Why I’m going to keep talking about menstruation, menopause, and more

In a twist of irony that is just basically unfair, I find myself facing yet another round of the dreaded abdominal and transvaginal ultrasounds.

Last January, I had a complete hysterectomy – complete means they removed my uterus and my cervix, leaving the ovaries. I was just 47 at the time of surgery so not expected to go into menopause for a few years yet. I’ve blogged (a lot ) about that experience.

In early October, I wasn’t feeling well. I thought it was just another bug or something. The ridiculous weather swings wreak havoc on sinuses, etc. But I stopped feeling hungry and then for a few short weeks, I was actually nauseated. So we headed up to Med Express thinking maybe I had UTI. I didn’t really, but maybe sort of – you know how these places are.

I’ve had some strange symptoms of late, things that might be considered menopause. Mood swings, irritability, hot and cold flashes, trouble sleeping, etc. My therapist and psychiatrist both determined this was not related to my mental health (or meds) so they urged me to see my PCP for a hormonal workup.

And because I had a seemingly benign cyst on my right ovary, just where the pain is centered in my abdomen, I have to have another round of ultrasounds to see if there’s a problem. Great. This is where I take a deep breath and appreciate my health insurance and try not to panic about what a problem could mean.

So here I am a year later basically dealing with the same stuff as last year. That seems unfair, right? It is amazing how quickly everyone (not medical folks) wants to write off my experiences as ‘just menopause’ much like when I was a young teen and a young woman, I was told that my incredibly painful menstrual periods were just what women had to endure.

The difference now is that I can push past that and talk about my experiences. I can ask other folx about their experiences and get suggestions.  Yes, it is a lot of advice to wade through but it feels good to know that I’m not the only person struggling with these symptoms. Because it really sucks to go through a second entire holiday season feeling cruddy. For how many of us is it the case that we endure it all because we get to enjoy Grandma’s gravy or a piece of once-a-year pie. And I’m a little more than grumpy that I cannot do that. The only thing I really like are ginger cookies. I’m not even interested in Starbucks (gasp – I know, right?)

And it is important to open that dialogue, to create safe spaces for others to start their own conversation. Talking about our health experiences – physical, mental, gynecological, etc – opens us up to a better quality of life. Stuffing our fears, anxieties, and exasperation down, because we are embarrassed or unsure of what’s going on. is not helpful.

Menopause should not be this all-encompassing cloud of “suck it up, buttercup” like PMS was when we were young girls. We deserve to look forward, to find the wisdom and lessons of these years. And we should avoid the temptation to diagnose other women and other people who have menstruated no matter where they are in their cycles. Menopause is not an end-of-life sentence.

Now, who wants to bring me some ginger recipes?