My the first time I read “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” I was whisked away into a Judy Blume world of girls who were going through preadolescence.
I was in the 4th grade, but I could relate to Margaret. My friend Kim started to develop early. I hadn’t. But the day that I finally became ‘a woman’ I was in 7th grade English class. Thankfully I knew from reading that book what to do should my cycle start when I wasn’t at home.
There are other classic stages that mark womanhood. Giving birth. Finding a career path. Releasing your oldest child to college, and menopause. For many women signs of maturity begins after the age of 45 years. Just like a first period, the last can come without warning and you won’t be the wiser that your body no longer produces the hormones that cause ovulation to begin.
Instead, other signs can signal menopause is just around the corner. Dry and brittle hair. Hot flashes, and insomnia. For me, it was anxiety at night even though I felt at ease and was tired. Anxiety caused by hormonal fluctuations is typical. So, is the belly bulge when your body metabolism starts to slow down. In fact, losing weight is hardest during menopause, and the weight can climb readily during perimenopause. Your sex drive can drop.
What’s interesting about both perimenopause and menopause is how a woman can still become pregnant, but it’s much harder to do. It’s a dangerous time for stress as the heart becomes more vulnerable to heart attacks, too.
Some women have started to use natural, holistic remedies to combat the difficult fluctuations involved with hormone changes. Seed cycling, eating sweet potatoes or yam supplements, lotions and oils that go on the skin are remedies but no studies have proven their effectiveness.
When my grandmother turned 50 years old she used to carry a hand fan around with her in her purse. There were times when her cheeks flushed and she’d pull it out and start to sigh about how hot it was when everyone else was either comfortable or cold.
My mother, after her 50th birthday, did the same thing only her personality changed from time-to-time. She seemed easily frustrated, sleepless at night, too. When she started to complain about hot flashes, I started to connect the dots. She was going through what her mother experienced. The name of the condition was menopause.
I was 47 years old when I stopped getting my own menstrual cycle, which my doctor considered to be early. Even though I felt young on the inside, my body started to tell a different story. My doctor warned me as she gave me my test results. It was time to take life easy. To remove stress and to slow down and be sure to exercise. Pick up yoga, she told me. Consider changing my diet to avoid fatty or fried foods. Most importantly, she said to watch my weight, which I didn’t. One pap smear later and five pounds more, my following visit was different. I asked questions about what to do and learned to monitor my diet. By the way, losing five pounds when you’re peri or in menopause is tough to do, if not impossible for some women.
I did not get the classic symptoms: hot flashes, brittle nails or hair. My skin was a little bit drier than before but nothing that I thought signaled my initiation into mature womanhood.
The interesting thing is that my doctor and many others don’t like to prescribe medication or hormone treatments. In fact, they prefer not to. Some women need it, and others don’t.
What’s most important is an overall change in your life outlook and lifestyle. Lower stress and avoid negative people, places and things. If you can, take up gardening and mindfulness. Change, at the end of the day, is a beautiful thing. There’s a freedom with crossing over to the other side of feminine existence, and personally, I love it.