From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Menopausal Moments

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Charles Dickens

After suffering through several years of pain, not to mention inconvenience, I finally decided to take my doctor’s advice and have elective surgery to correct one of those notorious female problems. Several weeks before the procedure, my doctor gave a detailed accounting of what the surgery involved, what I could expect in terms of recovery, and what preoperative measures I would be required to undergo. I listened intently but asked few questions. So, when my physician began describing the injection that I would receive the next day, an injection that would put my body in a menopausal state for several weeks, I simply nodded my head as if I were completely aware of what a menopausal state might involve. Hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings for a few weeks were nothing compared to what I had been experiencing for years. I quickly discovered how very wrong I was.

For several days after receiving the injection, I noticed absolutely no change in my physical or emotional state. We were a normal, happy family. I even bragged tomy husband that I was going to have it made when I really did enter that phase of my life. Based on this experience, I would almost certainly be one of those few women who never even realized that they were experiencing “the change.”

Life proceeded merrily along. Then the inevitable happened. I awoke in the middle of the night from a deep sleep. My pajamas were soaked. I felt an intense heat that I had never before felt. It seemed to be coming from somewhere deep inside my body and was rapidly spreading to my extremities. I panicked. I hadn’t had the surgery yet, so this couldn’t be attributed to post-surgery infection, I thought. I must have contracted some horrible bacterial illness whose symptoms include a high fever! Knowing that death was obviously imminent, I writhed and moaned, kicking off covers and sheets.

Then I noticed that my husband was still asleep. He was resting comfortably while his wife, whom he had promised to love and cherish in sickness, lay next to him dying. Could he not sense that I was in a near-death condition? How dare he lie there snoring while I was feverish and in need of immediate medical attention! Just as I was rearing back to kick him out of bed to attend to his ailing wife, it suddenly hit me. I’m having a hot flash! This is a night sweat! For a few brief seconds, I still contemplated waking my husband using a slightly less violent method. After all, he was surely somehow at fault for my misery. But, as the heat subsided degree by degree, my sanity returned at slow intervals. So this was what my mother had been experiencing. Suddenly, I understood what she had been going through. Tears filled my eyes as I recalled my own lack of sympathy toward her complaints in recent months. I sniffled and snorted, now in need of a tissue but too drained to move. An involuntary leg spasm of some sort, however, resulted in contact with my slumbering husband’s body. He awakened and attended to all my needs, as he most certainly should have.

Over the next few weeks, I had the opportunity to have a full-fledged menopausal experience. When I was not crying about failing to eat the yogurt before the expiration date or bawling because I had bought purple grape juice rather than the white variety, I alternated between periods of euphoria and deep, dark depression. I had many sleepless nights, and my poor husband may have accidentally gotten pushed out of bed a couple of times to bring me tall glasses of ice water and cool clothes. My children, who happen to be very perceptive, learned quickly to watch my face for sudden changes in color and expression. They knew when to avoid me, which, unfortunately, was frequently, and they became very close to the neighbors that summer. The dog and I simply renewed our relationship after the effects of the injection wore off weeks later.

The surgery and my brief introduction to menopause were ultimately worth the interruption to my otherwise normal life. My female problems were corrected, and I now have a profound respect for any woman who is going through menopause, as does my husband. I am not, however, looking forward to that phase of my life when nature, rather than medical science, says that it is time, a time that is approaching more rapidly than I care to think about. At least my family will be better prepared. My children will be old enough to move out and not be dependent on neighbors for refuge. My husband will have time to buy a comfortable couch on which to sleep uninterrupted, and, as for the dog, there is still a little time to work that out!

Terri Duncan

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