The grossly unhelpful "self-help" tweet that caused an online uproar last week - the one that called out people who are depressed as selfish - got me thinking once again about the misinformation surrounding menopause.
I spent a week this past fall shaking my fist at the computer screen, arguing with the wall and stewing in frustration over comments readers posted to an online story about hormone replacement therapy. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that showed postmenopausal women who use hormone replacement therapy are more likely to die from breast cancer.
Those findings followed earlier research that linked HRT recipients to an increased risk for stroke and heart attacks. So, it's no wonder that many think the pharmaceutical cocktail is dangerous and should be avoided.
But what set my blood boiling were the holier-than-thou commenters who blasted HRT recipients as lemmings, bitches of Big Pharma who need to medicate the body's natural transition, cry babies who can't stand a few hot flashes.
Here's what I wrote at the time:
"I remember a moment in my early 20's when I realized people didn't grow out of their catty, judgmental teen selves. They just became catty, judgmental adults. That was a brutal gut punch.
I suffered a similar letdown recently when I realized the Perfect Police will dog me into old age. The hypercritical folks who find fault with my decisions to work or stay home with my children, nurse or formula feed, use cloth diapers or clog the landfill with disposables aren't going to stop once I become an older Mum. They're just going to change their focus. Apparently, the people who do things the "right way" want to tell me how to experience menopause.
Good-bye Mommy Wars, hello Granny Wars?
Menopause hit me like a Humvee crashing through a straw hut. At 38, it was entirely unexpected and it upended everything in its path: my relationships, my sanity, my physical and emotional health, my mojo.
I thought I was losing my mind until blood tests revealed the culprit: my body wasn't in transition, it was already there. I hit menopause less than 18 months after my last child was born."
Eventually, I abandoned the post because I felt like a toddler in the throes of a tantrum, strapped into a car seat - shrieking, flailing, kicking - while my mother went about her errands, oblivious. What was the point of my fury if no one wanted to listen?
The fallout from the Daily Love tweet - "Depression exists in selfish people. Step outside yourself, help others & you will feel better!"- kind of proves my point. The blog's founder rescinded the tweet and offered an apology but, in my opinion, he continued to ignore the significant physical impairment depression can be.
"I have found in my own life that when I am helping others, focused on being of service and not thinking about my problems, I feel better," he wrote.
Well, sure, tell that to the mother who can't move from bed, cannot lift an arm, shift her head or tend to her young children fending for themselves outside her bedroom door.
Tell that to me.
A year ago, I was that mother. Trapped inside my body, unable to move, on account of the depression, a by-product of the motherfucking menopause. I'd been sad many, many times in my life before. Devastated by loss and overcome with hopelessness. But this was an experience on an entirely different plane, from an unknown world. It wasn't sad, rather the absence of all feeling and the inability to even move.
"Come home now," is what I whispered into the phone one frightening afternoon to Kent.
The menopause also caused crippling anxiety that made my heart race and my stomach run, impaired my breathing and created dramatic and damaging fictions in my head that no one - NO ONE - could convince me were untrue.
It robbed me of my libido, caused Incredible Hulk rage, dread and memory loss. It made me dizzy and disturbed my sleep and, oh yeah, it gave me night sweats. Literally, the least of my worries.
I accept that for many women, menopause can be a mildly uncomfortable transition with side effects that can be easily managed with yoga or a healthy diet. I wish people would accept that's not my reality. Menopause was a monster inside of me.
So, fully aware of the health risks, I chose to start taking a low-dose birth control pill to reintroduce estrogen into my body (which, according to tests, had lower levels than the average man on the street). I also started acupuncture and daily doses of D3, B12, fish oil and calcium.
I'm not entirely relieved of the menopausal symptoms, but I'm no longer besieged by them. I'm also not immune to harmful comments of well-intentioned but still uninformed observers. The good news is, for whatever reason, I'm not going to silence myself anymore.
If you tell me people who are depressed could change their lot if they changed their attitude, I'll tell you that's not true.
And if you tell me smugly that you're growing older gracefully and naturally and menopause is a minor inconvenience, like missing the bus, I'll tell you "Congratulations on your great luck." Then I'll punch your face.