Posted by : Selma
I am 42. I’m married. I have an 11-year old son and 4 goldfish. I live in a nice part of Sydney and have lots of great friends. My job is bearable. My first novel is under consideration by a publisher. I have just started blogging and am enjoying it. I smile a lot (particularly after a bottle of red and a block of dark chocolate.) I always look on the bright side. Until today.
I’ve just come back from an appointment with my doctor. I have been experiencing unusual symptoms in unprecedented numbers. It’s freaking me out. My doctor is a kindly lady in her fifties. Her presence immediately offers reassurance. She is well-informed and sympathetic, but her pronouncement yesterday was as grating as nails down a blackboard.
Perimenopause. You’re going through perimenopause.
Wait a minute. You mean there’s a prologue to menopause?
I’m afraid so.
How long does it last?
Anywhere from 2 to 8 years.
You are joking.
I’m deadly serious.
Perimenopause marks the interval in which your body begins its transition into menopause. Symptoms you can expect to encounter include: hot flashes, sleep problems, sudden mood changes, an increase in the ‘bad cholesterol’ in your blood which raises the risk of heart disease, loss of bone density, and urinary incontinence. Wow! It sounds even better than the real thing. All this and then the experience of the real menopause at the end of it. It’s almost too good to be true.
Like a politician who has little time to concentrate on domestic policy, I am ignoring the leering face of my perimenopause in the hope it will go away; but it hovers at my shoulder, jeering, making fun – a ghostly voiceover in the normally upbeat soundtrack of my life.
Rachelle (don’t forget the second ‘l’ and the ‘e’ on the end) and I went out for coffee this morning. A policeman walking the beat said :”Morning Ma’am.” Rachelle was delighted. “Oooooh, wasn’t he polite?” she chirped. I was too miffed to concur. He was actually saying :”Morning, Ma’am” to me, while looking at Rachelle as if he wanted to frisk her in unmentionable places. This is the symptom of perimenopause the doctors won’t tell you about. It’s as taboo a subject as how often married couples actually have sex. (Three times a week ? More like three times a millennium.)
The symptom which cannot be named is invisibility. Perimenopausal women of a certain age are not seen as women by men 35 and under. The uneven rise and fall of our oestrogen and progesterone levels masks our true selves; we become insubstantial images, negatives in our own slideshow. Overnight we fall off the radar.
My friend, Lottie, who is 52 and going through the menopause proper warned me about it. “It’s like we surrender our sexuality overnight.” Lottie is vibrant and gorgeous. She split with her husband ten years ago when she herself was perimenopausal, and as she says, it’s been a long time between drinks.
I’m not saying I require wolf whistles from building sites and complete strangers asking me if I come here often, to feel good about myself; but, hey, every little bit helps – especially when you spend the day tottering on a mood pendulum that wavers between a euphoria akin to having two tabs of ecstasy for breakfast washed down with half a bottle of vodka – and the bleak despair of a teenager with an acne problem.
There’s only one thing for it. Perimenopause schmerimenopause. I need to revert to my default setting for combatting a crisis. Vodka, chocolate, shoes and loud behaviour. If I’m going to be perimenopausal, at least I can be a princess about it!