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Tuesday
Dec152009

Shriveled Tree, Shriveled Me

If you sneeze next to our Christmas tree, needles crash to the floor in stunning numbers. The limbs are curled with premature age: lifeless, shriveled, sad. 

My doctor phoned with a shocking medical diagnosis yesterday: I'm menopausal. At 38! While I'm still nursing. 

I can't help but see myself when I look at the tree now. 

The diagnosis, confirmed by a blood test, actually explains a lot: the night sweats, the anxiety, the sleeplessness. I skimmed a list called the "35 Symptoms of Menopause" and felt like I hit the repeat button: have that one, that one too, yup, yes, check. Feelings of doom and dread? Disturbing memory lapses? OH I'VE GOT THAT OUT THE WAZOO!

All told, I have 18 of the 35 symptoms. I'm not on the fence about them either. Always the overachiever, I manifest many of them in the extreme. 

In truth, the diagnosis - "premature menopause" - doesn't come entirely out of left field. There is a family history. But it's still a stunner, right? I mean, it's like overnight you're forced to change the who that you think you are. 

I've never experienced the death of an immediate family member, but perhaps it relates. One day your a daughter; the next you're not. One day you're a wife; the next you're a widow. 

Becoming a parent, obviously, changes who you are and how you define yourself. But you have a good nine months to ease into the transition. 

This? 

There was no easing into the idea of "the change of life." By the way, who coined that phrase and why weren't they hung from their fingernails for it? I hereby tap it third most offensive euphemism of all time. I'd tell you the first and second but I just forgot (See #13 on the symptoms of menopause).

Our Christmas tree still looks beautiful despite the wizened limbs, topped with a gorgeous gold bow my mother made and twinkling with white lights. 

Surely, I can find beauty in the diagnosis too. 

First, it helps to know there's something physiological driving at least part of my raging battle with anxiety. Second, it convinced me yet again of the absolute, jaw-dropping miracle of our crazy family - particularly Tobias' arrival 15 months ago. He may have been, must have been, my last egg. How precious.

Reader Comments (3)

Ooo -- sorry to hear about your early "onset". I became post-menopausal in a single day -- had everything removed -- not by choice, but now I don't mind so much. Having said that, I DO mind the 8 years of hot flashes, etc., but I've gotten over the feeling of losing my femaleness. That was hard. Can't have hormones because of breast cancer history, so I'm stuck.

Once you get adjusted to the sweats, sleeplessness, anxiety and all the other "lovely" side effects, I hope you'll discover a new freedom. I SO DO NOT MISS the month pain and mess!!

Good luck and hang in there. Being women, we're good at that!

December 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPeg

Good to know you know what is making you upset. Having experienced the lose of a close family member twice there is nothing we go through that does not provide a deeper understanding of who we are and can become, I have a favorite mantra- "I love what comes and I love what goes" you are getting an early view of what goes and we will all get there, to all that changes us and allows perspective. I have a small piece of good news about this, a women goes a little crazy through this, our mother's did (P & I) and we were teenagers, we remember all of it and still hold some baggage from the craziness we could not understand. E, J, D, & T will not remember you this way at all. YOu will be rational in their tweens, teens and young adult selves. I know many friends who would have appreciated the mom you are and the one you will be. Love, Jeannie

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterj. mccurry

This was really a beautiful post. Tragic and heart-rending but full of that emotion that makes life so rich and so beautiful. Menopause can be a hard time. When I was told I had menopause I talked to everyone I knew and went to my pharmacy to talk to the pharmacist and watched reruns of the Golden Girls so that I'd know what to expect and how to stay on top of it. In the end, I came through just fine and am really quite happy with life. You'll get there too, I promise.

June 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJackie Darrington

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