My physiology is torturing me. I am too far along the timeline for my body to start behaving like it is an adolescent again. My cycle and I had settled into a nice predictable routine. Boring? Perhaps, but I knew what to expect of my body and it understood how I would react and we had a system. Then something changed and that time of the month is no longer a time of the month but a devastating and violent upheaval of my established standard. I have experienced this before. We all have. It was puberty, when our childlike bodies were flooded with new hormones at a prescribed moment in time determined by the pituitary gland, that bastard. And now it is happening again. Same sudden onset, no warning, no reason. What is it, menopause? No, not yet. It is a special affliction called perimenopause. Perimenopause is the period preceding menopause where your body produces less progesterone and you may have any of the following symptoms:
- Low sex drive
- Irregular periods
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes (aka flushes) and night sweats
- Weight gain
- Craving for carbohydrates and sweets
- Cold hands and feet
- Increased headaches or migraines.
Sounds like a joy. So lets take a look at a few of these shall we? I say we start with the fun combination of weight gain and craving for carbs and sweets. I can attest that this is most definitely happening to me as we speak. I noticed my metabolism slowing down a while back. Hell, that s.o.b. went into hibernation. So I adjusted my diet. Then I adjusted it again. And again. Somehow I am now living off of kale and chia seeds and have still managed to gain weight. WTF? As for the cravings, well, I have always enjoyed bread and chocolate. Realizing many years ago that this wouldn’t help my health in the long run I cut them both out of my diet and relegated them to the category of “special treats.” It’s important to understand this happened in my late twenties and I am fairly well-adjusted to life with limited bread and sugar. Why? Because recently I devour bread like I am some mythical wild child that had been raised by animals in the forest. I don’t bother to slice or butter it, I don’t even take the time to tear pieces off. Rather I shove as much as will fit into my mouth with chewing and alternating between gratifying sounds of enjoyment and low throaty growls to warn others away. Chocolate was an indulgence. It was to be savored and cherished, each bite slowly rolled over the tongue and permitted to linger at the soft palate for maximum enjoyment. Eating chocolate was ritual. But no more. I now descend upon the candy aisle like the Mongol horde single-minded in my quest for domination. Bags upon bags of sugar goodness are swept into my basket to be carried to the car where I will ingest as much as possible on the ride home. No longer is it savored as a means of pleasure, now it is a drug that my body must have or die. I approach it like a junkie, one is too much and too much is never enough.
And that brings us to the mood swings. Because after my candy and bread binge comes the remorse. What have I done? Why did I do this? How could I have eaten all that and have no cognizant memory of it? And how am I not sick? Oh, the self loathing and contempt. What kind of person does this? Suddenly the rush from the sugar dissipates from my blood stream and I am plunged into the dark depths of my inner psyche. Every mistake, every humiliation, every unkind action I have ever taken is pushed to the forefront of my consciousness and it consumes me. There I sit in a pile of crumbs and wrappers sobbing into my chocolate stained hands over the time in first grade I teased another girl for her hair ribbons. I am a horrible and worthless creature and that’s why nothing is right in my life and never will be. This is why I am alone, why my marriage failed, why I can’t have a successful relationship with a man. It’s because I eat bread and chocolate. If I didn’t eat these things, if I had more control over my impulses then I could become a better person. I could actualized my potential. But I never will because I have no will power and therefore am just wasting space on the planet. The pets are confused and hide from me as I weep into the side of the couch and rant incoherently.
Why does this happen? Well, that is because of the irregular periods. What was once every 28 days like clockwork has become sudden onset with no early warning system. I liken it to a tornado. There are signs that favor tornado conditions, but that doesn’t always mean that a funnel will form and if it does that it will touch down. However, if that funnel does hit land you can be sure that it will leave a path of destruction in its wake. Much like my periods lately. I bloat, get irritable, have the cravings and the mood swings and that may mean I wake up in a bloody mess or it could mean nothing happens, no way to tell. And if it does occur there is no way of determining how long it will stay. Throughout my adult life it has been consistently 5 days. Over 30 years of this type of regularity only to have nature laugh in my face. Now it could be one day, it could be 10 days, it could last two days stop for three and then swing back around for an encore performance. I never know. So now I travel armed with an arsenal of feminine hygiene products. Every purse, bag, or available storage space has tampons, pads, and pantyliner’s. I have stain removal products in every location I frequent. I am prepared for the onslaught of the red tide revolution at every moment. No fluid shall get the better of me. I am armed. I can win this war. At least I can patch up the wounds.
I do disagree with the low sex drive. I didn’t get that. Contrary to everything I have read or been told by medical professionals my sex drive has hit an all time high. Especially during times of hormone fluctuation. It’s really no gift because the biochemical imbalance that is the glory of perimenopause pretty much ensures that no one in their right mind will want to engage in sexual intercourse with me. The outward manifestation is so detestable in both physical appearance as well as behavior it all but seals the deal for long, cold lonely nights of exasperation in an empty bed.
Let me paint you a picture. Let’s start with the physical changes my body sees fit to burden me with. Aside from the changes in weight and its unflattering dispersion there is the paradox of hair and skin that is simultaneously oily and too dry. There are products geared for one, but nothing that can handle both. Seriously, we need to stop expecting miracles from the beauty industry. Next is the acne that comes on like a suicide bomber that chickened out and decided to change gears and form an insurgency. No longer do I get small blemishes on my face but rather large, red peaks of impressive elevation slowly filling with pus but showing no sign of eruption. They scream out to anyone who dares to look upon them “Behold, I have taken this face hostage. There will be no quarter given.” They are painful if you touch them and painful if you do not. Their presence twines around everything you do forming an obsession until all you can focus on is relieving the pressure by any means necessary. But this path is folly for they will not relent. Even after the hormones have withdrawn and the invasion retreats victory is not your. No, it will resurface weeks later, the same spot, the same size, only to burst at the slightest touch resulting in an angry red scabbed over monstrosity that will most likely scar. You will average three of these a month coupled with spontaneously appearing white heads that do nothing to convince the world you do indeed wash your face. So this is a sexy look that I am sure we will see on the runways of Milan next season. All the men drool for this.
The next noticeable change is that my nipples become engorged with blood and stay rock hard for the duration. This is not only unsightly but also have practical implications as they are now bumping into everything. Half the time I feel like my nipples enter the room before I do. They have become attention whores screaming :look at us!” in every imaginable article of clothing. A padded bra may or may not cover them up. I’ve had them poke through some bras padded so thick they remind me of early Japanese armor. Inconvenient it may be, but I must admit the level of projection is impressive. I can’t be dazzled by my body’s outstanding feats of hydro engineering for long because this has a major disadvantage. They are hyper sensitive. A breeze is painful. So is the gentle chaffing of the interior of the bra during normal movement. They now hit everything because I am not accustomed to allowing for their passage. They hit the door jamb, the desk, the side of the fridge, the shower curtain, and knock into objects on tables. Yes, I have pushed things over with my nipples. It’s not as fun as it sounds. Conflicting sensations accompany this fun new phenomenon. I alternate between having nothing and no one touch them and wishing desperately that I could gnaw on them so that the pain would offer relief to the never-ending soreness. This does not lend itself to a calm and balanced state of mind.
Lets move on to what the hormones do to your behavior in regards to your sex drive. All the literature says I am supposed to be experiencing dryness and a loss of desire. Nope! There is enough moisture down below to revitalize the California droughts. And drive, I have drive. I’m not sure if this is a last-ditch evolutionary push for me to find sperm and procreate or a cruel joke my body is playing on me since I am currently without a partner. Either way, once the chemicals hit the blood stream the game is on. I’m not looking for romance, or tender lovemaking. I want primal animalistic sweaty rage as my body milks the seed from the male specimen. I need wanton bestial copulation. My nails digging into flesh as I am pinioned down by a hand on my neck, not out of cruelty but necessary for his self-preservation, hot breath and primordial rumblings as we both hurtled towards release. And there will be no satisfaction while the hormones have control. More, always demanding more from the poor spent flesh bag lying exhausted and broken next to you. While the throbbing returns and demands release that will never be sufficient. I can’t imagine what fear enters the hearts of men when confronted with this, I’m afraid of myself in this state.
The worst part of all of this is that while it is happening we are aware of how irrational we are acting but are helpless to stop it. I find myself wondering if other mammals have similar moments during their heat cycles? And if so, how is this an evolutionary advantage? It would seem as if the female of the species is doing everything possible to drive the male of the species away in terror. Or perhaps that is how we ensure the strongest genes are passed on to the next generation. Only the bravest dare approach the female at this time and only the most worthy will succeed where so many others have failed. Though my personal experience is that it’s not so much courage as it is blind stupidity that makes men think women suffering hormonal fluctuations will find their attentions soothing. Well, also those deluded individuals suffering from the white knight syndrome of I can fix everything, but that’s a different topic altogether.
There is one small caveat in my favor. A few weeks back I scheduled a doctor’s appointment because I was experiencing an abnormal amount of cramping in my pelvic area. That can’t be a good sign, so off to get a pelvic exam. She sent me to get an ultrasound. A trans-vaginal ultrasound. Essentially, the technician inserts what looks like a Hitachi Magic Wand into the vaginal canal and takes a look around the uterus and Fallopian tubes. Take a moment to imagine lying on a table, feet up in stirrups while some strange woman shoves a giant dildo up your hooha and tries to make small talk. Awkward! What I found out was that the inoperable fibroid I have had for most of my adult life is being killed off by the lack of progesterone. At least something is getting murdered. Go hormones, kick that fibroid’s ass.