Men, menopause and mentoring
by Sunny Schlenger
I accused him of murder.
I accused him of murdering the chair.
Menopause can take you to some strange places.
I was telling this story to a friend, recounting the day I found my daughter’s balloon chair collapsed and flattened on the floor. I had just seen the chair, puffed up and happy, a moment before my husband had entered her room to drop something off.
I confronted him with the evidence and he looked at me strangely: “I didn’t touch the chair.”
“You must have. You must have stabbed it with something accidentally.”
“I wasn’t near the chair.”
“You had to have done something. It was fine a minute before.”
“Sunny, honestly, I didn’t do anything to the chair.”
“You’re lying! You murdered the chair! You don’t love Lauren!”
Oh, if this had been the only time I reacted with such sudden, overblown, out-of-body rage. But no, it happened again a month later. This time I was entering Wal-Mart. I grabbed a cart and started pushing it down the center aisle. As I neared the pleasantly nodding greeter, I was consumed by an urge to run her over.
I managed to restrain myself, but this was my blinking neon message that something was WRONG with me.
My journey from peri-menopause into menopause lasted over 10 years. I would have appreciated a road map before I started out so that I could have navigated a little more successfully. At least the emotional part. For while I was able to deal pretty well with the tiredness, hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia, I simply wasn’t prepared for my descent into periods of inexplicable lunacy.
I think my first clue about what was happening to me came when I started to recognize the look on my husband’s face — his sudden expression of wide-eyed horror — as he watched my body being snatched from my control. I, the epitome of sensitive, reasonable, compassionate response, would begin to snarl. I could feel it happening but I was powerless to do anything about it.
On one level, it actually felt good; I was experiencing the glorious freedom of no-holds-barred honesty. But then there was the matter, at the same time, of standing to the side and watching myself screech. That felt awful.
What was happening to me? Why couldn’t I moderate my reactions? I wanted my life back.
Hormone replacement therapy has been a controversial topic for years. It is not my intent to discuss the variables here, but just to make clear that the decision of whether to use it or not is a very individual one. Only you can know what feels right for you.
For me, the answer has definitely been replacement hormones. It’s a quality of life issue. I had been willing to deal as best I could with the other factors, but when it comes to hurting the ones I love (and innocent store employees) that’s where I draw the line.
My friend and I talked about the fact that while there are numerous articles and books on the “symptoms” of menopause, there is very little written on the lifestyle alterations that come at this time. Traditionally, menopause has been seen as the entrance to the crone stage of life – a time of coming to terms with the aging process; a time of embracing the realities of a changing focus in life.
I believe that the wisdom that comes with the acceptance of one’s age is totally worth the trade-offs of youth. I don’t have to give up who I am. If anything, my life has become richer and more fulfilling than it was 10 years ago when I still judged myself according to the precepts of those around me.
I really like being 60. There are, of course, adjustments to be made to physical changes, but I have a feeling that I’ll like being 70, too. After all, what’s the alternative?
I do wish that I’d had more guidance about this period when I was younger. We all need role models and mentors to show us that there’s so much more to living life well than we know about. But now that I’m here, I can be that person for the women who follow me. I want to share my experiences so that the journey becomes easier for others.
I want to tell my friends that they’re not (necessarily) going crazy during these pivotal years. I want to let them know that they’re not alone. I want to encourage them to speak out and share what’s happening with those who can lend support.
And I want to reassure them if they’re ever in Wal-Mart and they feel the urge to flatten that smiling senior citizen, that there’s light and hope for them at the other end of the aisle.