Wordsworth wrote about daffodils; Yeats took to the pen about unrequited love, and me, I write ditties about periods.
When Anne McGale from menopausewellbeing.com asked if I would do a reading at the Menopause Café in First Avenue Café (formerly Boden) on the Ormeau last week, I was delighted to oblige. ‘Sure I’ll write you a poem,’ says I and churned out a few stanzas about the delights of being a woman on the cusp of the change. When I first started writing the blog, my periods were a pain in the arse so they featured heavily in my posts, (pardon the pun). Five years later, and I appear to be entering a new phase, so I might soon be talking less about the nuisance of having them, but rather NOT having them. Changes have been afoot for a while now and as you can imagine, it’s been a riot.
On occasion I have long gaps in between, and last month it was so light that I was left wondering, was that even a period? But sometimes, it likes to mix it up a bit. On my birthday back in June, my ovaries took umbrage at turning forty-two and as I sat in a restaurant with friends, I felt a sickening whoosh and bam, I bled right through my pants and ruined a pink silk dress. ‘Surprise!’ it seemed to say.
This prompted me to look up peri-menopause symptoms and to be honest I’m not much the wiser because annoyingly, much of what I’m experiencing goes hand in hand with stress. Anxiety, overwhelm and infrequent periods are symptoms with which I’m all too familiar, except they’ve been intensified and I feel more overwrought and incapable of coping than ever. But show me a sane person who isn’t feeling discombobulated at the moment? You’d need to be presenting with psychopathic tendencies or be living on Mars to be chipper in the midst of this global cluster fuck.
However, a couple of other symptoms have me thinking there’s more to it. I read Byddi Lee’s wonderful blogpost about her experiences, and she suffers extreme joint pain. Apparently this happens as oestrogen lubricates the joints so when it fucks off everything rubs together and causes friction. That’s my understanding of it anyway, but listen, I’m no scientist.). As well as tightness in my Achilles, I’ve also felt shooting pains in my wrists. Sometimes when I get out of bed I actually hobble to the bathroom, and feel as if I’ve run 10km the day before, until I remember I sat on my arse on the sofa and watched ‘The Sopranos’.
This is why it’s a blessing and a half that Anne has started the Menopause Cafe, to create a space where women can visit and share what they’re going through with others. It is particularly important since trying to get an appointment with your GP is almost impossible right now. With so many very real emergencies, I am loathe to be bothering them with questions about my aging ovaries; but that undermines the true dehabilitating nature of some aspects of the menopause. The government are constantly banging on about mental health and when you’re creaky and cranky and your confidence plunges, you may just need someone who is in the know and with whom you can confide.
I’m now keeping a ‘little red book’ so I can keep a record of how I’m feeling and jot down details of my waning cycle. Anne is a registered nurse and a menopause specialist, so it’s a relief when someone in the know can help you navigate this new terrain and tell you firmly that no, you’re not going mad and yes, it may be helpful to consider HRT. Anyway, if you’d like to hear the poem it’s over on my Instagram, @sourweeblog, and do check out Anne’s page for more details if you think it would be helpful.