It starts innocuously enough. I am going about the business of my day and I will be suddenly enveloped by an inexplicable sadness, or an unjustified rage. Usually coinciding with the arrival of my period.
It’s official. I have entered peri-menopause, that stretch of time that can go for years, prior to my ovaries shutting down for good, after having earned their retirement. Like most governments around the world, I am prodding them to continue working past their previously assumed retirement age. No golfing or condo in Florida for my reproductive system just yet, I decided. And, as their proud owner, shouldn’t I be entitled to any major decisions involving our well-being? That is why we have tete-a-tete once in a while, in which I pray them to, please, pretty please, keep on marching on, keep on producing that estrogen that keeps my skin from drying up, my collagen to not drain away just yet and my bones to stay strong. So far, they have been cooperating. But for how much longer?
So far, the worst of my symptoms, other than my periods coming closer together, are the bitchy mood swings. In my ’20’s, my English doctor prescribed me some new fangled, slow release contraception pill – within a week, I would find myself bursting into tears whenever someone asked me to do something at work. Sometimes, the mere approach of my desk would send me into teary spasms. It was my first encounter with a hormonal tempest, quickly put to an end by switching to a regular pill.
I am now becoming re-acquainted with my bitchy alter ego. What I found is that, more than ever, I have to control what I say when I find myself riding the hormonal waves. My first instinct is to let the rage take over and blurt out venom as it rises to my lips – but I have learnt to walk away, move to a different space and reconsider whether my uttering what I think are words of wisdom might be better left to a different time. The answer is, 9 out of 10 times, yes. My friend Luisa will argue that this is not at all a symptom of peri-menopause but just the crankiness that sets in with age but I know better.
Tears can also surface more easily which is a bit of a worry, as I am known to cry watching Bambi for the millionth time or recounting my dogs’ adventures. “You are prone to crocodile tears” my mother would always remind me since childhood. The only barrier now between me and tears in public is a coating of mascara, and not wanting to look like a raccoon for no good reason.
All this has led me to a polite exchange with my hormones as well as my ovaries. I understand they might be annoyed too at the idea of dwindling and finally having to leave my body, but all I ask is some advance notice of when they are planning to strike, as even Ottie is sometimes taken by surprise and today’s bout of sadness was greeted not with a wet muzzle on my face while I was lying listlessly on the couch, but with a detour to the patio, in order to catch the last fading rays. Traitor. Now, if Ottie is having a hard time dealing with my moods, pity my poor staff at work or, worse, the man who shares my bed.
So, for the time it’s going to take for me to become a quaint old lady, I am trying to reach a truce with the hormonal changes affecting my body. It’s still a work in progress – just know that if I bite, it’s nothing personal.