When did you go into menopause?
My last period was on my 55th birthday. Happy Birthday to me.
What did you know about menopause before you hit it?
I thought it might be like a prolonged case of PMS. I was never sure how you calculated the start of menopause. Was it when your periods began going haywire or when they actually stopped? [I now know it’s when you’ve gone a year without a period.]
What you wish you had known?
That I would often question my own sanity. That I would have out-of-body experiences, in which I would see myself acting irrationally—snapping at my family, overreacting to small annoyances—but Not. Being. Able. To. Stop. Myself.
Most vexing symptom?
Sleep disturbances. I have long had sleep problems, and I had achieved some sort of equilibrium, but then the sweats and the hormone Tilt-a-Whirl started up and had me staring at the ceiling again in 2:00 a.m. agony.
After so many years of various birth control methods—none of them entirely satisfactory—it was such a relief to not even think about birth control any longer. That in and of itself has made sex better.
How did you treat symptoms?
For the sleep issues, I went through a hypnotism program that worked quite well. I treated everything else with Chardonnay.
Most memorable menopause story?
One of my problems was dealing with my wildly irregular periods. I might go months without a period and think I was done, but then—surprise!—I’d be needing to change my panties. One summer I was in England with my teenaged sons and teenaged nieces. As part of a day-long bus tour, we’d spent the morning walking around Windsor Castle, and the bus was loading to take us to Stonehenge. In the bathroom before getting on the bus, I found that I’d started my period, but I didn’t have any tampons. I asked every woman in the bathroom—including my nieces—but no dice.
Knowing we were to be on the bus for about 90 minutes, I had to find a tampon, and fast. I scrambled around the town of Windsor, looking for a drug store. Finally, I found a Boots Pharmacy, bought a box of tampons, and ran back to the bathroom to take care of it. When I got on the bus, it was clear that the tour leader had been waiting for me and that my sons were livid.
“Where were you Mom? We were freaking out,” my youngest son hissed when I sat down next to him.
“I had a personal emergency,” I responded calmly.
“What do you mean, a personal emergency?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“What? Tell me.”
So I took a deep breath and said in one long exhale: “I had gone months without my period and when I was about to get on the bus I found out I had started so I had to go look for tampons.”
My son’s face froze, except for rapid blinking. “I could have gone my whole life without hearing that.”
“I told you, you didn’t want to know.”
My son didn’t say another word for the next hour.
Three words to describe your menopause experience?
Messy. Wakeful. Liberating.