Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Cath’s adventures in Perimenopauseland Episode 16 – are we nearly there yet?

In episode 15 we joined Cath on several adventures as she let loose her inner daredevil, creating an amazing reverse bucket list. This week we join her as Christmas approaches… accompanied by her parents. Let’s rejoin the story as she prepared mentally and physically for the big visit.

Puting things into practice…

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I had planned to bring my weekly visits with Dr Siskin to an end just before Christmas. However, as my parents will be visiting for Christmas, I feel I need a little extra support before and afterwards.

What used to happen in previous visits, is I would invite them for specific dates (the joys of working full-time), then Mother would ‘tell’ me when they were coming, invariably ignoring our dates. With Dr Siskin’s coaching, I approach the invitation process differently. In a kind but firm manner, Mother is informed of the dates we can accomodate the visit, taking into account our work obligations. As you will have gathered over previous episodes, this is not an easy task. You cannot simply change your default behaviours overnight. It takes courage and a good deal of rehearsal. Taking a deep breath (and a small gin and tonic) I phone Mother and outline the plans for their visit; date and time of arrival and departure as well as train times and fares. There must have been something in my voice which brooked no opposition because there wasn’t a single attempt to change anything. Wow! I actually give myself a ‘high five’ and do a little victory dance.

Dr Siskin teaches me various techniques, which she hopes I will not need, to see me through the visit. They look odd to the casual observer, but to me they are invigorating. If any of you have been in therapy, you may have encountered the Badger exercise (or similar) – every move you make is ultra-slow and ultra-strong to counter muscle memory. The Wolf exercise is very me – I throw back my head and howl like a wolf, but silently. There’s no need to scare the people in the waiting area! The final exercise, which I call ‘Sheilds Up’ (what a Trekkie!) involves raising a glowing sheild around myself to protect against energy vampires – you know, those people who can hoover the joy out of a room in seconds. By the time our session ends, I feel like a warrior queen, channeling my inner Galadriel (mustn’t forget my undying love of all things Tolkien!).

I am ready to prove to myself that I can do this. After all, looking back at all the new things I’ve done this year, I am capable of more than I give myself credit for. I am now getting very good as saying no when I need to and yes to much more fun. I can look myself in the eye, smile, and tell myself that I am perfect just as I am and that I love me just as I am (thank you Louise Hay and your mirror work).

That time of year again already!

With the festive season well and truly under way, I’m amazed to find I am looking forward to it instead of stressing about it. I am also amazed that I’ve not noticed something missing – missing since May… my period! A few years ago this would have prompted panic and the purchase of a small plastic wand of destiny, aka the pregnancy test. However, today there’s no need to panic as Mr D has been ‘snipped’. This is the longest time (apart from pregnancy) that I’ve gone without a monthly visitor.

Planning for success

clear wine glass with liquid in focus photography

Meanwhile, Christmas and the big visit, is approaching. With an unusually (for me) calm air, I do what needs to be done for preparation but no more than that, acknowledging that I do not have the time. I also make sure I have a plentiful supply of gin and tonic, for emergencies of course. This time I am not slow at asking for help around the house or with cooking. I smile sweetly as I state my requirements (with a look that brooks no opposition) and nobody seems to be in the mood to push back or complain. Note to self – use this tchnique again, it really works. The parental visit passes without me resorting to Badger, Wolf, Shields Up, or emergency gins. Don’t worry. the gin and tonics flowed freely, but for pleasure, not stress relief.

Whoever said success breeds success was right. If you get your mindset in a positive frame this sets up the day for more success. As a result, if there was any disapproval at what I wore/ate/drank, I was largely oblivious. With the New Year approaching, I feel a level of optimism I don’t normally have. Lookin back, it has been a very interesting year for me, full of discovery and personal growth.

The beginning of the end…

Starting the New Year with a renewed sense of vigour, I’m positively bouncing full of energy.  Impatient to see Dr Siskin for our last session, I can hardly wait to tell her how Christmas and the big visit went. I know we are coming to the end of therapy but I feel ready to fly solo. I’m also sad too. My wanderings through Perimenopauseland has been full of surprises and shocks, ups, downs, blind-siders and stomach-churning free-falls. I hear many women around my age wishing they could go back to their old selves, but I don’t. I do not want to go back to the nervous wreck perfectionist!

It’s time to move forwards, embracing the change instead of fighting it. There are a few female voices out there reclaiming the positive aspects of menopausal change. These few women, but growing daily in number, see menopause as a time for joy and celebration instead of mourning the loss of our youthful looks and fertility. These modern day crones will not be defned by fertility status or youthful looks. It’s time we shared our knowledge with each other, with the younger generations so that when the time comes for their change, it will not be filled with such fear and dread. After all, menopause is a normal part of the cycle of life, not one to be medicated away with antidepressants.

It is time to make some noise, banish the cartoon crone (Disney, you have a lot to answer for), replacing her with our own images. Dr Siskin has no worries about me finishing my therapy now. She has done her job well as therapist and elder guiding female. I am so glad to have met her and benefited from her treatment and wisdom.

Which way now?

So what happens now? Cath is 30 days away from being a whole calendar year without a period. Will the next episode see her continue her journey through Perimenopauseland or will this be the end of the road? All will be revealed in the next Menopausal Muttering.

Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Cath’s adventures in Perimenopauseland Episode 15 – Reverse bucket list

In the previous episode Mr D and I were troubled by exams (both Cost Centres under a cloud of studying) and employment worries (mostly Mr D). In spite of all this, and mostly because of it, we re-join the story just before their wedding anniversary.


boats on a river

Going Dutch

This year we are celebrating in style, visiting the beautiful city of Amsterdam. I’ve never been and Mr D has only been on business trips. We pack in as many touristy things as possible, returning to our hotel room each night, footsore and giggling. No we didn’t partake of the ‘herbal’ cigarettes and foods… I think we managed to absorb some just by osmosis! I now know why Amsterdam is home to so many chip shops, each offering a mouth-watering variety of toppings! We definitely had the munchies!

Ticking off the Rijksmuseum, Dam Square, Canal Cruising, the Red Light District (and a show – naughty people!) and the Sex Museum (purely for research purposes, honestly!)

 I decide that I will do a bucket list but in reverse. Let me explain my warped thinking. A traditional bucket list is one you prepare in advance and tick off as you complete each thing. My list, on the other hand, works like this. Do something new/bonkers or visit a new place for the first time, or revisit somewhere and do something completely new… add all of them to my list. This way there’s no disappointment at the end of the list when you look at the things you didn’t do/see. Well, I did warn you it was my type of list.



Letting loose my inner daredevil!

Spurred on by Amsterdam I decide my next novel experience will be zip wiring when we visit the Eden Project, Cornwall, England’s longest and fastest zip wire. In previous visits, I’ve seen so many other people of all ages, flying overhead with a mix of joy and excited fear. I want that feeling for me too. We are lucky with the weather, making the most of it by heading to our favourite beach, Watergate Bay for a spot of body surfing. I’ve yet to try my hand at standing on an actual board, preferring the short, body boards that require very little balance or coordination. The sea conditions are ideal for catching wave after wave back to the shoreline. Within minutes I lose myself in the waves, thrilled at the joy of being whooshed up the shore by a strong one. Whooshing (and the accompanying giggling) does not stop at the beach. I fulfil my promise to myself and book onto the zip-wire. There I am, orange-suited and helmeted up (my phone stuck to a holder on my helmet) waiting my turn, stomach rolling with anticipation and excitement.





Reaching speeds of around 60 mph, I’m soaring head first over the biomes, giggling and shouting ‘To infinity and beyond!’

What a rush. As I near the stop zone, the staff are there to make sure I come to a safe halt. Bugger! It was over too soon. I want to do that again!

The annual sting of leaving Cornwall to return home is somewhat lessened this year by the knowledge I have something else to look forward to, a trip to the Harry Potter Studios in Leavesden, courtesy of my kids. They know me so well and are prepared to have to haul me out at the end of the trip. Fortunately our family are huge fans so I’ll have plenty of time to wander round and visit the shops.


All these new and exciting experiences leave me feeling so positive and generally much more settled, even with Mr D’s employment future uncertain, that Dr Siskin and I agree that we will finish our weekly sessions in early October. Setting an end date allows any remaining issues time to make themselves known. Almost as if on cue, they do just that. The tinnitus is increasingly more irritating and I can mood-swing for Britain. One minute I can be joyfully singing along to the radio, the next second tears appear out of nowhere, dissolving my mascara as they cascade over my cheeks. Even I end up asking myself ‘what the heck was that all about?’ Mind you, a quick look at the calendar reminds me that we are approaching the Autumnal Equinox. For some, as yet, unknown reason (to me) I always seem to feel extra prickly and out of sorts around the equinox. Must be some long-forgotten survival behaviour!


aerial view of the city

At last, a change in fortune…

Along with the seasonal change comes a change in fortunes for Mr D. Having parted company with his previous employers (the double-crossing weasels!) he has a new job already, and they want him to start as soon as possible. He has negotiated a delay to the start date so we can go on our very first holiday away without children. Not just a week, but two whole weeks of Mr and Mrs D time! Look out Sri Lanka and the Maldives, we’re on our way. My bucket list is looking spectacular already. How excited am I? Beyond words. There’s just one tiny little issue, clothing. I have no clothing suitable for hot destinations. Everything I have is geared around camping in Britain! Scouring the shops and on-line sites doesn’t help much, unless I want to spend my entire holiday in a skimpy bikinin and beach wrap. Fine for the Maldives but not so good for visiting the temples of Sri Lanka. Still, I am reasonably creative and make the best of what I can find, packing light, well light for me!


Meanwhile, in the headology department (psychology to you), I have listened to the increasing complaints my body has created, and decided that October is too early for me to stop seeing Dr Siskin. With her approval (I could see that knowing look in her eye, the one that says I’ve mastered another life lesson) we agree to keep up the appointments until Christmas time. I use the holiday time to really chill out. It is amazing what two weeks away, unplugged from technology, can do for your mind. I am convinced that humans were never meant to be so inseparable from our little bits of technology; being contactable 24/7 is bad for our mental health. Enjoying each other’s company reminds both of us of the things that brought us together in the first place, and keep us together, even when we’re being battered by life events and perimenopause.

The down time is a real gift, allowing my mind to work on things in the background while I’m busy experiencing as many new and exciting things as possible. One big thing added to my bucket list is diving. Mr D can dive, learning while at university. I’m not the world’s most confident swimmer and hate being out of my depth. However, the combined efforts of Mr D and our dive instructor, meant that I was able to visit a coral reef up close and a few meters below the surface. I have a confession to make. It was mostly the dive instructor who got me down – him being a tall, buff, blonde South African chap with a dazzling smile. I’m such a sucker for a smile (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)


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Lightbulb moment…

On the long flight home, my subconscious, the bit that’s been doing some work in the background, pops up with an odd word. It is quite insistent that I do some research once home again – the word is ‘narcissist’. One of the benefits of seeing Dr Siskin, is that I’ve learned to trust this urge. Typing the word into a search engine shows up a number of associated search terms I could use, one of them being ‘narcissistic mother’. This is a momentous discovery for me. Whilst my mother does not fit all the criteria to be diagnosed with Narcissism, she displays many of the traits. It is the beginning of me understanding what drives my mother’s behaviour. Before I get too carried away with my theory I check it with Dr Siskin and I am right.

The way she (Mother) operates, is to always take me down a peg or two, particularly if I am feeling happy with myself or trying to honour my own boundaries. Her comments are designed to undermine my fragile self-confidence reducing me to a child once more. I have no intention of being ‘the child’ again. That poor child and her sister were subjected to physical punishments (accepted in those times, but traumatic nonetheless) and psychological distress, but were told that events did not happen how we remembered them. I believe the term is ‘gas lighting’. I remember being bullied at school. I remember telling mother about it. My sister remembers it all too, yet Mother denies all knowledge.

‘If only you’d told me, I would have done something about it.’she said when I tried to discuss my therapy with her. I felt sick to the core. Had I made all this up in my head?

Her statement made me doubt myself until I spoke with my sister. We know the truth. This is why I was bullied at school. This is why my relationship with food has been difficult. This is why I am seeing Dr Siskin now. None of it is my fault. We should have been loved unconditionally but we weren’t.


And so it begins, the rebuilding of my self-esteem, the rediscovery of me as a person, giving voice to my own needs and wants, setting my own boundaries.

This is the biggest lightbulb moment I’ve ever had. The turmoil of perimenopause and the associated physical symptoms are all tied up with my past. Suddenly I see so much of my life clearer than ever. I will not be a frightened child any more. I am willing to accept myself just as I am and I don’t mind if nobody else approves. I am buzzing with excitement and ready to take on the world again.

Next week’s episode (16) sees Cath join the dots, begin to take control of her perimenopause journey, turning into a perimenopausal warrior queen. Look out world! Cath’s got her big girl pants on!