Ten years ago, Doris Dörrie’s TV series “Climate Change” was shown on ZDF. It was a courageous and funny reckoning with menopausal problems. I didn’t even think about the fact that what was shown there could be my near future. The women in this series gained weight rapidly, had night sweats that almost drowned their partners, experimented with olive oil as a lubricant, took refuge in the spiritual, secretly took lovers, had Botox injections, and thought about vaginal rejuvenation. They did all this out of fear of what was suddenly happening to them – inadequate sleep, bad moods, bad sex – and even more out of fear of what now seemed to be going: fertility, being seen, being needed, and loved.
“If you look at it scientifically, only about 33 percent of all women have big problems, 33 percent have medium problems, and a third have no problems at all,” Doris Dörrie told me in an interview at the time. “So you might be lucky.”
I wasn’t lucky. Although I had always thought it couldn’t happen to me, like so many others in my age group. We are baby boomers; many of us are employed, rushing through life between job, household and child, and wasn’t it repeatedly said in articles that the most severe complaints primarily afflict housewives, those who supposedly have too much peace to listen intently to themselves?
My complaints began insidiously when I still had my period. I know I was in the so-called perimenopause, the time before the last ovulation. Suddenly a heat came over me at night, which I tried to blame on the thick comforter for a long time. I no longer slept through the night; sometimes, my heart leaped like a field hare on the run; I did breathing exercises, ironed, watched Netflix – and still didn’t fall asleep again. Then the seizures came during the day, too. They crept up over my décolleté, my hair suddenly stuck to my head in editorial meetings, and with the heat came a depressive mood that flooded me exactly until the heat disappeared again.
I had periods for months when none of this happened, then suddenly weeks when I would break out in a sweat and great melancholy at least six times a day and night. I tried to change my diet according to Ayurvedic principles and ate everything that would dim the fire inside me. Melons, cucumber, coriander, cumin, cinnamon. But nothing helped.
All of this happens to most at a time when children are just leaving home, or worse, are themselves going through puberty, parents are becoming more needy, bosses are still too many men, and now all of a sudden, you are half your age. Friends get terminal illnesses, even suddenly seeming like an endless succession of goodbyes.
Entering menopause is like joining a club you didn’t choose for yourself. The first changes in hormone balance usually begin between 38 and 44 but are often rather inconspicuous. The cycle changes slightly, for example, and sometimes there are also slight sleep problems. Symptoms increase, hot flashes, mood swings, dry vagina, hair loss, weight gain, and much more, which we will elaborate on in the newsletter about the body, are all signs: that the remodeling has begun. We are in perimenopause because menopause doesn’t just start when your period stops. This phase can last up to ten years; on average, the symptoms last 7.4 years, of which 4.5 after menopause.
Strictly speaking, menopause lasts only one day, the day of the very last bleeding. The last bleeding can be completely inconspicuous; it does not necessarily come with significant announcement. On average, women are 51-52 years old during their last period. However, one in 100 women is younger than 40, and one in 1000 is younger than 30. Menopause marks the transition from perimenopause to the following postmenopause. Postmenopause then continues for the rest of a woman’s life. In postmenopause, estrogen and progesterone hormones are permanently low and no longer raging wildly up and down.
A friend’s mother called menopause “my worst decade.” That’s all she said about it. Fortunately, menopause is no longer an absolute taboo subject as it was twenty years ago, but there is still a lot of helplessness when the first symptoms appear. What is happening to my body? Will I have to live in a permanent sweat for the next few years and crumble from osteoporosis? Where should I go for advice, who will enlighten me, which tips will help? Will I now have unexpected daily tantrums with a force that could push an old farm cupboard across the room? Throw the sandwich at the child’s feet in the morning and the dog’s kibble, howling and screaming, “I’m just your feeder after all.”?
What do pilot whales have to do with all this? Why does this supposedly happen much less often to Asian women? How do I find the right doctor? Should I take hormones? What is my actual position in society? Will everything really be all right in the end, or is it just an empty promise?
All these and many other questions will be discussed […] because the better prepared women are for this time of upheaval, the more likely they are to succeed in dealing with all the monsters that suddenly appear, to look them in the eye and thus automatically make them shrink.
The next post is about hot flashes. About hand fans, Lord Voldemort, natural remedies and escaping into refrigerated counters.