My husband asked me the other day, “Why are you constantly so angry?” You would think, after living with me for these past four years, that he would know better. I responded to his question (OK, so I screamed my reply), “It’s menopause, don’t you know by now? Look it up and read about the symptoms, and you’ll see why I am always so angry.”
While I do have a temper, I haven’t always been “constantly so angry.” My mother died five years ago—I was 47 and the mother of a 4-year-old son who I was still nursing. The stress of grieving the sudden loss of my mom affected my menstrual cycle and caused massive mood swings and depression, all of which made me suspect that I had entered early menopause several months later. Perhaps some women would have welcomed this “change,” but I was moody enough without the physical and hormonal changes that menopause brings.
About a year and a half after my mom died, my symptoms had increased, so I finally let my OB/GYN order a complete blood work-up. When the nurse called with the results, I was trying to leave a meeting and was once again looking for my eternally lost car keys, screaming and crying, and wondering how I was going to pick up my son from kindergarten (did I mention that being emotional is one of my menopausal symptoms?). Even though I was still nursing my son (only before bedtime) and still menstruating (inconsistently), my blood work indicated I had, indeed, officially entered menopause.
While I felt relieved to finally have a name for all of my madness over the previous year or so, I was also confused (another symptom). Once I finally calmed down, I researched menopause online and spoke with other women who were experiencing my symptoms. All of these women had grown children or at least kids who were teens. As hard as it has been finding other women my age who have menopause, it’s been even harder finding other women my age who have menopause while raising a young child under age 13. But I know they are out there.
Due to menopause, I am often tired because of lack of sleep, causing me to be even more befuddled. Recently, I kept misplacing the thumb drive where I had stored important forms that needed printed. My now 9-year-old son had misbehaved throughout the day, and I became increasingly distracted. After searching for about an hour, I lost my temper and yelled at him and then had to apologize after I found the lost item in the bathroom. I didn’t even remember putting it there, which caused even more anger (at myself) and confusion.
Since there are multiple symptoms associated with menopause, such as moodiness, memory issues, and difficulty sleeping, I continually seek new solutions. However, it seems similar to incessantly checking for food that I know is not in the fridge. Sometimes I feel like I am going crazy, especially when I’m yelling at my son and husband, who just don’t seem to understand.
Almost two years ago, I thought I was finally finished with menopause, but then I lost my father and my job at the same time, and my reaction to these two colossal changes proved that I am still living with the big M. All of my menopausal symptoms reared their ugly head again, but through this all, I’ve come to learn some invaluable lessons:
1. I NEED to take care of myself, which means eating a low-fat, high-protein diet with little sugar (no fun), and watching my stress levels. I also need to exercise three to four times a week, doing the workout activities that I enjoy, like Zumba and yoga, instead of what I think I should do.
2. Take time to do something good for myself. I enjoy spending quality time with my son, doing things like going to the park, the library, or a museum. On Shabbat, I give myself a day off by banning the computer and phone, and instead I read, relax, and spend time with my family and friends.
3. Remember that I gave birth to my child, and remind myself why I married my husband in the first place. In the midst of my moodiness, it is hard to remember the good times. I need to reminisce about when I first met my husband, and how he seemed so nervous and genuine. I remind myself that my son is my flesh and blood, and he relies on me to take care of him. These days, he reminds me of the good in my life.
4. Although it may not seem like it, menopause will end… eventually. My doctor says that since every woman is different, she cannot give me an accurate indication of when menopause will end for me. But I sure am looking forward to less moodiness, having more energy, and getting more uninterrupted sleep.
Recently, my son asked me what menopause is. I gave him the abridged version: when something in me called hormones change and I can’t have babies anymore, and it makes me scream a lot. When I asked if he understood, he answered, “Actually, Mom, I wasn’t really paying attention. All I heard was ‘blah, blah, blah,’ so, yeah.”
And this is when my invaluable lessons come in handy!