Monday, August 28, 2006


I’m going to talk about menopause, so all you men out there can go: “Eeeeuw!” and run away, or maybe you can stay and learn a thing or two about what your wife or partner is experiencing, or may experience.

Prior to menopause I can’t say I was a perfect, happy-go-lucky person, but I was tough, resilient, enjoyed life, had no qualms about trying new things, could eat, drink, dance until the wee hours, was a good mother and managed my home and family well. I exercised daily, and laughed a lot.

Then peri-menopause hit…well, it didn’t really ‘hit’ as much as it ‘snuck up’… I began to notice I was feeling lethargic – apathetic. Nothing really excited me, and I found myself totally unenthusiastic. I went to a doctor who decided I must be agoraphobic and gave me antidepressants. One pill later and I was a total basket case. I had my first panic attack. It was that pill that sent my ‘apathy’ over the edge.

Who says panic attacks only affect mentally disturbed people? This first panic attack, since I had no idea what it was, sent me into a tail spin – foetal position in bed for nearly two weeks. I was lucky to have a friend who was also a counsellor for women. We began having sessions and she suggested I read a book called: “Complete Self Help For your Nerves” by Dr. Claire Weekes. That book saved my life then, and continues to do so during this unbelievably difficult transition.

Peri menopause and menopause can create such a that. It’s like a horrible tunnel of terrors. You burn with hot flashes, then you shiver with cold flashes. You can be in the middle of baking a cake and suddenly a wave of panic will flood you and you’ll descend into a fiery pit of fear. You have no idea what you’re afraid of, but your adrenals are telling you to run or to be very afraid. Along with this, you’ll have muscle spasms – tension that comes like a squeezing fist, making it feel as though your neck, shoulders, jaws, head and face are being stretched beyond endurance. Your ears begin to ring. This is frightening in itself, since you automatically assume you’re going deaf. Some days you’ll have heart palpitations (erratic heart rhythms) that lead to anxiety over heart problems. Some days you’ll have headaches – and some headaches last for weeks or longer. Exaggerated fears are rife. You will wake up mornings thinking you’ve got a brain tumor – or a heart condition. When you’re at your worst, you may believe you’re truly losing it – and end up at the ER. Inevitably you’ll be sent home with nothing truly resolved, other than reassurance you’re not physically dying.

In between all this, when the anxiety, tension and/or temperature fluctuations have decided to take a few days off, you may descend into depression. Again, for no apparent reason. Depression is like a dark pit where you’re looking out at the world, instead of actually being part of the world. You feel isolated and alone…and very, very confused. Doctors will want to put you on anti-depressants, but, if you’re like me and they make things worse, you persevere by finding support. You’ll read lots of books on menopause. You’ll refuse to listen to so-called medical experts who tell you menopause doesn’t cause mood fluctuations or all the symptoms you’re having. Proof of this is a visit to the Power Surge website ( Literally thousands of women post on the message boards there and describe an enormous variety of like-symptoms as they journey through this tunnel of terrors – and they receive many messages of support from others who truly understand.

If any of you are wondering if your symptoms might be due to menopause, here is a list of the 34 signs of menopause: Keep in mind that many menopausal women will not experience all of these symptoms, but many will experience most of these and more. I developed Burning Mouth Syndrome and it took me some months of anguish to find a specialist in Melbourne who knew what it was and knew how to treat it.

I would like to add that am disgusted and appalled at the medical profession in general for being so blasé about the suffering of so many women. I feel it’s a sign that they just don’t know what to do, so they ignore it. Some say if it’s not life-threatening, then it’s not worth researching. I believe that the significant removal of at least ten years of a woman’s life is more than worthy of research and assistance. One of the most helpful things for a menopausal woman is validation – knowing that what she is experiencing is real and not ‘something in her head.’

I want to end this blog with encouragement for those who are suffering with menopause or peri menopause as I am. I want you to know that this DOES end. That one day you’ll feel better and you’ll see the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Ask a woman in her 70s and she will probably not even remember her menopausal symptoms.

Here are some books I’ve found helpful during my menopausal journey:
1. Complete Self-Help for your Nerves by Dr. Claire Weekes
2. The Seven Sacred Rites of Menopause by Kristi Meisenbach Boylan
3. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay
4. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
5. From Panic To Power by Lucinda Bassett

I’m sure there are many more some of you could include. Please add comments to this post if you’ve had difficult menopausal symptoms and have found relief. Or if you just want some support. And be sure to visit Power Surge – I guarantee it will help you feel less alone.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Lost Smiles

Lost Smiles by Maureen McMahon

When do children stop being children? When do we put away our sandcastles, skipping ropes and giggles? When exactly do we change from ‘being’ a child to having an ‘inner’ child?

I remember lying in long grass, the sun warm on brown limbs, the coolness of the earth against my back, my older brother next to me as we watched in awed amazement as the cotton ball clouds changed ever so slowly into a myriad of new shapes – a dog, a bird, a ship, a fat lady…Giggling over the fat lady who became fatter and fatter, then seemed to twist herself into first a cupcake, then an elephant.

And when we got tired of watching clouds, when our energy surged, we’d be off, running full-tilt through the fields in anticipation of our next adventure, perhaps to make boats out of walnut shells, sticks and leaves to race down the trickling stream in the forest behind our house, perhaps in search of crayfish and frogs or perhaps to climb the old mulberry tree so we could look out over the beauty of our world.

There were afternoons in the summer sun gorging on wild dewberries or strawberries. Watching storm clouds gather, sensing the electricity in the air, awed by the approaching flash and rumble - waiting just that little bit longer before dashing for the security of home as the rains broke. Raking leaves in the autumn so we could leap into a huge pile and lie cradled in the brittle crispness, nostrils filled with the acrid, pungent smell. In winter, lumbering as fast as we could through knee-deep snow to the pond next door, ice-skates clutched firmly.

And when we were called to come in for dinner, we’d moan and plead, “Just a few more minutes?”

My daughter is twenty-one. When she was young, her laugh made us laugh, her smile made us smile, her giggle filled us with joy. Now she doesn’t laugh or smile very often. And her giggles are no more. I see her struggling under the heavy demands of university, work, personal demands and relationships. It saddens me to know that the child she once was is no more. She’s now an adult with all the attendant responsibilities and worries.

When does it happen? When do we “put away childish things?” And more importantly, why do we put them away?

When was the last time you built a sand castle? When was the last time you lay on the ground and watched the clouds? When was the last time you fell into pristine, sparkling snow to make an angel? When was the last time you giggled? When was the last time you woke in the morning anticipating all the fun the long day would hold?

When was the last time you looked into the mirror and smiled?