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What about “The Change”? Yes, I’m talking about Menopause

MenopauseSignI’ve been thinking a lot about menopause, specifically, about what my grandmother experienced during her “change of life” and how that was different from what my mom experienced and how that was different than what I’ve experienced so far; how going through “the change” should be better understood and more straightforward now than it was even two generations ago.

In some ways it is. At least now we can talk about it and seek more information about what might be causing some of the crazy symptoms of menopause instead of assuming we’re losing our minds. Women in past generations often thought they were going insane and some were even institutionalized during menopause. My own experience and education since being on this long menopause road has brought to mind some interesting questions.

First of all, what does “menopause” mean? According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term evolved from Greek origin menos, meaning “month” + pausis, meaning “pause or stop”. Makes sense. Monthly cycle stops.

The way I see it, menopause is the transition to another phase of life, like adolescence. During adolescence the body transforms from child to adult and is nature’s way of preparing the body to have children, to procreate. From an evolutionary perspective, adolescence prepares individuals to fulfill the necessity of ensuring that the human race thrives and doesn’t die. Menopause ends that child-bearing ability in a woman’s life. So when does this “change” happen?

According to the North American Menopause Society (NASM) in a 2014 Journal, menopause can be spontaneous, [usually as a result of a medical procedure such as hysterectomy], or natural. The average age of menopause is 52, but natural menopause can vary widely between the ages of 40 to 58. That’s an 18 year variation in the age a woman may enter natural menopause!

And…there’s also what’s called perimenopause, when estrogen levels decrease and get the whole process started and that could last up to 10 years.

Those answers also got me thinking about the purpose of menopause and why it happens at all. If “the change” is something that all women will experience, why does it seem like taboo and why does it seem so complicated?

Here’s one idea: Menopause is on the other end of procreation. It’s what happens to a woman’s body when she is done having children, when she is past that evolutionary role she plays in the promotion of the human race into the future, the next generation. So what’s at the other end of menopause; to what is a woman transitioning? Something that’s such a big deal in a woman’s life must serve some evolutionary purpose, fill some requirement to propel the human race forward. But what?

I had no idea that scientists have asked these same questions for years and there are many theories, including the “grandmother hypothesis” which theorizes that women live past child-bearing age to help care for grandchildren, thereby continuing her genes.

So what has any of this got to do with hot flashes, mood swings, fits of the blues, depression, forgetfulness, or night sweats? Not to mention changes in libido and all that goes along with that! What can be done about those annoying symptoms?

The standard recommendation is to consult with your Health Care Provider (HCP) for answers and treatment options.

My experience with HCPs varied. I had a hard time finding a doctor who listened to me and considered that I could be perimonopausal or even menopausal . Most doctors’ (I saw several) only solution was hormone therapy, which I used for a while but no longer wanted.

Menopause and the whole process of aging is as unique as each of us are and there are no easy answers for any of us. We have to figure it out as we go along, use our instincts, listen to our bodies, ask lots of questions, and know that there are things we can do to help ourselves.

A healthy lifestyle is important through all stages of life but especially important during this transitional time.  The big four factors are nutrition, exercise, stress-management, and attitude. I also discovered a high quality supplement that’s made a huge difference for me.

This road has been long, unmapped, and difficult at times, but I’m grateful for what I’ve learned and for what I continue to learn about “the change”.

I’d love to hear your comments about what you’ve learned through your transition to menopause.

It’s a New Year and Every Day’s a New Day

Happy 2016!

Every new year is cause for celebration – fireworks, champagne, sparkly hats, confetti, and lots of smiles and hugs.

My sister, Rose Ann

For me, New Year’s Eve is a day of celebration, but it is also a day of remembrance. It was on that day, December 31st in 1994 that my youngest sister, Rose Ann Ramirez Jimenez passed away on a sunny, windy, and cold Saturday afternoon. She had suffered with Lupus for many years and on that New Year’s Eve she left this world at the age of 27.

My sisters, Lynda, Rose Ann, and Me at her wedding a few months before her death
My sisters, Lynda and Rose Ann, and me at Rose Ann’s wedding a few months before her death.

Even all these years later, playing out the details of how things occurred that day brings me to tears, but I survived the serious and difficult storm of grieving for Rose Ann years ago.

A prayer that helped me through that very awful time was a prayer that my sister used to say all the time:

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

The “Serenity Prayer” is a great start to every day. It leads me to the simple truth that the only thing I can really change is my own attitude, perspective, energy, and how I interact with people every day. That truth has special meaning for me every New Year’s Eve when I remember my sister, Rose Ann.

Here are some things I’m reminded of every December 31:

Every day is a gift, an opportunity to change the things I can (me) and be happy, kind, grateful, and generous. How are you? What is in your heart? Ultimately, that’s your legacy, no matter what you’ve accomplished or accumulated. Of course, we all have bad days. Some days I don’t feel so kind or grateful and, wouldn’t you know it, those days I tend not to be too happy either. Thank God that with every new day I get another chance to be better.

Take nothing for granted. We can talk about not taking things, people, health, or opportunities for granted, but we also don’t want to take time for granted. What is it that you want to do? If you really want that, then take steps to make it happen because time ticks away, the sun rises and sets again and again, and what do you have? Who do you have? Every New Year’s Eve, I’m reminded that time is precious and not to be taken for granted.

Be present. Look around. Pay attention. It’s easy to get distracted with noise – social media, news, celebrity drama, etc, and it takes effort to be present in the moment, to be focused on who is in front of you. The other day, I was at a coffee shop and a girl about 5 years old was there with a young man who I thought was probably her father. The girl wore a red and gray plaid skirt, white blouse and a red sweater. Her long hair was braided neatly, tied with red ribbons. Her face was round and her blue eyes were wide and bright. When they sat, they didn’t speak. Her father looked at his phone as she looked at him. I wanted to walk over to him and scream, “Look at her! Talk to her!”, but I didn’t. Maybe he had something urgent to take care of. It’s not my place to judge. But come on! My takeaway? Pay attention. Listen. Notice the amazing gifts that are right in front of you.

Love. That sounds a little hippie and Kumbaya-like, but what I mean is, at your core, at your very essence, love as well and completely as you possibly can. There’s an old James Taylor song that comes to mind: “Shower the people you love with love. Show them the way you feel.” Sometimes, it’s the opposite. We show our true, darkest, and most unappealing colors to those people we love the most. It happens, but do your very best to express love, kindness, patience, and consideration way, way, way more often than anything else.

It’s a new year and a great time to reflect on what you’ve learned, how you’ve grown, and then resolve to celebrate every day. Happy New Year!