Menopause – what I have learned so far….

Following on from my last blogpost calling for older women to step into their power especially at Halloween, I thought it might be time to share some insights into menopause; something that is not talked about as much as it should be.  And perhaps if we ‘women of a certain age’ start talking menopause we would encourage women of all ages to keep talking about all related topics (fertility, periods, childbirth etc) which until recently have been solely the preserve of ‘female conversations’.

Ok, so first off, let me say I am no expert in anything but life.  And so, these top tips are all based solely on my personal experience, thus far!

Top Tip – all women experience menopause differently.  We won’t all suffer the same symptoms so sharing our experiences and our methods of coping are very important.  So please leave a helpful comment after this post if you have something that worked for you that you would like to share.

The heat is ON…. and it’s not the immersion!

I had heard horror stories from some friends who suffered terrible night sweats, sweating so profusely that they had to change nightwear and bed sheets.  Thankfully, thus far this hasn’t been my experience but having spent at least 52 of my 56 years feeling the cold, my body now thinks it’s in the tropics most of the time.  A kind of personal global warming that means I now have a horror of woolly jumpers, even on the coldest days.  And polo necks are for the moment definitely a no no.

So, some top tips for dealing with the heat of menopause are:

  • Wear light fabrics and layers that can easily be removed. Scarves (not woolly) ones are fabulous – the disguise a multitude and also can add warmth around your shoulders should you need it, especially in summer.
  • Make sure your car has functioning air conditioning… my aircon was kaput for a few weeks and I was lucky I didn’t expire in that time. I now travel in the comfort of an ice-cold car.  Not great for passengers but in my car the driver calls it on music and ambient temperature.
  • Bedside fan – although I don’t suffer bad night sweats, during sleep I do tend to go from too hot to too cold thought the night. So, a bedside fan is wonderful for blowing some cool air when you get uncomfortable.
  • Gel Pillow – I am still trying this out but it certainly cools down a hot head. Called Your Sandman Cooling Pillow, this gel insert can be placed inside your pillowcase (on top of your regular pillow) and it is cold, icy cold.  Will help cool you down and I then turn it over if I no longer need it.  It’s a bit heavy and bulky but I am still working out how to best use it and am hoping that it will be a great help when I get my next migraine.  But if you want to try it they are available on Amazon UK.

Gone in the head and not gone in the head.

I have suffered with migraines since my mid thirties when they were usually triggered by stress and often (although not always) by my menstrual cycle.  Since I hit menopause my migraines have come back with a bit of a vengeance and can be very debilitating.  Migraine is, like menopause, something that also affects everyone differently so it is vital to try to work out your personal triggers.

As we get older our bodies ability to deal with alcohol changes too and many of us find that we just can’t tolerate the kind of drinking we may have happily indulged in in earlier decades.  Many of us will find that after drinking even a reasonably modest amount (by Irish standards) we don’t sleep well, suffer heartburn and hangovers become worse.  So many of us naturally cut down on our intake.

Me, however, well… I discovered that alcohol (all alcohol) hates me.  And even after a tiny glass of wine I will get a headache that in most cases morphs into a full-blown migraine.  So, after a year of two of experimenting with low alcohol and organic wines I have given up.  No more booze for me.  It’s a bit sad, but hey ho.  And that there is top tip number whatever this is.  Listen to your body and make changes you need to in order to feel better.

On a related note I have also found that I need to drink lots of water…  Yeah, yeah, I know we are all told that.  But I have genuinely found that having a bottle of water with me all the time means that I do drink way more and it also helps me generally feel better, less headachy and less bloated.  Another top tip…. stay hydrated.

The ‘OUCH’ Factor

As we age we naturally become stiffer and less flexible.  And for a few years I kind of accepted that this was just the way it is now.  I thought exercise might help but I hate exercise for exercise sake only.  In other words, I love a nice walk in the countryside but pounding the pavements around suburban Dublin doesn’t really do it for me.  I keep vowing I will take up swimming as I do enjoy it but the palaver of defuzzing and wet hair keeps putting me off…  and yeah, I know that that is only an excuse.  I have also toyed with idea of buying a bike.  Having spent a few days in Sweden and Denmark earlier in the year I have a vision of myself making stately progress through the burbs on my high nelly.  But would I?   Bike lanes terrify me as a car driver…. I would be too terrified to use them on a bike.  Even if I could work out how not to get a sore arse!  Regular cyclists must have bums made of steel.  Mine is made of soft cotton wool!

However, thanks to my youngest daughter I have started doing stretches, yoga moves mainly and I have definitely noticed an improvement in my ability to move without going ‘ouch’.  So, I aim to keep that up and once I am more flexible I might actually take up yoga.  Which won’t make my hair greasy!  Another top tip right there – stretch and bend

Is it bedtime yet?

One of the first symptoms I noticed and put down to menopause was the fact that there are days when I am bone tired and weary.  You know the kind of days that just getting up, showered and dressed makes you feel exhausted.  The kind of exhausted that makes you want to close your eyes and sleep immediately.  Not always possible of course.  Life gets in the way.  But – top tip alert – when I can, I am kind to myself and if I feel that I need a nap and can avail of one, I do.  Although this symptom has lessoned in the last year or so and my energy is generally returning to normal levels now.

Right, so.  These are my thoughts for the moment.  I intend to revisit this topic every so often and would love feedback from you so that we can all share what we have found works and what doesn’t.  Leave a comment if you can!

 

 

WEARING YOUR MID LIFE CRISIS….On Your Head

It was Coco Chanel who said that a woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.  This may or may not be true.  But what is very true is that a woman’s relationship with her hair goes way beyond the obvious.  It is a deeply intense bond that proclaims something to the world about the woman’s inner life.
I remember well my first proper hairstyle.  The first time I ever went to a hair stylist.  I think I was about ten.  Before this my dear mother, who is gifted in many things but not hairdressing, used to give me the classic pudding bowl cut complete with wonky fringe that was de rigour for children in Ireland in the 1970s.  So it was a big deal to be given the two pence ha’penny or whatever it was to take myself off to the local hairdressers for a proper hairstyle.  A bob. A heavy fringe and curtain of beautifully styled hair with a turn under for added bounce.  I was gorgeous.  I didn’t just think I was gorgeous I FELT gorgeous.

The early 80’s ushered in the era of the perm.  I achieved my own unique version of the poodle, with a straight hair on the top of my head (because I was – and still am – very tall) and full curly sides.  This look involved spending hours with foul smelling stuff on my head (it did actually make my eyes water) in a trendy salon on Baggot St.  I knew it was trendy because Gillian Bowler, who was then selling sexy holidays to Greece was also a regular client – although she never went for a perm as far as I know!  Her long, luscious locks cascaded around her face from the permanent sunglasses perched on her head, winter and summer.

By the end of that decade I was a single parent and decided I required a kind of ‘don’t fuck with me’ hairstyle which was a short back and sides.  I hoped it would make me look like a strong woman.  In reality I looked like a lanky boy.  
In the 90’s I met a man I liked and got married.  My look softened along with my heart and I splashed out on blonde highlights. This marked the first time I tinkered with the colour of my hair  – well unless you include the dabbling with Henna in the late 70s.
The wedding highlights were just beginning to fade when the grey hair started to be an issue. Marriage, huh?  Anyway I added a box of Clairol that looked vaguely similar to my own colour, to my supermarket shopping and did a home job.  But the toll on the bathroom was immense; splashes of brown on tiles, on the loo, on the sink and not to mention to ruined towels. 
In spite of my efforts the grey continued its relentless march.  Tougher action was called for.
So began the visit to the local salon every two months to ‘have my colour done’.  Two hours to read trashy magazines and wonder about celebrity life styles after which I bounced back out to my life with a shiny ageless head of beautifully blow dried hair. 
Then two months become six weeks and now we are down to one month.  And I am beginning to fear that I am losing this battle. 
Now let me state clearly the obvious.  And that is that while my hair has been succumbing to my great age – so has the rest of me.  I have lines on my forehead and wrinkles around my eyes and mouth.  My chin has trebled and my jaw line is slack.  And that’s just my face.  But somehow I can live with all of that.  In fact I come close to believing that my face now has character.  My lines and wrinkles speak of tears shed through both sorrow and sheer joy.  And in the right light – fairly dark light, let it be said – I look, well, kind of reasonable.  No siree – no botox or fillers or any of that rubbish for me. 
But my hair lets me down every time those grey roots start to appear.  Immediately I look (with all due respects to her) like my 80 year old mother. 
The recession hasn’t helped.  There have been months when I have taken pity on the dog whose nails are scraping on the floor and who trips over his own long hair and taken him to the groomers with my hair money.  Sure what will another couple of weeks matter, I ask myself. Oh but it does matter.  Once those grey roots appear all around my face, I notice people talking to my hair rather than to me.  I keep catching sight of myself in shop windows or mirrors and wondering why my aforementioned mother has joined me.
Last summer my hairdresser gently suggested that I might like to start to lighten my hair colour a little.  This would make the appearance of grey roots a little less obvious.  But I wasn’t happy.  My hair had never been light brown.  It didn’t match my eyebrows.  I didn’t feel like me. 
So I decided that I should do something radical with my hair.  Purple, I thought to myself.  I’ll dye my hair purple.  Deep Purple – not that Kelly Osborne washed out purple… but proper purple.   That would be very rock ‘n’ roll. 
So next visit to my beleaguered hairdressers I informed them of my wish to go purple, proper purple.  They tried to politely dissuade me.  But I insisted.  They said they didn’t really have the purple I wanted in stock.  Sure maybe I should think about it. 
I did.  I asked them just to give me a trim and blow dry and on the way home I picked up a colour from the supermarket.  My first attempt turned out a bit red rather than purple.  But I preserved – for the last six months I have been various shades of red and pink – usually at the same time.  I never achieved the purple I envisaged.  My hair was a bit of a mess.
But here’s the thing about one’s hair.  Unless you really, truly care, you only really pay attention to what’s framing your face.  So I was pretty unaware of how weird my colour was until I travelled half way around the world recently to holiday with my emigrant daughter whose first job was in a hairdressers.
“Jesus Ma, you’re hair’s great craic – it’s brown, grey, pink and red.”  To make matters worse, the climate in Bali is very humid and so my multicoloured barnet also frizzed out in all directions.  I finally realised I did indeed look a holy show. 
In desperation I sent a message to my long suffering local hairdressers begging them for an appointment on the way back from the airport. 
“I think I might lighten my hair… “ I muttered sheepishly.  “For the summer, like.”    
The colourist looked at my poor sun bleached, dry, multicoloured hair. 
“We didn’t do this, did we?” she asked.
“No.  I did”
“Right.  Well there is no quick fix.  Killing that red tone is going to take a bit of time.  We will have to go a bit darker before we can lighten it.  Otherwise you will just have pink highlights.”
Pink highlights?  For a minute, I wondered.   
But I think I am over my hair proclaiming my personal mid life crisis.  I am ready to move on!   I think…..

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