• Just call me ‘Burger’

    by Debra DeAngelo

    What I expected after 11 years of perimenopause: My cycle would just stop cycling, the hot flashes and night sweats would simply end, I’d dab a nostalgic tear from my eye, and with a bittersweet wave goodbye to fertility, I’d toss my tampons in the trash, and start taking tai chi and watercolor classes, and that would be that.


    That is so NOT how it’s playing out.

    Hormonal hell. That’s what this is. And what does it feel like when all the hormones that make you feel lovely and perky and sweet just dry up? A particular YouTube video illustrates it best, and if you truly want to understand my state of mind, you must play along.

    Stop right where you’re reading, and google “Burger and Fries cat.”

    Go ahead, I’ll wait… just sit here and listen to the smarmy “on hold” muzac…

    Yup. Burger and Fries. The menopausal maelstrom in-cat-nate.

    Hot flashes and night sweats. Pssshhh. Those are the least of my problems. Total psychological upheaval is more like it. I’m scrambling over the rubble of a massive 8.0 biochemical earthquake, trying to locate myself, desperately hoping that when I find me, I’m not just a bloodied and bashed corpse.

    Debra’s all gone.

    Yes, that’s how it feels. I don’t know who I am right now, but I can tell you that it’s as if all my skin has been peeled away and my entire surface is nothing but raw nerve. Any random comment could be a “ping” of rock salt onto bare flesh. And I react in kind. Apparently estrogen is the filter that keeps you from slicing the random commentator into pieces with one vicious swipe of your claws.

    And now my filter’s gone. What I used to shrug off now gets my full, fierce attention. Like my boss. Used to be when he’d get mouthy with me, I’d just tune him out like a radio station that’s turned to static. But lately, when he says something annoying, like “Good morning,” it occurs to me that he’d look simply fabulous with a 12-inch metal pica ruler plunged into his forehead.

    And it’s not just the anger filter that’s gone. It’s the weepy filter too. Example: Last weekend, I took my daughter to Target. She needed some bath towels. While she’s picking some out, I realize I’m becoming uncontrollably misty-eyed and quivery-chinned. She notices, and says I look “pathetic.” What’s the matter, she asks. I mumbled something incoherent about a new towel.

    “Mom, do you want a towel?”

    I nod “yes,” like a snuffling, overtired toddler.

    “So, get a towel.”

    “I can’t!” I whimper, “I don’t like any of them!”

    And as I stand there trying not to burst into tears amid four huge aisles stacked to the roof with towels, not one of which is acceptable to me, I hear a thump-thump-thump: From behind the glass wall where I’m stuck watching “me” melt down, I pound on the glass and manage to get my attention long enough to mouth the words, “This is not normal.”

    And I hear me. And I realize I need help.

    So, I went home and searched the internet for information, but it’s all about the “symptoms” and “treatments,” as if menopause is a disease. It’s not. It’s a transformation, and there’s precious little to be found about the psychological experience of your hormones shutting off. It’s not just hot flashes and wicked insomnia and depression and despair. Those are symptomatic beads on an experiential string. It’s the string itself I want to understand – the psychological reverse-metamorphosis of going through puberty backwards; the feeling of helplessly plummeting down the rabbit hole into a place where nothing makes sense anymore.

    Finding nothing useful on the internet, I turned to the real experts: my friends.

    It took two hours on the phone, but Sunny finally convinced me that I was not, in fact, insane. She told me that when her hormones shut down, one day she was screaming at her husband for “killing” an inflatable chair — evidence that he did not love their daughter. He stared at her in wide-eyed horror.

    Oh, I said… sort of like when my husband lets water run down the driveway while he’s brewing beer and it means he secretly hates Gaia and wants her dead?

    Yes, she said, just like that.

    Then I emailed Amy, who wrote “Marrying George Clooney,” the only book I’ve found yet that accurately captures the experience of menopause, and told her I just feel completely WRONG. And she “got” it. She offered comfort and reassurance, and said, “Call me. You are not alone. I swear. Pinky swear. I love you.” And then she left a similar voicemail on my cell phone that I can carry with me at all times and replay in case of an emergency, like if I need a washcloth to go with that towel.

    And finally, I spent an evening with Jesse, who a couple days earlier, I’d told that I feel like how John William Waterhouse’s Lady of Shallot looks, and was considering heaving myself into traffic to make it stop, and hey, wouldn’t you just love to spend some time with me? And she said yes. Now, THAT’S a friend.

    Thanks to these three angels and megadoses of evening primrose oil that are finally kicking in and insulating my exposed nerves from mouthy bosses and towel tragedies, I seem to be pulling back from the precipice… just enough to breathe a little. It occurs to me that I could, might, maybe, just possibly, survive menopause. With a little help from my friends, that is.

    But, just in case, I’m going to put all the pica rulers away.

      • Carolyn Wyler

      • October 23, 2011 at 8:32 am
      • Reply

      Not there yet, but feel your pain. I experience little bits of what menopause is like every month (PMS) and it isn’t fun for anyone. Hang in there.

    • Estrogen and trazodone never let menopause hit me. I love hormone replacement and at 62 I probably will take it for the rest of my life. As I said on Sunny I like liquids in my parts.

    • Just watched that cat. He/she needs to be set free or given heavy dozes of cat tranquilizers. Knew there was a reason I am not an animal lover.

    • Carolyn – it is PMS times a thousand AND… there is no stress-relieving period to end it. It just IS your new state of being.
      Madge – about four decades worth of women have not really experienced it… hormone replacement therapy was the norm. Now the docs avoid that at all costs, preferring instead anti-depressants. I’m not depressed…. depression is just one of a cornucopia of symptoms for when your entire biochemical world is upended on its axis.

      • Debbie

      • October 23, 2011 at 12:40 pm
      • Reply

      Hang in there; you’re all that stands between me and Charley.

      I underwent menopause early and managed to time it so that it coincided perfectly with living in a household with 2 adolescent daughters. Be grateful for your adult daughter who gives you permission to buy a towel instead of rolling her eyes and telling you how lame you are for even wanting one.

      • Norbie

      • October 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm
      • Reply

      I always welcome your company Goddess Debra, especially with Jesse & Spring!!! Love You!!! <3

      • Katja

      • October 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm
      • Reply

      I am *so* printing this out and handing it to Chuck, who’s been doing that horror-struck stare at me quite a lot lately. I’ve ordered Estrotone & EPO to go with my girl vitamins. I’m going to order Amy’s book too.

      love you … xo

    • i know that towel aisle! I come from a long line of melt-downers.

      Sorry to laugh so hard, but this was seriously funny.

    • oh debra, first i’m so glad i could be there for you! so glad. secondly – menopause is truly deeply about giving birth to yourself. it is. and there’s blood, holy shit THERE WILL BE BLOOD … and breathing, crying, heaving and a lot of fuck you, no no fuck you – and then there’s the cutting the umbilical cord. the falling madly in love with yourself. it’s emotional & scary — but the really cool thing, we’re talking about it now. no one talked about this side of menopause.
      this is the hokey-pokey part of menopause.

      • christy

      • October 23, 2011 at 1:39 pm
      • Reply

      One time my Mom was loosing her mind over my Dad not locking the dog up at a family party and she had the look of murder in her eyes which only prompted my head strong Father to scream back at her – a huge mistake on his behalf. So I screamed at my Dad “Don’t look at her like that, this isn’t your wife, your wife has been replaced by a menopause monster that your wife also hates, let the moster roar and just walk away!” I firmly believe I saved his life that day.
      As with everything in regards to womens health, there is a gross despairity in research and treatment approaches. My favorite treatment has always been support groups, I’m so glad you’ve found yours! Xoxo

      • Jesse

      • October 23, 2011 at 1:57 pm
      • Reply

      OMG- My Manic-pause was an overnight, medical event. I swear by estrotone and Maca HRT. When off of them, I do want to send a pica ruler through just about anyone’s forehead. Funny stuff.

      PS, I said I could come over every night of the week for you. Of course I will, you are my friend!

      • Arry

      • October 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm
      • Reply

      Deborah, I am a surviving veteran of this particular malady and I am here to tell you that it does improve. 4 years have passed since that last uncomfortable bout of cramps and slowly my mind has come back to a somewhat rational state; I say somewhat because I am not sure that I was ever THAT rational in the first place. During that time I was raising two teenaged boys, my son and my husband. Let me tell you that there were days that I was so irritated with them that I once gritted my teeth so hard that I broke a tooth off at the gumline. I got so angry that I once told my son that if he did not stop hassling me that I would drive my car into a wall (yes, I was driving at the time) and yes, he became very quiet and a little teary. Then there were other changes that people don’t tell you about like the onset of a thick waistline complete with cellulite on the stomach and arms. The texture of your skin turns to crepe paper, enough to decorate a prom and have left overs and you develop a sudden fear of Thanksgiving as you watch your neck sag into a turkey wattle before your very eyes. These things are terrifying at first and you will go through all of the stages of grief as you come to realize what is happening. First, there is denial “there is nothing wrong with me, it is all of you a$$holes that make me feel like this”! Then there is anger, angry that all of those a$$holes make you feel like that…then, bargaining “if those a$$holes would just stop irritating me!” You will finally come to accept that things are changing and that your family and everyone else are just a$$holes! LOL! Just kidding, the truth is, I feel much better now, even though I am going through some very stressful life situations, I feel like I am much more able to handle them now and I feel good. In a way, menopause is a very freeing thing and it will get better, I promise.

    • As Amy so wisely puts it, next comes falling in love with yourself! In the meantime, the gang’s all here for you, remember. 🙂

    • Man oh man… I have misty eyes reading all this…
      Katja – yes, print it out… it is just like this! Show Chuck the video of Burgers and Fries Cat!

      Amy – I feel like you are spiritually holding my hand. Re-reading your book at this particular point in time is SO VALIDATING. I love you deeply too, and I am sure we were best friends in some other lifetime. THANK YOU for being in my life.

      Jesse – you are the one that I can show the really ugly underbelly of myself and you don’t gag. At least not in front of me. I love you.

      Sunny – I’m trying.. Holy shit, you have been by me side for so many HUGE transitions. I love you!

      And Arry – HOLY FUCKING SHIT. You have arm cellulite too? Do you know how horrified I am by this? Who knew this was even POSSIBLE???

      Learning to fall in love with myself… whew. Can I fall in love with myself with the lights out and not have to call me in the morning?

    • Well, for once, I don’t know what to say!

    • THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I’m 54, going through all the horrible insanity you describe BUT also getting a regular period which is why the doctor will not put me on any HRT. UGH. It is hell and good to know I AM NOT CRAZY.


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