Perimenopause has thrown me a few curve balls: The time I burst into tears right in the Dogen just because my hormones decided I ought to cry, for instance, or the flooding that kept me tied to my home bathroom for two or three days a month when I was 39. The worst, though was the isolation I felt during the early years.
For me, The Change began when I was in my late thirties. I saw it, named it, and everyone around me said I was just too young. Even the doctor, whom I have since fired thank you very much, told me that I just had PMS and ought to take drugs to alleviate the symptoms. Just when I most needed my community to offer support and maybe even a little commiseration, I was denied. Talk about feeling completely out of synch with the rest of the world.
For a long time, I really needed help honoring the time of life I’d reached. Even though it was staring me right in the face and I knew it, I had a hard time believing it myself. Part of me wanted to jump right in, and the rest of me wanted to either stick my head in the sand or turn and run. Maybe if my transition hadn’t started off as dramatically or hadn’t been as text book palpably obvious I wouldn’t have needed so much support.
Coming put as a perimenopausal woman was in part need, and in part apology. Between the spontaneous crying, flashes of unreasonable rage, digestive disturbances, migraines, and hot flashes, I found myself retreating more often than ever before. After awhile, it got hard to explain to my friends why I was cancelling yet again. You can blame the flu only so many times before people start to believe you’re either of incredibly poor health or you just don’t like them. Then, they stop calling. Women, especially, are a lot more forgiving when you can offer up the truth; perimenopause is rocking your world and you’re just not in the place to come out and play.
After my early experiences being told I was too young for perimenopause, I decided to be more selective about who I mentioned it to and how I did so.
I told older women first, women I figured had already been down this road. A few of them told me I was too young, but most were kind, gentle, and supportive. They laughed and told me their own stories of The Change. One woman, right there at the Bimart amidst the stacks of men’s jeans that were on sale that day for just $14.95, told me about how she’d spontaneously burst into tears so many times her husband actually got used to it. Years later he’d still ask if it was just The Change or if she needed more than a hug anytime she cried.
I know I’m not the only one who’s begun perimenopause young now not because studies and scientists say so. I know it because I’ve met several older women who, like me, had their first hot flashes in their thirties. It’s amazing how many wonderful stories I’ve heard just because I opened up. It’s amazing, too, how welcoming older women have been. They helped me feel included rather than isolated. That was Big for me.
After gaining a bit of support, I could laugh about all the crazy experiences my body was dragging me through. That made telling friends and family a lot easier. Those older, wiser women who’d all told me to listen to my body and honor the changes rather that let doctors or anyone else tell me otherwise had helped me reclaim my power. It became easier to see who would be receptive and when some other excuse for my behavior rather than The Change might be better.
Being open and honest about the perimenopausal ride I’ve been on has been as important to my own growth and experience as anything else I’ve tried to ease the transition. I wouldn’t have found my place amongst my elders had I kept it to myself or avoided talking about my experience. I wouldn’t have found my power or taken ownership of it, either, had it not been for the risks I took in sharing my story. Although I’m not through the transition yet, the slings and arrows of outrageous hormones don’t pierce me so deeply now that I’ve come out as a perimenopausal woman than they did before.
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