Come On Get Happy

Something weird happened on the weekend. I think I was – how to put this – happy!

Don’t get me wrong. Overall, I’m a happy person. Good marriage, love my work, great friends and all of those important things. But we were getting ready to meet a couple of longtime friends for lunch and I felt positively silly. Like, do a weird dance, sing made-up lyrics, bounce around the house, giddy! And it struck me that I hadn’t felt like this in a long time. It also hit me that in recent weeks there have been little flashes of silly happiness in me.

Then, at the restaurant, the male half of our friends remarked that my hair and skin looked good. That I was looking healthy. (He’s not given to random compliments!) And I thought, hell yeah, I’m making a comeback!

To what do I attribute this?

The lessening of menopause symptoms. It’s been a decade since they started so I’d say it’s about damn time.

Menopause? More Like Meno-stop!

This phase of life, as I’ve said many times, involves everything: mental state, physical state, self image, perspective, you name it. And a just-published piece in the Toronto Star (paywalled) shows many women don’t see it coming. While entering – or being dragged into – perimenopause, the stage before menopause, they’re not aware that their mood and anxiety level is affected. For many, the symptoms are just brutal: hot flashes, weight gain, brittle or loss of hair, and it goes on and on. They change you, imperceptibly as well as in obvious ways. You don’t even notice some of the alterations to your personality as they occur in subtle shifts.

I started noticing positive behavioral changes near the end of last year. First was our trip to Italy. As I believe I’ve mentioned once or a thousand times, although it was autumn it was stinking hot there. I absolutely despise the heat and being out in the midday sun. But I just got on with it. I bought some cheap local clothing for hotter weather and carried on. Of course, some of it was because we WERE IN FREAKING ITALY! It was a bucket list trip. But I could tell it was more than that.

After we got home, I had a few dozen weird bumpy things lasered off my face. I’d noticed them for a year or more and thought, meh, whatever. Suddenly, I wanted them gone.

Then, I got highlights in my hair followed a couple of months later by more highlights. In late January, I started counting calories and I’ve lost 15 lbs. It’s the same 15 lbs. I’ve lost before, but in recent years I haven’t been able to even think about saying no to a cupcake or a piece of cheese. I’ve felt weak and it’s been overwhelming at times. One day, I found I could do it. Not only that, I could KEEP doing it. Things were definitely changing inside of me.

Bottom line: I started giving more of a rat’s ass about myself again. My brain fog was easing and resilience starting coming back. Between the pandemic lockdowns and menopause, I got quite comfortable with pulling on black leggings and a black stretchy top and calling myself dressed to go out. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, until it becomes a uniform and your husband begs you to please, wear a colour!

It feels like I’m getting back to the weird formula of special sauce that makes up ME. That delightfully odd and singular something was crushed by hormonal changes and hot flashes. Oh, I continued to function and experience growth and even laugh and enjoy myself. But I never felt “right”.

A Whale of a Time

On a recent episode of Gracefully & Frankly, Erin and I talked about what scientists are learning about menopause by studying whales. There aren’t many mammals that go through the so-called change of life. Most just keep on truckin’, and reproducin’, as long as they live. One of the findings – whales that go through menopause live up to 40 years longer than other female whales that don’t go through it. And there’s more. But it’s in the podcast. *WINK*

The Bayer company is close to putting a non-hormonal treatment for hot flashes and poor sleep on the market. So, better days are coming for the next generation of women. I would have loved such a treatment when my family’s cancer history meant stopping hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I took red clover for a while until my doctor informed me that it’s just another form of estrogen and therefore, not a good idea for me. So, I simply endured.

The woman in the couple we met for lunch is deep in the heart of hot flashes and night sweats. It’s hard to imagine how out-of-control it all feels unless you’ve been there. I deeply empathize with her and was so glad to be able to tell her that it does get better. Because up until the last few months, I wasn’t really sure.

If you’re a woman of a certain age who’s struggling to think through a foggy brain and to survive nature’s body furnace a hundred times a day, I get it. I feel for you. Rest assured that easier days will come. It might be imperceptible at first, but one day you might also find yourself singing a song you made up about a cauliflower. Or dancing like Ed Grimley. (Google it kids!) And you’ll think to yourself, wow, I haven’t done THAT in a long time! That’s how you’ll know you’re finally through the worst of it.

8 thoughts on “Come On Get Happy”

  1. Pauline Couroux

    I am happy for you, really I am, but also so envious. I started menopause at 53, and here I am 24 years later, it is still going strong.

    Winters are not bad at all, very tolerable, but as soon as the weather changes Bam, there it is, it is mocking me, saying I’m still here!

    Like you Lisa I do not take any HRT because of family history.

    I will eagerly await the new remedy from Bayer, hoping for a miracle.

    1. Oh Pauline, I feel for you. Funnily enough, I had a hot flash last night. It was the first one in a long while. So, there is always a chance that this could be just a reprieve and not really the end. With menopause, you just never know. I’ll be keeping an eye on Bayer’s progress. You’ve probably tried everything but just in case, there are some SSRIs (depression medications) that have been shown to alleviate hot flashes in small doses. My doctor had mentioned these to me long ago but I couldn’t take them for various reasons.

    1. Funny you should ask. Derek and I were discussing that very thing this morning. I think just being an empathetic listener. What she’s going through sounds insane, mostly because it is.

  2. Lisa, I empathize with you and realize the difficulty women face when navigating all the varied symptoms of this natural process for maturing into the next phases of womanhood. As a husband, soon to celebrate 56 years of a wonderful marriage, I can assure you that loving husbands also must survive the trials of spousal menopause. There are few things in life worse than watching your wife endure the long period of struggles with something they can do little to neutralize and even less to understand. As for what a husband can do to offer support, I agree with Lisa, always be empathetic, willing to listen to her concerns and, I will add, a deeply sincere love that always clearly says “I am here and when you ask I will do whatever I’m capable of to make your life better”. I know that when I get this right she notices and her eyes light up. Love is everything and when we act accordingly, no matter the problem, life is as perfect as possible. Singing about cauliflower is possible!

  3. I sympathize with anyone who has had very bad symptoms of menopause. I was one of the fortunate ones that had very limited effects and they didn’t last very long but when they were there, they were horrid, especially in a meeting at work when the sweat is running down your face🥵 (and the pits…gross) and you’re trying your best, unsuccessfully, to hide it, all at a time when this subject was tabu and swept under the carpet as if it didn’t exist. I could say, this too will pass, but obviously for some people it doesn’t. Maybe Bayer will be the savior for those yet to go through it or still going through it. We can only hope! Love, support and understanding are so important.

    On a lighter note, for those of you who have never watched it, if you want a good laugh and you can get it, watch the episode of All in the Family when Edith is going through menopause. If nothing else, it will give you a good laugh, which we all can use.😁

    1. I’m going to look for Edith and Archie in that episode. I vaguely remember seeing it when it aired but what does a kid know about hormones! Thanks, Shirley.

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