The M-word – Menopause

Nothing could have prepared me for the profound impact of the menopause. The all-encompassing effect was certainly not something I’d anticipated.

I know I’m not the first, or indeed the only, female to have experienced this hormonal Armageddon; the surprise was due to my own ignorance (or, more accurately, arrogance). I’d assumed the menopause would be different for me. I naively assumed that as I’d coasted through the menstruation years (that’s a whole separate blog) I’d do likewise with the menopause.

This is just how my logic works, (or not as it turns out), I figured it would be a breeze and that I’d be immune to the ravishes and destruction of the menopause. BIG mistake

 

Having come out the other side of menopause I’ve found a sense of liberation in accepting I have absolutely no control over anything.

I recall a visit to my long-suffering GP where I sat and cried, nah wailed, proper snot and tears stuff, because my body had changed shape and there was naff all I could do about it. I was killing myself with combination of near starvation and brutal sessions with a personal trainer (sadistic bastard), all to no avail.

I didn’t like myself very much; I was a living manifestation of the 7 dwarfs of menopause – itchy, bitchy, sweaty, sleepy, bloated, forgetful, and bonkers – and there didn’t appear to be very much I could do about it.

Happily, I’m now feeling less out of control, I’m far more accepting of myself, and I no longer believe I’m going crazy. And do you know? I put this down in large part to my new philosophy of applying the EFF to situations, people, things and stuff; it will either be F*** it, F*** this, F*** you, F*** off – try it. Worked for me …..

The M-word Menstruation

This appears to be the last bastion of taboo subjects; although the situation is changing rapidly there remains an intake of breath in certain circles at the mention of a woman’s monthlies. The dreaded periods.

Thankfully my days of waking in the middle of the night looking like I’ve been attacked by a grizzly bear are well behind me. And good riddance I say. The whole experience was a total bore, although I consider myself fortunate. I didn’t get hormonal breakouts, or cramps, or mood swings (I was a grumpy bitch every day!) but I did have to make conscious wardrobe choices (light colours? Ha, in your dreams sister), I did have period pants, and a paranoid compulsion to check seats after standing up. Mother Nature, I decided, was a total bastard. An opinion that changed little over the years.

I do remember, aged about 11 or 12, attending a lesson in school when the nurse came to tell us about the ‘beautiful gift of becoming a woman’ (silly cow) and thinking “f*** that for a game of soldiers, I don’t want a baby so I’ll just skip periods thank you very much”.

The ‘beginners’ pad resembled a small pillow cushion, while the one reserved for ‘heavy days’ had the width and depth of a small mattress. No siree, not for me. Not interested in becoming a beginner or having heavy days thank you very much. When the inevitable happened I was too embarrassed to buy sanitary products so I’d plead with my Dad to get them for me, and love him, he did right until my 50’s ……ha! just kidding, until I left home at 18. Thanks Dad x

There were some fabulous synonyms invented by my mates to describe being on your period – I’ve fallen off me bike, I’m on the blob, the Russians have invaded, I’m living in the red tent this week, the uterus demon is home, and finally, I’ve got me pyramids (this same friend misheard the greeting ‘peace be with you’ in church as ‘pleased to meet you’ so it figures she thought they were called pyramids. Although….the Egyptians built the pyramids??) Mind well and truly boggled.

The two most embarrassing events of my life involved tampons. The first was a friends’ puppy, who’d slyly investigated my bag and then took itself off to quietly chew on an ever expanding Lil-Let before being discovered. I vigorously denied he’d got it from my bag, despite it being obvious to all concerned where it had come from (aside from the red face I was the only girl in the room!)

The second was worthy of a scene from a Bridget Jones movie….. I was being chatted up by a particularly gorgeous guy at a bar (like you do) and I nonchalantly lifted from my bag what I thought was a lipstick but which turned out to be a Lil-Let, a mistake only discovered once I’d put it to my mouth…..not so nonchalant now are we?

As a final thought, if I were prime minister I’d insist tampon producers put little gifts in every box of white cotton mice (tampons) with the message ‘here’s a voucher for chocolate you cranky bitch’ – now, that’d be worth paying the VAT for wouldn’t it!?!

The M-word Maternal Instinct

Hands up, I’m a disgrace to the female sex. I never wanted children.

I do remember not really liking dollies, although I longed for a Tiny Tears just because I wanted to see it wee, but I can’t honestly remember ever dreaming of having children. As a girl I imagined being a princess (tick, I totally am), I imagined being the bionic woman (Lynsey Wagner was my hero), I imagined being Captain Scarlett (he had a very cool car), I imagined a career in the police (I really wanted a German Shepherd dog), I imagined being a nurse (I loved the smell of antiseptic and plasters), but I don’t ever recall thinking ‘oooh, I really want babies and I’ll call them Jemima, Patrick and Harold’ (which is a f***ing good job by the sound of that lot!)

And let’s get all the predictable reactions out of the way first –

  • no there isn’t a medical reason – at least I don’t think so, although like the airbags in my car I’ve never been tempted to test things
  • no I am not a man-hater/andromorph – seriously, I’m meant to answer this??
  • no I’m not a virgin – when can I hit you?
  • yes I like sex – I really want to hit you
  • yes I must be selfish and self-absorbed – said a woman I’d just met
  • no I don’t hate children – I just couldn’t eat one all at once….just kidding

The reactions of men and women has become something of a fascination for me over the years. Generally speaking, women have recoiled in horror (what is wrong with her? What will we talk about? Is she mentally unstable? Oh God, get me away from her). Men on the other hand appear more relaxed, or better still aren’t especially interested.

Please be assured, despite not wanting my own children I adore the little people in my life. Astonishingly, I know how to hold a baby, I know how to soothe a baby or a child, I know how to play with them, read bedtime stories, and generally lark about with them. All this, in spite of never having had one of my own.

I say this because some Mother’s comment in astonished tones, like I’m deaf as well as child-free, “oh, isn’t she good with them. Isn’t it amazing?”…….I have not parted the red sea, or fed fish to thousands, I’ve behaved normally around a child.

Being child-free doesn’t mean I’m stupid, and knowing how to behave around children is not the exclusive province of being a Mum. As I see it, being able to connect with children just takes time, patience and a little bit of creativity……and as a woman with no children I’ve of course got oodles of that!

The M-word Memory

It is said if you’re concerned you’ve lost your mind then you haven’t – when you truly have, you won’t give a monkey’s!

For several years my memory has taken on a life of its own, appearing to delight in creating mayhem and mischief without ever having to take responsibility for its actions. This began with conversations I’d be having, where halfway through describing something (with wit and animation, naturally), I would have no idea what I’d been talking about. I figured I was either getting bored with myself, what I was talking about, or perhaps the person I’d been having the conversation with? Who knows? All I do know is that it was deeply embarrassing…….because at the time I was making a very nice living as a professional speaker.

As this happened on successive occasions I decided to ‘embrace the moment and go with the flow’, just as stress management gurus instruct, so turned it into a comedy moment “sorry folks, temporary break in transmission, normal service will resume shortly” (I always wanted to say “I’m receiving a message from God” but decided it sounded funnier in my head).

Anyway, I have a theory on this phenomena, (of course I do), and it’s to do with my brain being full. Full from education, experience, trivia, stuff, recipes, song lyrics, old car registrations (??WTF?), where I put something in a safe place, other people’s name, my name …..so I decided it was time to ‘defrag’ my hard drive, get rid of stuff I haven’t used in years, de-clutter, and embrace minimal thinking (a bit like minimal living but for your head).

And do you know what? It made not a jot of difference! I continue to get to the top of the stairs and forget what I went up for, open cupboards and forget why, or, as happened recently, forget who it was I was talking to on the phone!!

So, here are some of my failsafe suggestions for getting a grip when your memory behaves like a recalcitrant child –

  • avoid putting things (coffee, mobile, important documents, files, cake, books, babies), on the roof of the car. You will forget. You will drive off with it on the roof. So instead, put them on the bonnet of the car
  • write it down or make a list – remember to take the list with you – ha! Take huge amounts of smug satisfaction on forgetting said list but recalling over 70% of it anyway
  • slow down a little – when I’m rushing I forget shit. Normally the important shit. Never the pointless, incidental shit that doesn’t affect outcomes
  • dodge interruptions – the phone ringing, child calling for your attention (includes the grown-up child), birds singing, butterflies, shiny things ……

Ultimately, getting stressed, frustrated or upset solves nothing. Laugh a little, breathe deeply, and do something else – I’ve found memory to be similar to a naughty child; ignore it long enough and it’ll come to you in the end.