..Kathy Barrett..

Menopause Confessions

Menopause hit me with the same intensity as Godzilla's tail demolishing Tokyo. You would think there would be some kind of warning, more like the gentle approach of the AARP, sending you a membership card just shy of your fiftieth birthday. But there was no such warning for me, only the realization that my body was now an extra-large living in a world of smalls.

Someone had to have broken into my home in the middle of the night and replaced my wardrobe with Barbie doll clothing. How could I have spread like this on my own watch? My boobs grew two sizes and they didn't look like Pamela Anderson's. I began to moo upon my own naked reflection. My ass had become its own entity and it merged with my thighs like a hostile corporate takeover. My waistline resembled Buddha's without a trace of his insight or spirituality.

I tossed and turned at night splashing about in a hot-flash frenzy, nearly drowning my poor husband who said I emitted enough heat to give him radiation treatments. Seconds later my temperature would drop and my damp body turned me into a piece of living, breathing, polyester with a pulse. I was angry, I was sad, I was hopeless, I was depressed, and I wondered who had kidnapped my former self and replaced me with this...this...this...parade float of a mid-life crisis. Self-loathing conversations played over and over in my head like a broken record resulting in crying fests that rivaled the watering of Botanical Gardens.

I've read contradicting reports about weight gain and depression as related to menopause. Some say menopause has nothing to do with the above -- others disagree -- but the drug companies are there to sell you products regardless of which direction your wind blows.

I had accepted that I wasn't meant to be a mother and I was not mourning my inability to have children. It was the realization that I had sacrificed everything for a career and a life that didn't really unfold as I had visualized. If you're still struggling at this age, society makes you feel like you need to be roped off like a crime scene victim. To add insult to injury, there are no more construction crew whistles and truck drivers blowing you kisses. You lose your babe status and you are called the worst four letter word imaginable...MA'AM.

Menopause lifted the veil that was covering up all the issues I hadn't dealt with in my life, the ones I kept pushing down into my subconscious, swearing to deal with later down the road. The road came to a dead end and just as in "The Wizard of Oz," when Toto pulls open the curtain to reveal the Wizard isn't really a Wizard at all, I felt exposed to myself and to the world with no escape route in sight. I was at a crossroads. I could either jump off my balcony or find a new road map to the rest of my life.

I began to talk freely of my pain and confusion and as I let down my walls to other women they let down theirs and I realized I was not the only one suffering. A friend and I founded "Menopausal Bowling," and like our male executive counterparts who left the office to play a round of golf in the middle of the afternoon, we left our businesses to share information, drink Martinis, and play with big balls. The worse we bowled, the more we applauded each other and none of us felt self-conscious about how thick we were getting around the middle because our extra baggage was accepted as a new form of accessory.

Even so, I needed to conquer menopause. I decided to clean my internal house and began with a ten-day juice fast on New Year's Day. I had headaches, exhaustion, I was hungry and pissed off at myself for deciding to fast and then spilling the beans to everyone that I was doing so. Thankfully, by the fourth day I began to feel energized. I realized how much time we waste making plans to eat, eating, washing dishes, shopping, chopping, cooking, etc. All of our socializing revolves around food and drink and it's self-sabotage because it goes directly to our hips. After the fast -- portion control, portion control, and more portion control.

I knew I had to commit to exercise three to four times a week in lieu of wrapping myself in dynamite and igniting it to lose a few pounds. I took Hatha Yoga classes, eliminated nicotine, caffeine, and cut back on alcohol consumption. My hot flashes and depression soon disappeared. Raja Yoga meditation (yoga of the mind) gave me self-realization and eliminated my self-loathing. Hypnotherapy helped me resolve some deep emotional issues that were stalling my career and I finally caught a glimpse of the rumored wisdom menopause was supposed to provide. My new life became exciting to me even though nothing had really changed.

I no longer worshipped the little cocktail dresses or pined for the body that once was. I embraced the new me and gave away all of my small clothing. Go figure. Shortly thereafter, I was hit with a terrible relapse of Ulcerative Colitis (supposedly brought on by menopause). I lost thirty pounds and became a small again. But that is another story and you will have to stay tuned to hear how I dealt with that twist of fate.

Life is a roller coaster ride. It's not like one and it doesn't stop unless we -- let's not even go there -- and menopause is just another chapter in the wonderful world of being a woman. We should throw menopause parties for one another. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2030 there will be 1.2 billion women age fifty or over. That's a lot of menopause and enough hormonal imbalance to tip the planet!

I believe we (peri, present and post) menopausal girls should all come out of the closet and march in a parade waving our unused Maxi-Pads as freedom flags. I bet you didn't know that there is an International Menopause Society www.imsociety.org and an actual World Menopause Day, October 18th.

I leave you with the thought that perhaps the onset of menopause and the struggle within is actually the shedding of our shells in preparation for metamorphosis. What we lose in youthful beauty we gain in inner beauty and wisdom, which by the way, we had all along. It takes Menopause (reality's ruby slippers) to make it visible to us.

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