Not so very long ago I got an email1 from a Twitter follower who mentioned, among many things, the fact he was surprised to learn that I was 25 because I sound like a middle-aged woman. He seemed to assume that I would share his view that it is important to have a “voice” and that I would find mine someday.
I do not share his view, as I think that having a “voice” is only a concern for writers, and I am not a writer. I am someone who blogs her thoughts whenever she happens to feel like it, (and isn’t terrified of the reactions of others in the moment, but we won’t talk about that part).
But I came quite close to laughing as I told Josh2 about this comment because if I did care about having a voice, I would love to have the voice of a 50-year-old woman. For about ten years I have thought “when I am 50 my life will be settled, I will be wise and confident enough to be truly generous; all will be well when I am 50. I will drink tea, do yoga, go for long walks, bake cookies, listen attentively to troubled youth who will poor their hearts out to me, bake more cookies, drink more tea, and write letters. I must simply live as well as I can until I can finally be 50.” I feel calm and happy just typing about what it would be like to be 50 in my dream world.
And the thing is that I do not think that I sound half as middle-aged online as I might if people only knew the truth. Like the fact that I am fascinated with hormones at every stage of a woman’s life, that I learned about HRT right along with NFP, and that I spend my Friday nights reading books like What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause: Balance Your Hormones and Your Life from Thirty to Fifty.
The book itself is dreadful,3 but the concepts are quite useful. Premenopause is not a technical term like perimenopause (the few years right before menopause). Instead it was coined to describe the time between a woman’s peek youthful fertility and menopause. The theory is that all appears well and good in a woman’s 20s despite the fact that American women treat our bodies horribly. But, as we get just a bit older, we pay for our sins as our bodies slowly start to fall apart. Many women ignore the multitude of little symptoms and only “treat” the huge ones such as sub-fertility, and even then only treat the symptoms when they want a specific result such as a baby. This means that by the time we actually reach menopause, things go really haywire because we are entering a significant change in life with our bodies already unhealthy and hormones out of balance.
This is pretty common sense: if your body has been taking a beating for years, it isn’t going to make significant hormonal transition easy.
And most of the advice on living well through premenopause is equally basic:
- honor your body
- figure out what you really want and then make that happen rather than constantly pushing yourself to accomplish everything
- get enough sleep
- eat well (more pesticide free vegetables, less dairy and conventionally raised hormone/antibiotic laden meat)
- take supplements as needed
- take “minor” symptoms seriously, including: fatigue, insomnia, headaches, hot flashes, breast tenderness, low libido, depression etc. etc.
And included a bit more technical information on why you should not trust randomly timed hormone tests and should supplement with natural progesterone cream (if needed) tossed in for good measure.
My main take-away from the book was that it is always wise to work on taking care of my body rather than passively accepting physical problems until they get unbearable. Since I compare everything to debilitating menstrual cramps I tend to feel like nothing else is a “big deal” at all. But that means that I am constantly ignoring signs that all is not well with my body. And that is far from good.
Despite my dismissive attitude and the fact that I already knew a lot of the information (what? You mean not everyone spends their days reading about carcinogens and “xenohormone hell?!”) I found the book surprisingly empowering.
I was reminded of the fact that NFP doctors taking out my ovaries or uterus is just as cheap of a “solution” as “traditional” doctors handing me a prescription for the pill, and may be even worse for my long-term health. I have been incredibly silly to dismiss the hormonal fluctuations of a healthy menstrual cycle as annoying.
Sure, the cyclical nature of a healthy woman’s life may be inconvenient in our fast-paced, get-it-done, results-driven world. But maybe, just maybe, there is an underlying wealth available if I can only stop fighting my body long enough to do what I am best at rather than try to fit in with the pattern required by others.
And when it comes down to it, I would much rather work with my body’s natural (healthy!) rhythms and accept the fluctuations of my life than to force consistency. Because in this case consistency means a consistently inferior life.
I am re-energized in my desire to live well in every way and to honor my body enough to really take care of it. While I may technically still be five years away from premenopause, my body has already made it quite clear that now is the time to pay attention and seek health. And so I am.
Do you have any advice for living well through premenopause? Do you prefer another term or way of thinking about these years?
1. He said that he did not follow my blog, so I am in the rather odd position of writing this as if he will read it, while still recognizing that there is no reason for him to since he indicated that he would not. And yes, I am dizzy.
2. The email also raised serious questions about the way that I relate to Josh, and while I assumed that the emailer’s assumptions were incorrect, I understand that blindness always thinks that way. So I did my best to ask Josh for his thoughts on the issues without submitting my obvious bias.
3. It is glaringly obvious that it was written by a non-medical professional with notes from two different doctors. This is fine in terms of the format, but it means that there are some mistakes. For instance, did you know that your luteal phase is always the same length? That is almost-true and was not an issue in context, but seems an inappropriate half-truth to promote in a book intended to address women with health issues– those most likely to have varying luteal phases! Also, if you read the entire book rather than advice for your particular issue it is clear that the individual sections do not tell the whole story: for instance, the advice for using progesterone for endometriosis could contribute to miscarriage, but you only see that if you read the section on getting pregnant. More on that soon on my Catholic blog.
- 2011 Goals
- Mothering, Beauty, and Possessions