From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

An Ounce of Dignity

We can let circumstances rule us, or we can take charge and rule our lives from within.

Earl Nightingale

Having gone all through my life with an upbeat, laid-back, go-with-the-flow attitude, I rarely gave a thought to menopause or its effects. Menopause was something that happened to much older ladies, and I had just turned fifty. I could never attribute any grumpiness or anger to PMS, mood swings, or hormones. I just recognized I was having a bad day and things would soon look up. And, except for unusually long labors, both of my pregnancies were pleasant and uneventful. Menopause? No problem.

Because of an ovarian fibroid tumor, I was given injections once a month for three months to stop my production of estrogen. This would reduce the size of the fibroid for a less invasive type of surgery to remove the tumor and perform a subtotal hysterectomy. Thus began my abrupt and swift journey into the “the change of life.”

My normally cheerful personality came to a screeching halt. While I admit to the usual emotional or sentimental tears, I soon became a test pilot for waterproof mascara! While driving to work in rush-hour traffic, I would hear a sad song on the country radio station and the waterworks would start. By the time I arrived at work, my eyes were red, swollen, and puffy, and I was emotionally drained for no reason! The more I thought about my crying episodes, the more upset I became, and the whole cycle started again.

Had it only been the crying jags I was experiencing, dealing with my changing personality would have been a bit easier. But let’s add the lack of concentration, hot flashes, insomnia, and the dreaded night sweats! Oh, I forgot to mention the forgetfulness aspect of menopause. I once did my bi-weekly grocery shopping and pulled into my driveway, when it suddenly dawned on me that I had driven away without my groceries! Fortunately, my grocery cart was still waiting for me in the loading zone.

How could one person sail through life without so much as a mood swing and suddenly end up on a trapeze in her own real-life circus? Some days I’d walked around like a zombie because, after hours of tossing and turning the night before, I would finally fall asleep, only to awake cold and sweaty. And forget going back to sleep right away; by that time, I’m ready to turn down the heat or crank up the air conditioning or crank up the heat and turn down the air conditioning, whichever my fickle body was demanding at the moment. My husband said our home felt like a meat locker, and he half-expected to bump into a side of beef. Yet I was drenched in perspiration. I’m sure I will eventually get back to my normal self, if I can only remember what that was like! But at least the crying has been reduced to the occasional sad song or Hallmark commercial.

All in all, when I consider menopause and how it affects women in a multitude of ways, I am thankful that my symptoms have been relatively mild. I am especially grateful that I have been able to handle them with a touch of grace, an ounce of dignity, and a truckload of humor.

Terri Reinhardt

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