From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

A Short Trip to Mentalpause

Born with boundless energy, I run naturally in high gear. Even as a teenager, I thought sleep was a waste of time. But one morning about two years ago I awoke as usual at 6 AM and waited for my daily dose of adrenaline to kick in—and it didn’t happen! After dragging myself out from under the covers, I remember looking at my husband and wondering why the heck I married him. As I stared into space, I felt as though I was an alien in my own body. I felt weird!

Everything annoyed me—the weather, my children, the dog—everything. I found myself enjoying solitude much more than I ever did. I was constantly tired. I forgot things and had trouble remembering people’s names. After three weeks of this “unfocused” feeling, I was convinced insanity was right around the corner.

Then I began to experience all kinds of aches and pains. My back and my knees felt as if they belonged to a ninety-five-year-old woman. I was gaining weight and my periods had become very irregular. I knew then that a trip to the doctor was in order—surely he could tell me what was going on with my normally youthful body!

After two hours of being poked, prodded, and aggravated, the doctor entered my room grinning like crazy.

“So help me. If you tell me I’m pregnant, I’ll kill you,” I said.

“No, just the opposite, Marianne. It’s just the opposite.”

What was the opposite of pregnancy? Senility? Alzheimer’s?What? I thought.

“You’re in menopause,” he stated as if he were happy about it.

“No way, I’m way too young. Something else must be wrong.” I was convinced that I was inches away from a nervous breakdown.

My doctor just laughed. I was in menopause. Where was that? Somewhere near New Jersey? I sobbed all the way home.

The next few months were torture, mostly self-inflicted. I had refused any hormone treatment because I knew the Doc was wrong. So, when that first “hot flash” hit, I handled it as well as could be expected—from a mad woman!

“Ahhhhh,” I bellowed. “I am literally burning up.”

I began fanning myself and submerging my wrists under ice water. After that, I began peeling off layers of clothing. I sat in the den wearing just my bra and panties. It was January 14th. And they only got worse. My husband would call before leaving work to make sure I was dressed; his greatest fear was bringing his boss home and having me greet them at the door wearing nothing but a smile!

The family lived in mortal fear of my mood swings. I cried at Coke commercials and burst into laughter at a funeral. The slightest thing could set me off, and I ate as if someone had a gun to my head. But the worst part was I felt old. I waited for a beard and mustache to appear!

Little “mental” slip-ups happened almost daily like locking the car keys in the car, leaving the water running, or forgetting to turn the iron off. One day I actually went to work wearing two different socks. I finally decided it was time for another visit to my doctor.

He placed me on a low-dose hormone patch. Though I began to feel better, the patches had one drawback—they didn’t stick very well. I left them everywhere. After starting out on my hip, they would mysteriously end up on my husband, the dog—we never knew when or where a patch would surface. After my daughter wore one to a Girl Scout meeting, I decided another medication would be a good idea.

I began to read everything I could about this “wonderful time in a woman’s life!” I wanted to know if anyone had actually survived this trip into “mentalpause.” I had serious doubts I could make it through!

After a few months, I found the secret—wine! The doctor suggested that I have two glasses at night with dinner. Even though the wine relaxed me, the symptoms persisted. Now I had a potbelly and my face was breaking out. I needed help! If I was this bad at forty-eight, what the heck was I going to be like at sixty?

I had to get a grip. I changed my diet, cutting way back on the carbs, and began a faithful walking regimen. After a few medication disasters,we finally found one that worked and wasn’t shared with the rest of my household. Some of my symptoms were caused by a very large fibroid tumor. I needed a hysterectomy, and just a few weeks after the surgery I began to feel like myself again. I lost weight and gained a healthy outlook on my future. And, I am happy to report, I have yet to gain a beard or mustache.

There’s a time in every woman’s life when change is unavoidable. I was fortunate to have a supportive husband with a wonderful sense of humor and a dedicated, professional doctor who listened to me. But most of all, I turned my life around, and it is a time of freedom and new beginnings. Have faith in yourself and what you are capable of—it is “your time.” Enjoy it!

Marianne LaValle-Vincent

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners