Peri you b**ch….talking woman talk!

Today’s post is for the gals, specifically the gals in their late 30’s and beyond or for those who love such a gal. Granted if you are younger feel free to read because one day your time will come; by the way this post is not for the squeamish…nah, I am not getting super gross but this is a real talk post.

It’s been a while but can we revisit the issue of perimenopause, or Peri as I have taken to calling this wretched bitch. Yeah, Peri has me down today, add in this freak snow storm in late October and I am feeling like hot shit. I have a birthday coming up soonish, first of the year to be exact. All goes well it will be my last year in my 30’s and let me tell you in recent months, I am really starting to feel a shift in my body.

I always love when someone tells me I am not old, no 38 is not exactly old as Methuselah but let’s get real, 38 ain’t 18 and while my mind is young, my body is starting to let me know in subtle and not so subtle way that I am moving away from my youth. Back in my youth, my period was a mild inconvenience, yeah the cramps sucked but that’s what Advil was for! In the past year though my periods have started to consume my life, for starters these mood swings a week before my period actually begins are brutal! Just the other day, the Spousal Unit joked it was no longer I that needed a red tent but maybe he needs a getaway. Some women would find that comment sexist and get pissed but the truth is lately I get so uncontrollably ragey for several days that I want to run out of my own damn body! The unexplainable rage is scary; I call it the I don’t like anyone time of month…that is the truth. People just piss me off, their crime? They exist and that is all.

Let’s add in the fact that in the past year that once my flow starts, there is no relief until she is over. I mean really, how can you have relief when you are flowing like the Nile River? Once upon a time, a pad and tampon combined was just an extra added precaution to ensure no accidents. I am now up to super plus tampons and large pads yet in the first 36 hours of my cycle, I am soaking these bitches to completion in 2-3 hours. Yes, you read that shit correctly. Think about that for a minute…it means that if my flow starts on a day when working from the house is not an option, I live in fear of accidents.

Oh, I have talked to my health care provider, and we have discussed my options, hormonal options that might at least level out my personal river aren’t an option for numerous reasons. There were some other possibilities but thanks to that pesky factoid that I lack health insurance, most are way too cost prohibitive at this time. So for 6-7 days a month, I am a flowing river, add in the 6-7 days a month when humans annoy me, that basically means half the month now is impacted and driven by my hormones. It sounds funny but the truth is it’s anything but funny and had someone told me this shit when I was oh 30, I would have said you are fucking crazy!

I was in a meeting the other night with a gal dealing with hot flashes (she’s a bit older than me) and for all her misery, all I could think was if the hot flashes mean I at least lose the river flow, I will gladly embrace that stage of my womanly development!

Now that I have gotten down to the nitty gritty, let me ask why didn’t anyone tell us this shit? Seriously, why are women waltzing towards perimenopause so uninformed? It wasn’t until I started occasionally bringing this stuff up that I realized I was not special, that almost every women I know in my age demographic is battling some form of this peri madness. Yeah, we talk about the upside of hitting our late 30’s which is that sex is great, for many of us our drive goes up, up and away. Some weeks I joke with the Spousal Unit I need to become a cougar or some shit; everyone knows women hit their peak around this time. So yeah, that’s fucking awesome but then it’s completely blown away by this nasty shit. I mean raging sex hormones when the world is pissing you off is actually a fucked up combination. One minute you are screaming at your poor partner and the next you are like “come here and do me now!”

Ladies we have to do better, our daughters need to know that there is more than puberty and menopause. More importantly we need to talk about this stuff so that if nothing else there is comfort in knowing we are not the only ones. As for me, back to the fetal position and counting the days I am “normal” again.

PS: If you are in this age group and haven’t experienced perimenopause, you are a lucky woman and don’t tell me.

Got Milk? PMS and Red Tents

Nothing like the use of a stereotype to get folks riled up. In the case of the Milk Board and the Got Milk campaign, a series of shall we say interesting ads claiming that milk can lessen the symptoms of PMS and that women who are suffering from PMS are emotional whack jobs pissed off a great deal of people, men and women alike. So much so that the ads were pulled, but not before the blogosphere and twitterverse were filled mostly with women proclaiming that aside from some mild discomfort that PMS hardly keeps them down. To that I say, good for you!

See, I am officially what my health care provider calls perimenopausal, basically I am starting that long waltz to the altar of menopause. Apparently this dance could last as little as 3-4 years or as long as ten years. Contrary to what many think, menopause as the end of your menstruating years doesn’t just happen. Oh no! It’s a process and as I have learned over the past 18 months, it’s a real uncomfortable process. In fact at the ripe old age of 38 and a half (yep, I am adding that half) what used to be some bad cramps and a day or two of discomfort has grown into a beast. The beast is now so big that the Spousal Unit claims he can see it coming a good 10 days before Aunt Flo starts. The beast is now so big that at times I feel like that girl from the Exorcist with my head spinning, I enter what I call the I hate you phase. I spend a good 5 days of each month pretty much not liking anyone and wishing that the inhabitants of my house, my bosses, my staff and pretty much all humans would leave me be. I often joke about having a red tent to go hide in until the real me returns. So you might be thinking well it sounds like you have issues

Funny thing is pretty much every single woman I know who is 37 or older has some of these same experiences. A dear friend recently confided that initially she thought I was making a mountain out of a molehill until the monthly emotional tsunami hit her and her household. Oh this perimenopausal broad is a tricky one! Little by little she enters your world, one month you are fine with regular size tampon, next month you are buying Super Plus tampons , as well as a maxi pad and hoping and praying when you go into that meeting with the beige chairs that you leave no gifts behind. All the while you are sitting in the meeting, putting on that happy face meanwhile inside you are raging out of control dreaming about how good some Sour Cream and Cheddar chips would be at that moment.

So while I am the last person as a woman of color to think the use of a stereotype is a good thing, the reality is some stereotypes are steeped in real truths. For millions of women even if they aren’t perimenopausal, PMS isn’t just a mild discomfort; it’s a monthly abuse ritual. Hell, the body is abusing itself! That said, it does not give anyone the right to use a real and rather uncomfortable situation as an advertising tactic. But at the same time, in our attempt to make it known that as women we are equal; let’s not pretend either that PMS is a walk in the park for every woman.

As for me, I got my eyes peeled for the Red Tent and as soon as I find it I will let you know, that baby is gonna be fully stocked with all the Lifetime TV, carbs and cheesy novels we can handle! Oh and gorgeous humans will wait on us hand and foot for when you are a visitor to the Red Tent, it’s all about you!

What we don’t talk about…women wisdom

Raising a daughter has been a very eye opening experience for me; it’s been very different than raising my son so many years ago. It’s interesting and challenging that I spend so much time trying to keep my girl from growing up so fast, seems as a society we have decided girls just need to grow up and grow up quickly. Today’s five year old in many ways is like the middle schooler of yesterday with regards to attitudes and desires. Lately I feel like a broken record as I explain yet again why she can’t watch this show or that show can’t do this or that and while its nice that little Jane does that, it is not part of our value system for our family.

What I am struck by though is that in the midst of this battle to keep my girl on a developmentally appropriate track is how as a society when it comes to women and girls in general we are all skewed. Young girls are in a race to grow old quickly yet when you grow up, as women the focus becomes stay young. It’s no wonder you see mothers and daughters who look more like sisters than parent and child, getting old…real old is not hip, not valued and frankly it’s a shame.

In our quest to ignore biology as the elders (our grandmothers, aunts and others) die away we no longer as a collective pass on knowledge that those women understood about the very ways of being women. Lately I find myself missing my Granny who often would talk to me about growing old and the very real changes that happen within for women. I remember being young and thinking ok…she is yapping again. Now I treasure the bits and pieces of knowledge that I recall from those conversations.

Nowhere is the lack of mother wisdom apparent than with women and our bodies and the changes that happen as we get older. Oh, we know the basics, one day we will no longer menstruate and then we will be menopausal…the end. Or so we think. Yet many women are not aware that there is a state that happens before menopause that is commonly referred to as perimenopause. In our quest to stay forever young even women who consider themselves knowledgeable often don’t realize that the pre-menopausal state can occur a good 10 years before menopause officially hits. What that means practically speaking is you can be in your late 30’s or early 40’s and start experiencing these changes. You are still fertile and all that good jazz it’s just that the body is slowly prepping for that life transition. Ask me how I know? It was over a year ago that I was told I was perimenopausal, at first I like what the fuck? Yet it started to make sense that many of the changes I was feeling are tied to a new transition.

However greater than the physical changes is the mental, emotional and even spiritual changes that occur. As Joan Borysenko states in A Woman’s Journey to GodIt is a miracle of feminine biology that we undergo a major mental housekeeping in preparation.” Much like the fact that in the few days leading up to our periods we feel greater clarity in our lives, being in a perimenopausal state provides a similar clarity that affects every area of our life. It’s no wonder or coincidence that so many women in their late 30’s and early 40’s flip careers, leave marriages or even realize their true sexual orientation. Its not about being flighty it’s the fact that at this stage in life we are truly comfortable in our skin and no who the fuck we are. Yet in a culture hell bent on keeping us young, it’s easy to miss these signals if we don’t realize the gifts that come with accepting the aging process as a gift.

Yet even for me it bothers me at times that we live in a time when we can share and talk about so much of ourselves but talk about deeply personal shit like this and you can feel the collective energy get sucked out of a room. If we truly want to give our girls a gift we need to start the get open about the amazing circle of life that resides within the female body. I admit as someone who has identified as Christian for many years, lately I find myself reading a lot of pagan and Goddess centered works in part because they are open and embracing of these changes in ways I feel that were lost with Christianity.

In closing…embrace your being and the changes!