I’m going through a challenging time. An unanticipated, challenging time. Menopause. Or as I refer to it: “‘pausing”. Yes, I turned menopause into a verb, because let’s be honest, it is an evolving, doing thing.
Menopause wasn’t even on my radar until this past year. Why would it be? I’m only just 38 after all, and this isn’t something I expected to experience until my mid-forties at the very earliest. Even then I had desperately hoped it wouldn’t bestow on me until well into my fifties.
Yet here I am, not so much riding a rollercoaster as the ghost train, where every new symptom popping up scares the hell out of me, making me pray with each new bend for the ride to be over.
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The symptoms first appeared when I was 36. They came slowly and sporadically, so I didn’t pay much attention. Headaches and restless sleep. After a while, brain fog and sore joints. Struggling to concentrate or remember things. By that point I was questioning it, but convinced myself this was nothing more than tiredness, stress, parenthood, life. I promised myself earlier nights and more swimming. That would help. Back to myself in no time.
Before I could get on top of those symptoms, the big ones came in like a tidal wave. Night sweats and low moods. “Night sweats” is a twee understatement compared to the reality. They should really be named night puddles. I sweated so much it felt like when my waters broke during labour. I would wake up exhausted, dehydrated and fearful of drowning in my own bed. And “low moods” sounds almost pleasant compared to my actual state of mental health. I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow. Exhausted, floored from doing nothing. Feeling unable to look after my young children. At times, fantasising about scenarios that would hurt me so it would all be over. Quite literally, wanting my life to end.
I knew this wasn’t me. Even as I was feeling this way, I knew this wasn’t who I was. I was a happy, social, capable person and yet unable to rationalise these feelings away. I no longer recognised myself. My family and friends were so sympathetic and supportive, for which I was grateful, but I couldn’t shake feeling incredibly lonely, confused and misunderstood.