Menopause came for me several years ago, when I was in my mid-fifties, and I can't say that I've enjoyed the experience.
Women who proudly refer to their hot flashes as "power surges are," I think, kidding themselves. But they're not fooling me! There's nothing fabulous about your body temperature suddenly rocketing upwards, leaving you dazed and sweating as you attempt to go about your business as if (Gasp!) nothing (Yikes!) is going on.
I work in a public library, which means it's not unusual for me to begin checking out your books, cool as a cucumber, and finish the transaction drenched, dizzy and red as a beet.
Power surges? Please. Is if hot in here or is that bullshit?
You'd think that if I could gobble a little pill that would turn down the heat, I'd do it in a flash.
But I'm a D.E.S. daughter. My mother was given a synthetic hormone when she was pregnant with me, in the hope that it would prevent a miscarriage. Although she was told that it was perfectly safe, the drug, in fact, increased her risk of getting breast cancer, which she died of, just 24 years later, at age 57.
Drugs? No thanks. Perfectly safe? Forgive me for being skeptical.
So my menopause has gone un-medicated. My symptoms? Sometimes I'm dizzy. Sometimes I'm blue. I can have trouble sleeping. Occasionally I'm walloped by something that feels like a coronary, but is actually hormones merrily charging through my system, causing trouble.
But mostly? Lots and lots of hot flashes.
How do I cope? I kvetch! A lot. Thankfully, I have friends and family who care enough about me to listen with sympathy when I complain, and a man in my life who tells me that I'm beautiful when I pant, gasp and start pulling off layers.
I walk everywhere, and swim often. Does this actually help? Who knows? But it sure feels great when I'm doing it. And it's impossible to feel a hot flash in a swimming pool.
I also joke around.
"Roz? Is something wrong? You're red as a beet and you're standing in a pool of sweat!"
"Wrong? Nothing's wrong. I'm just enjoying a hot flash."
Best of all? I focus on the silver lining -- I got to throw away both my tampons AND my birth control! Yippee!
If menopause made my life unbearable would I lunge for the meds? I don't know. So far, I'm okay with hanging in there, secure in the knowledge that one of these days -- or years -- the adventure that is the Change O' Life will finally come to an end.
In the meantime, if I redden and gasp when you check out your next book, it's not because I'm shocked that a person of your refinement would want to read "Fifty Shades of Grey," or that the library fine on your card is excessive, or that you're wearing the ugliest scarf I've ever seen on a human being. It's just menopause.
At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
(This essay first appeared on Newsworks.org)