Empty Wombs: Menopause and Infertility

I was struggling to think of a snappy title for a post about loss of fertility and the menopause. Then I heard Gary Moore’s ‘Empty Rooms’ on the radio…

For most women, the menopause happens around the age of 51 but I wasn’t even 40 when my gynae consultant informed me that my eggs had flogged themselves into early retirement. The technical term he used was ‘ovarian failure’.

I was only 39. It didn’t seem fair?

I phoned my mum.

‘I’m f**king menopausal, Mother!’ I howled.

She heard me out, then said, ‘Oh my darling girl, I’m sorry to hear this but I was the same age when I started mine, you know.’

I’ve blamed her ever since.

The reality hit me a few weeks later..

I could no longer make a baby.

I broke down and sobbed. LOUDLY.

No, I mean REALLY LOUDLY. My pet rats, Thelma and Louise, were that perturbed they did a load of poo then hid in their toilet roll inner-tubes.

Biologically, I have done what I was put on this earth to do. I’ve reproduced. Not once, but three times. Given that some women are unable to have a biological child, I am fully aware of how lucky I am.

Some women are only too happy to reach the end of their baby-making days. For them, there is a great sense of relief that they are able to give their bodies a well earned rest. For others, it’s a loss and as with any other meaningful loss there is grief.

I understand that women who have never been able to have their own children might read this post and feel pissed that somebody has the audacity to moan about not being able to have any more children when they already have three. My heart goes out to those women but I can only tell my own story..

I didn’t expect to feel this way.

Most likely, I wouldn’t have chosen to have another child. I was a month off being 39 when I had The Boy and my body didn’t know what had hit it. However, the choice was taken away from me and I think that’s where part of the problem lay. I no longer felt in control of my body. In fact, I’ve not felt in control of my body since but they say that it can take up to ten years for things to settle down after the menopause.

TEN MOTHERFUNGLING YEARS!

Some women choose to have a career first and children later, which is fine. Many women are having their first child in their 40s nowadays. However, if I’d have left it until I was 40, it would have been too late for me to have child with my second husband. As it turns out, my early menopause seems to be genetic and I would advise women who want to have children later rather than earlier, to take note of their mother’s menopause because history has a way of repeating itself..

Sometimes I dream of being pregnant. I see my tummy growing bigger and there is the feeling of euphoria (similar to when I see deceased relatives in my dreams) but as the dream unfolds my tummy grows smaller. Or I have a scan only to be told that there is nothing there. It’s like I’m having a phantom pregnancy in my sleep but it’s just my subconscious reminding me that I can’t have anymore babies – the bastard.

You know what?

It’s OK to feel sad that your baby-making days are over. It’s OK to grieve. It’s OK to secretly hate the sight of pert-breasted young women pushing prams because they exude youthfulness and you feel like shit.

Here’s the thing. The menopause will come for them too. Their bottoms will sag. Their nipples will head south and their ovaries will throw in the towel.

It comes TO US ALL.

That said, try and remember how wonderful it felt to be a new mother. It would be wrong to deny them the same happiness that you experienced, eh?

Try to see this time of life as a positive thing. Yes, it effing sucks. BUT. There are positives.

We no longer have to worry about unplanned pregnancies. Although, it is possible to get pregnant when you are going through the change, so don’t be throwing your contraception in the air just yet. Normally, a woman is told to take precautions for twelve months after her last period – two years if your menopause is early. So if you’ve spent the last 20 years rearing your brood and dreaming of retiring to Spain once the last one has bogged off then I would make sure you keep taking the pills, no?

Regards the mood swings ‘n’ stuff..

After the menopause has passed you will no longer have the urge to stab your husbands/partners face because your hormones will eventually settle down. Hence, the chances of you being done for manslaughter decrease. Who wants to spend their autumn years Pleasuring Her Majesty? Or is it, Her Majesty’s Pleasure?

Confusion. Another perk of the menopause.

I know how it feels to wake up at 2am DRENCHED in sweat due to a hot flush. You toss and turn for a few hours then give up and lie there listening to your other half snoring his head off. For a few seconds, you ponder ending his life. Why? Because you are suffering and he’s not. It pisses you RIGHT off that he is still able to make a baby while your ‘bits’ are decomposing. You worry that he might leave you for someone younger and fertile. But take heart, dear, because shit happens to men too. Their penises shrink and they can develop, er, performance problems. What can I say? Age can be a cruel mistress to both sexes.

There comes a time when the grief passes and you accept what is. Think of your womb as the cocoon which held your little butterflies in the making?

Second thoughts. Scrap that. It sounds wanky.

The key to surviving the menopause is to find the positives in it. Stick a Victoria Wood DVD on and have a damn good laugh about it. Really wibble yer bits. Yes, your reproductive system is now defunct but it’s earned it’s retirement, wouldn’t you say? Hopefully you are in a comfortable place financially and can spend more time doing the things you want to do. I’m not there yet because I had my youngest child at 39, not that I would change a thing. If anything, it gives me the incentive to keep myself as healthy as is possible because my job isn’t done yet. But for those of you whose kids have left home – this time is yours – so enjoy it.

Viva La Menopause!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sex and the Menopause

When I was a kid, the mere thought of my parents having sex was enough to have me projectile vomiting all over the nylon carpet. I mean, they were in their THIRTIES!! URGH!!

As we know, anything past 30 to a child is practically Jurassic.

I imagine we’ve all got stories like this but as a teenager I walked in on my parents one Sunday afternoon. IN THE LIVING ROOM!

OH. MY. GOD.

It was one of those moments in life where you pray that you’re experiencing a psychotic episode and the horror you see before you is an hallucination. Only it wasn’t an hallucination. My parents had taken advantage of a teen-free house but hadn’t bargained on their daughter popping home for her Duran Duran LP. Needless to say, I’m still in therapy.

*assumes fetal position and quietly sobs*

Why am I even mentioning this?

Well, my mother was well into her menopause by then so, HORRIFYING as that memory is, it’s also kind of cool that there was still some life in the old girl despite the decline of her reproductive bits. Mother did later confirm (under the influence of numerous whiskies) that she’d enjoyed an active sex life up until her late 50s. My fingers were jammed in my ears at the time but I think that’s what she said..

My grandparents having sex?

QUELLE HORREUR!

In my grandmother’s day – women hit the menopause and sex was off the menu except for the odd fumble after one too many port and lemon’s. To be fair, families were generally much bigger back then. A woman’s job was to be a mother and a home-maker and many were still firing out babies into their late 40s and early 50s. Understandably the menopause provided a welcome break to women and their weary vaginas..

Things are different now.

Women are different now.

Many menopausal women have the same sexual appetite as they ever did. More so, in some cases – especially if they are HRT’d up to the eyeballs. However, some women experience do sexual problems during and after the menopause..

Libido

Sex drive gradually declines with age in women and men. However, women are more likely to be affected earlier because of the menopause. Think of your libido as an air bag that’s been deployed, a deflated balloon snagged in the branches of a tree or a bouncy castle after the generator’s turned off..

Depressing, no?

It’s not all gloom and doom though. There are things you can do to inflate the ol’ libido.

Exercise – If you are overweight and feel crap, it will affect how you feel sexually. So eat healthily, lose a few pounds and do some exercise.

Stress – Stress affects libido BIG TIME so take address your stress levels. Do some relaxation exercises or go stare at a tree for half an hour a day.

Stimulate Thyself (brain) – Read Fifty Shades of Filth or other such classic literature.

Another problem with libido is that having hot flushes at night. They interfere with sleep and turn amiable women into fire-breathing dragons. Morning sex? Well yeah, IF YOU HAVE A DEATH WISH! The LAST thing a woman wants after night’s hormonal sweat-a-thon is a frisky partner with cod breath!

The Big O

Another problem is that many women notice that their orgasms are more, Oh, Than OH OH OH!!!!

How to explain this?

Orgasms can become more of a damp squib than the knee-tremblers you may be used to but before you go and hurl yourself into the nearest canal – listen up.

You can STILL achieve a decent (ish) orgasm.

The key to it is stimulation.

You can lie there and think about Sean Bean in his Y Fronts till the cows come home, dears. You need to go that extra mile (or two) and so will your OH. Get him/her to play you like a banjo if needs be. Failing that, get yourself a vibrator and give yourself a blast on that thing for five minutes. Think of it as giving yourself a ‘jump start’. A bit like starting up an old banger on cold a winter’s morning. Get your jump leads out and stick em on your battery!

Tip. Don’t bother with anything handbag sized if you’ve heaved out a few nine pounders. It’ll be like throwing a chipolata up a corridor. You get me?

Painful Sex

Another problem women have to endure is pain during sex.

Here’s the rub (intentional pun)

Lack of oestrogen thins the vaginal walls. Yes, really. Technical word is vaginal atrophy. It’s nature’s way of telling us that our reproductive work here is done and we can crawl off into a corner and DIE. You might start to find that the ol’ vageroonie gets a bit dry? VERY COMMON. The reason for this most shittest of conditions is a decline in oestrogen.

One word.

Lube.

You can get oestrogen creams via your GP if you prefer but be aware that there could be unwanted side effects and not just for you. If used incorrectly your bloke could develop bigger boobs than you. NOT JOKING.

Bottom line. If you want to keep your ‘glovebox’ in good working order – keep it lubed and exercised.

A Word on Pubes

Another perk of the menopause is that your pubes turn grey. MASSIVE bummer. However, we have options.

Shaving

Shave them off. Or if you’re into pain, pay to have some sadist wax them off.

Dyeing

Dye them to match your natural shade or go for something a bit more funky. Shocking pink perhaps?

Eu Naturel

Embrace them as they are. Greying. Sparse. Depressing.

Get Creative

Next time you go to the hairdressers, nick some hair off the floor that’s closest to your natural shade and make yourself a little pube-toupee.

Pube-Toupee anyone?

It may be the case that you’ve had enough of sex for one lifetime and you’re quite looking forward to settling down at night with a Horlicks and Saga magazine. This is perfectly acceptable, as long as your partner is happy with the situation? Bit of an issue if they’re not. You need to talk to them because your menopause affects them too. It’s important that they understand that your body has changed – therefore your sex-life will change. This isn’t the 1950’s where we talk about ‘the change’ in hushed tones. It’s something that happens to every woman. It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are many other ways to be intimate that don’t involve swapping body fluids but that’s one for another post because I’ve already exceeded my word count..

The menopause may signal the death knell for your reproductive life but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time for the flannelette nighties just yet. You just have to put in a little more effort, that’s all.

Viva La Menopause!

 

 

 

The Menopausal Gym-Dodgers Work Out

I hate the gym.

Firstly because I’m an anti-social arsehole. Secondly, I have a pathological fear of looking at another woman’s pubes (attached or on the floor) when I’m showering.

Communal showers? Me dear? No dear.

The last female pubes (other than my own) that I clapped eyes was in 1986 when I was shoved into the communal showers by our sadistic PE teacher who was having no more of my ‘Please excuse my daughter from showering – she’s on her period’ notes.

The gym not your bag either? Here are some simple (but effective) exercises you can do at home or when you are out and about.

The Curling Tongs Squat – Bum & Thighs

I use my straighteners for this exercise..

Instead of resting the appliance on a table, or between your thighs, put it on the floor.

Health and safety: Use a heat mat (obvs) or you’ll set fire to the farking carpet.

Starting in the standing position, keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Pull in your tummy, push your hips back and bend your knees, lowering the body into a squatting position. Pause, pick up your hair appliance, then push back up to the starting position. Fiddle with your hair a bit, then lower yourself back into the squatting position – placing the appliance on the floor.

Do these squats every time you do your hair and you’ll have a rear-end like Kim Kardashian in no time!

Health and Safety: Have your mobile phone to hand in case you pop a hip joint.

The Bag For Life Cardio and Bicep Workout – Biceps/Cardio

Go to local supermarchet and buy two carrier bags worth of groceries. These must include a few tins. I suggest ‘bags for life’ – not those flimsy pieces of shite they flog you for 5p. You know the ones – wispy bits of plastic that surrender under the pressure of a loaf and a packet of Kit-Kats.

Keep the loads evenly balanced and start walking home.

Build up a nice fast pace to get your heart going like the clappers, hence, cardio.

Once you’re nice and warmed up – start lifting your carrier bags as if you’re doing a bicep curl with a dumbbell. Do a few reps with the right, then switch to the left.

You might notice people crossing the road away from you or doing a finger-swirly thing at the side of their heads? Swirly-finger aside, they are actually doing you a favour because it means that you have the entire pavement to yourself. More room to throw those bags about, dears.

Too far to walk? No probs! Park your car further away and get a few reps in before you collapse onto the drivers seat. Opt for this instead of doing your shopping online and within a few months you’ll be fit as feck.

Or possibly dead after having suffered a massive coronary..

Health and Safety: Always carry your mobile phone should you need to phone for a taxi or ambulance.

StairMaster Challenge – Bum & Thighs – Cardio.

This one is really simple. You alternate between running up the stairs and taking them two at a time whenever you get the chance. Running up the stairs gives you a cardio workout and taking them two at a time will give you thighs like tree-trunks. Just think of how magnificent you will look in those hot-pants you’ve been hoarding since 1975!

P.S This won’t work if you live in a bungalow.

Door Slide Squat – Bums & Thighs

For this you need a door – preferably a smooth one.

Stand with your back against a closed door and slowly lower yourself down to squatting position, then slowly push yourself back up.

That’s it.

First time I did this, the buggering door gave way. Before I knew what was happening my Reeboks were up in the air and I was staring at the bedroom ceiling. £250 quids worth of You’ve Been Framed right there. Thankfully nobody knew about except me. And now you, readers..

This exercise works your bum and thighs. Again, it might be an idea to keep your mobile handy in-case you can’t get up once you’re down. Though, I always find that a military type sideways roll sorts that particular problem out.

Health and Safety: Always check that the door shuts properly or you could end up doing yourself a mischief..

Bath Bingo-Wing Blaster – Triceps

Bingo-wings are what happens when the skin on your arms (the muscle above your elbow) carry on wobbling long after you’ve stopped waving to your mate across the street. It’s the reason cardigans were invented and it’s why some menopausal women wear one even when it’s 33 degrees in the shade.

YES I’M TALKING ABOUT ME!

Bingo-wings are unsightly but you can get rid of them without having some sweaty sergeant-major wannabe hovering over you bellowing, ‘GIMME FIFTY, YOU ‘ORRIBLE LITTLE WOMAN!’.

For this exercise, you’ll need a chair. A stable chair. Not a B & Q plastic garden chair.

Sit on the chair and grip the edges either side of you. Move your feet forwards to lift your bum off the chair. Keeping your knees hip-width apart and bent at 90 degrees, lower yourself by bending your arms to about 90 degrees, keeping your elbows tucked in. Push back up and repeat 10 to 15 times.

I do this on the side of the bath when I go for a wee.

NOT that I wee in the bath..

This is the same as the chair exercise. You simply use the side of the bath as you would the chair, innit?

Health and safety: Don’t do this after having a bath. It’s asking for a fast ride in the back of an ambulance with the nee-nar on.

Pelvic Floor Workout

As we age the muscles around the bladder, vagina and bum passage get slack. This is why we piss ourselves laughing. LITERALLY. However, there are exercises we can do to help with this problem and the good news is that we can do them anytime, anyplace – anywhere.

If you want to ‘feel’ where your pelvic floor muscles are – stop yourself mid-wee. That is your pelvic floor muscle working only you shouldn’t do this as a strengthening exercise.

Squeeze the muscles about 10-15 times in a row.

You can do this while standing in the post-office queue if you like. Unless your concentrating face is the ‘tongue out’ kind, nobody will know what you are up to. Do these exercises every day and stick the Vs up to incontinence.

So there you go. No need to go sweating it out at the local gym or paying extortionate fees. All these are free.

Note: These exercises are valid (except for the carrier bag bicep-curl which is me being a tit) but it’s a good idea to get yourself an MOT at your GPs before launching yourself into any keep fit regime. Oh, and make sure your life-insurance is up to date in the event of you carking it mid-squat. 😉

Viva La Menopause!

 

Viva La Menopause: Hair and Make-Up

There comes a day in your life when you’re standing in a mirrored-changing room and you look at yourself and think, ‘Effing hell! I look like an ageing glam-rocker!’

It’s a defining moment in your history.

We can’t stop ourselves from ageing but wearing the wrong make-up (or too much of it) can make us look older than our years. Teenage girls literally wear their own body weight in make-up to look older, right? So it’s logical that when we get older – the opposite applies. We need LESS make-up to look younger.

Here are my tips for looking magnificent after the menopause.

Hair

After the menopause most women suffer some level of hair loss. Why? Because Mother Nature is a cow.

Technically it’s to do with lack of oestrogen. You’ll find yourself de-clogging the plug-hole everytime you wash your hair. However, there are things you can do like limiting the use of hair straighteners etc and using hair-thickening shampoos. This is where ‘back-combing’ becomes a necessity rather than a fad. Do you know why little old ladies have their hair back-combed? It’s to make what little hair they have left go further. Of course, you could always do a Dolly Parton and slap a wig on?

When it comes to colouring hair- darker colours can be ageing and accentuate thinning hair. You also have to disciplined when it comes to touching your roots up or you end up looking like a badger. I’m currently a rather fetching Dot Cotton shade of red. Like Autumn, it’s my final fling with colour before I succumb to the monochrome. Once I hit 50, I intend to strip my hair of dye and have it cut short and a bit spiky. If it’s a really crap shade of grey, I will have it highlighted. Either way, I aim to be flippin’ funky at fifty!

Make-Up

There is a specific order to putting on make-up. However, I am a lot like the Morecambe and Wise sketch where Eric is playing ‘all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order’. As long as I manage to get my foundation on first, I consider myself to be WINNING!

So, once we’ve faffed about with cleansers and anti-ageing creams, we can begin. *cracks fingers*

Foundation

Use the BEST foundation you can afford. You want one that STAYS on. I use Estee Lauder’s Double Wear which retails at around £30. It’s expensive and I have to flog a bodily organ every four months to afford it but it makes me look semi-alive and it stays on until I jet-blast it off the next morning last thing at night. This is the Chuck Norris of foundations.

Concealer

Bags under your eyes? You’ll need concealer. I use Touche Éclat by YSL which retails for around £25. It isn’t the cheapest but it is the only concealer that works on my dark circles. I have dark circles because insomnia goes hand in hand with the menopause and this little treasure gives the illusion of me having my full quota of kip. If you can’t bag a night’s sleep, blag a nights sleep.

Blusher

Once the hormones go feral it’s best to opt for cream blusher and BLEND that sucker in well or you’ll look a proper div, yeah?

Eyebrows

If you’re anything like me – thirty odd years of plucking the living shit out of your eyebrows has left them sparser than a Christmas tree in January. You can go and get some tattooed on if you like but be warned that it could leave you looking a 42 caret plonker if it goes wrong. Just add a few ‘hairs’ with an eyebrow pencil or eye-shadow. No, not Azure Blue! I mean one that matches your eyebrow hair – what’s left of it.

Eye-Shadow

Glitter is fabulous but glittery eye-shadow should ONLY be worn by teenage girls under the influence of Lambrusco. Glittery or frosted eye-shadow accentuates every crease. After a few hours, your eye-shadow settles into your eye-crevices and it looks nasty. You might as well have a neon sign over your head which says, ‘WELL PAST IT’. Opt for matt or cream shadows and leave the neon shades to the kids, eh?

I should mention brow bones here. You know? The area where you used to put your highlighter? Basically there is this ‘landslide’ thingy that happens with the skin on the brow bones as we age. That once defined line between brow-bone and eyelid becomes confined to the photograph album. I think there are exercises you can do to tone things up but I say SOD THAT for a game of conkers!

Eye-Liner

It’s the 1980s on the phone for you, dear. IT WANTS IT’S EYELINER BACK!

Confession time. I wore Electric Blue eyeliner until I was in my 40s. I have GREEN eyes!!! Awks!!

Mascara

Mascara is my number one favourite item of make-up. I would stab ANYBODY who tries to come between me and my magic wand. Thing is, I know my eyes are my best feature. Like me, they’re odd. One is green and the other is a mixture of green and brown. It’s very me. Mascara brings them to life and even if I was in the throes of a massive heart attack, I would still attempt to get a few strokes in..

No. YOU have a filthy mind!

My tip is to buy a decent mascara and use three coats. Then once a week, use a shit brand while you are doing the housework. Those three coats will weigh an absolute TON – the advantage being that it gives your ageing eyelids a much needed workout. Just as if your eyelids are pumping weights, innit?!

Lipstick

As we age, our lips become thinner. They can become wrinkled and lines may develop around our mouths. The boundary between lips and skin are less defined so lipstick ‘bleeds’ and if you’re a fan of red lippy you can end up looking like Robert Smith from The Cure if you’re not careful. However, there are things you can do though such as avoiding glossy or creamy lipsticks. Or how about ditching the lippy altogether and settling for a nice lip-balm? If you want to be really cheap – slap on some of that Vaseline that’s been festering in the back of your bathroom cabinet since 1988.

That’s it for this time, folks. VIVA LA MENOPAUSE!

Good morning, madam. May I interest you in our skin-care range? We do sell this astringent – I don’t know if it’s strong enough for what you need, but it brought my chip pan up lovely. ~ Victoria Wood ~ As Seen On TV.

Robert Smith Image Via Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

The Dash In-Between

There is a dash which represents our lives between birth and death.

This is the dash.

en_dash_u2013_icon_128x128

My dash has one date before it because I’m still alive, or at least I think I am?

*checks pulse*

Yep, still here.

One day there will be two dates because there is no doubt, whatsoever, that I’m going to die.

I try not to worry about that too much.

OK, I’m lying through my teeth. I torture myself DAILY with thoughts of death. But then I suffer from health anxiety, innit?

I don’t fear death itself. Truth be told, living is hard graft when you are autistic and I’ll probably be glad of some eternal rest after a few more decades of life in the shit-lane. NOT that being autistic is shit. It isn’t. It’s the anxiety, that’s shit.

The thing is that death is still a bit taboo. Brits don’t like to think about death until they absolutely have to despite TV adverts encouraging us to ‘plan for the inevitable’. Life Insurance companies give away bribes gifts, like clocks, so you can watch the seconds tick away. Nice touch, Guys.

However, some of us don’t get the opportunity to plan for the inevitable because we get wiped out under the wheels of a Number 48 bus during a spontaneous sprint across the road to buy a pie or the shock of the £250 supermarket bill stops our hearts, literally. Or we succumb to some disease or other. We like to think we’re in control of our own lives but we’re not.

I’m 47 now. How did that happen? It only seems like yesterday I was snogging Nick Rhodes’ face off on my bedroom wall but thanks to an early menopause I feel like I’m in the re-make of Cocoon..

Having a biological age of 103 means I’m already down on the deal and at this rate I’ll be giving The Boy a lift to high-school on the back of a mobility scooter – which he’d probably love. Most women amble gracefully into menopause whereas I’ve been catapulted into it to find the hormone police waiting for me, truncheons at the ready.

‘ELLO ELLO ELLO! WHAT ‘AVE WE ‘ERE THEN? ‘OESTROGEN AND A FULLY FUNCTIONING PELVIC -FLOOR? WE’LL BE ‘AVIN THOSE! AND YOUR SANITY. HAND EM OVER, THERE’S A GOOD MRS. WE DON’T WANT NO TROUBLE NOW DO WE?’

Bastards.

So I’m swallowing all manner of pills and potions in an attempt to claw back a few years or at least slow the process down. It could be a lot worse. Of course it could because as annoying as my symptoms are, they are transitory and by the time I’m 50 (ish) I should be slightly less deranged. So my GP says, anyway..

With the menopause (and bits dropping off me at an alarming rate) I’m more aware of my ‘dash’ than ever. My parents are dead and mortality is slapping me in the face and, yes, it unnerves me. Someone told me that when you hit 40, it’s downhill from then on. They lied. It’s 35.

I grew up thinking that you got old and then you died. Grandma was in her 70s, as was Nan, and Grandad was a respectable 81 when he wheezed through the pearly gates…

That’s how I expected it to be.

Then the unimaginable happened…

A girl in my school died. She was fifteen years old.

Her dash was too brief.

Years later, my nephew died. His dash represented just four years. How sad is that?

My dad died aged 58 and by now I’d realised that ‘three score years and ten’ wasn’t a cert. To be fair, Dad’s dash was a happy dash apart from the last 12 months, which were shit.

I’m not afraid of death itself because I’m one of those lunatics who believe that consciousness survives death. It’s the before bit that worries me because I have the pain threshold of a testicle. I can’t even stand a deep clean at the dentist without having to be anesthetized so what chance do I have with something major?

I want to reach a grand old age (marbles intacto, obvs) where I can gracefully say, ‘Rightio, Death, I’m ready. You may take me now’. Then I want to slip into a Werthers induced coma having watched an entire box set of Ground Force and, seeing as this is my fantasy, Alan Titchmarsh can be the one to take me to heaven wearing nothing but his wellies and a smile.

That’s another thing about the menopause. One day you’re into Duran Duran and sling-backs, the next you’re craving middle-aged gardeners and comfy slippers. Or maybe that’s just me?

Death is going to happen sooner or later because none of us are immortal except for Bruce Forsyth who’s 302. We can always pay to have ourselves cryogenically frozen but it’s out of most people’s price ranges. Not to mention, creepy.

We worry about death but forget that before we were born, we didn’t exist. Get your brain cells around THAT one! We are part of something much bigger than ourselves but we’re all connected right down to the microscopic stuff that we can’t see. There is too much intricacy and beauty for it all to be random or meaningless, so says me. Our bodies become diseased or frail and eventually stop working but the essence which is us cannot die because it’s energy and energy doesn’t die – it just re-groups.

The dash represents our entire lives. We don’t get to choose when we we’re born and the majority of us don’t get to choose when we die. What happens in-between isn’t necessarily our choice but our attitude to any given situation, regardless of how difficult, most certainly is our choice. This is what our eulogies will be about. Not how long we lived, but how we lived.

In this little corner of the internet I make fun of myself because it’s therapeutic. I try to be kind to my fellow human beings even if I don’t understand them very well. My life will always require effort because I’m autistic, not to mention a nervous Nora. But I brought three amazing human beings into this world and that’s what I’m proud of and when the day comes when my dash is complete, I hope their memories of me will make their tears happy ones. Happy as in I’ll be missed. Not happy as in doing the conger round the living room shouting ‘YESSSSS!! THE OLD BAG’S FINALLY CROAKED! WHERE SHE KEEP THE WILL, BRO’S?’

None of us are getting out of this thing alive, are we? All we can do is accept death and hope that when he does come for us, he’s a friend. Most importantly, we need to make our dashes count.

“DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.” ~ Terry Pratchett – Good Omens

 

Beauty and the Menopause

I’m menopausal. Have I ever mentioned that? Think I might have done. I’m 47 but my biological age puts me somewhere in my mid-fifties. This is because Mother Nature can be a flipping cow when the mood takes her. Or maybe it’s to do with genetics? The bottom line is that the menopause changes you.

That’s why it’s called ‘THE CHANGE’.

The menopause is all about maintenance of the body AND brain. Or you can just say, ‘f**k it’ and let yourself go. That’s not an option for me because my mother and grandmother took pride in their appearance and they would haunt the crap out of me if I let myself go. Even when I was in the middle of a breakdown, I went through my routine. I just used a lot more dry shampoo because washing my hair triggered panic attacks but that’s for another blog post..

When it comes to hanging onto our bits and pieces, like hair, skin, nails and teeth, we need to work a LOT harder. We need to be aware of the changes in our body and work with them. Alas, some women are not prepared to put the work in after the menopause.

They allow their leg hair to go feral.

They neglect their toenails.

They allow their teeth to fall out.

They give up on themselves.

This does NOT have to be you.

Here are a few tips to help you stick the V’s up to looking old because if you look old, you will feel old. So grab your reading specs and get comfy.

Bathing

Once upon a time, we were able to soak in the bath for HOURS. Nowadays, we get twenty minutes max before we turn prune. No time for reading or daydreaming about Sean Bean. It’s ALL about BODY-CARE.

Menopausal skin is dry skin. There are numerous reasons for this, like lack of oestrogen, genetics, sun-exposure, alcohol and smoking. At this stage of the game you need to be moisturising the LIVING SHIT out of your skin. If you don’t, you’ll end up looking like Keith Richards, and if that’s not enough to have you sprinting to the skincare section of your nearest Superdrug, I don’t know what is..

Are you still using soap? As in, a normal bar of soap?

If so.

That tight feeling you get after using soap is because it’s removed the natural oils from your skin. If you must use soap, at least use a sensitive one with a low pH. Giving yourself a ‘lick’ with an ancient bar of Imperial Leather isn’t on. Throw it away!

When choosing bath or shower products, you need to look for moisturising ones. Glittery bath bombs? What are you, six years old? I use Sanex because it’s the only brand that doesn’t make me itch myself delirious. It’s also a good idea to ensure that you have a decent bath mat or you’ll be up the A & E with a fracture having face-planted your taps reaching for the loofar.

Oh and don’t forget to exfoliate that dead skin off!

Shaving

Obviously, I mean legs and lady bits although you may also be sporting a teensie weensie moustache by now. What can I say? Men get rogue nostril/ear hair. Women get muzzies.

A problem with ageing is that we may not as supple as we used to be. There are exceptions but mostly we start creaking like old floorboards with about as much flexibility. When it comes to de-fuzzing our legs, we can’t reach around the back as well as we could, so we end up with 6″ hairs which are a bit of a turn off. The days of girlie Bic razors (pastel shades) are gone. You are now in the Black and Decker power range and hardcore action is required to tackle your unsightly, er, premises. However, if you prefer the wild and natural look, you can save yourself time and money.

Nails

I’m autistic and struggle with eye contact so I look at the floor a lot which means I get to see people’s feet and believe me, I have seen some HIDEOUSLY BAD FEET in my time. I’m talking CLAWS, rather than nails. There are certain health conditions which cause problems of the foot but unless you are unfortunate enough to have such a problem, there is no excuse for sinisterly bad nails. If you really can’t be arsed to sort your nails out (or pay somebody to do it for you) then do us all favour and shove a sock over them.

A word about nail polish..

Is my general advice to steer clear of blues, greens and purples if you have varicose veins..

Make-up

Less is More.

When it comes to make-up and ageing, I often think of dear old Barbara Cartland. She was an amazing lady but wouldn’t you have thought that those closest to her would have advised her to lay off the electric blue eyeshadow at her age? In certain photographs she looks positively sinister! Thing is, wear the same make-up that you’ve worn for decades if you like but it will AGE you. If you find that people are stopping you in the street and booking you for children’s parties, it’s time to tone it down a few notches.

IT’S NOT THE 1980s ANYMORE, DEARS!

Look at it this way, teenagers use make up to make themselves look older. When you are older, the opposite applies. You need to wear LESS make-up to look younger.

Teeth

Now is the time that you REALLY need to start paying attention to your teeth.

As we age our teeth become worn and discoloured. Medication plays havoc with our oral health and we suffer bone and muscle loss. If we don’t take care of our teeth, we end up looking like Albert Steptoe. Sounds grim but there is much we can do to keep tooth loss at bay. For a start, brushing twice daily is a MUST. Flossing is a MUST. As we get older, gaps appear and food gets lodged in those crevices which brushing alone won’t remove. Blimey. I sound like an advert for toothpaste. But it’s true. How do you feel about last weeks bacon sarnie rotting away in your mouth? Barfarama, eh?

Thanks to receding gums, you will find that you have more enamel on show than you used to. This is something that I have noticed about myself to the point where I wonder if I should be running in the 2.30 at Goodward? Nothing you can do about this except to keep your gynormous teeth dazzlingly white. You could always offer your services as a mobile side-screen at your local cricket club. How about a Bee Gees tribute act? The possibilities are there, if only you choose to look.

There is a very serious side to gum health though…

How many of you know that gum disease can lead to heart disease, strokes and diabetes? Our hearts no longer have the protection of oestrogen so we need to look after ourselves more then ever, yes?

That’s all for today dears. Keep smiling, eh?

Creative Common Images Via Pixabay

 

 

Five Reasons Why Ageing Sucks

 

Teeth

Dental hygiene plays an important part in gum health. Brushing ‘n’ flossing keeps Gingivitis at bay but for some people receding gums can be a matter of genetics, so if several members of your family have receded gums, the odds are that you will too. I know, it’s shit.

I have nice teeth but there’s more tooth on show than there used to be, hence, I am starting to resemble Shergar. The good news is that I still have all my own teeth at 47, which is fang-bloody-tastic considering my mother had a full set of false teeth by the time she was 50. WIN!

Skin

As we age, our skin loses elasticity – it’s called Elastosis.

It’s where all those years of lying on the lawn nuking yourself come back to haunt you with skin that looks like crepe paper. You know, CREPE PAPER? The crinkly stuff we used to make flowers with at school?

Another perk (not) of ageing is that skin becomes translucent which is why we start to resemble AA road maps by the time we are in our 50s. At this stage, PLEASE GOD, DON’T WEAR MINI SKIRTS!

That said, what the hell, it’s your life so wear what you like. Just don’t whinge when somebody turns your saggy backside into a GIF and gets it trending on social media.

Eyesight

Eyesight naturally deteriorates with age. Over time the lens hardens and you struggle to focus. You’re permanently squinting and find yourself holding everything at arm’s length, including your kids. You can’t thread needles anymore and you have to ask your family to read the small print on food packaging or you run the risk of giving them the shits.

You also have your Kindle font on size ENORMOUS.

So, you book an appointment at your local opticians for an eye-test and end up with a pair of specs (two in my case) that will cost you the same price as a week in Barbados, depending on what extras they con you into. However, the good thing about blurry eyesight is the instant soft focus you get without your specs on. YOU DON’T LOOK AS CRAP IN THE MIRROR!

Gimme a high-five!

Feet

Feet, like everything else, change with age. The changes in our feet are largely due to good old gravity and the pounding that they take over years.

The result is more hoof, than foot.

Corns, bunions, deformities, flat and calloused feet are par for the course when it comes to feet unless you REALLY look after them but most people will succumb to at least one of these things after decades of stuffing their foot neglect.

It’s safe to say that my own feet have hit their fugly stage. Boo. 😦

However, it’s my own fault because my idea of a pedicure is to cock my feet over the loo twice a month to cut my nails. No filing them or shaving the balls of my feet with a pumice stone/Black and Decker belt sander, depending on what state the skin is in.

When it comes to shoes, the mid-life woman is more into Pavers than six-inch stilettos and men naturally gravitate towards trainers, slip-ons and sandals. The problem is when they wear sandals with SOCKS to hide their ingrowing toe-nails. To such an offender, my advice is this:

Mate, you look a div. No human over the age of 5 should wear socks with sandals. Lose the socks OR the sandals. You’re welcome.

Hairy toes?

Don’t start me.

Farting

Two thirds of menopausal women report an increase in farting. Fact.

Being post-menopausal, I can vouch for this. I’m definitely more flatulent than before my ovaries pensioned themselves off. Some experts say it’s due to lack of oestrogen, while others say it’s due to an ageing digestive system. It’s not just women though, as middle-aged men are more prone to ‘bottom-blasting’ too.

We literally become old farts.

My theory is that when we reach middle age, most of us will have had some kind of health scare requiring a radical diet change, usually to include more fruit and veg. Combine an increase of fiber with a digestive system that’s buggered from years of trying to digest junk food and you basically start farting yourself into a coma. Am I wrong?

Growing old is a privilege, so we should be grateful that we’ve got this far. However, we can still have a laugh at ourselves, eh? Laughing is what keeps us young inside..

“…inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.” Terry Pratchett – Moving Pictures

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Bend It Like Barbara.

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“So, we have the results of your Dexa scan and ooh, you have Osteopenia”

I thought, ‘WHAT THE SHITTING HELL?!’

I said, “Oh!”

My GP went on to reassure me that it’s quite normal for post-menopausal women like me..

Rewind a few weeks to a conversation with a GP where I mentioned that I was creaking and cracking like an old barn door. This conversation concluded in me being sent for a Dexa scan to measure the density of my bones. The result being that I have Osteopenia.

What’s Osteopenia?

Osteopenia is the technical name for thinning bones and it’s the stage before Osteoporosis. Not to be confused with the film Quadrophenia, as can sometimes happen with the menopausal brain, eh ladies?

Brrrring on the mobilty scooter!

imagesscooter

Ok, it’s a bit shit. I’m only 46. However, there are far worse things in life to deal with AND the condition can be slowed down by exercise and taking calcium supplements – only one of the complications they don’t tell you about with Osteopenia is that you run the risk of choking to death on a calcium tablet because they are the size of Wales!

So I went to see a dietician who advised me to start doing weight bearing exercise like yoga to protect my bones. I already do the school run and walk the dog most days so walking isn’t a problem. I bought a yoga DVD (for the over 50s) and a mat.

The yoga DVD is aimed at menopausal ladies like moiself and has routines targeting Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and strength building in general to support knackered bones. There is even a routine called ‘Gentle Yoga on a Chair’. So you can basically work out while sitting on your arse!

WIN and WIN!

The DVD itself is relaxing to watch. It’s set outside on a lush green lawn with the Glacier National Park in the background and a beautiful water feature. Of course, you have the sound of running water all the way through which makes having a pre-workout wee ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL, unless you want to test your pelvic floor?

So the location is beautiful and instructor Barbara Benagh’s voice is calming. She’s also bendy as fook but she’s a yoga instructor so she’s meant to be. I mean, she’s bend down – straight legged – hands flat on the floor – bendy whereas I can only reach my knees but I can only improve from here, right?

When it comes to workout gear I opted for old leggings and my Breakfast Club tee shirt. I have some bingo-wing-age going on with my arms so much so that waving has become a health hazard so vest tops are out for the time being.

I did a few workouts in the living room then one day I decided to work out in the sun-room, sounds posh doesn’t it?

It’s not.

The sun-room (which overlooks the yard) is a small space but I can just about stretch my arms out without doing myself an injury. So, I’d set myself up and shoved the dog outside so I wouldn’t be disturbed..

I’d just got into the pose where you balance on one leg with arms outstretched (forget the technical term) when I caught sight of the lurcher in squatting position in the yard. Now, you have to hold the pose for a minute (closing eyes NOT an option if you want to stay upright) so I saw the entire performance of her dropping her load then doing the ski run across the hard flagstones to deal with her ‘cling on’s’.

OM. MY. GOD.

See what I did there?

Pretty much sums me up. Barbara gets tranquil sunlit mountain backdrop to work out to. I get the lurcher having a shit!

The problems with doing yoga at home are distractions of daily life (such as dogs ‘avin a poo) and the motivation that is required to do it regularly. The best way for most people would be to find a group and I have done this in the past but any benefit I got from the yoga was lost due to the stress of being in a group. I don’t do groups, you see. I prefer to go lone wolf and fortunately for me I can motivate myself well enough especially when I have a goal and my goal is to slow down the bone thinning process.

Bone thinning is a natural part of the menopause but many women are unaware of it until they have a Dexa scan or break a bone. There is much that can be done to prevent this condition and having Osteopenia doesn’t mean you will go onto have Osteoporosis. Every post-menopausal woman will have some thinning of the bones. Taking Calcium supplements and doing weight bearing exercise will help to protect your bones. If you are post menopausal, you REALLY need to start addressing it now. My GP told me that all post menopausal women should be taking a calcium supplement as we need around 1200 mgs a day along with Vit D3 which helps with absorption.

One thing about calcium supplements is that GPs prescribe them in carbonate form basically because it’s the cheapest. A lot of people (me included) have issues with constipation when taking it in that form so citrate is the better option.

Don’t take supplements without discussing it with your GP, especially if you take medication as some supplements can interact with certain drugs.

Finally, the BEST thing for bone health is sunshine. Lack of sunlight causes Vitamin D deficiency which affects the bones and the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Menopausal women generally need 800-1,000 IU daily and you can get that through a mixture of sunlight, diet and supplements. Get your calcium and Vit D levels checked about every six months via a blood test and you’ll know if you’ve got the balance right.

The effort you put in now will pay off in years to come keeping you active for longer and off that mobility scooter!

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