Menopause humor: don’t leave home without it

If you can’t find your menopause humor at home, try looking under the rug—you probably swept it there. If you do leave home without it, you’ll find yourself grinding your teeth at every stop light, freaking out in the dairy aisle because they don’t have the brand of milk you want, or seriously considering tripping the 20-something, infinitely perky secretary—with her clip-clapping high heels on the tile floor of the workplace cafeteria—and gleefully watching her cottage cheese and tomato salad go flying. What a great image. Except that I could never do this because it would be tripping up the last faint image of my former self oh so many years ago. I have to hang on to a tiny part of my past, of the vibrant young woman who was ready to take on the world. And who did in so many ways. Before this. Before menopause.

It’s National Menopause Awareness Day. Leave it to us baby boomers to create an awareness day of something that’s been happening to women since the dawn of people. Gosh how we love to talk about everything that’s happening to us, as if it’s the first time this has happened to anyone! But okay. It really is a good thing to raise awareness of this phase of a woman’s life. Especially if it helps women (and men) seek advice and get their hands on as much information as possible. More important, awareness programs let us know we’re not alone with horrible symptoms that are driving us and our loved ones stark raving mad.

When I went through the worst parts of menopause (and I’m still going through some rough patches of post-menopause), there were times when I truly thought I was going crazy. Confusion, anxiety, crying spells at the drop of a hat, and unbelievable anger dominated my life. I kept telling myself that all of this was normal, and I read everything I could get my hands on. I have an older sister who listened to me and described her symptoms, so I knew what to expect. I knew there would be hot flashes and night sweats, I knew I’d crave anything salted and vodka, I knew my sex drive would go down, I knew my memory might start failing. I was totally prepared to experience all these symptoms.

What I didn’t know was how strong the force and profundity of emotions, especially the anger, would be. This storm of rage took me completely by surprise. I’m no stranger to rage; as a child and teenager, I watched my mother’s generation spawn a lot of angry women fighting for equal rights. And there were the angry outbursts at family gatherings, which truly puzzled me at the time. I remember wondering why everybody was so mad. As Dee Adams says, “If you don’t get it, you ain’t there yet.” Well, now I get it.

So there I am, having had a fairly calm character most of my life, and all of a sudden, everything is pissing me off. Royally. You name it, I was getting mad. I started to understand why so many women around 50 have nervous breakdowns or give up on life. Even my sister, who inherited our dad’s humor genes, went through a couple of years of not laughing much; she was just pissed off at everyone and everything. Well, I said to myself, this won’t happen to me. Uh-uh. I’m calm, I’m a nice person, I’m trained as a psychologist—I can handle any emotion that comes up. Yeah, right. None of that mattered. I didn’t want to analyze my feelings, look at my motives, or talk anything through. I wanted to throw dishes. Lots of them.

One night when things got particularly bad between my husband and me, the delicious thought of a two-year old’s tantrums came to mind. I’d had enough of hot flashes, night sweats, confusion, a new-found clumsiness (I’m an ex-ballerina, for god’s sake, and I was bumping into walls). I’d also gotten scared to death when I realized I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t care about my husband’s feelings, I didn’t care about trying to have a good life, I didn’t give a damn. This was worse than anger, this was how suicides happen. I decided I’d better sit down and write about what I was going through.

I fantasized that I was doing family therapy again. I listened to the menopausal woman’s anger, frustration, lack of self-esteem, and depression. I listened to her husband wondering why he was doing everything wrong. I listened to the kids wondering where their loving mother had gone. I concentrated on the family members first for my fantasy advice. To help them with coping strategies, I started coming out with statements like learn to disappear,  learn to cook, humor her–listen to ’70s rock, think of menopause as your houseguest who has stayed way too long, and think of a two-year old’s tantrums.

Then suddenly, it all seemed so funny. A two-year old’s tantrums. Yes! That was me! So, before I killed my husband or he killed me, I found humor in this crazy situation and had to write a humorous book on menopause. It developed into a “guide” for the husbands, kids, and animals of the menopausal woman. My father always told us that his humor got him through the roughest times of his life. I listened to that nutty little voice inside of me and transformed a lot of insane thoughts and angry feelings into a 10-step guide for the family members to survive HER menopause.

Believe me, I know that menopause is serious. It’s bigger than most of us and proves that the Body Snatchers do exist. It’s important for everyone to be informed, to seek help, to stay healthy, exercise, meditate, to do whatever it takes to get through it. And once you’ve done all that, it’s even more important to find your inner menopause humor, and don’t leave home without it!

12 responses to “Menopause humor: don’t leave home without it

  1. I went through menopause when I was only 38. The worst symptom I had was the hot flushes, which I still get more than 20 years later. They are not as bad as they used to be. At first I would turn red all over and sweat from every pore…..not a pretty site. All the same, I think I have been lucky, hot flushes are bearable, and if that is the worst I have to out up with then I am doing OK.

    • It’s not easy, that’s for sure! And because our mother’s generation didn’t talk about it, we really weren’t prepared for how big this can be. I think it’s good to open up the discussion if for nothing else to let folks know they are not alone!

  2. This is scary stuff Nina. You write about it so well. Part because you know your stuff -purtroppo! And part because it takes such a special person to deal with the sort of things everyone wishes would just go away. You are amazing my dear. Un abbraccio forte. xx

    • Thank you, Janine. Purtroppo this one just doesn’t go away…it’s in your face until you do deal with it somehow! That’s why I’ll keep on finding humor–hopefully it will help others! Bacione!

  3. I have not gone through menopause yet but I have an older sister who is so I am preparing for it by reading all I can on the subject. Fortunately my family has always relied on humor also and I have a feeling I will be laughing every chance I get. Thank you so so much for your honesty about this subject!!! It really does help those who are going to be experiencing this in the future and maybe we will also now be comfortable enough to pass on what we go through as well. You and Dr. Christiane Northrup are my heroes!!! Bless you!!!🙂

    • Sorry to take so long to reply! It’s been a crazy time. So glad you can use your humor…you will definitely need it at times! The one good thing is…it actually does get better. After a few years. I look back now and realize I went through menopause nearly 7 years ago, but it’s the post-menopause that keeps on truckin’! You’ve got the right idea to read as much as you can and know that most of the strangeness is normal. So glad I can be of help!

  4. lindyloumacinitaly

    Well done you for writing about something that is all too often ignored.

  5. Wow, menopause is still not in sight (I guess and dearly hope …) but reading this makes me fear the worst as I am already now easily angered by very small things, especially in the week before my period starts … hormones! That does not promise anything great … will keep your book in mind for when it starts!!!

    • The fact that you’re aware already of how easily angered you are is more than half the battle. And who knows…if you have bad PMS, perhaps you won’t have a bad menopause. I never, ever had PMS, so it was quite a shock when the roller coaster ride started. A number of my friends who had horrible PMS breezed through menopause. Go figure!

  6. Wow! I think I am catching on…I have seen some Italian doctors and they all told me I was still too young, but the anger and sadness and clumsiness all ring true for me. I figured because I wasn’t getting hot flashes yet that I was not yet there. And, I have been blaming my anger on all the crap Italy throws at you on a daily basis. Thanks for writing this…I’m going to order the book so I am also prepared, and then will pass it on to my husband🙂

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