Menopause Strikes Another Match – Burning Mouth Syndrome

The sheer number of atrocities and indignities visited upon menopausal women is legion. Among the Venuses, we thought we’d pretty much experienced them all: hot flashes, night sweats, tender tatas, dry skin, eyes, and hair, emotional roller coaster rides, memory loss, fatigue, weight gain and more.

We literally thought that nothing the big M dished out could surprise us. Then Burning Lip Syndrome and its nasty little cousin, Burning Mouth Syndrome, (BMS) brought us to our virtual knees.

One of our readers wrote asking for information and/or help because she suffers this bizarre menopausal malady. Emphasis on the word suffers! Our research turned up vague, sometimes contradictory information on treatment. Sifting through the medicalese, here’s what we found.

Burning Lip and Burning Mouth Syndromes occur most frequently in menopausal and post-menopausal women. Pain may be mild to severely debilitating, even depriving one of sleep. Although it is associated with diabetes and depression, cause is really unknown. (Only one source noted that depression could result from BMS, rather than cause it. Ya think???)

Treatments include heavy-duty prescription drugs such as antidepressants (eg Elavil), tranquilizers, or anticonvulsants. Capsaicin (the hot stuff in chili peppers) actually worked for a fair amount of people, with a lot less side effects.

Finally, a substance naturally present in our bodies called alpha lipoic acid can be taken as a supplement and was shown in one double blind clinical trial to result in significant symptom improvement. Check out burningmouthsyndrome.org for details and to order the supplement.

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Bigger Than Hot Flashes

My apologies for not posting a blog entry in the last couple of weeks. I don’t know if my paucity of ideas and motivation were due to post-traumatic stress, laziness, or some weird sort of combo effect. Shortly after my last posting, my hometown was swept by a wildfire. It was huge, fanned by strong winds and exacerbated by an extremely dry winter. Summoning heroic effort, firefighters fought the blaze which threatened the entire town of South Lake Tahoe, bringing the conflagration to its knees. Over 200 homes were lost, yet it could have been so much worse. Thankfully no one was hurt. (My house was fine; several friends were not so lucky.) Strangely enough, you can’t see the scars unless you know where to look – the lake and town look beautiful as ever to the casual observer.

Menopause and midlife challenges definitely took a backseat these past two weeks to a more immediate and massive metamorphosis. Now that the process of rebuilding, restoring, and healing has begun, things are returning to some semblance of normalcy. And our more personal changes are asserting themselves once again, so expect the blog to start heating up again. Let’s hope that’s all that heats up for awhile!

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A Change In The Weather

"Middle-aged women are the people most likely to watch the Weather Channel," my husband read to me from the newspaper. "Isn’t that strange?"
"Not really," I said sheepishly, as if confessing some secret desire. "I think The Weather Channel is interesting."
"Why?", my husband asked, mystified. "You can check the weather you need to know on the internet in a matter of minutes. Why watch it as entertainment?"

After prolonged musing, I think understand why the demographic of The Weather Channel might be women of a certain age. We feel intimately connected to weather. The only thing that is changing as much as we are moment-to-moment IS the weather.
Some of the changes (in weather and in us) are dramatic upheavals – tornados, hurricanes, and the like, turning everything upside down. Other changes occur over time – prolonged heat and drought desiccates and desertifies the land. We can relate to this all too well, as hot flashes singe our individual landscapes and lack of hormonal rainfall leaves us hot, parched, and dry.

Watching the weather is comforting and reassuring for this menopausal woman. While these climactic changes are sometimes uncomfortable and hard to bear, they are NORMAL. The Earth recovers from weather’s onslaughts and new growth appears. A landscape may be trashed for a time, but it ultimately rejuvenates. It may never be as it was before, but it will be fine. And so will we.

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Jet Lag – Why Menopausal Women Should Not Fly

Memory loss is one of the more disturbing manifestations of Menopause Brain. Just when it seems that it cannot get any worse, I climb on a plane for a five + hour flight. I love zoning out for such a long time period – no one expects you to DO anything when you are traveling. Alas, my gray matter seems to be strewn across the Pacific and taking its sweet time to return home. Jet lag only complicates Menopause Brain. My memory has been getting better lately – I think…….. Can’t remember for sure.

Thanks to singer/composer Tom Rush’s memory song, I won’t worry about my forgetfulness. He makes us all laugh at an all too common occurrence. Check it out for yourself at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yN-6PbqAPM

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I Just Don?t Feel Like Me Anymore

Will I ever feel like myself again? That is the second most frequently asked question I hear from midlife goddesses.

"I just don’t feel like me anymore," could well be the universal mantra for the menopausal woman. I’ve yet to meet any post-menopausal goddess who claims to feel like she used to. It seems that we have actually morphed into someone new. This could be good. It might be bad. But one certainty exists: we have no choice. Kicking, screaming, bitching, whining or resigned, we are traveling the paths of menopause and midlife. While there are assuredly losses, as we continue on this forced journey we find that we may actually like some of the changes.

Positive changes include speaking our minds, giving up pleasing as a lifestyle, accepting the perfection of non-perfection, feeling tolerance and forgiveness, and becoming comfortable in our own skins, no matter how baggy or saggy.

We’re changelings. We can’t go back to the women we once were, but we might learn to embrace the scary, exciting process of becoming a new "Me".

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Menopause – Dear Goddess, When Will It End?

The question I hear most often from menopausal goddesses are these. Will my symptoms ever get better? Will this ever end?

The answers are Yes and No, respectively.

Every woman’s menopause is different. Still, the worst of the symptoms seems to last about two years. The mental fog banks dissipate into light, patchy fog. The ass-dragging fatigue makes way for more energy and vitality. Memory and sharpness return, though rarely to pre-menopausal levels.

Hot flashes lessen in frequency and severity, libido actually returns (though again rarely reaching pre-menopausal lust levels), and emotional highs and lows change from tsunami proportions to small wavelets.

However, there doesn’t seem to be an actual destination on this journey. New changes unfold each and every day, whether due actually to the Big M or growing older. Rae-Venus is fond of saying that menopause is a process and it helps to approach it as such. We need to continue to ask questions and to look actively for answers. Embracing the process, even when it sucks.

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SURVIVOR: MENOPAUSE ISLAND

Some days, I feel like I’m living in a bizarre reality show as I slog through menopause. I can hear the little announcer in my head with the commercial:

Announcing a new season of SURVIVOR – MENOPAUSE ISLAND, the reality TV show where contestants (all female) are forced to participate. This is the most difficult and harrowing SURVIVOR to date. Life altering challenges await participants around the corner of every new day. Flaming ‘flashes’ of heat, palpitations, drenched sheets (and not with passion), dry everything else, lost libido, palpitating hearts, emotional tilt-a-whirls, bone-crushing fatigue, and a host of other horrific hurdles have become part of midlife womens’ daily life. The only way to keep from flipping out during a stay on this hormonally challenged island is to LAUGH and commiserate with our ‘team’ of sister goddesses. (Because the kicker is – you can’t be voted off the show. Even if you desperately wish it.)

SURVIVOR – MENOPAUSE ISLAND – coming soon to each woman near midlife. Stay tuned.

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A Pregnant Pause

Whew! The first draft of Venus Comes of Age, The Wit and Wisdom of Menopausal Goddesses is finally complete. I’ve been feeling like a pregnant woman whose delivery is a month overdue. Finally, the labor is over and the Venuses are the proud moms of a bouncing baby manuscript. 4 lb – 11 in long.

My husband is delighted to see the first draft finally finished. He hopes that the worst of menopause will be over now that I am not immersed in all things hormonal. I sincerely hope that he is right. For now, I’m going to do what all women do after giving birth: SLEEP! Expect the blog entries to be more frequent now that the ‘baby’ no longer requires my undivided attention.

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A Weighty Problem

I broke my toe the other day when I tripped over the wrought iron coffee table legs. The doctor has admonished me to keep weight off my left foot. And no hula or power-walking or golf is allowed for 4-6 weeks. My first horrified thought is that I’ll be as big as a house if I don’t exercise, thanks to the menopausal side effect of weight gain.

In the midst of all the changes wrought by Menopause, we goddesses find ourselves in dire need of succor. We turn to our favorite comfort foods for solace and healing. Alas, we cannot splurge without paying a fearsome price these days. Food sticks to our ribs, our thighs, our hips, and our buns. Our metabolic rate has slowed to a crawl. You would think that this slowdown would be more than offset by calories burned through our hot flashes. Literally. And those goddesses who suffer 30 hot flashes per day should be wasting away, regardless of caloric intake. But in seeming defiance of all natural law, the scale tells us we are getting heavier. We look at our favorite fatty, sweet, carbo-loaded treats and we gain weight. We eat "healthy" food and we gain weight. We don’t change our eating habits at all and we gain weight. Some of us starve ourselves and we gain weight. We diet fiercely, trying to shed extra poundage. South Beach, Medifast, Ornish, Atkins. Jenny Craig, Nutrisystems., Weight Watchers. Among the Venuses, we have collectively tried ALL of these at one time or another with varying (read not permanent) success. And each year, it gets harder to fit into our skinny clothes.

Oh yes, we goddesses divide our wardrobes – not into summer and winter garb, but into fat clothes and skinny clothes. We may get into the skinny clothes, but we are not dumb enough to throw away our fat clothes. Because those pounds are always lurking out there somewhere, hoping to come home. And it is just too freaking hard to get rid of them. Anybody know any exercises I can do without putting any weight on my left foot?

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Mentalpause

My hard drive crashed this week. Kaput. DOA. Am I angry? Not at all. I have a great deal of empathy for my poor computer. My own brain augered in months ago with the advent of Mentalpause. And unlike my Mac, I am definitely past warranty.

Some days I can barely remember anything. I lay my car keys down in the store and walk out with out them. I forget what I went in the room for. I forget the thought that just popped into my head. And I forget words!!! Words that I know!! In my native tongue!! That I’ve been speaking profusely if not well since about 1 year of age. I’m reduced to drawing diagrams in the air to describe the word that stubbornly resists my best efforts at archival retrieval. "I need the…" (squeezing motion with hand)" "Scissors?" asks my husband. "Yes, of course," I snap. "I knew it all the time."

And then there’s "menopausal dyslexia". Prior to the Change, I NEVER transposed numbers nor did I forget how to spell words. And I could read a map – in fact, I was a darn good navigator. Now sadly, I feel like a poster child (okay poster crone) for dyslexia. I flip numerals, maps look like incomprehensible squiggles to my tired eyes, and thank the computer gods for spellchecker or you might not be able to make heads nor tails out of this blog.

My sister goddesses are going through the same distressing mind changes in Mentalpause. We are talking, laughing, and weeping about them. Some days, that’s my only comfort.

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