My Story is Your Story

When I was thirteen, I got my period. My mom had been waiting for this moment for years and she was prepared--pads, new panties, and a vaginal douche. I on the other hand had no clue that my early years before birth control were going to be a monthly nightmare of missing school then work due to the pounding headaches, cramps, raging sea of hormones, and of course the monthly bloodbath.

For the next thirty years, I got used to it, but I never liked it. And I was certain I’d never miss it once it was gone.

And then I hit my late-forties and suddenly mind and body started behaving strangely. The very first time I noticed something was amiss, I was in a business meeting, and mid-sentence my train of thought wandered right off the rails. What was I saying? This kept happening, meeting after meeting, but I refused to accept that something was wrong and relied on post-it notes as my savior. You can imagine what my desk looked like. A few weeks later, in yet another meeting, without warning, a jolt of heat began radiating up my body. I suddenly flashed back to an early childhood horror movie were humans combusted out of nowhere. Perspiration was dripping down my face, trickling down between my breasts and settling in the inseams of my pant suit. I looked like I had just finished a Bikram Yoga class (you know that intentionally hot Yoga)! There I sat, shocked and completely embarrassed.

A few years prior to this episode, I started to notice that I was not nearly as energetic as I used to be. I often felt the urge to take a nap, but refused to do so in the middle of day.

It never occurred to me that I was beginning perimenopause. In fact, I didn’t even know what it was or ever heard the term mentioned. Instead, I began worrying that these were the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease or some other kind of dementia. All my life I had prided myself on being a masterfully organized, multitasking dynamo. I was not ready to lose that part of my personality. I had always been a self-reliant person and not interested in being sick or "less than.'' I didn't talk about this with anyone because talking about it would make it real. I always thought it wasn’t going to happen to me, it didn’t happen to my mom and for God’s sake, I’m a runner wasn’t that enough to ward off menopause.

Once I realized, I was full on in it. I decided not to let that voice in my head kept secretly chanting that age-old woman mantra: "I am fine. I am fine. I am fine." When a woman says she is “fine," this is the first sign of "the cover-up." It's not that we don't want to be honest with those we love, but rather that we aren't being honest with ourselves.  So, I called my doctor and said, “what can you do to help me, I’m not going down with a fight”. He gave me a special tea, it worked and that began the journey of Hot Flash Tea.

Perimenopause and menopause were a huge secret and taboo for our grandmothers and mothers. In the 21st century, it is—shockingly—still very much a “hush hush” subject, not to be openly discussed. Crazy, right?!

For some, it can be embarrassing to admit they’re experiencing perimenopause or menopause—especially with our society’s preoccupation with staying young forever. The changes our bodies and minds go through during this transition are challenging and, at times, even depressing. Hiding from yourself is not a solution. Isolating yourself from those you love will only cause unnecessary breakdowns in your relationships, perhaps even to the point of divorce.  Think I’m exaggerating? Not long ago, I was listening to some advice program on a radio (I’m a talk radio junkie). Caller after caller—all men—told stories of what their wives were going through and how it was destroying the intimacy in their relationships, because they didn’t know where to turn for help or even how to talk about it. For one man, it was too late: “When we tried to have sex, no matter what we did, it hurt her. I didn’t want to hurt her, so we abstained. We became roommates for five years, barely speaking to each other until we finally split up. She is still the love of my life. I wish I had known that this was menopause. I thought she didn’t love me anymore. Maybe, we could have found a menopause specialist and saved our marriage.”

So talk to the people in your life, talk to a menopause specialist and talk to your partner. Let them know what’s going on with you, and let them help you. Suffering in silence is an unacceptable way to live.

Each woman will have her own journey. Each of our bodies is different. But we can and will get through this together.

I’ll do my part to inform you.

 Be wise,

 Denise Pines