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Where Is My Menopause? And Why Do I Feel Cheated?

At 54, Christina Kapp is kind of bitter that she hasn't gone through menopause yet (try not to throw your phone against the wall). Here's why.

Here I am, 54 years old, and I have no idea about this menopause of which so many women speak. Menopause is like the old Sword of Damocles, a kind of ever-present threat that, in my case, never seems to happen, and I’m getting a little touchy about it.

I did not expect this.

I wanted the whole menopause process to feel more definitive. Like the timer going off on a cake. Ding! You’re done.

Which is not to say that I haven’t had peri-menopausal . . . what are we calling them? Symptoms? Experiences? Adventures? I have.

My big peri-menopausal symptom, other than being vaguely cranky (which is probably just me, not peri-menopause) is having periods from hell, wherein I seem to lose what seems like a third of my blood volume in the most unpleasant way possible. How long have I been having Braveheart-esque periods? I can trace them back to at least 2012, when I was teaching swimming, and having a period made wearing a bathing suit in public for more than a very brief period of time a terrifying prospect. Peri-menopause was not specifically why I quit that job, but it certainly made moving on a whole lot easier.

Read More: Menopause at 60 or 70? This Company Thinks It Can Push Back the Timeline

It’s All a Blur

At some point my lovely gynecologist told me to “stop suffering” with my periods and put in an IUD, which was splendid. Thank god for the Mirena! In Greek mythology, Myrena was the Queen of the Amazons, and I am definitely that in so many ways! (How do marketers know us so well?)

Will the state of being in menopause pass by on this train ride of life in a blur of middle-age scenery?

For several years, my Queen of the Amazons IUD made me happy and period free, which also made the question of menopause a pleasantly philosophical one. Am I in menopause? Maybe? Maybe not? Will the state of being in menopause pass by on this train ride of life in a blur of middle-age scenery? If so, I was okay with that.

Nevertheless, every year at my checkup I’d ask, “Do you think it’s happened?”

My doctor would say, “Are you having hot flashes?”

I’d want to protest that hot flashes can’t possibly be the only important thing about this part of a woman’s middle age! Why is everyone always so obsessed with these things?

Because I’ve never had one. I don’t know what a hot flash is.

She would shake her head and say, “You’re not there yet.”

Even I don’t understand why, but I feel like I’ve been robbed.

Where are my hot flashes? Where is my menopause?

So Not Average

The average age of menopause, according to the internet, is 51, sometimes 52 depending on the website you’re landing on. That age came and went and at 53, my lovely gynecologist said, “We probably should check in with your breast doctor. It might be time to take the IUD out soon.”

Boobs make everything complicated. Like lots of middle-aged women, mine are classified as “dense,” and some years ago I found a lump that turned out to be a benign phyllodes tumor that had to be surgically removed, leaving me with a sizable crater on the bottom of my right breast. I consider myself lucky to have (so far) dodged breast issues that might have been far worse (knocking furiously on wood), but even so, all parts of my phyllodes tumor experience were unsettling and deeply unpleasant.

Given that the hormones in the IUD increase the risk factor for my breasts, my gynecologist and my boob doctor decided that it was time pull the lovely IUD and its accompanying hormones.

About eight months later when I finally got around to scheduling and going to that appointment, my doctor looked at me (you know, down there) and said, “You’re not done.”

Not Done Yet

It’s difficult to enumerate the feelings this statement provoked, but let’s try.

  1. Wait, you can look at my lady parts and just TELL?

1a. What is it going to look like down there when I AM done?

  1. I’m a month away from 54! How can this be?
  2. You’re seriously asking me what I’m going to use for birth control now?
  3. Don’t I have an expiration date stamped on this uterus somewhere?

But risk factors are risk factors, so out came the IUD. My doctor told me I’d probably get a period. She is not generally wrong about things, and I did. And then another one. So now at 54 years old, I’m tracking periods on my Fitbit app. I also still have never had a hot flash.

I’m a little bit bitter.

We can take solace in the idea that we’re all in it together.

I know, I know. There are legions of you younger than I am having hot flashes, and all of you want to pitch your smartphone against the wall right now. You’re sick of hot flashes. They’re horrible. And here I am complaining about not having them. Even to me this makes no sense.

But if there’s a truth to aging, it’s this: We can take solace in the idea that we’re all in it together, even as we each experience growing older in our own way. Women who have been mothers know that no birth story is quite the same, just as women who haven’t given birth know that there’s no one right way to manage and experience fertility.

Are we surprised that menopause is any different? Where we come together is in the idea that we all struggle with feeling older, like we’re not quite ourselves. All of us can relate to staring at ourselves in the mirror and wondering where this funny older lady staring back came from. The bold claims that we should “age gracefully” feel awkward as joints grow stiffer, gray roots show faster, expenditures on anti-aging moisturizers rise, and bodies shift into blurrier versions of their younger shapes. I’m even starting to understand the appeal of Botox, although I don’t see myself doing it. But give me a few more years. You never know.

Whether or not I’m menopausal, I am still feeling the effects of more than a half a century of life. I still need to feel connected to the larger sense that if nothing else, aging is a process that unites us. No one is exempt. I guess in aging as in life, we walk together, but our journeys are our own adventures. You can never really know what comes next.

Read More: Does the Age of Menopause Matter?

By Christina Kapp


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