Premenopause: 30 Is The New 50
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.
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ah great post!! thanks
It’s funny how people have expectations for one another.. I am sometimes made to believe that I am a grandma trapped in a 20something’s body.
Just yesterday I was talking with a friend, she was uncertain about what to do as her 8 years old daughter is adopting suggestive postures and wearing her underwear like thongs.. When I suggested she has a talk with said daughter and monitor her tv-internet habits she told me ” oh but we have to live with our century”..
My point (yes there is one) is that I DO live in this century, I’m not a grandma in a youngster body, I just don’t go along with what I consider massmediamarketing crap.
I love tea and baing cookies And I will monitor my baby’s internet access and probably not have a tv and still I am 26 years old, and I live in 2011. I feel even more in my time than people around me who don’t understand that I have different ideas and values, because I am consciously making choices everyday to better my life and love God more sincerely, and that is living the present.
You know what I mean or did I just project my own little struggles on your great post?? lol sorry about that..
No, you make complete sense! I think it is great that you’re able to both live here and now and not get sucked into the not-so-great aspects of our culture.
sorry and this was somehow answering your question :
Do you have any advice for living well through premenopause?
No I don’t have an advice, but I do believe that getting healthy habits is really key into preserving health for a few decades.
Do you prefer another term or way of thinking about these years?
Actually I am not a big fan of calling a time of my life ” pre-” something, because that implies (IMO) projecting and preparing toward this time. I am for sure in my premenopause years as I haven’t reach that milestone (yet!!) but I am not thinking about eating vegetables and balancing hormones and keeeping track of my cycle as means to get a better menopause, I do all those things because they are good for me now too
I’ll probably call it my potentially-most-fertile-years..
Hilarious. Good for you for responding. You know what your problem is, right? You’re writing posts based on reason. (The nerve!) And BTW, drop-in commenter has no idea, because girl, you have one of the most distinctive voices on the Web. Don’t sweat it.
Love this ~ though I hated discovering that I’m a third of the way through a stage already and I’m just now hearing about it – warning please! The best advice I’ve seen is that if you want your body to go the distance some preventive maintenance is required. I also like your idea of honoring the normal cycles rather than complaining and scorning them.
Since I hope to live till ninety, I’ve starting seeing my life as three acts (marrying at 29 helped) and so feel as I’m in my second act.
I love your perspective!
I think getting older is a blessing. I know many people (maybe more women) don’t see it this way but I work with youth who are lucky to see 22 and that makes me look at aging in a whole new light. I cannot wait till I’m older because like you, I think I will feel settled. That and I can’t wait to be like my Nana. This woman has the most amazing salt and pepper hair with gorgeous skin and wrinkles. To top all of that, she has so much wisdom it’s amazing.
Aren’t women like that such an inspiration?!
That mother who refused your excellent suggestions for parenting her 8-year-old girl will reap the consequences of her choice(s) and likely still blame “the century”. She is not taking responsibility for her daughter’s upbringing. Likely, her daughter will learn to blame others for her own choices, too.
Your writing is like ‘anti-dependency’ – so uncommon in interactions with physicians. Taking responsibility for one’s own actions (body) is empowering. Thanks for the nudge in that direction.
I have great respect for our hormonal cycles. That is a weird thing to type. Regardless, I think you are on to something in that we shouldn’t ignore them or imagine they are inconsequential (or, if I may take a more controversial tack, muck around with them and expect there to be no consequences). As you may know I just had a milestone birthday, and although there was none of the psychological strife that some feel upon those days, I am very suddenly more aware of the fact that my body is older. I am trying to make the same shift you seem to be – valuing awareness of and dealing with “minor” physical ailments as they manifest. I just love to ignore things like that.
If you figure out how to properly pay attention to the minor ailments rather than ignoring them, please do pass your wisdom on to me.
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