This is a PSA for all my female friends who have not yet reached menopause. There is some shit they haven’t told you. Remember how there was shit they never told you about birthin’ babies? Well there is more shit they left out. And babies are optional – menopause ain’t!   PSA1

I am sure we all know about the “classic” symptoms – hot flashes, mood swings, and the dreaded “dryness”. I know that women suffer horribly from these and they are no small things. BUT THERE ARE OTHER THINGS. I have experienced only minor hot flashes out of the above list and yet my “other things” are serious enough that I am using hormones!

Disclaimer: I have had an IUD for 14 years and haven’t had a period since six months after the first one was inserted. When all this started, there was no way to determine that I was perimenopausal, let alone menopausal, without a specific blood test. So guessing menopause was the cause was not an easy leap. I finally had that blood test last Friday!

First non-common symptom: I got urinary tract infections, a lot of them. As in every six weeks for a year and a half until we figured this out. It was AWFUL. This was not your typical dryness-caused-irritation = infection type of thing. There was no dryness, which is why it took so long to suss out. Turns out that the loss of estrogen can cause the cells of the bladder lining to shrink which allows the naturally occurring bacteria in urine to sneak by and get to the bladder wall which gets infected almost instantly (hence the need for a LINING.) And ouch.

Second non-common symptom: Pain. Not painful sex as I think we’ve heard about on TV ads, but just pain. Like there is a sunburn all up in there. All the time. This is apparently because without estrogen the skin on the inside can become thin and inflamed. This is not a case of “just use lube during sex” because it’s all the other hours of the day that hurt. A topical estrogen cream was finally prescribed when this symptom popped up, finally guessing that menopause might be involved. It solved both issues.

Third non-common symptom: A shrinking uterus. I don’t think that this would go noticed by many people, but for me it caused acute pain that was confused first as a urinary tract infection, and then as a kidney stone. Turns out it was my uterus contracting around my IUD and trying to squeeze it out and summarily being poked from the inside by said IUD. Hence the need to finally have that blood test to determine if I really was in menopause and have that thing yanked out! Wouldn’t have discovered the Amazing Shrinking Uterus if I hadn’t gotten an ultrasound to determine if I had a kidney stone though….. Yikes.

That’s all for now. I suppose, since I am on the path of odd menopausal ailments I could run into some more. I’ll let you know. I tell you, this aging thing is not for sissies. Even when you are healthy it bites! So stay healthy, eat well, move more, see your doctor regularly. It all helps.

I’ll Get By with a Little Help From My Friends

I have a hard time asking for help. I am very good at accepting help, specific help, but I won’t ask for it. Simple example: It costs $120 in gas and tolls to get to my sister’s house and for a family gathering my dad handed me some money “for gas”. I happily took it even though I would never in a million years have let anyone know how badly that expense decimated my monthly gas budget. Another friend, knowing I was having a hard time, called me to get together to make sure I was doing OK. I gratefully accepted the “tea and sympathy.” And someone has graciously assisted me with the tangled mess that is my yard, it’s hard work that I don’t especially like and it overwhelms me. But again, these were all things offered to me, I didn’t go to anyone to request it.

About a decade ago, my closest friend at the time was diagnosed with ovarian and uterine cancer. I stepped up as the primary coordinator of all her “friend care” – you know the person who organizes and directs all the people who say “what can I do to help?” I had a website that listed all the things she needed help with, who was available to do it, when people were assigned to do what, etc. It worked well and I was astonished by how many friends she had who were available to help, it was over one hundred! Actually, I was a little shaken because I was pretty sure I didn’t have that many people around to pick up the slack for me should I fall hard. As I watched so many people pull together to provide the enormous amount of care that is needed when you have young children and two kinds of cancer, I became so scared that I would never be able to garner such support, I started to volunteer. I picked two different areas of my kids’ lives to volunteer my time so there would be more people who knew me that might be willing to help if I got sick. But I hated it. Think what you will of me, but I hated volunteering. It may have been that it wasn’t a good match for me, and it may have been because deep down I was doing it because I was pre-“asking for help” and that made me uncomfortable. I lasted two years and I am in contact with just one person from that time, but only loosely. And the cancer survivor friend I worked so hard for? She developed deep relationships with other cancer survivors and drifted away. I don’t blame her at all. Our lives went in completely different directions and I am happy knowing that I was there for her when she needed me. I ended up doing all that volunteer work and did not get out of it what I thought I would. I am sure there was something I got that was intangible, but what I really feel like I got was the understanding that I don’t have an altruistic bone in my body. I figure maybe my contribution to society is that I raised the children of a completely service oriented man (my ex-husband – former volunteer firefighter, Marine, and federal law enforcement officer.) Yup, that was my duty.

I still wonder why it is I have such a hard time asking for help. When I was growing up, I could not even ask a salesperson in a store for help. In situations like that, I think it is because I don’t want to ask someone something that I think they’ll think I should already know. Even when it’s their job to tell me. Messed up right? Asking for more personal help? That hints at not wanting to impose, or bother someone, even if not only would I offer the same to them, they might have even suggested they were available to help. And of course the big one – why would anyone want to help me? I guess that goes back to “anxiety”.

In the decade since my friend got sick, I have had a cancer scare. It involved surgery that was thankfully minor and I did not require much help. Neither did I ask for it though. In general my health is actually better than it was back then, so maybe I will escape major health crises. I just hope that if I’m wrong about that, someone will be there if I need it. Without me having to ask.

Cookies, Chips, and Pumpkin Pie

The holidays are over – thank goodness. I did really well in the run up to Christmas – not a lot of extraneous December events in my life. But in a span of 11 days I had a Gingerbread House party, Christmas Eve (the big deal at my house), my Boxing Day party, New Year’s Eve out, and a New Year’s Day party. There was a little bit extra food during that time. OK – a lot of extra food. The interesting thing is that after being on my eating plan for eight months now, eating all those foods I don’t normally consume actually made me feel uncomfortable. Of course I felt overfull and sluggish HOURS later so it didn’t do anything to help stop me in the moment, but it means I am listening to my body a little better than I have in the past.

After the New Year’s Day party (my worst indulgence by far,) I clearly recognized the bloated feeling that I regularly used to get in the evenings when I was in my gaining weight phase. Definitely not enjoyable. It made me actively want to go back to my low carb/high fat (LCHF) eating. I don’t want to feel that way anymore. I want to feel terrific and I usually do on LCHF. Even when I experience a little hunger (which doesn’t often happen,) the overall state of my body seems to be good. I am going to get there quickly by going back into ketosis.

“Ketosis is a metabolic process that occurs when the body does not have enough glucose for energy. Stored fats are broken down for energy, resulting in a build-up of acids called ketones within the body.” MedicalNewsToday.com

By drastically reducing my intake of carbohydrates, I will force my body to use its stored fat as a source of energy. This can take several days depending on how long/how many carbohydrates you have been eating. I have gone so far as to get myself some test strips (Ketostix) to make sure I really am doing it correctly. Because I have spent months low carb and this was “just the holidays” I expect to both get back into fat burning ketosis quickly and not suffer any of the crankiness often associated with switching from high to low carb intake (often called keto-flu.) I can confirm that this keto-flu is real. I spent just short of a week feeling tired, weak, and irritable. But it did pass like the literature said it would. A LCHF diet also causes your cells to release a lot of excess water (and conversely eating the carbs caused my cells to retain water.) So yes, I understand that some of the immediate weight loss is “water weight”. But when people scornfully say that, they usually assume that you will be returning to your former eating patterns soon enough and yes then the water weight lost will come back. I, on the other hand, am resuming the eating pattern the reduces the water weight, so I expect it to stay off.  Then the fat-burning can continue.

As I said before, this is not for everyone.  It works for me and I have been able to stick to it since May.  I think of it as an eating plan, not a diet and since I seem to be able to “survive” the holidays and vacations, it seems to be sustainable too.  I’ve conquered the menopausal weight gain and I feel great.  I’m keeping it!

p.s. Ketosis is a very dangerous state for someone with diabetes I, it can lead to ketoacidosis.  But don’t confuse the two.  Ketosis in a otherwise healthy person is a generally recognized as a safe metabolic state.

New Friends

friendslogoI made a new friend. Do you know how hard that is to do as an adult? Seriously, when was the last time you made a new friend? Someone who was a complete stranger to you 24 hours ago that is now saying “Hey, we should do something together!” Don’t get me wrong, I have made loads of music friends and they are precious to me. But we get together for shows. Frankly, many of them live states, even countries away. I’m talking about a meet me at yoga and then go to lunch new friend. AND THAT’S JUST WHAT HAPPENED.

I went to a bar down the street that had a friend’s husband’s band playing. The friend never showed because she had vomiting children (such a legit excuse!) But that meant I was alone. A woman liked my freshly done, just-got-it-four-hours-ago tattoo and we started talking. We had some things in common, she took my number, and lo and behold, she texted me and asked if I wanted to join her at yoga on Saturday. I’m not super into yoga, but I am super into people reaching out to me, so I said yes. Turns out the studio had a sweet starter deal and I will be able to try as many classes as I’d like for the next 30 days for only $29! With it only being 5 minutes from my house, I think I will get my money’s worth. Afterward we went to lunch (sushi!!) and got to know each other. She even said “I hope we can be friends.” How cool is that?

Friends are important at all ages and stages of life.  It’s sad that it’s so hard to make new ones as life advances.  Many times, these are the days when things are changing and you need new kinds of people in your life for new kinds of things.  I hope this new friendship works out.

Losing Weight. Again.

Seven years ago I lost a lot of weight. It was the weight that stuck around after I had my second child and no matter what I did, it refused to go anywhere. It made me miserable, but the likelihood was that it stuck around because I was miserable. In early 2009, I had a miraculous turnaround that brought “self” back to me along with music and a whole host of friends. The weight just melted off. I had no idea how or why. When people asked what I had done, all I could respond was “I got happy.” I even kept the weight off, rather easily. For years.

Then menopause kicked me in the face. I have had very few “female problems” throughout my life, and luckily menopause was not a whole lot different. But weight gain? That came thundering on. Honestly, when it started happening, I didn’t even know it was related to hormonal changes. I tried to ignore it. Terrible things were said during my marriage because of my weight and I was terrified of what could happen now. I felt like I tried to get it under control, but like so many years ago, nothing I did seemed to make any difference. For a year and a half I tried, failed, tried again, and failed yet again.

Then all of a sudden, it worked. Did I just get happy again? No. But looking back I can now see that I did do the same thing I did last time, I just didn’t know what I was doing last time. I am now confident that should I ever have a weight issue again, I DO KNOW what to do about it.

So what DID I do? I adopted a low carb high fat eating plan. This is not just a “diet” for me, it is definitely a change in lifestyle. Here’s the thing that is so surprising to me, this way of eating makes me so much less hungry. Same thing happened seven years ago too, that’s how I first recognized that I was probably unconsciously following a low carb diet back when I lost weight the first time. Since I also have several factors that increase my odds of developing diabetes, a long term change like this could literally save my life. I am not a low carb evangelist though. This worked FOR ME; worked really well in fact. And I do advocate trying it if you have weight or blood sugar issues since it may work for for you too. But I agree it’s not for everyone. Since I am now back to lifting weights too, not only am I back down to the weight I was, but I am also much more muscular. So overall, I think I am well ahead.

It’s so unlikely that I would be able to lose weight, and keep it off, not once, but twice at my age. That first time was luck, and honestly, I did get happy. This second time, while I happened to stumble upon the correct method, at least I am aware now. However, barring any future medical mishaps, I plan on maintaining this weight like I maintained it last time for many years to come.