I just finished an early Saturday morning drive to my daughter’s field hockey practice – called for 7:00 am, which meant leaving the house at 6:45 with a teen who has been getting up at 5:45 all week for the first week of high school. You can imagine how happy she was.
But despite the enlightened advocacy in our community around later school day starts, I was, frankly, less concerned about her early start than my having to drive that early in the midst of the dizzy spell I had woken with.
I’ve had these spells for a while. At first, I thought they were symptomatic of something dreadful, perhaps fatal (I’m from the headache-to-brain tumor in 60 seconds camp, after all.) But as they continued to come with some regularity, and nothing else ever seemed wrong, I have added them to the growing list of hormonal tics my body is facing as I face down … peri-menopause.
For I am in the midst of peri-menopause. That would be the years – count ‘em, YEARS – leading up to actual menopause, which is the cessation of one’s menstrual cycle.
For those of you who were wondering (and those who never, ever wanted to hear about this but perhaps live with someone going through it and should learn a little), here is a list of 35 possible symptoms of peri-menopause:
- Hot flashes, hot flushes, night sweats and/or cold flashes, clammy feeling
- Irregular heart beat
- Mood swings, sudden tears
- Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats)
- Irregular periods; shorter, lighter periods; heavier periods, flooding; phantom periods, shorter cycles, longer cycles
- Loss of libido
- Crashing fatigue
- Anxiety, feeling ill at ease
- Feelings of dread, apprehension, doom
- Difficulty concentrating, disorientation, mental confusion
- Disturbing memory lapses
- Incontinence, especially upon sneezing, laughing; urge incontinence
- Itchy, crawly skin
- Aching, sore joints, muscles and tendons
- Increased tension in muscles
- Headache change: increase or decrease
- Gastrointestinal distress, nausea
- Sudden bouts of bloat
- Exacerbation of existing conditions
- Increase in allergies
- Weight gain
- Hair loss or thinning, head, pubic, or whole body; increase in facial hair
- Dizziness, vertigo, light-headedness, episodes of loss of balance
- Changes in body odor
- Electric shock sensation under the skin and in the head
- Tingling in the extremities
- Gum problems, increased bleeding
- Burning tongue, burning roof of mouth, bad taste in mouth, change in breath odor
- Osteoporosis (after several years)
- Changes in fingernails: softer, crack or break easier
- Tinnitus: ringing in ears, bells, 'whooshing,' buzzing etc.
In addition to my hormonally-induced dizzy spells, I can check off a good 10 additional items on this list, plus the fact that my calendar no longer has a little mark on it every 28-30 days, but every 24-26 days. Which means that even though I am entering the phase of life where I should be winding down, my body is taking one final lap around the track and saying “let’s increase the (rare) possibility of pregnancy and (inevitable) discomfort and inconvenience!” Fun times.
I know that this is all way too much information to be sharing publicly. But here’s the thing. I can’t quite believe that we – moms who are, in mid-life, running at 100 miles an hour balancing work and kids and life – are facing an amalgam of the symptoms listed above at any given moment.
Forget the days of lack of sleep from infants’ crying. Today, I can barely sleep for any number of reasons. And am dizzy. And uncomfortable. And gaining weight. And am moody (just ask anyone who lives with me.) And have headaches all the time.
The list goes on. And I go on, because I have to. I am fortunate, in fact, because aside from the vertigo, much of the rest is still pretty easy to ignore and I can continue my daily life without much interruption.
I have no idea how many more years this is going to go on. All I know is that I am a like a party trick when I drink a glass of red wine at night and rivulets of sweat pour down my face. But I need that wine to get through the rest of the fun.
I hear that when it’s finally all over you lose elasticity in your skin, among many other charming side effects. Great. But at least I’ll be able to drive to practice at 6:45 am without worrying about whether I can steer the car straight.
Let the games begin.
Photo by David Jackmanson via Flickr