Uterus. Perimenopause. Menopause. Words we don’t bandy about on a regular basis, but maybe we should. Today’s Self-Care Sunday topic involves physical wholeness, and whether you’re 15 or 50, you need to know a few things about that time in life when puberty reverses itself.
“My uterus made me do it, Your Honor.”
I’ve always wondered if that would serve as an alibi in a court of law.
I imagine myself running off the road and plowing through a fence on a lonely country lane while frantically trying to yank a sweatshirt off my spontaneously combusting body. So far, I’ve managed to get the air conditioning going before bursting into flames, but the mental picture lingers. As well as the alibi.
I have a confession to make. Talking about perimenopause, hot flashes, my uterus, and menopause makes me uncomfortable. Kind of like talking about colonoscopies. Or mental illnesses.
But I’ve learned that talking about mental illnesses helps diminish the stigma attached to an ordinary illness that people have kept hush-hush for far too long. Today, I’d like to peel away some layers from the whole menopause subject.
Talking about my female reproductive health doesn’t come naturally to me. In fact, when I hit puberty and my uterus first came to life, it took me two years to tell my mom that I’d started my period.
I had an older sister who left an ample supply of feminine hygiene products in the bathroom. I could also spend a dime in the girls’ restroom at school and completely avoid embarrassing conversations about my bodily functions.
Of course, trying to use a tampon without instructions proved painful and fruitless. My sister threw the instructions away. I swore off tampons for two years, until I finally ran out of supplies and told my mom my period had started.
I missed out on so many swim parties because of ignorance and fear. I made sure to keep our daughters informed, and bought them both their own copy of The Care and Keeping of You.
Reverse Puberty Happens, Too
I broke out in
I wandered over to the thermostat to see if someone had turned the heater on. Nope. I started pulling my sweatshirt over my head and in the dark moment before freedom from fabric, it hit me. I was having a hot flash.
Looking back, I realized that I’d had them at night for the past five months, but this one happened during the day. In a cool room. I could no longer deny it. My uterus was going into retirement.
Rather than suffer in an uninformed way, the way I did when puberty hit, I decided to embrace this new phase of life. Of course, my doctor had determined years ago that I had entered perimenopause. I never bothered to look up the word. I figured if I hadn’t gained the nirvana of no periods, why should I care?
Perimenopause simply means, ‘around the time of menopause.’ I had no idea that the ‘time around menopause’ could last for years…a decade, even.
But that hot flash made me realize I needed to investigate the state of perimenopause. This short video from the Mayo Clinic helped me understand menopause a little better.
Did I mention that I figured out the hot flashes stage of menopause while on vacation?
I’ve compiled a handy list for travel essentials when your uterus goes into retirement.Ten tips for traveling with hot flashes. #menopause #hotflash #fifty Click To Tweet
How to Pack for Hot Flashes
Wear layers that you can remove quickly and easily while strapped into a plane or stuck in the backseat between your grandkids’ car seats.
When those hot flashes hit, you don’t want to have a pullover hoodie straight jacket you while your body suddenly feels like you’ve stepped into your personal sauna.
The cardigan or shrug will become your new best friend. I finally understand why my mom (and grandma) always have one on hand.
Carry water—even better, carry an insulated bottle and fill it with ice cubes and water. Refill it after the security check if you’re traveling by plane. Sipping cold water might quench the sudden flames.
I discovered this stainless-steel vacuum-sealed water bottle by Contigo this summer. It will keep your water cool even if it bakes in your vehicle for five hours.
Leave the Caffeine
Avoid it, especially in its heated form. Hot beverages might trigger another hot flash. And caffeine acts as a diuretic—your family members or travel companions will appreciate not having to stop or let you crawl over their legs every 45 minutes.
Some studies indicate that caffeine can make hot flashes worse (regardless of the form—coffee, tea, or soda).
All those changing hormones will wreak havoc with your emotions. Think about what happened when you hit puberty, only now you’re 50. You’ll love having a tissue handy.
When you have a tiff with a loved one, you might find yourself teary-eyed instead of your usual reasonable self. Blame your uterus, not yourself nor your loved one.
At my last eye checkup, I complained about having dry eyes all the time. The optometrist (he looked like one of my high school students) checked my eyes out and prescribed over-the-counter eye drops. He asked me if my doctor had mentioned that dry eyes are a sign of perimenopause. I blushed—I had no idea.
Menopause might cause your eyes to feel like gravel rubbing on sawdust—even when you’re not in a dried-up atmosphere like an airplane (or the Sahara). I love my single-use drops without preservatives. Each vial lasts for a couple of days (you can reseal them for travel).
If travel left your skin scaly before your hot flashes started, you’ll find yourself even flakier now. According to WebMD, lower levels of estrogen cause our bodies to produce less collagen—which causes less elasticity in our skin (and making it easier to get skin tears).
My new favorite? Nivea Soft
A Security Blanket
Ok, just kidding. You might want a lightweight twin-sized open-weave cotton blanket. I know it sounds like an extravagant item to haul along on any kind of trip, but with your thermostat limited to a two-degree temperature change, sheets and heavy blankets will either freeze you or bake you.
They used to sell them year-round in
A Good Book
Even if you’re not a big reader, it helps to have a sad book at the ready to explain your unexpected tears. ‘I’m crying over a sad story,’ sounds so much better than, ‘I’m going through my menopausal change’—especially if you feel the need to explain your tears to perfect strangers.Learn to keep a sad book handy to explain your hair-trigger emotions while going through menopause. #justkidding #maybe Click To Tweet
Sense of Humor
Whatever you do, don’t lose your sense of humor. You’ll find yourself in plenty of awkward situations (usually involving the onset of a hot flash at an inopportune time). Sure, your hormones have gone on strike, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll lose the essential you.
Learn to laugh at yourself. Let your family know what to expect as your uterus shuts down. They’ll appreciate your honesty and be less bewildered by any mood swings you may experience.
When I confessed to my husband that I’d started having hot flashes, I jokingly whined, “If women have menopause, why don’t men have womenopause?” We both cackled.
This song came on the radio this summer in the middle of a hot flash. Bob Dylan may not have written it to a woman whose uterus had decided to retire, but the words helped me remember that ‘menopausal change’ doesn’t mean I will become a grumpy old woman. (Ok, I might get grumpy and bent out of shape a time or two, but it doesn’t have to be part of my identity).
My body may feel different, but if I keep all of my life in balance (mental, academic/artistic, physical, and spiritual), I’ll retain the essential parts of me. https://youtu.be/q_U_HDjeboQ
If you’ve survived the retirement of your uterus, do you have any tips for the rest of us? Maybe that change looms and you have a question–go ahead and ask it!
It’s time to talk about what we’re going through and take pride in our journeys–even if they’re riddled with tears and hot flashes!
Great post Anita!
I went through early menopause at 40…
My tips, prepare those around you, especially dear hubby…
BE KIND & PATIENT with yourself as it can be a frustrating time, personally.
Tea With Jennifer recently posted…Preventing Dementia…
Through no merit of my own, I sailed through menopause with nary a flash, so I’m grateful (besides, here in Maine a hot flash is a source of free heat!), because I’ve got friends who are measuring their endurance in decades!
Great post and so honest and practical!
Michele Morin recently posted…Wonder 101: What Your Kids Can Teach You About Delighting in God
What a great resource for people to know they’re not alone and how to get through menopause with a bit of ease!
I love when people talk about hard subjects, so thank you!
Rebecca Hastings recently posted…The #1 Way to Make More Friends
This is very helpful for someone who doesn’t really have a way to know what you need to know about menopause in general. My grandmother had a total h. In her 20s, so I’m just going to have to wait and see…
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Thanks for a fun spin on what we sometimes deem a delicate topic. Most of my life, I’ve been the hottest person in the room, so I’ve used many of these strategies. I tend to dress light with a sweater I can whip on and off as needed. And I usually go barefoot in the house. I get hot at night yet can’t sleep without a sheet over me, so sticking one or both feet out helped cool me off.
I had a harder time with ultra-heavy periods during perimenopause. My gyn prescribed Ponstel – a life saver which allowed me to function as normally as possible..
Barbara Harper recently posted…Literary vs. Biblical Redemption
I thought I was going to be one of the lucky ones to escape hot flashes. But they’ve finally begun this year (I’m 56). Sigh. And now I know they are a real thing! ha. Love these tips. I’ve started having to use eye drops periodically as well. I’m off now to look up that water bottle. 🙂 Thanks, Anita!
Awareness and acceptance of how my body was changing, an empathetic and informative nurse practitioner, and a loving husband all helped my transition be far easier than it would have been without them. Thanks for tackling another challenging topic!
“My uterus mad me do it,” and “reverse puberty” – both great descriptions. I remember, as a young woman, my mom was always offering me hand cream. I always declined and wondered, what’s with the hand cream all the time? I now know. I carried tissues everywhere and not just for my emotions, but to dab down the sweat that continually formed on my brow, upper lip, neck and well, you get the idea. They always came at the most inopportune and embarrassing times like in the middle of church. I remember my kids whispering with disgust, “What’s wrong with you, mom?” And then they’d laugh. It was hard to laugh at the time, but as the years and bad memories have passed, I can see some humor in it and I know that “this too shall pass”. Every so often I will still get that fiery heat that rises up from my toes and engulfs me, but thankfully they are few and far between! Great post on self care through this season.
Bev @ Walking Well With God recently posted…From Trash to Treasured
About tissue – use the right kind. Don’t use Kleenex or something soft as that will leave a telltale trail on your face marking you like someone going through something. I like Bounty to dab the sweat from my face when it becomes unbearable.
Seriously, working with my gynecologist was the best thing I did. But your gynecologist has to be knowledgeable and caring.
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