Hormone Hell Ride
( originally appeared in the May-June 2007 edition of Stitches for Patients : Health and Humour Magazine)
by Kathleen Wooten M.D.
So, your loved one has, through no fault of her own, begun “The Change” (aka menopause). From her perspective, menopause is proof positive that Dante's Inferno is real, and that under certain circumstances, not only is homicide understandable, it's downright justifiable!
You're no doubt concerned about some of the recent behavior changes you've witnessed. And you have questions and perhaps some real concerns, regarding the sanity of your loved one. You may even fear for your own physical safety. In the interest of familial harmony, allow me to clarify the most troubling menopausal issues you're likely facing. Read and heed these lessons well. The life you save might be your own. Trust me; I'm a doctor.
More intense than anything observed during PMS, menopausal mood swings are an unfortunate reality to the woman and her family. But before discussing the actual behavioral problem, I must issue the following disclaimer: It is absolutely essential that the entire family has an emergency plan, with designated escape routes, for those special times when your menopausal loved one is blind-sided by a mood swing.
Mood swings are not willful changes in behavior or temperament. They are instantaneous personality changes that appear to be orchestrated by the capricious whims of either gremlins or leprechauns, purely for their own amusement. When your loved one is gripped by one of these fairy-driven flights of fury, you can't go wrong by tossing her an offering of chocolate, shiny trinkets, adult beverages, or money. After the offering has been accepted, don't expect her to share her goodies. Just swiftly retreat to those designated escape routes until the mood passes.
Another struggle facing the menopausal woman is memory loss. This loss makes the aforementioned mood swings even more dangerous. When a mood swing hits, your loved one is simultaneously and intensely confused, angry, and frustrated. Add to that her inability to recall what started said swing and the sky's the limit. She knows she was and is angry, yet she is unable to identify the object of her wrath, the transgression committed, or just how angry she was before amnesia hit. And that's if you're lucky.
More likely, she knows she's angry—she even knows she's angry at you—she just can't identify why she's angry or for how long you must be made to suffer for your transgressions. Your crime could be as minor as failing to lower the toilet seat or as heinous as ritualistic animal sacrifice (preparing dinner while consuming the last bit of good chocolate in the house) it really doesn't matter to her which one. Her fury over her ill-timed amnesia will just push her over the edge, sanity-wise. If you're not exceedingly careful, blood will be shed, and it won't be hers.
If there is a tragic outbreak of violence, don't be fooled. Chances are good that she will eventually be found not guilty by reason of insanity. At the precise point of violent conflict, the gremlins were behind the wheel, taking the brain for a spin, and she was powerless to stop them. And even if there was some premeditation or a semblance of rational thought during the commission of said act, the odds would still be in her favor for acquittal. Why, you ask. Let me explain.
Every member of the judicial system, from the lawyers to the judge and ultimately, the jury, is related to someone who has been, is, or will be in the clutches of menopause. After seeing the workings of the menopausal mind played out in the courtroom, the jury can't help but find in her favor, if only to protect their self interests. After all, they each have to go home to their menopausal madams after the trial is over.
I've saved the topic of hot flashes for last, as they are often the most frustrating
aspect of “The Change”. These are also the menopausal moments that prove to be the most costly, both financially and in terms of everyone's sanity. Hot flashes are like the worst heat wave you've ever experienced, with the uncanny ability to strike when your beloved is least able to deal with them effectively; e.g., careening down an ice-filled “Slip'n'Slide” in her birthday suit, or cavorting naked in the supermarket's frozen foods aisle. And these infernal heat blasts hit where there is no hope for relief, such as during a long religious service, standing at the checkout counter behind someone paying in pennies, or during her eldest child's high school graduation.
Yes, it's Hades on Earth, and it sadly will often bring on a mood swing. If the flash lasts for more than say half a minute, transient amnesia will follow. Now she's burning hot, mad as hell, and for the life of her, she does not know why! The obvious question is “What on earth do I do now?” Well, surely climate control is your top priority here. If you don't already have central air conditioning, guess what? You will! Fans strategically positioned throughout the house are also a cracking good idea. If you can stop the dreaded hot flash in its tracks, you'll go far in halting the “hot flash-mood swing- memory loss-physical danger” cascade that never ends well for anyone—particularly you.
It is my hope that by discussing these burning menopausal issues, the whole process will be less traumatic for the entire family. And that by heeding the advice in this guide, no one in your family will be forced to wear that dreaded prison fashion disaster: the neon-orange one-size-fits-none jumpsuit.
Note: No menopausal women were harmed in the planning, writing, or editing of this document. As for their loved ones…well, collateral damage happens. But as everyone survived, and no one was issued prison garb: No harm, no foul.
©2007 Kathleen M. Wooton, M.D.
About the Author:
Kathleen Wooton M.D. describes herself as a budding humorist when she's not fulfilling her other roles as a physician, wife, mother and pet owner. She says being a woman in today's complex world requires some re-evaluation of some time-honored traditions.
Discover more of Kathy's delightful humor here..