The hot flushes might have been tamed but the moods still strike with unflappable punctuality. In the 19th century, women undergoing menopause were said to be suffering from hysteria, and I hate to admit the correlation between the term and how I sometimes feel is pretty real. Otherwise dubbed as psycho.
Technically, I am still in the peri-menopause club as my periods, irregular as they are, still make an appearance and, from a medical standpoint, a woman reaches menopause after 12 months with no menses. My ever patient doctor prescribed a low-dose hormone extracted from soy and sweet potato that erased the hot flushes and brought my blues under control. But the urge to hurl objects across a room is not entirely under control, and it presents itself under very specific conditions:
- any time my food choices are criticized;
- whenever I spend too much time with serial complainers;
- at 4 in the afternoon.
It is a physical urge I work hard to suppress, and one I am utterly unfamiliar with as I have always been a pretty peaceful person, not prone to outbursts of rage. In short, I am “suffering from hysteria” and two hundred years ago I might have been locked up, a course of action my immediate family might not entirely disagree with.
At least, I know I am not alone. Women talk about menopause, exchange ideas and suggestions much more liberally than they did only a couple of generations ago. I learnt from a woman, for instance, that four o’clock, my personal witch’s hour, happens because it’s when my sugar starts to crash: my natural instinct is to either reach for a Nutella jar or curl up on the couch and sleep until dinner. Or, failing that, let the building rage, the one that accumulates when I stop my hand from reaching for that jar, out of the gate.
“The Madwoman in the Volvo”, by Sandra Tsing Loh, is a humorous account of “my year of raging hormones” and where I learnt that the 4 pm crash is pretty common in women my age. Sandra Tsing Loh, a writer, radio personality and the protagonist of hilarious one-woman shows, is highly entertaining when describing her symptoms, which appeared in the midst of a divorce and while raising teenage daughters, but has also done some nifty and useful research (she has a degree in physics after all) that strays away from platitudes concerning a healthy diet, a fitness routine and all those commonplace suggestions that can be found everywhere you look.
Ms. Tsing Loh’s theory is that the majority of a woman’s life is spent in a state of non-fertility, with the thirty years during which we can carry babies being the exception and not the norm.
“What the phrase ‘wisdom of menopause’ stands for, in the end, is that, as the female body’s egg-producing abilities and levels of estrogen and other reproductive hormones begin to wane, so does the hormonal cloud of our nurturing instincts. During this huge biological shift, our brain, temperament, and behaviours will begin to change – as then must, alarmingly, our relationships. […] (We) can be the same selfish, nonnurturing, nonbonding type of person everyone else is. (And so what if get-well casseroles won’t get baked, PTAs will collapse, and in-laws will go for decades without being sent a single greeting card?).”
Ms. Loh also suggests we play the “now that I am 50 card” often, a concept akin to what sofagirl wrote about:
Now that I am 50 I don’t have to humor relatives I never liked; now that I am 50 I cannot be persuaded to attend social occasions I don’t care for/belong to a book club where I am forced to read books I would have never considered/have a picnic on the beach….insert whatever you have been enduring for the last 20 years because you felt you had to. It’s a card I am learning to play, slowly convincing myself I am indeed entitled to it.
This, too, shall pass is probably my favorite mantra, so my moods, too, shall pass. Hopefully with my china sets intact. And if you notice me eating cake for dinner and feel compelled to suggest kale as a healthier option, think again and shut up. And if I ask you over for tea at around 4, feign some pressing engagement. I am writing in this in the clarity of one pm, munching on a chocolate cookie. I know what I am talking about.
Collage art by Austin Kleon