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[OPINION] Managing the monster of menopause

At 47, I mean 48, I am horrified that without being diagnosed as menopausal, I am its poster girl. This is possibly the hardest reality I have had to face since befriending my extra weight, dark circled eyes and sleepy spells during an ordinary day.

My husband and children have become very good at approaching with caution, I promise them it’s a phase, but none of us is sure! Their salutations include: I am just asking; don’t be upset; can I tell you something; can I ask you something? It’s such a shame really! I used to be fun and funny.

Embracing my imperfection as a mom, a wife and a friend and promising to work on being better is being hounded and impacted by horrendous hormonal challenges not known to man. I mean that in all the ways possible.

Whether it’s hot or cold, I am hot. Not hot in the sexy, sensual and alluring hot, just hot in temperature and feature. I literally reference cooking, like the times you mistakenly look into the braai or your host seats you under the indoor gas heater, at a plated dinner for your comfort. Perspiring from my scalp to the tips of each hair on my head, misted spectacles, glistening sideburns and a glow which sizzles with no shimmer, is the end of an era.

Fab 40s swopped ceremoniously for fired-up 40s was not in my plan. I used to operate on a minimal amount of sleep; in fact, there was even a time when I could fall asleep on a thorn bush. There are patches of ‘off days’ where I can be quite pleasant, highly productive and even effective.

The era in which my responses and reactions to my children and people in parking areas were measured and balanced is slowly passing.

An era memorised, where my conversations with my husband didn’t start with a disclaimer. An era where I could remember what we did at the weekend and what our plans are for this weekend, without having to look at my phone. It’s all gone. I hope my memory is just on a little vacay while my brain is literally frying.

Am I the only one dealing with alternative remedies for brain freeze, overheating and a park full of swing rides called mood?

It is so acceptable for us moms to have handbags that solve the problems of the world: floss, plasters, pain tablets, phone chargers, tissues, loose change, hair clips, red lipstick, vanity mirrors and posh nail and hand cream. I now have reading and other glasses, a battery pack for when I forget to charge my phone, a hand-held fan or three, a comb, a hardcover notebook to charge my memory and millions of pamphlets on therapies that combat menopause and hormone dancing. The hand cream has been replaced by sanitiser as I get fussy about touching dodgy elevator buttons and escalator belts. I should add I have all these items in separate transparent make-up cases with zips, as I do not have the patience or enough nerves left to fidget in my handbag to find car keys, parking tickets or a tweezer for that random eyebrow popping out of my chin.

There was no preparation for this. My mother did not complain once, she also had four children and her life was a lot less comfortable than mine.

It’s a whole new world! I spend the morning mustering all my goodness to get my very accommodating husband and our four children out of our home to the corridors of learning in a peaceful, happy state of mind. This is a promise I wish I hadn’t made to them when they were little, nor to my now departed parents who no matter what was happening with them, ensured we went to school secure and happy. Some mornings the devil asks me if it would harm them to get to school grumpy and miserable. I always roll my eyes and tell him yes!

A week or so ago, after three days of being attacked by a dedicated gastroenteritis bug, I found the four hours in the emergency room hooked up to an IV drip with pain meds, nausea meds and rehydration to be a spot of pleasure. They drew the curtains, gave me the remote to adjust the bed to my liking, I covered my eyes with my pullover and drifted off to sleep. Not an island holiday with cabana boys serving cocktails could have beaten that time.

I used to find that pleasure on long-haul flights, people politely and quietly serving on me: Chicken or beef? What can I get you to drink? Are you comfortable, do you need a blanket? Can I hang up your jacket?” Not one call for “Mom...?” anywhere up there in the clouds or the emergency room.

I am again learning that being a stay-at-home mom means a lot of people are calling you Mom and having expectations that you know where their socks are, where the TV remote is, what’s for dinner, where the chewed bubblegum they left in the freezer last night is? The enquiries not even Google can answer.

Parenting, my friends, is a breeze until you hit your late 40s (in fact it hit me!) I have adult children and young children. They have been my greatest assets, teachers and lessons. I do, however, understand the multiple personalities that are necessary to survive this course. I have been doing a pretty good job for 23 years, most days at least. It is a lifetime commitment that stretches everything you thought you knew while being a child-free perfect parent. The lessons come with the children.

The onset of menopause has me rethinking my whole life. I love my past, nothing will change there, but going forward, I must say being a bag lady with a big yellow overcoat, spectacles that double as sunglasses, an umbrella for sun and rain and a bag of tricks to carry around is sounding attractive. (Providing, of course, I have medical cover, an ok bank account, gym membership for exercise and quick cool showers.)

There is something about menopause that makes me feel like I have too many things. I feel like peeling off and uncluttering is the way to deal with the heat in the kitchen and in my head. Who knows how long this flash will last, next week I might not even remember feeling this way.

Every opinion expressed above may or may not be my truth today. My tongue is in my cheek, or I might be biting it to keep the peace. I never know if it’s a hot flush or hot flash? It feels like fire.

Lisa Joshua Sonn is a social activist. Follow her on Twitter: @annalisasonn

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