What the hell? Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this was coming? Maybe they did but I was too busy snorting lines to listen. In all likelihood the word perimenopause flat out refuses to register in the minds of all those under 45. (if you’ve already started to cringe, click here) Shit, it doesn’t even come up on spellcheck. Even Pages isn’t hip to “the change.” I only recently started asking those who have gone before, “Fairy Crone Mother, is this normal? Did this happen to you?”
Perimenopause is the lead-in to menopause and can last up to ten years. Ten years of this? You gotta be joking. A woman has officially reached menopause when she has not had a period for 12 months in a row. And by then, after all she’s been through, she’s fucking ecstatic. Why the mystery? Why the silence? Is there a post-peri secret club? Who are all those old ladies in funny, red hats? Honest to God, I hope I get a bloody medal after all this.
Perimo typically begins when a woman is in her mid-forties. But every woman is an enigma and has her own version of psychosis to bare. For my little sisters who are just reaching the top of the hill, here is the top ten (or eleven) symptoms signifying your hormones have officially gone haywire.
1. Changes in Your Period- Periods can become shorter, lighter, longer, or heavier in any combination. You may feel like you are bleeding out like a stuck pig.
2. Vaginal Changes- The pedals of your precious flower will dry up and fall off. Just joking… but it’s common for her become dry and thin, and sex could become painful.
3. Trouble Sleeping- refrain from turning to your iDevices. They just make it worse.
4. Low Libido- As the mature womb winds down and gives up it’s reproductive rights, your sexual desire may decide it’s time for a sabbatical.
5. Difficulty Concentrating- I forgot what I was going to say here.
6. Weight Gain- Don’t kill the messenger.
7. Moodiness- Prepare your loved ones. You may feel fatigued and stressed, emotionally sensitive, irritable and generally pissy all or most of the time.
8. Night Sweats- May lead to extra loads of laundry.
9. Hot Flashes- your inner thermostat goes ballistic, you’ll get ridiculously warm in the face, neck and chest with or without sweating, mostly with, possibly drenching several outfits a day. Sorry… more laundry.
10. Loss of Bone Density- Get to the gym and pump some iron, ladies.
11. Urinary Incontinence- Kegal kegal kegal! Strength and control of the PC muscles leads to greater bladder control, but don’t over-kegal.
How do you tell your man that you’ll more than likely to be bat-shit crazy and pretty much on your period for the next several years? It’s not really a transition one can downplay. Good God, it’s all starting to sound very Silvia Plath to me.
One of my girlfriends —I’ll refrain from using her name— Dora wanted to crawl on top of the kitchen table and scream at her family, “In case y’all haven’t noticed, I’m going through the change!” Sister, it’s gonna be all right, we’ll make it through this together. It’s a time in our lives when we need validation and a big sister sponsor to assure us we are going to be okay and this is all totally normal.
I’ve heard a myth, and it could very well be true, that menopause is a modern condition. Legend has it that in the days before urbanization, all peoples were connected to the earth and the moon and the cycles of nature. Once upon a time, when we received our light from the sun and stars, before fluorescents and life in front of screens that fuck with our circadian rhythm, we eased into crone-hood with dignity. Have we become so disconnected from Tierra Madre? Something is certainly awry.
Perhaps our contemporary ailments are a sign of the times. Are you aware of the seasonal shifts within your own body? Do you change your routine and diet to suit the time of year? What if our wellbeing is truly dependent on the rhythms of Gaia?
So before you go smearing yourself down in progesterone cream, take your shoes off and walk around in the wet grass. Consider how many hours a day you spend inside. Do you get enough sunlight? When was the last time you took a moon-bath beneath a canopy of stars?
The ancestors of multiple traditions have left practices for us. My Daoist lineage teaches that regular massage of the breasts and ovaries activates the endocrine system and can greatly reduce menopausal symptoms. Take time to embrace your feminine essence instead of fighting it. We all need to remember to stress less and laugh more. Everyone can benefit from a stronger connection to Mother Nature, especially us sisters.
Read Bella LaVey on elephant journal here