When did you go into menopause?
It was a long, winding road. I started having night sweats in my late 40s, and by 53, my periods were all over the place—15-day cycles followed by three-month cycles. My last period was a week before my 55th birthday.
What did you know about menopause before you hit it?
Because my mother had a hysterectomy in her 30s, I didn’t have the experience of seeing her go through it. So everything I heard was through movies, TV shows and books. And these definitely didn’t provide the full picture.
What do you wish you had known?
I had no clue how menopause would affect me, both physically and emotionally. In addition to the crazy hot flashes and night sweats, which required me to sleep on a towel, I experienced significant insomnia and anxiety. I also wasn’t prepared for how it would affect my perception of myself. Not to mention my libido, which screeched to a halt.
Most vexing symptom?
Hot flashes and night sweats were so disruptive. I would be having lunch with a friend and would feel a hot flash coming on. Soon, I was mopping my forehead with a napkin and tiny beads of sweat would break out all over my body. I hated how unpredictable they were, not to mention embarrassing. And the night sweats—at their worst—required me to wash the sheets several times a week.
I don’t miss the monthly hormonal ups and downs or the horrible cramps that were a regular part of my life.
How did you treat symptoms?
For over a year, I resisted taking hormonal replacement because of my fears about the side effects. After having a serious talk with my gynecologist, I went on estrogen and progesterone, and most of the night sweats immediately stopped. It was pretty dramatic how that improved my life.
Most memorable menopause story?
I was hosting a holiday party and was talking to a group of friends. Suddenly, a hot flash came on and my friends looked on in amusement as beads of sweat covered my arms and face. They grabbed paper towels and all dabbed the sweat away as we laughed uncontrollably. That’s the sign of true friends—people willing to mop you up.
Three words to describe your menopause experience?
Drenched. Irritable. Emotional.