Why menopause is not for pussies

As I searched my fiancé’s home for evidence of an affair that didn’t exist, it never crossed my mind that my thinking might be a little, well, off.

He was shifting from his house to mine after asking me to marry him a few weeks before.

We’d only been dating for six months, but when you know you know – or so I’d been told over the years and never believed it until the same thing miraculously happened to me.

But as I helped to clean his house, I became more and more suspicious.

Everywhere I turned I expected to find some evidence to prove that this man who I had agreed to marry wasn’t all that he seemed.

I even spent a few minutes hysterically explaining (and channeling Samantha from the Sex and City movie – the good one) that I was not the type of woman who cleaned other people’s houses.

As someone who has had a fairly even temperament most of my adult life – I’m generally glass 95 per cent-full most days – the fact that I was behaving rather strangely was not at all on my radar.

It wasn’t until later that night when I had time to reflect that I’d been a bit of a psycho that I wondered out loud about it.

“Do you think it’s my hormones?” I pondered.

My fiancé, whose temperament is uber laid-back, just smiled at me and simply said, “Probably babe. That’s why I didn’t react.”

At the time, his steadfast (or so I thought) refusal to engage in my clearly “logical” line of thinking had made me even more skeptical about his true nature.

But, unbeknownst to me, he clearly understood something that I did not…

His fiancé had temporarily turned into a crazy woman and he had decided to ignore the more alarmist aspects of my behaviour rather than inflame the situation more than I was already doing all by myself.

You see, it’s not like I didn’t know I was going through menopause, because I got told the Big M was on the horizon when I was in my late 30s.

The thing was my doctor and I decided to pretend it wasn’t happening, so I remained on those little contraceptive pills for a few more years.

Looking back, and certainly in the past year or two, it’s clear those little hormone masqueraders weren’t working as well as they used too.

That can be the only reason to explain some of my odd behaviour, including thinking I’d fallen in love with a dude I met on holiday – and then being some maniacal version of heartbroken for the best part of year.

Or the time that I ran out of my front door like a mad woman intent on berating a couple of frightened electricians who had dared to turn off the power because of a dangerous electrical fault.

Oh, dear me…

So, by the time I was 45, it was clear – whether I was perimenopausal or not – that I probably didn’t need to keep taking a pill a day to keep the babies away.

I threw them in the bin, but over the course of the next few weeks and months everything started to change – and not for the better.

My mood, obviously, was all over the place and I developed something lovely that we liked to call “neck sweat”.

I also put on about eight kilograms and my bum, almost overnight, was nowhere near as perky as once it was.

Then there was the problem with my waterworks that lasted for three months while a plethora of doctors diagnosed everything from an inflamed urethra to the fact that I had fractured my spine at some stage (which was news to me).

As it turned out, it seems that even menopausal women can still get a UTI from too much shagging with their beloved.

Of course, all of these changes and misdiagnoses did not a happy woman make but I can’t blame my vanity on my abysmal behaviour.

That was menopause plain and simple.

Within a few days of my creepy cleaning episode, I realised that I didn’t want to spend the next five, 10 or 15 years coming across as Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, so I went to see a specialist.

Not long after, with some much-needed assistance, I didn’t think that my fiancé was having an affair or even that he was the devil incarnate.

I also didn’t need him to mop my neck with his t-shirt anymore, which we were both quite happy about.

Apart from another less than honourable episode, which not very strangely happened after I’d forgotten to take the second dose of my magic natural medicine every day for about a month and drank too much wine to boot, most days it feels like my head is on reasonably straight.

If, some days, my brain starts to tell me things that just aren’t there, at least I now have the foresight to (mostly) keep my mouth shut until it passes.

And that is why menopause is not for pussies – and it’s sometimes not much fun for the people who love them either.

The new dawn


On 4 January last year I posted this on Facebook:

That horrific moment in the long Alzheimer’s journey when you sit opposite your mum and realise that you’re no longer her daughter, but some random stranger come to visit 🙁 

And it’s taken from that day to this to write this blog.

For the first few months, I literally couldn’t put into words what it felt like.

For the next few months, I struggled to go and see mum with the knowledge that it seemed as if I was no one more special to her than the tea-lady.

Then a few months after that two special things happened that changed my perspective and allowed me to move forward.

Rewind to that fateful day, though, and I was visiting mum after being overseas for a few weeks over Christmas.

It’s funny now that it took me more than 15 minutes to realise that she seemed to have no idea who I was.

We were chatting, or the semblance of chatting that it had become, about inane bits and pieces.

I was happy to see her, and she seemed happy to see me.

Then my mother said to me: “I haven’t seen Nicola for a while.”

I am Nicola, which I said to her, as I tried to comprehend that the day I had been dreading had come to pass much sooner than I was prepared for.

Mum looked at me long and hard and said nothing.

I couldn’t let it go so I repeated, “It’s me mum. I’m Nicola, remember?”

But no matter how many times I tried to convince her of the truth, that I was indeed her daughter, there was silence and she just stared at me or off into that distance that only people with dementia can see.

My car was packed for a surfing trip and I vaguely remember leaving her seemingly nonplussed with what had just occurred and deciding to still drive to the coast.

Along the way, I rang my sister and cried long and hard as I navigated the open road towards the waves that I hoped would heal me.

By the time I arrived, it was too late to surf, so I sat in my hotel room and tried to keep busy.

I opened my laptop and keyed in my password, but it appeared it was wrong.

So, I tried again and again and again, but that password of many years standing had been deleted from brain.

The same with passwords for this blog and my online banking accounts.

Like some kind of wild woman, I tried to force myself to remember them and was scribbling ridiculous combinations of passwords on my notepad, until my youngest brother – who was abreast of what was going down… my sanity – told me to pull up stumps and go for a walk.

It’s raining I text him. Take an umbrella, he replied.

And, so I did.

I walked around that seaside second home of mine for an hour or more and then was overcome with an unusual tiredness because it was only 7pm.

So, I went to bed and dreamed of passwords that weren’t correct when I tried again the next morning.

I grabbed my board and went out in the water.

My surfing skills were crap, but the meditation of the waves made me feel slightly saner.

I got out confident that my passwords had been reinstated inside my brain – they weren’t.

After a few more vain attempts, I decided that it wasn’t worth giving me a stroke, so I gave up.

My fingers were rested on the keyboard in that final act of submission and that was the moment when they moved – I’m sure of their own volition – and I was soon staring at the wallpaper of my laptop.

Not long after I was logged into this blog and my bank accounts simultaneously, too.

Fast forward several months, and as I battled with this new era of my mother no longer recognising me, a random encounter gave me a new perspective.

I was telling the story to a friend of my neighbours who was house-sitting.

I had never met him before and have never seen him since.

He listened as I recounted the worst day of my life and he simply said: “It’s like your brain had to reset to the new version of your relationship with your mum.”

He was right. It was the new dawn. One that I’d long known would arrive, whether I was ready or not.

A few months later, I was visiting mum and had quite a bad hangover from a very long business lunch the day before.

My sister, the first person I called on that darkest of days, was visiting from overseas and was due to meet me there but hadn’t arrived yet.

Mum was lying in her bed as she does most of the time these days.

Her bed looked very comfortable to someone like me whose head felt like all the liquid had been sucked out of it and my brain was banging drily against my skull.

So, without a second thought, I lay down next to my mother and automatically swung my arm over her, too.

Immediately, she maternally started stroking my forearm – just like she used to do when I was a kid in her arms and needed my mother to comfort me when I was distressed.

And then I knew.

The new dawn was not about my mother not remembering who I was, because she does.

I know it.

She simply can’t say my name anymore.

And I’m finally alright with that.

The A to Z of anxiety

A is for Anxiety you bloody unhelpful bastard.

B is for By the way, did you turn off the iron?

C is for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy because it works – kind of.

D is for Did you turn off the gas you think as you board that plane for a two-week overseas holiday.

E is for Eyes wide open in the middle of the night because you think you heard someone trying to break in but in reality it was just a possum on the roof.

F is for Fuck your brain is exhausted thinking about what can go wrong but never what might go right.

G is for Go to sleep you weirdo, you probably won’t die during the night.

H is for Help – ask for it.

I is for It – dealing with “it” is a lifelong challenge.

J is for Jesus, you wish, you wish, you wish you didn’t jump at non-existent shadows.

K is for Keeping it together – most of the time.

L is for Love is a person who accepts that you have to check all the power points at least twice before leaving the house.

M is for Madam, are you sure you shut the front door?

N is for No thank you, you’re not over-reacting, they really could have been run over by a steamroller on their way to your house when they’re really just running five minutes late.

O is for Over-thinking full stop.

P is for Panic attacks that masquerade as heart attacks and so you learn at 33 you have anxiety.

Q is for Quite certain that you shut the garage door are you?

R is for Ready to jump to the worst conclusions at any given moment.

S is for Slowly learned how to stop doing most of the above and below.

T is for Time for a cider and perhaps another one (or two) to get some pissed semblance of peace.

U is for Understanding and accepting that this is who you are – anxiety warts and all.

V is for Very grateful to have it mostly under control… most of the time.

W is for Worrying about everything – regardless of the chances of it ever happening.

X is for Xanax, which thankfully you’ve never had to take thanks to CBT, running, weights, surfing – and anything else that gets the endorphins pumping in a good way.

Y is for You only live once and so if this is your lot, well, so be it.

Z is for Zzz’s when the din of the day – and the humming inside your head – finally quietens and you fall asleep… unless those bloody possums are on the roof again and you think it’s a cat burglar.