Holy Hormones, Batman!

My question to all of you is this: Do we really need hormones?

I ask you this because, let's be honest, hormones are the main reason for most women's problems worldwide. The range is vast, from menstrual cramps to emotional rages, hysterectomies to heart disease and breast cancer. I'm sure many marriages and divorces could also be chalked up to the rise or fall of a woman's hormones. We could talk about raging men's hormones here as well, but I won't. Women's raging hormones are enough, thank you very much.

So, I've been going through what I'm pretty sure is perimenopause since this summer. Perimenopause is that great and wonderful stage between full-blown fertility, when our breasts are firm and perky (unless you've nursed a child or two, and then they are more like deflated little water balloons), to menopause, also known as incredible decrepitude: bedraggled, broken down and decaying. Everything starts to fail you. Your breasts sag below your navel and start bruising your knees everytime you go up and down the stairs doing everyone's laundry; your hair loses its vim and vigour and now just sits on your head like a wet dog, and there is nothing you can do with it any longer because it's old too and just refuses; your joints ache, and bones get weak and break under the ever-increasing weight you are putting on, regardless of how little you eat and how much you exercise. Shall I go on?

We hear of women who go on and on and on about how wonderful life is once you hit menopause. No longer do you have to worry about getting pregnant, so you can go and have ALL THE SEX YOU WANT! You have your freedom again since your children are often grown by this time. You can "find yourself" and do all those things you've wanted to do all those years ago when you couldn't do anything because your kids sapped every ounce of energy you had. And apparently, I hear your sex drive goes hogwild too, and you're like a teenager again, except without the zits and naivete.

Well, I can see the argument for some of these things, but really, when you take into consideration that your body is like totally failing you, every second that ticks by is another wrinkle of the skin or another creak of the bone or another clump of dry hair falling to the floor, how are you even supposed to pretend to enjoy all the sex you can now have, or all that freedom when all you want to do curl up into the fetal position in bed with the duvet high over your head, and cry? THAT is my question, folks.

Since this summer, my perimenopause has been wreaking havoc with my body and my soul. My periods are now a surprise! when they happen, and sometimes I think I'm going to get my period, and I feel like an overfilled water balloon for a week and have extreme fatigue and uncontrollable moodiness, and then nothing happens. Or I have hot flashes from hell, and my whole body drips in sweat, and I'm sure it's not just me, but it is, and the air in the car is really quite chilly and not nearly as hot and humid as I think it is, and everyone around me is shivering while I sit there, wiping under my arms. Or I have a terrible migraine that threatens to blow my head up everytime I move an eyelid, and this migraine lasts anywhere from one day to five, joined by nausea and the odd dry heave. Or I get a pseudo-period, which is what I like to call my friend the Not-Quite-A-Period-But-Just-Enough-To-Make-Life-Miserable-For-You. And then, once in a while, when I least expect it, I get a real, honest to god, major menstrual period with all the pleasant accompaniments.

I feel this is entirely unfair. Not only do we women have to go through all those years of monthly painful periods, with bloating, emotional turmoil, and did I mention the pain, but then we have to go through childbirth, with the ripping of the insides out and then some, and THEN...then we have to go through THIS, more pain, fatigue, depression, uncontrollable contractions of the uterus, disappearance of vibrant and bouncy breasts, jowly cheeks, dried out and irreparable hair, and I could go on and on, but I won't because that would be whining.

Can you tell I'm not having fun?

I suppose it could always be worse. I know it could be. I have friends who had to have hysterectomies because of complications due to menopausal issues, others who are going through breast cancer, osteoporosis and other major things I would not wish on my worst enemy. I don't even pretend that I am suffering to the extent that many other women are. However, it does take its toll when day-to-day responsibilities like my job, the laundry, cleaning the house, and just generally managing a household are so overwhelming that most days nothing gets done. I am lucky if I actually wash my hair and put on moisturizer, let alone brush my rotting teeth. I just don't feel well a lot of the time, which isn't really anything new if you know me, but to me it is because it's become much more extreme. There are not many days that I feel well enough physically and mentally to actually get through even half my list of to dos. And this also makes me realize I am getting older, which is probably one of my great fears. Getting old and incapacitated. And no longer having any control over my life.

I know I'm overreacting, but it really is difficult to deal with this whole age thing. And it's not only an emotional issue with me, but it's now also become very physical and, therefore, a very real issue. I just don't see how I'm ever going to be one of those greying women you see on television who are overjoyed with the fact that they can ride on the back of a motorcycle because they are wearing a diaper and, therefore, have all the freedom they'd ever want.


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