Crossing the Threshold of Menopause, Part 1

The long, hot summer afternoons remind me of the first hot flashes I had. It took me many a hot-afternoon meeting, and middle-of-the-night inner fire before I realized what was happening to me: “Not me! I’m too young!” Those thoughts kept recurring in my mind.

Matters were settled for me with surgery. Now I knew for sure. I was a menopausal momma! And now, “To hormone or not to hormone?” that was the question.

Each mid-life woman must find the answer to that question for herself, weighing hereditary tendencies, personal preferences and a carload of information. Opinions of friends take all sides on the issue of taking hormones, experts disagree and doctors may not know all the alternatives. One thing is for sure; the opinions are strong and available information points in every direction.

Looking for answers reminds me of a Ziggy cartoon. He was sitting in his car at a crossroads and the signpost arrows were pointing in many directions: Paris, London, Rome, New York. The arrow pointing in Ziggy’s direction said, “Destination Unknown.”

Hormone-replacement therapy is perhaps one of the most challenging decisions we make during our entry into mid-life. It is only in the past decade or so that really good information has become available. The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research web site reported that Harvard Medical School conducted a study in which they interviewed 26 women who were on hormone-replacement therapy. The greatest influences on them in making a decision on whether or not to use HRT were; their doctor’s opinion (96%), media reports (86%) and the experiences and opinions of friends (77%). Granted this isn’t a very expansive study, but it probably represents what most of us do with our decision-making.

Perhaps understanding both our physiological and psychological tendencies will assist you in choosing what pathways to take.

Age gets a bum rap when it comes to being irritable! Crotchety, old women are different than strong, older women. Being irritated at the activities of the young, just because they are young, wanting everyone to do life, as we want them to, are signs of an unfulfilled life and one that needs to be needed or feels helpless in the face of change. I know a number of women who, as their children grow up, find it difficult to let go of orchestrating their lives. They feel left out as their children become independent, something they hoped for when those same children were young. Being cranky has less to do with age than attitude, or, sometimes, hormones.

Many times women are unaware of the changes going on in their bodies, when hormones and ovulation becomes erratic, so can a woman’s emotions.

For women who are not at high risk for cancer, taking hormones may be the answer to full energy, and continued physical vitality well into their elder years. For those who choose not to take hormones, there are many books and articles about alternative, natural ways to alleviate hot flashes, mood swings and other experiences of perimenopause and menopause.

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