Recently, I posed the following question to my friends and family: So what’s menopause really like? What I found was that the breadth of experiences during “The Change” is as diverse as my friends’ personalities.
“Sailing through it,” one friend said.
“It’s effing hot,” another added.
Ah, yes, hot flashes! That and weight gain seem to be the most common menopausal complaints of women in my casual survey.
“For me, far and away, my biggest complaint is hot flashes—they are pretty severe and frequent. They persist even after the hormone therapy,” my mom said. “They are much of the reason for my reduced sleep. They sometimes wake me up, but more often, they start once I’m awake, then, are too frequent to allow me to fall asleep again.” Adding insult to injury, she continues to have hot flashes throughout the day, as well.
My friend CC also notes sleep disruptions from hot flashes. “And I noticed that I felt more overwhelmed by daily stress,” she said. The prescription medication Wellbutrin has helped her immensely with the latter.
“I think the worst part is the loss of body tone,” said KL. “Someone warned me you get a pot belly and it appears to be true.”
Libby Baughman Doubler, of Integrative Essentials, says, “You can still maintain a nice shape if you exercise.” Many women find that they have to increase their fitness activity or the type of exercise to ward off increasing weight gain.
While the biggest menopausal complaints of clients of Tori Summers—owner of You By Design Health Counseling, Weight Loss, Sports Nutrition, Biggest—are hot flashes and weight gain, she has greater concerns. “Women don’t see menopause as a NORMAL life transition and that there are plenty of natural things to do for comfort measures to get through the transition other than hormone replacement therapy pushed by doctors,” she said.
“Sometimes the hormone therapy brings a new set of issues, like acne, which I never had a problem with as an adult,” my mom said. To remedy that, she uses an over-the-counter cleanser, which is expensive but seems to go a long way.
“I found a topical cream for the hot flashes at a health food store,” CC said, “and it helps, but you need to remain consistent with it or it stops.”
Acupuncture helped my mother monitor hot flashes and improved her sleep. “It seemed to help ‘schedule’ the hot flashes so I could predict when I would get another one. And I think it helped the sleep, too,” she said.
While night sweats caused her to soak through her pajamas in the middle of the night during menopause, Doubler offers reassurance for living through menopause. “I’ve been through it and am now on the other side. There are changes, but if you just go with it, it’s okay,” she says. Doubler agrees with Summers that this period of time for women is “a natural part of life.”
I’m really looking forward to exploring the lighter side of aging and “The Change” tomorrow night at a showing of Menopause, The Musical, at the Foxwoods Resort Casino’s Fox Theater with my accommodating male companion. The off-Broadway hit musical, which debuted in 2001, tells the tale of four women shopping for underwear, who find common ground in lacy lingerie hot flashes, memory loss, chocolate cravings, and sexual dilemmas. The 25 songs parody popular tunes from the ‘60s,’70s and ‘80s. The lively show is more than a tribute to “The Change;” it’s a celebration of women.
“Most women know intuitively that every other woman is experiencing hot flashes or night sweats,” says the writer and producer Jeanie Linders. “There is always a close friend or two who can sympathize or identify with her, but when they are sitting in a theatre with hundreds of other women, all laughing and shouting ‘That’s me! That’s me on stage! They know what they are experiencing is normal. They aren’t alone or crazy. It becomes a sisterhood.”
For a list of Menopause, The Musical showings near you, visit the Menopause, The Musical website.
This is a sponsored post by Foxwoods Resort Casino