Sex in San Diego: Menopause and the Juiciness of a Full Life

by on April 26, 2012 · 8 comments

in Health, Popular, Sex in San Diego

Pagan religions believe there are three stages to a woman’s life: the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone.

The Maiden is mostly concerned with her own life and thinking about what the future holds for her. The Mother centers on caring for the family, children, partners and parents.

The Crone (once a dreaded word that conjured images of the crazy cat lady who lived on the edge of society) has “been there, done that” and can refocus on herself and then, if she’s a mind to, the world at large.

A Very Personal Journey

You know, I never really had an issue with getting older. That was until, one day, I starting feeling older. Every once in a while I would catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror or in a photograph… And I’d think, who in the hell is that old woman? She looks like my mother!

Maybe that was the start of my midlife transition. I wondered if it was a change in the season, but there hadn’t been much of a change weather-wise. Maybe it was more of a change in my season. Maybe it was just me being out of season… or in season…

Menopause was kicking my ass at the time, my anxiety levels were up, I was either having a hot flash or was in a cold sweat. I had a hard time concentrating, focusing on the task at hand. I’d get started, then get sidetracked. I didn’t have a good night’s sleep for a long periods of time. I had strange dreams that I couldn’t quite remember, night sweats, dull headaches or I’d wake in the morning to a full blown panic attack.

The Mayo Clinic lists many symptoms of menopause, among them irregular periods, loss of libido, decreased fertility, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances, increased abdominal fat, thinning hair… geez Louise!

It lasted a damn long time, but now as I think back it wasn’t all negative. Although half a Xanax got me through more than a few morning anxiety attacks and I still have some pretty major “power surges” (hot flashes to the uninitiated) it also brought about some positive things that I want to explore here, too.

Putting the Period on Periods

Irregular periods weren’t a new thing for me. The only time in my life I had regular periods was when I was on the pill before my first child. My periods had always been few, far between and light. The first couple of years (I was considered perimenopausal by my doctor) my periods became just the opposite. It seemed I had a period every couple of weeks, sometimes they would flow right into the next one. I was spending so much money on disposable feminine hygiene products I decided to buy a menstrual cup (something I wholly recommend).

That eventually subsided and the times when “Aunt Flow came to visit” became further and further apart. It’s not like you can raise a toast to celebrate your last period because you don’t know it’s happened until some time later, but it was a happy day for me when I tossed that trusty little cup in the trash and I could look forward to wearing any color I wanted!

Hot Flashes, Power Surges and the Sisterhood of Purple

I remember sitting somewhere, quickly tugging the top of my shirt to get some air to circulate around my suddenly steamy torso when I noticed another woman in the room doing the same thing. We locked eyes, became still, then smiled at each other and continued to fan ourselves. A knowing look passed between us and instantly we shared a bond.

The hot flashes were probably the worst part for me. I did find that drinking a small glass of soy milk every day did help to ease them some, but simply owning them by changing my attitude toward them (hence the name, Power Surge) did more. When you suffer with something it seems to take forever to pass. Embracing them as a discharge of excess energy made them more tolerable for me and seemed to lessen the time it took them to pass.

Fertile Myrtle, Barren Betty and Lucky Lucy: Libido, Fertility and Vaginal Dryness

Some articles I’ve read say the libido can be tied directly to fertility, that as one becomes less fertile they can become less interested in sexual activity. Pffft, I say. Just knowing that I no longer had to worry about becoming pregnant took one more negative preoccupation out of the equation. Fewer worries  floating around in the back of your mind can lead to a much more relaxed and fulfilling sex life.

On the other hand, being dry “down there” can be a bit of a problem and led me on a long hunt for the perfect lubricant. After a few trips to F Street, I finally found it in my neighborhood grocery store, extra virgin olive oil! I imagine regular olive oil works just as well, but the “extra virgin” part makes me chuckle…

Not by the Hair on my Chinny, Chin, Chin

You start to notice changes in your hair, and not just the hair on your head. The hair on my legs is lighter in color, finer and more sparse, as is the hair under my arms. They say you can tell a woman’s true hair color by the color of her bush… My true hair color is, well, let’s just say I have a silver lining!

Less hair grows where it used to, but it begins to grow in places where it didn’t before. That became painfully obvious to me when my almost three year old granddaughter looked at me studiously, put her finger on my upper lip and said, “Grandma, you gotta mustache just like daddy!” Ahem, I guess I need to wear my glass when I look in the mirror… Needless to say, I spend less time shaving, but more time tweezing.

Cat Ladies and a Broad Vision

In my lifetime I can remember when people thought older women were not good for much, that they were dried up old biddies who had nothing to look forward to but a lonely life. Even with all the changes that my body has gone through I feel more comfortable in my skin. I am able to embrace my sexuality, feel juicy instead of dried up.

Women today are more confident than ever. Date younger men? Many women wear the badge of “Cougar” with pride! More women are living on their own terms, without society dictating to them what they need to happy and fulfilled. Maybe it’s because we’ve started to comes to terms with our own mortality but we are more able to see things for what they are, more willing to take a stand for what we believe in and to do what it takes to make change.

I found this in an old journal of mine, and it kind of sums up some things for me:

My eyesight is worse, but my hindsight is better, as is my foresight.
My hearing is worse, but I listen better.
My backside is larger, but it counterbalances my frontside.
My bones ache more, but my heart aches less.

 

Sex in San Diego, a column appearing every Thursday here at The OB Rag, explores topics related to sex in America’s Finest City. To encourage openness while still respecting privacy, most authors will use pseudonyms.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Anna Daniels April 26, 2012 at 12:16 pm

What I appreciate most about Sex in San Diego is that it is about so much more than a jump in the bone yard. I have read about the difficulties of buying a bra for a 10 year old; cleavage etiquette; online dating; and have gained insight and corroboration about the continued interest in sex as we grow older.

So yeah- menopause is a biggy and merits a place here & thanks Patty. Isn’t it interesting that our mother’s sit us down and explain our first period to us, but nobody sits us down and gives us a straight talk about menopause?

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avatar Frank Gormlie April 26, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Awesome, love.

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avatar Christine Schanes April 26, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Many, many thanks, Patty, for your brilliant article about menopause. And thank you so much for sharing which makes your article ring so true.

I admire you, Patty. Thanks for all you do for all of us on the OB Rag. As Tony the Tiger would say, “You’re G-r-e-a-t!”

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avatar Emilie Astolat April 27, 2012 at 10:37 am

Thanks for sharing, Patty. What I loved best about reading this article was the fact that I could hear your voice telling it. So conversational, so matter-of-fact, so real. It was just missing a few f-bombs, no?

What Anna says is true – no one sits you down and says: “OK, so it’s gonna be like this.” Though, in fact, no one sat me down and told me about periods either.

The thing that scares me most about menopause are the hot flashes. I don’t mind being cold, and have spent most of my life trying to get rid of the hair “down there” and everywhere. That actually sounds kind of cool.

I appreciate the peek into what the future holds, and it sounds like I’ll have pretty good company when I get there.

Thanks again!

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avatar Patty Jones April 27, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Emilie, lol’ing at the f-bomb statement. You know me pretty well…

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avatar Andrea April 27, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Love the article! I made a great decision 6 years ago to kick menopause’s ass and went on bioidentical hormones. Best decision I ever made. Progesterone cured my hot flashes in 3 days, and within two weeks cured my restless leg syndrome, seasonal allergies (which here in NC is reason alone to take BHRT), and acid reflux, within that same two weeks I was off 5 medications, including the Ritalin/Concerta I had taken for ADD for over 15 years. In six months I was also off the antidepressants I had taken for 15 years. My cholesterol dropped by half (thyroid balance, lucky enough to have a doctor who is an expert in thyroid and bioidenticals), and the hormone optimization helped me lose 100 pounds (yeah, really!). I no longer have osteopenia—thank you testosterone, which also helps increase libido (nice side benefit!). Testosterone is also great for building muscle tissue (especially important for someone like me with an messed up back), and since the heart is a muscle, it improves cardiac function! Estriol (weakest of the three estrogens) nicely took care of vaginal dryness. No bad side effects to any of the bioidenticals, which is far more than I can say about the handful of toxic medications I used to take—–less expensive too! I travel from NC to Southern CA (and I love every trip) to see my hormone doctor (Dr. John Carr, Rancho Mirage/Coachella Valley) and it’s worth every bit of expense and time ——- I know without a doubt I would be dead before I was 60 if I had not opted for hormone optimization. This went way, way beyond hot flashes for me! If anyone would like a reading list/resource list to learn more about bioidenticals, just drop me a line at holyhormones@gmail.com (everyone in NC is evangelical about something, with me it’s just hormones instead of religion!) and I will send you the list I have compiled from a lot of research. Best wishes to all for hormonal health!

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avatar sistertongue May 5, 2012 at 9:24 am

Unfortunately, HRT’s, while they do alleviate short term discomfort (like all western medical stuff), they increase the chance of breast cancer, heart attacks, etc. Even bioidenticals – what is the point? We are supposed to extinguish those hormones.

I have always used chinese medicine, and done the whole menopause thing without any “interventions” , panic attacks and all. In doing so, I cultivated a very deep wellspring of self love and an ability to talk my way through all of the “symptoms.” Just let them happen and observe them. No big deal. Our cultural values make them a big deal. It can be a very interesting anthropological/sociological/biological investigation if we just move through it.

When I first started with the facial fuzzies, I happened to live in a “spiritual retreat center.” All the allegedly enlightened women there were on testosterone, dyeing their hair, getting electro-stimulation “facelifts,” taking domintrix classes etc. Hardly “spiritual.” Geez, surrounded by the utterly superficially oriented.

Fortunately, I had a wonderful, intelligent acupuncturist (a man). One day, I went in to his office all hysterical about menopause and everyone’s on testosterone, and my face is fuzzy, etc., etc. He simply gazed with amusement at me and my freakout and let me finish with it, then smiled and said, “Calm down. This is not a disease. Forget all these other women who cannot deal with it. Yes, your fuzzies will wax and wane as your estrogen levels rise and fall, etc. This is a normal process. You are fine.”

Oh, phew, thanks.

The body ages and dies. It is supposed to. The aches and pains are part of that process. Decay and pain come to show us that one day, we will WANT to shuffle off this mortal coil. Developing our relationship with that ultimate moment is the point of passing through menopause and our growing weakness and ultimate cessation as a physical being. No big deal, unless we make it one. Which is what the pharmaceutical/neutraceutical companies want us to do and is how they make their profits off of us. Fund your own soul instead.

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avatar micaela shafer porte October 12, 2012 at 4:25 pm

the only constant is change…
a woman could not be stronger, or more “equal to a man”, than in the post-menopausal years when she is no longer responsible for the reproduction of the species, hallelujah!

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