I met a friend from high school for lunch the other day. We regularly get together for a run, spin class, or a sushi lunch. She keeps me grounded, and I look forward to our dates because we’re both going through the same things in life — we are divorced, our kids are getting older, and we are diving headfirst into menopause.
When the lilacs bloom in early summer, I usually stop by her house with her favorite cookies in exchange for a huge bouquet of flowers. We exchange Christmas gifts, meet for a quick coffee at the last minute, and always find a way to celebrate our birthdays even if it’s a month too late.
But lately, we haven’t been keeping up with keeping in touch. Last week was the first time we’d seen each other or talked in months, and while we both get it and there are no hard feelings, the reason we hadn’t seen each other was bothering us both.
Our energy levels were low and we felt sluggish. We haven’t been sleeping well, we wake up in a wash of sweat, and we don’t seem to have the motivation we used to. It affects our moods, and frankly, we feel like we’re bitchy most of the time. We vented about our low libidos and how our partners don’t seem to understand what we’re going through. She told me she doesn’t have as much feeling when she climaxes as she used to, and it takes a lot longer. I told her how my body odor is so bad during certain times of the month I can’t even stand myself.
We notice our wrinkling faces, thinning hair, and the fact it looks like snow has fallen when we take off our pants thanks to the dry skin this age brings. That can make us want to hide from the world some days and not go out. This, dear reader, is perimenopause.
It’s really hard to explain mood swings, low sex drive, and hormones that play ping pong inside your body to anyone that isn’t going through it. But trying to get your partner and kids to understand why you feel like you are going to lose it at any moment is especially difficult.
These are the people who look to you for guidance, help, and to do almost everything for them. When you’re off, they’re even more lost. They wonder why you can’t control your crying outbursts and why you don’t have much energy. And when you can’t keep up with them and they carry on without you, you feel guilty and lonely.
I’ve learned these past few years that perimenopause is a robber of many things. I’d give anything to have regular PMS once a month again. Now my period comes whenever the hell it wants to and it’s turbocharged. I’ve had days when I don’t feel like I can leave my bedroom.
My partner’s worried because my libido has dwindled, and he wants me to be happy all the time. He constantly tells me how great I look when I’m feeling bad about myself. In short, he just doesn’t understand what’s going on in my body.
For me, perimenopause feels like going through the second phase of adolescence without energy and sex drive. The good news is, that talking about perimenopause and menopause is a lot more common now than it was decades ago. Why should we be shy and ashamed to talk about things that naturally occur in half of the humans in the world? There are many great resources and places where you can get help for everything from hormone replacements to therapy.
What I’ve learned, when you inevitably find yourself in a similar situation, is to call your perimenopausal friend — who gets it — and meet them for a burger. It won’t fix the mood swings or teach your family what you’re going through, but it’ll sure make you feel better.
Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.