So one evening as I was preparing some dinner for the family I felt this wave wash over me. I hadn’t felt anything like this before so I just let it pass. I thought to myself, Oh, is that what a hot flash feels like? Then a minute later, another wave, so I thought, Ok let’s go sit down and see if this passes. I sat down and was still feeling quite off and since we also have one of those blood pressure monitor thingys in the house, I decided to check my pressure and it showed 180/100 ..yikes! Ok, let’s test that again, this machine is probably ten years old and a bit wonky, but now 190/100, so obviously I started panicking. Up to this point it was all just a matter of fact but now things were getting real.
So I looked to my better half and he looked at the numbers on the thingamajig, called my daughter out of her room and we decided to go to the hospital. Somewhere in there we phoned a doctor friend who advised the same. We live on the eleventh floor and all I could think of was that if I was going to have a stroke or heart attack, how would these two carry me out? Next was that I was wearing a dress and if I passed out, my underwear would be on show …. Side note: this is when I remembered my grandmother’s advice to always wear matching underwear so that in any emergency you will not be embarrassed. Needless to say, I put on a pair of pants in slow motion so not to trigger the impending incident which I was sure was going to happen and my only goal at that point was to get into the car so that if anything major happened, at least we were on the way to the hospital.
Now, getting this group of three together in a panic situation was actually quite comical. You have me: panicking mother but trying to be calm to not scare the other two. You have a husband; panicking, all over the place and a little lost. Then you have daughter who is also panicking but trying to be the sober voice.
My husband decides to drive, knocks into another car reversing out of the parking lot, and my daughter and I are just standing there watching him, none of us know how to get to the hospital so they put on waze. We take a couple of wrong roads but we do end up at the hospital emergency and see a doctor. There, the blood pressure goes crazy, up and down, up and down and they can’t do anything but admit me for observation. They put a band on my wrist and I notice its red and says fall risk; wait, me? Nahh! To add insult to injury, both the band and the hospital room door had a picture of a tree falling .. what??!?
We got settled in the room and I was semi-relieved to be in the presence of doctors who would know what to do if something went wrong. My husband and daughter sat next to me, all us still feeling freaked out but a little better. Not to mention the fact that I have another daughter living overseas who I did not want to panic unnecessarily. She could easily see where I was on the app I have installed to keep track of her.. karma has a way of coming back to get you doesn’t it? So I switched that app off and swore the daughter who was with me to silence. I know, I know .. asian parents, yes, I am guilty as charged.
I stay in the hospital for a couple days of observation, do the scans and they send me home with a device on my body which is supposed to check your pressure every half hour. This is actually a mental torture device because every time it went off, I got more panicky and was just waiting with horror to see the numbers. After all this, some more check ups, meds and the doctor diagnoses it as a panic attack.
Seriously!! Panic Attacks?! Who? Me? Are you kidding me? Anyone who knows me, knows that I am the calm cat in the room.. what the heck is this? Then comes the magic words – pre menopause.
Pre-Menopause .. that is just hot flashes right? Well, apparently not .. there’s panic attacks, anxiety attacks, elevated heart rates, an overall nervousness, anger, sleepless nights, nausea – the list goes on and on. But how come I have not heard about all this? Why isn’t anyone talking about this? Are women approaching their 50s going through all this and still doing everything they have been doing for years? Juggling work, family, home?
But before realising this, I was convinced.. let me stress on that, convinced… that the doctor was wrong and I had a heart issue or something worse. This led me to see a second cardiologist friend, who also told me there was nothing wrong with me then on to another doctor who specialised in hormones who told me the same. Still I was not entirely convinced that it was menopause. Our mothers didn’t go through all this right? I just remember my mother mentioning some sleepless nights and my mother in law hardly said anything …how come?
Then as I started reading online and talking to friends, it became clear that this was something all women silently go through. Some said it hardly registered but then others told their stories and their ways of dealing with it – a glass of wine when you know the anxiousness is hitting or something stronger, some are on anti depressants, some exercise like crazy, some do hormone replacement therapy to soften the blow ( this is what I am doing by the way) but everyone looked for their own way of dealing with it.
Despite what any of your friends or family or even doctors say, the fact is that you are affected and you are changed. You are not the same you as before. I don’t know if hormone replacement will bring you back there or it’s just a life adapted to all these new feelings. Are we just going to make our lives smaller to adapt to our new limitations? I don’t know. I have read that it’s a phase and there is an end to it… let’s see.
For now, my family will just have to live with me and my pre-menopausal self, I lived with their puberty, teenage angst and husbands mid-life crisis didn’t I? This is just reverse puberty as I see it. Maybe I’ll follow in my husbands footsteps, sports car .. but wait, I don’t drive…..