I Miss Estrogen
I dutifully answered the nursing assistant’s intake questions about my general health while visiting a specialist about a pain in my foot. She was about to ask the date of my last menstrual cycle when she looked over and said, “I guess you’re no longer menstruating.” Nope. She then quipped,” I bet you don’t miss it.” I was a bit taken aback but said with great sincerity, “Actually I really miss estrogen.” She went on to the next question.
I am certain, at one point in my life, I wished-away my periods, cursed the cramps, the surprise spotting and the inconvenience. Being on the other side of menopause, however, I now understand and appreciate that miracle hormone.
The Miracle Drug
Estrogen is our friend. It provides us energy, regulates our metabolism and moods, keeps us lubricated, alert and dewy-looking. When I was in the throes of estrogen drain, I experienced hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia. Perhaps I was also moodier but I could never ferret out my congenital contrariness from perimenopause symptoms. Lack of sleep made me even more contrary. I complained to my OB/GYN who suggested birth control pills. At the time, these estrogen-heavy pills were starting to get some bad press. I didn’t care; I was miserable.
In no time, my symptoms disappeared and I merrily went on my way for another nine years. Several moves later, my Seattle nurse practitioner said I must give up the pills. At that point, I was 54. I experienced hot flashes for a few weeks and then, nada.
So that’s my menopause story. Your story or your mother’s story is probably different. Like childbirth, you can prepare all you want but everyone seems to experience menopause in their own unique way.
Fortunately, women now talk about menopause and their symptoms. In my mother’s generation, everyone suffered in silence; I had no idea about her experience. If you’re like me, you google all kinds of medical symptoms to find treatments and try reassure yourself that you’re not dying. This is a wise strategy for menopause, as is talking to women who are going through or have gone through menopause.
Keep in mind, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for coping with perimenopause symptoms. Some women find relief in patches or antidepressants; some use herbs, supplements or acupuncture. Others just soldier through the experience without intervention.
Recently my primary care physician ended our appointment by suggesting I enjoy my good health while it lasts. To those of you on the "good" side of menopause, I say, enjoy your estrogen while it lasts!