This is a list of 27 things I wish I’d known before perimenopause hit. Or at least had gotten a heads up on a lot sooner in life. They range from practical knowledge that we should all know about our bodies and don’t. To things that led to greater happiness, even better sex.
Sometimes I get angry at the things that should just be common knowledge but still aren’t. Mostly I look at this list and feel gratitude for how far I’ve come. With a side of ‘what if I had know these things sooner?’. Here’s the list:
Actually, Before Puberty for #1 and #2
1. How my menstrual cycle works. Not just how the hormones change to enable and support a pregnancy, but the symptoms fluctuating hormones can cause and why.
2. Really painful PMS and bothersome period symptoms are not normal. I had extreme pain and mood swings that I just learned to live with. I have a friend who’s bleeding was so heavy, her periods would require her to change her plans. We just thought that’s how it is. This is not okay. Basic knowledge about reproductive health problems and their solutions should be universal. After decades of period misery, an IUD that releases progestin was life changing for my friend. It took me 37 years to learn that I may have PMDD. All of us deserve better.
High School Would Have Been Good for #3 To #7
3. The definition of perimenopause. Seriously. Had no idea this was a thing until well into my 40s.
4. Perimenopause can start as early as age 35. Yes, 35.
5. The number of symptoms, and the intensity of the symptoms, that can happen in perimenopause.
6. Your doctor may not know about perimenopause and treatment options.
7. Most women suffer from perimenopausal symptoms that need and deserve solutions.
Critical Information for My 30s
8. Night waking can be caused by hormone fluctuations and is very common in perimenopause. (Turns out it wasn’t because I couldn’t handle the stress of the life I had created.)
9. Hot flashes and irregular periods are not necessary to diagnose perimenopause.
10. No one is coming to explain the menopause experience. There is no simple test to diagnose what stage you are in or determine what might be the best solutions for your symptoms. Each of us has to become informed and start asking for the care we deserve.
11. The factual pros and cons of hormone therapy.
12. The importance of diet, exercise, and lifestyle for your overall health and a smoother menopause experience.
Live and Learn
These next 15 things are lessons I had to live before I could learn them. And they are all things I will need to keep learning. Would it have been good to know these things before the really intense perimenopausal changes kicked in? Yes. And I sometimes think of the time I could have saved and the pain I could have avoided if I have known these things sooner. But then I realize that the lost time and the pain have enabled me to grow. So maybe just a heads up on these sometime before my shit went sideways would be have been helpful.
13. How to set and hold healthy boundaries.
14. The power of gratitude.
15. The only standards I should be living up to are the ones that I believe to be important.
16. Life is not supposed to be easy and smooth; the gold is in the mess.
17. I am not my job.
18. Anxiety isn’t something to be cured. It’s to be understood and managed.
19. Time management is about choices, not doing everything everyone else thinks you’re supposed to be doing.
20. The importance of down time and being kind to myself.
21. When I am myself, my weird and wonderful self, shit gets done.
22. I had inhibitions when it came to sex that were depriving me of pleasure.
23. Tough conversations and vulnerability are powerful aphrodisiacs.
24. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s actually a strength.
25. Good friends become increasingly important as life gets more complicated.
26. A perfectly kept house is a waste of time and money.
This One We Need to Shout From The Rooftops
27. Menopause isn’t an end. It’s just the beginning.
I needed help to understand this last one. And I had to learn a lot before I could ask for the help that I needed. It also took a lot of searching and asking to get that help. But I persevered and it made a world of difference.
I used to think that all of my big accomplishments in life would happen before menopause. That the majority of my contributions to this world would be wrapped and delivered by this time. Turns out, I’m just getting started. And I can’t wait for this next chapter. (And my final menstrual period, in case anyone is wondering;).