Menopause: A Transition deserving of a Support Group

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emotional health / human experience / Uncategorized

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Her head was lowered just enough to keep from making eye contact with the small crowd, yet high enough to see dust beneath her sneakers kick up dancing particles in the light from a small stained glass window that featured deep multicolored panels in the shape of a cross.  She was in the basement of the Westminster Presbyterian Church forty minutes from her town, fifty minutes from her house, another twenty from her parish church and the grocery store she frequented.

Ninety minutes prior to this she had been pacing around in her kitchen thumbing through a Mental Wellness catalog handed out by her primary care physician. Her goal was to find a location furthest away from that which she lived and worked.

Why me? Why now? she pondered over and over to herself.  It happened to be one of those days that revelations kept falling into her.  First without a word of explanation, Dr. Shively had handed her a BMI sheet (body mass index) at the end of her yearly physical just as she was walking out the examining room door.

This was something she’d heard about happening to others…and clearly so, “they” were overweight for Pete’s sake!  “America was the land of the obese…” she’d nonchalantly “tsked” away, along with, “such a shame, really”.   Never, ever however, had she received this information before.  She was tall. At 5’8″ she’d been termed a “tall drink of water” by many a middle-aged male, dammit! Ok, ten years ago, maybe, but…OH MY GAWD, ten years ago!

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Second, no human being had ever suggested to her that she was (gulp) THAT overweight, certainly not her favorite trusted female doctor!  How dare she!  This once benevolent doctor knew better than anyone about her struggles with weight and the depression that came along with her damaged meniscus, which stopped her from her beloved body combat classes and the running she loved so much.  This intense exercise had staved away the impending depression.  Little by little her body began to change as she made herself be a spectator to her life in the past tense.  She literally couldn’t move for months.

A slowed metabolism followed, led to bloating, frustrating flatulence and utter discomfort.  She felt betrayed somehow.  But was it her doctor who’d betrayed her or was it her very own body?  And how come her favorite defense mechanism, denial, wasn’t working properly on this day?  What?  I can’t  even rationalize away a lousy BMI informational sheet containing (weight tables) x (height) = eeegads!!!

Now there was concrete proof that she was overweight.  It was all on paper.  Black and white letters in chart form.  Evil displayed in little boxes with numbers in pounds.  Like not fitting into anything anymore wasn’t proof enough.  Spend a freaking day in my shoes, Doc!  So not necessary to make me feel worse than I already do!!  And by the way, my shoes don’t fit me anymore either!  Take that!  Truth. Her feet had flattened.  WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?   Please, God, tell me it wasn’t under all that extra weight that they grew longer and archless…

A well-dressed woman in a zebra print blouse and black skirt, from Chico’s, she guessed, motioned for her to take a turn in front of the room of random faces.  She took brisk, deliberate steps up to a small, unadorned wooden podium.  A light tap on the microphone involuntarily touched by her twitching pointer finger broke the chatty women from their little cliques, conversing about recipes and current aches and pains.

“TAH!”…(dead silence)…”shi…tshoot!….So sorry!…Um…hi. (quick glance at purple high tops…oh my God…)  Hi.  (nervous chuckle) You’re probably wondering why I’m wearing these purple sneakers…they are my, um, teenage daughters…she was…no…well, she.  No…actually, my feet have no arch anymore and I just realized I have been cramming my feet into my own shoes, which…oh, geez….”.  She looked around the room, got caught up in the blank faces, while a deep shade of red rose up her face and down her neck.  Would it be terribly possible for her to just jump right out of her own skin right now in an effort to use the “flight” in her ‘fight or flight’ reflex?  No, she is caught feeling humiliated….stupid.  Again. Dammit, why do I always forget everything?  She silently chastises herself.  She’s feeling so damn warm – no hotHOT FLASH?! NOW?

She’s stuck.  Physically.  She is caught up in the army green men’s button down shirt she’s tearing off as she feels like she’s frying from the inside out.  Emotionally.  She can’t remember what she was saying or was supposed to say.  She’s forgotten why she even felt the urge to do this to begin with.  She just stands there for what seems like an eternity. Sweating. One hand on the microphone, the other holding her over-shirt, that is, the shirt to cover the tank top, which was too snug.  While sharing her swollen bosoms and rounded muffin-top in a group of about fifteen people she is suddenly aware of this moment in time.  Her humanness is almost too much for her to bear.  She wants to cry.  May cry.

Meanwhile, the zebra lady had come up to the stage and stood to the side of her in a supportive gesture. She extended her hand out and calmly said, “Hi.  My name is Sheila.  I’m the moderator of our group.  How about you share a little bit about yourself, what brought you here on this beautiful day?”

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Ok, deep healing breaths are in order she thinks to herself. She practices two and resumes with a nod to Sheila, now her angel of mercy.  “My name is Eden.  I know…weird name.  I was born in the sixties so that answers that question.  (light chuckles from audience).  And I’m in my forties…like the end of them.  And I’m going through menopause. I know this. I think I know this anyway.  My doctor says it’s “perimenopause”.  Whatever it is I don’t like it much and find that nobody likes ME much either, for that matter…” (weak smile…chuckle attempt…crowd is rather flat).

“I’m here today because I feel like I’m ‘bottoming out’.  Not like maybe an addict does, but I mean, like a frazzled middle-aged woman might.  I’m feeling desperate. Like my last line of defense won’t even protect me from the unpredictable moods, lack of memory, gassiness and bloating I feel so often.” (nods coming from audience. She’s made a connection with the group! Yay me! She thinks and smiles to herself).

She continues with a sense of confidence, “I used to think that my height would be my saving grace.  I can eat anything, I thought.  Sure!  I’ll have another cookie!  Hey!  That hamburger looks amazing with bacon and cheese on it!  Let me get some fries with that!  Don’t forget the soda!  Now my carb cravings are beyond my ability to handle them and a life without bread and sugar is leaving me feeling empty.”

The ladies and one gentleman chuckle as she describes her enjoyment of junk foods and drinks.  Apparently they have been through all this before.  No one seems surprised.  She stops with the enthusiasm.  Eden has the audience’s attention now.  Reality comes with a sober message as she continues, yet with a slower rhythm to her words and a definite change in her tone.

“And now, look at me.  Yes, I’m still tall, but I’m way beyond the weight on my driver’s license.  Which, to be honest, was never quite right to begin with, however… I now weigh…(pause)… MORE. than. my. husband!”  That part of the confession hadn’t been planned.  Oh, why did I say that? She regretted immediately.  Too much, too soon.

Apparently no one knew how to react to that tidbit of rather personal information.  She’d entered new territory.  Eden searched the room for understanding – a compassionate look from a fellow female maybe; yet all her female warriors, the surviving menopausal middle-agers, had looked down into their own laps.  Good grief! Could these women be feeling sorry for her!  Only the man sitting at the end of the line of chairs looked up unflinching.  He gave her the encouragement she needed to complete this podium-initiation-hell.

“And my moods…honestly, it’s awful.  I am even afraid of myself these days!  I can change from happy to sobbing in seconds!  My husband says that three weeks out of the month it’s like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  He tends to exaggerate, but still… I actually stopped myself from going to one of my daughter’s sporting events because I felt homicidal toward her coach! I can’t sleep…when I do I wake up every four hours to pee…PEOPLE! I CANNOT CONTINUE TO LIVE LIKE THIS!”

The man smiles warmly, he’s been there…seen it happen.  The women are a mixture – some empathetic and others angry on Eden’s behalf, most likely.  One lady takes up arms – playfully slapping the group’s only male on the lower thigh – maybe they’re married…maybe he’s a guy who wants to understand?

Eden continues, “Thank you ladies and gentleman.  My name is Eden and I’m menopausal”.

 

My greeting card to Eden might sound like this:

Congratulations on your new transition in life!

Growing older comes with it’s ups and downs for sure.

It is at this time that flatulence and discomfort come knocking at YOUR door!

Keep in mind it’s just a stage;

Yoga is still your friend – though your legs, you must not raise.

Eat well and exercise, that means you!

Don’t compromise, supersize, or idolize.

The time for “quick-fix” is now taboo.

Overall, love yourself and laugh A LOT!

Enjoy life free from tampons, pads and condoms, too!

(unless STDs may be an issue, Boo!)

Welcome to our Menopause Group, Eden!

Susan, Carrie, Julie, Colleen, Stacy, Jennifer, Dolores, Jackie, Heidi, Rebecca, Lisa, Jody, Amanda, Katie, Diane & Hank

 

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The Author

I am a licensed clinical social worker who just happens to adore the written word. I have had a private practice and am now writing a memoir on my life in the company of my father and many of my clients who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I hope to dispel some myths and break down some barriers for those with mental illness. I write out of need and complete joy, which I hope to convey throughout my blogs. The human experience is not exclusive to one group. I hope to appeal to most as I touch on some pretty heady material with some self-deprecating humor and raw emotion thrown in for good measure. I have four amazing children, one HUGE dog and a tolerant husband. I am blessed.

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