In my last blog, I started on the subject of Menopause. Since then, I learned that Prince had died. There’s a moment for pause. Back when I worked in the Minneapolis music scene, no one was more referred to or revered than Prince. He was Purple Rain. He was midwest. He was a Mozart, and every other musician in town followed his lead. If I can offer a small tribute to Prince here: You were a leader, a trailblazer. I’m not sure why you burned out so soon. Maybe it was Icarius flying too close to the sun. I’m sorry to see you go.
So it is with a heavy heart, I return to my original post about menopause. There’s a reason why women were often committed to Sanatoriums in the early 19th century. I’ve learned how the loss of hormones creates never-before-realized levels of anxiety and hopeless thinking in the female brain as we age. The brain fog we experience makes us wonder if we’re headed into early dementia. We repeat our stories to people over and over and don’t realize it.
I also mentioned how men don’t understand this. Having lived all their lives with a brain centered on logic, they fail to comprehend our loss—how young and beautiful we once were—because we had hormones. When the hormones drop to levels around the tops of our ankles, so does rational thinking. We can’t help it. What’s worse, we can’t figure it out and most of our doctors are too busy thumbing through their PDRs or sleeping with the Pharmaceutical companies to actually listen to us and help us figure it out.
Today, I took an early flight in my Volkswagon convertible to my new Naples doctor to discuss this state of affairs. I arrived early because that’s the kind of person I am. 30 minutes later, I was still sitting in the crammed, undecorated waiting room with clear view straight through a window to the office area that looked more like a like a car repossession lot than a physician’s greeting window. There was no soft Muzac playing, the blinds were crooked and the TV was blaring Fox News. I didn’t care. I needed to find my mind again and that included getting into medical care anywhere in this new town….anywhere.
I’ve heard that if you start finding your car keys in the refrigerator, you should probably get checked for Alzheimers. Now, in my sixties, I realize this is sometimes nothing more than menopausal brain fog. It can, and will go away, but not before it’s caused some alarm in your family. What? Has your husband or father never put down his keys and not been able to find them? Has he never put down his tools and then accused you and all your brothers and sisters of tinkering with them since he clearly knows where he put them—0nly to find them in his truck bed after the last job he performed?
I have friends that tell me stories about apparently significant events, family occasions, friend traumas, happenings that have occurred in their lives—that I can now nearly recite verbatim. It’s not so much a problem that they’ve already told me these stories two, three, four times, it’s that they don’t remember they’ve already told me these stories, with the same nuances, same bunny-trail departures from the story line, to include that non-essential person to the story…. Scraaatch. Need to push that needle over a little farther on the vinyl track. No skipping!
Do I do that too? Has nobody told me? What I am experiencing these days is just a general state of anxiety, restlessness, the inability to sleep and brain fog. So far, no one has told me that they’ve heard the same stories over and over from me. I can’t rule that out, however.
My doctor today jumped into action. Not only did she make me laugh out loud more than once about the stupidity of menopause, but she immediately went into prescription mode and suggested a fairly new approach that’s she’s seen working for a number of her patients. It’s using popular ADHD drugs to help counteract all the loss of attention, concentration, organization and memory that seems to be happening to those of us who are marching off to the Sanatorium. I was intrigued.
I told her that lately I had run out of patience with people and had begun to tell them off over sometimes the dumbest little things. She looked at me in the eyes and said, “Yep.” I said, “I’m not like that normally! I’m a nice person! I care about people! And I’ve lost three friends in the past year! (coincidentally, all friends in menopause like I am)” And she replied with, “And now you want to slap them upside the head.” I nearly doubled over with relief and laughter. Thank God for a true physician—a true healer—who gets it.
It’s not that I’m not already doing everything I can do to eat right, eat organic, exercise regularly, take stress breaks and go to the beach to decompress in front of God’s great creation. But I still don’t sleep well at night, and usually I wake up in the morning with a fog that doesn’t lift until 3 or 4:00 pm in the afternoon. I try to jump out of bed, grab a tall glass of water, put on my walking shoes and go for a jaunt around the neighborhood before the sun is too hot. 10 years ago, this would have clinched the deal for me, giving me mental acuity for the day. No so at sixty. Clearly, we need to bring in the big guns right now…at least for a time.
Most menopausal women are treated with hormones but they aren’t effective for all women and aren’t even an option for women with some medical conditions. That’s where stimulants might help. Hence, my doctor’s aggressive stance on using stimulants to target the dopamine, seratonin levels in the brain.
I’m so desperate, I will give it a try. More than that, I’m just thankful for a knee-slapping, salt-of-the-earth physician who believes me when I tell her I’m peering over the edge into darkness and need something now.
Even more than that, I don’t care a lick who is reading my blogs and judging me and my competitive ability as a graphic designer or as an employable person. I’m more concerned that I’ve learned a secret and now I can share with my fellow women human beings. I’ll write about that and then lots of us will be helped.
Every body is different. Every woman is different. Chances are, how your mother and sisters experienced menopause is going to be how you experience it. My mother lost her mind. God bless her: She didn’t get the right help. If she had, maybe she would have been a different person.
I don’t care about my doctor’s cluttered waiting room or repossessed-car-lot window view to the office personnel, who seemed to be always leaning back on the phone talking to someone while you waited. I had heard good things about her and her physicians group and I was willing to wait. After I had waited 30 minutes from my original appointment time and inquired about it, the nurse staff, with her feet up on the desk said, “Oh, they’re always late. Just get used to it. You’re next in line, but they’re always late.” I grumbled a bit and sat down to wait some more. When I finally got called in to visit with the doctor, the first thing she told me was, “I’m sorry I was late. The woman before you is dying. And I will spend all the time in the world with her, because how do you usher a dying woman out the door in a hurry?”
After that, I didn’t care what happened all day. This doctor was clearly a compassionate healer. I wanted to go find the previous patient and hug her. The sceptic might say, “yah, this doctor was giving you a spiel.” Except that I saw the frail, thin woman who emerged from her office just minutes before me. She was so thin, I would have thought no nutrition anywhere was working for her. She looked so uncertain…but something in her eyes held a glimmer of hope. Perhaps her visit with my doctor had given her hope and encouragement. “We’re with you, dear one. We’ll do everything we can.”
If my hormones had to wait for 30 more minutes in order for compassion to be shown to a woman who was clearly in more trouble than me, than THAT is all I care about.