An excerpt on the menopause on Polyoaks, the Radio 4 sitcom, had me in stitches. Faced with a disgruntled husband who is bemoaning his redundant sex life as he and his wife are arguing more now that she is going through the menopause, the doctor reminds him that women approach sex from a different perspective to men.
He points out that whereas men think sex will make any kind of situation right, women need to be in the right situation first. Advising his patient to sort out the argument before sex, he goes on to say that he may "also have to put the rubbish out, do the hoovering, clean the toilet, cook the supper and put clean sheets on the bed" and then tells him "if she has low mood, bad sleep, hot flushes ......she may just need a hug."
Nine months from my 50th birthday I have been told by my GP that there is no need for a blood test to ascertain whether I am perimenopausal, as my age is indicative enough of the fact that it is highly likely. My husband would concur on the basis that over the last year our arguments have increased, as I have morphed into a cross breed of Godzilla and the Terminator. PMT has always been a problem for me but this has worsened and my irritability is now off the richter scale of bloody terrible.
The declining hormones that accompany the menopause are apparently to blame, as the female brain is simultaneously affected by a dip in chemical activity. This is in turn takes its toll on a woman' s emotional state resulting in massive mood swings, temper tantrums and in some cases depression. Sometimes the change can be small and thus unnoticeable and at others it can be greater. In my case, I can turn from an angel to a witch in a matter of seconds. My husband refers to this as my "flash to bang" ratio. The children tend to run for cover whereas my husband fronts it out in the only way he knows how - with his broad shoulders and silence.
Now I don't know whether this is a perimenopausal symptom or not, but "silence" in the face of an argument is a guaranteed incendiary device. To the hormone receptors in my brain this equals lack of interest and understanding, which in turn translates to our marriage is a disaster. Now in my normal state of mind this is clearly ridiculous but to my menopausal brain this is it, the end of our lovely world. It is as if I have become detached from my sane, rational emotional self and am floating, watching myself from above as I become consumed by completely irrational thoughts and arguments. Afterwards, (invariably the next day as my husband knows better than to try and solve an argument with sex) if I ask him why he doesn't employ some tactics to calm me down that maybe don't involve silence, his response is "What is the point?. This is not you, just your hormones and it is better to leave you to burn yourself out."
I laughed today throughout the Radio 4 piece, because it was comical and a part of me could recognise the scenario, but men and families the world over are dealing with this state of affairs and whilst I am only in the early stages and we do laugh about it, for some it is not a laughing matter.
I have many girlfriends who have gone through the menopause without a single sympton, some who have decided to ride it out and succumbed to the emotional mood swings, others who have completely overhauled their diet and lifestyle. The argument about hormone treatment rages on and alternative medicine is bobbing along in the background. From my perspective I am exhausted of not feeling like me anymore and am now taking tentative steps to investigate how I can redress the balance, as Godzilla and the Terminator is not a look I want for my 50th birthday!