The Big M Wisdom © lynette sheppard

I clicked on a tweet (on Twitter) the other day promising to answer our questions about menopause. And got the same old rhetoric that I’ve read countless times in books, in articles, on websites. Finally, I gotta comment and reanswer each question as a true menopause goddess. I’m tired of the B.S. I’m not picking on any one site or author (which is why I won’t include the link to this particular Q & A article.) I’m addressing all of them that put this kind of information out for women. Below are their questions and answers in plain text, my answer is in bold. And I do mean BOLD!

The info started with:
Are you or a loved one approaching the time of life many women fear — menopause? If so, you probably have questions about this sensitive subject.

Well, we didn’t, I’m sorry to say. We didn’t know it would be so momentous. So it caught us completely by surprise (read mind-numbing shock). But once it started? You bet your sweet bippy we had questions! And we sure wanted answers!

Here are 6 answers to help you go through menopause as comfortably as possible:

Oh Goody. Let’s hear them.

1. Why is menopause a puzzling time of life?

Before reaching the change of life, many women don’t know what to expect. That can be scary! There are horror stories floating around that can make women unnecessarily apprehensive, but you need to know that menopause is a normal part of your journey through life.

Oh sweetie. Menopause IS a freaking horror story. For most women who haven’t started immediately with hormones anyway.
Of course, it’s NORMAL. Puberty and childbirth are NORMAL, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions are NORMAL, but that doesn’t make them any easier to take. Especially if we don’t know what is coming!!

2. At about what age does menopause begin?
Most women cease having periods between the ages of 45 to 55. However, menopause can be induced earlier by surgery.

Yeah, well perimenopause can start years earlier. And for many women the symptoms start or are the worst in perimenopause. So you’d better amend those ages. And let me say that I talk to women in their sixties still dealing with it, so 55 sounds like a nice cutoff but it just ain’t always so. So the answer to this question? Whenever it wants to!

3. What are some of the symptoms?

During the early stages of menopause, called perimenopause, a woman’s menstrual cycle becomes irregular. When menopause has been completed, a woman no longer has periods at all. One of the most widespread symptoms of menopause is hot flashes and a high percentage of menopausal women have them. Some women experience feelings of depression while they are going through menopause and mood swings can accompany the change of life.

There is so much understatement here that I almost don’t know where to begin. Let me start with hot flashes. Widespread symptom? High percentage have them? Allow me to explain. Hot flashes are not short private vacations in the tropics. Because vacations are enjoyable. Think of the worst flu fever you’ve ever had – now quadruple it. And you’re not even close to how bad it is.

Depression and mood swings? We have more ups and downs than Six Flags. Tire commercials can move us to tears and the sound of the refrigerator or our cat breathing can piss us off. And again, none of the fun.

4. What about hair loss during and after menopause?

Hair loss sometimes occurs to some women with the aging process. This is one of the most distressing side effects of menopause. However, there are a lot of women who don’t lose their hair during this transitional period in their lives. Some women have higher levels of the hormones that cause hair thinning. If you are experiencing hair loss, you should check with your doctor about treatment options.

Having been one of the “some women”, I can tell you that yes that losing your hair is distressing. As in I was afraid I would be bald soon!   It’s actually terrifying.

As for checking with my doctor about treatment options? I consulted with more than one physician. They were less helpful than the DMV and ten times as expensive. Like us, they have no experience with menopause that hasn’t been squelched by immediate hormone therapy. If I had to depend on them, I’d still be freaking out. Or bald. Or both. (For more info, search hair loss here on the blog. Or write me.)

5. Are there any special nutrition recommendations for women going through menopause?

You might want to consider adding soy products to your diet to assist your estrogen levels. Be sure to get enough vitamin A to help your skin and hair to be as healthy as possible. Health food stores offer a variety of herbal extracts to help with menopausal symptoms.

Hmmmmmm special nutrition recommendations. Other than you can’t eat anything every again without gaining weight? Oh yeah, soy is one of the top food allergens, and can interfere with thyroid function. Since everything you eat turns to fat, might as well make chocolate your main food group. And wine. Lots of wine.

6. What medical help is available while you’re going through menopause?

Your doctor may prescribe treatment options to help lessen disturbing side effects of the change of life.

A combination of estrogen and progestin may be recommended by your doctor — if you don’t have a history of breast cancer in your family. There are treatments to help you if you are suffering from hot flashes that disturb your sleep and other symptoms as well

Or s/he might prescribe antidepressants, the latest “magic” cure for The Big M. I highly recommend holistic or complementary physicians/nurse practitioners who look at the whole person and don’t start with either HRT (hormone replacement therapy) or antidepressants as the first (sometimes only) approach. Check out Holistic Medical Association or Women In Balance to find a practitioner near you.

Although cessation of menstruation can be a puzzling time dreaded by many women, there are a number of advantages to this period of your life’s story. It’s a new chapter opening before you! You will probably be able to enjoy greater freedom than ever before to pursue interests you could not pursue before because of family responsibilities. Why not investigate new opportunities and challenges in this new chapter of your life!

While this is true, it doesn’t compute when we are in the beginning or worst stages of The Big M. There are few things worse than perky, upbeat proclamations about how this is the best time of our lives. Eventually it may be. (It certainly is for the goddesses.) But we went through a few RIDICULOUS years before we came out the other side feeling whole again. Different, but whole. Menopause. It will set you free but it will really mess with you first.