite them to do what they need to do to get me ready for this new phase in my life. With this new approach I find these temporary trips to tropical climates last for a shorter time and are not reaching the same furnace levels they did when I panic. It almost as if I am surfing them in my mind.

Disruption and the importance of self-care…

The book descibes this time in our lives is the most disruptive since puberty. It makes me giggle, as that’s pretty much my description – puberty backwards!. The author continues to remind us of the importance of self-care. Self-care is not selfish. It ensures we are able to function at our best for the benefit of ourselves and those around us. I liken this advice to the emergency drills on an aircraft.

‘In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks… etc.’ The cabin crew always tell us to put on our own masks before helping others.

It’s not until it is written down that it starts to make sense. I’ve always felt a little guilty about taking time out for myself but not anymore. I am going to prioritise self-care without guilt. If anyone doesn’t like this, that’s their feeling to experience, not mine to mitigate.

bay beach blue clouds

Trying to hold back the tide…

Further on-line research reveals that surges of heat experienced in flushes and night sweats are recorded in many cultures as spiritual awakening, a rise in Kundalini energy. These power surges are there to rewire us for our wisdom years. It occurs to me as I read this, that hormone replacement therapy may well squash the development of wisdom. Our culture worships youth and beauty, encouraging us to force our bodies to stay young, no matter the cost (mentally and physically). I may as well plant my feet firmly on the shore, braced for impact, and try to stop the tide from coming in.

Depending on where I stand (and how strong my grip), if I hold on long enough against the incoming tide I will surely drown. If, on the other hand, I choose to go with the flow, and follow in the footsteps of female ancestors before me, I can grow and develop into my own self (and not drown – very important!). All these anti-aging potions and lotions, HRT etc do us a great disservice and keep women trapped in the notion that we are only valued as long as we continue to ovulate or look as if we could. Why can’t the labelling use more positive language? Pro-something-or-other, instead of anti?

Pah! Not for me thank you. I’m off in the opposite direction. I refuse to subscribe to this notion of remaining youthful no matter the cost. This is a major paradigm shift for me, the empirical scientist. I am off into the realms of self-discovery, self-healing and ancient therapies long ago designed to help our passage into this next stage, celebrate it, revere it, not hinder it.

Uncomfortable in my own skin…

As the year progresses into Spring, I become increasingly quiet, almost withdrawn by comparison to my default energizer bunny mode. I am restless, irritated and generally uncomfortable in my skin. This inner turmoil is mirrored in my outer world. I am growing increasingly agitated in my office building. I hate being surrounded by so many negative Nellys! It’s exhausting trying to boost me and everyone around my desk. Even my private life is feeling the strain.

Poor Mr D’s job situation seems to be precarious. Cost Center 2 has exams looming but shows no interest in putting in any work for them. Any attempt to broach the subject is met with thermonuclear detonation! Honestly, he spends more time gaming and seeing his girlfriend. I can only see this going horribly wrong but CC2 is adamant that all will be well. Mr D and I take the joint decision to let him get on with it as requested. I only hope when the exam results come out, that we are proved wrong.

board chalk chalkboard exam

Testing times ahead…

Mr D’s job situation seems to be going from bad to worse. He is a victim of his own success, coupled with double-crossing by someone on the board. What a horrible situation for him. I feel so sorry for him and there is nothing I can do to help.  Secretly, I’m also feeling sorry for myself. Mr D and I had a few big trips planned this year to celebrate my half century, but due to the current work situation, they are on indefinite hold.

Boo! I want my fun!! – Well don’t I sound like a spoiled child?!

Money worries are added to the list of woes. After taking off all committed expenditure, I am not sure if I can keep our household going, let alone keep up Cost Center 1’s university expenses. We could dip into our pension savings if we had to. I only hope it doesn’t come to that. Mr D has withdrawn inside himself again, throwing all his time and energy into work, leaving himself almost no time for us as a couple. Oh dear, Cath. This is dangerous territory.

On the odd occasion we go out together or entertain friends at home. I feel out of my depth, unable to join in the flow of conversation. It feels like I’ve been busted down to kitchen patrol, cooking and clearing up. I used to be able to hold my own in the entertaining arena.What the heck is happening to me?

At least I have the sanctuary of gardening to enjoy. Or so I thought. But even here I can’t seem escape trouble. My planting schemes are overruled. My choice of veggies to grow, also overruled. Inwardly I could scream. Maybe I should just let out a blood-curdling yell. I think it would do me good and bring everyone up short and sharpish. Do not ignore me! My opinions matter.

Here comes the sun…

I love midsummer. Plenty of daylight hours and once dark, if there are no clouds, the night sky seems to be dark velvety-blue instead of black. With temperatures rising, it is time to haul out the summer clothing. Here’s hoping my favourite pieces haven’t shrunk! After an hour of trying on and sorting into three piles: Keep, Rags and Charity, it looks like the charity shops will be doing well out of me this year as virtually everything is too small. If I evert get hold of that clothes-shrinking gremlin it’s going to be in big trouble!

I refuse to squeeze myself into too-tight shorts and trousers. There is nothing worse than a ‘muffin top’.  I see a shopping trip coming up. I’ll need to be thrifty with my buying strategy while things are a little tight in the purse department. Not for the first time do I find myself wondering why my belly looks slightly pregnant all the time. My legs, wrists, and face all look normal but my belly doesn’t. And while I’m depressing the hell out of myself, why, since the start of perimenopause, have all my symptoms appeared on the left side of my body, apart from my tight right jaw? It cannot be coincidence.

Psychology Concept

Aha! The mind-body connection is becoming clearer…

This time, instead of looking for physiological reasons, I decide to search psychology journals for answers. I never thought I’d be doing this sort of research but it just goes to show you (a) how desperate I am for answers, and (b) how much my beliefs have evolved. Every source I look at points me in one direction. The left side of the body is concerned with experiences from my past, my emotional self, my emotional joy and pain, my female influences. In short, my body is demanding my attention and is prepared to increase the level of discomfort if I continue to ignore its messages.

Just to check I am on the right path, I discuss my finding with Dr Siskin at our next session. She is overjoyed with my discovery, more so because I discovered it for myself. Interestingly, our session does not end the way we had both anticipated. For the first time since starting EMDR, I am unable to install the positive belief at the end. Usually I would have worried that something else was wrong with me. But this time I see it as great news. It shows me that my mind will not accept what it does not believe to be true. There is more work to be done.

person s left hand holding green leaf plant

I did it my way…

As summer really gets under way, I resolve to take matters into my own hands and do the planting designs for our garden on my own. To save money, I take cuttings and sow seeds. Mr D seems to be coming out of his shell again, booking theatre tickets as well as a trip away for our wedding anniversary. Yippeeeee! On the down side, his job is coming to an end. If it had worked out as planned, we would be leaving the rat race within the next five years, going into business together. But now, this seems very unlikely, as does going on a nice holiday together. Damn! I don’t want to be doing my current job until I retire but I might have to. It is not an inspiring thought. I am bored much of the time. Although it might seem like I am in a creative job, I don’t have freedom to make the finished product as interesting to use as it could be. The decision to go with dull but quick to build is not mine to make, hence the feeling of being stifled. The trouble is, I do not know what else I could do that would make enough money to support the family while Mr D finds another job. I have to stay where I am and ride it out, while I trust that something else will turn up for him.

Tune in to episode 15 to see where Cath and Mr D end up next. You know he’s going to find something, but what will it be?