You pull me back from time to time. Tired and with a long to-do list, something compels me to return. The bread is gluten-free, which means I am not allergic to God here. I study random patterns in the gingerbread colored brickwork while meditating to advent hymns. My empty tank is filled when they light the peace candle. I buy beads to help the unhoused and accept a milkweed pod which may feed Monarchs on their way to Mexico next fall. A woman whispers, “I love your fairy hair” and I smile. We are all still young inside.
There is no mourning here…
[a poem for his mother by Guy Johnson]
Sequined in the black velvet sky of night
shines a star with
fiery hot fire possessed,
leading all those who wish to claim
what is right
to look within themselves and find their best.
Over my life shines this glorious beacon,
lighting my path through the dark shadowland.
With this as my guide,
I shall not weaken..
my striving to be a strong but gentle man.
Others have been led by its incandescence
to be more than mere flesh and bone
to love and be loved is its true essence
for only the heart can change this world of stone.
Thus fortune graces me like none other
for this star, this nova
is my mother.
Well, I guess a name change is in order
So, if you know why my blog is now titled One Quarter of the Way to Menopause, then you know that I have been enjoying tampon free days now for like nearly 5 months– until this past weekend. So, I guess now I will have to call this blog one year until menopause since I just reset that clock. In some ways it was a relief, since it feels like I have been having PMS for at least 5 weeks. If I had become any more bloated, I was going to have to purchase some maternity clothing.
Now, when you think that your period is gone for good, don’t get too awfully excited, because apparently if it comes back, you might feel like you should have been building an ark. So, now I am 5 days into this unexpected period from hell which also came along with a sore throat and an impending blue moon during the first week of back to school. Isn’t that special?
I backed off the hormone creams at least for the week in case they confounded my body and caused this flood. I am 3 weeks into them and here is what I have:
- I have slept better
- I started my period again
- I have experienced increased libido
- I have not lost any weight
- I have been walking and running 5-10 miles a week
- I have actually gained 4 pounds
- I am continually bloated to the point of distraction and despair [wtf]
- I have been calmer and less lethal mood-wise
- my hair shed has decreased
- I have experienced a shoe crisis
- I am a tiny bit less scattered
- I do not have significantly more energy
I am also now taking the vitamin D mega dose, a multi vitamin with probiotics, saw palmetto [that’s a whole other story], cinnamon with chromium picolinate, and Diflucan
I am about to abort the Diflucan because it might be what has made me feel like total &*^( this week and made my throat feel like I swallowed razors [that stuff is freaking toxic].
I have not begun the LDN yet, which again, is a whole other narrative which I will tackle when I am not exhausted.
I am about to finish this cup of Holy Basil tea and go to bed.
Crappiest day of the month so far- so much so that I have cried no less than 3 or 4 times today. You would think me a mental patient. The first time I cried was about lunch time and I got on the treadmill to have that cry. I figured the walking/running/exercise thing might be helpful. I can’t even remember what I was crying about. Honestly. So, I looked back to last month when I was writing about my crappiest day, and it was on the 22nd of July. Today is the end of the 19th day of August, so it has been– get this: shocker- about 28 days since my last crappiest day of the month. Notice a trend here? I don’t have a period anymore, but apparently I still have a fucking cycle- I just don’t get relief at the end of it.
I feel like a balloon that needs to pop– figuratively and literally. Literally, because I have the beastly menopause symptom known as bloating. If you think you’ve been bloated before, and you’ve not made it to perimenopause– you have not experienced the mother of all bloating. Even your underpants feel tight. It feels like you gained 5 pounds and it’s all in your middle. Muffin top? No, this is more like a giant souffle that overran your waistband. And trying to suck it in like you used to be able to pretend you could do– don’t even think about it. You can suck something in, but don’t make the mistake of turning sideways and looking into a mirror.
Yesterday was almost as bad. I was driving Al to REI to get his hiking gear. This is my twenty year old who does not have a job or go to school or do anything really productive right now. I am more than willing to buy him hiking and survival gear from REI because I am trying to encourage him to walk away from me… and yes– survive. Symbolic? I think, yes. But no, really, he does sort of plan to do a thru hike of some sort, or become an au pair in Holland, or backpack across Europe sometime in the fuzzy future. But, I digress. So, on the way, he asks me if I ever have a day when I feel uncomfortable in my own skin and of course I think he is reading my mind, but I say, “yes, I feel that way right now.” I was having one of those bad hair, don’t look in the mirror days, feeling awfully bloated yesterday, too, and longing for a waistline again and some of those new platform stilettos. I wonder if there is some sort of inverse relationship going on there.
So, I suggested we go by DSW, which is a giant shoe store. I am not sure what DSW stands for, but I think the S & the W stand for shoe warehouse. It should be called GSW-MWS [Giant Store Warehouse of Mostly Women’s Shoes] since Al noted that only about 1/5 or less of the floor space is devoted to men’s and children’s shoes. All the rest of that acreage is women’s shoes. He was looking for a certain kind of toe shoes for running on rocks and I was in search of some stacked stilettos that might make me feel sexy again.
First of all, you must know that I have a wide foot. It’s rather pretty, but sort of platypus-like in its shape, and so shoes that fit in the width don’t always fit in the length or have heels that my foot slips up and out of. I found a number of suitable pairs, though, because this shoe store has all sizes and widths. I found this really sharp pair of two-tone heels by, who of all people, but Jessica Simpson. Let me see if I can find a picture of them: Okay, well that was an ordeal. Who knew there were millions of shoe images available for any description of shoe? So, here is the closest I could come to the shoes I had to have, except mine seemed prettier with a black back and heel and higher, if that is possible. Seriously, I know they don’t look that intimidating, but they seemed much higher than this, even though they probably weren’t.
I put them on and they looked divine, I mean absolutely lovely, except that my heel did slip a bit, but who’s heel wouldn’t when standing on tippy toes and then trying to walk. So, I decided to leave my flip-flops in the box and walk in these shoes across the acres of store to a spot all the way on the other side where there is a rack of inserts and gel things to make your shoes fit better and where I last saw Alex, to get his opinion. If you can, picture me teetering very gingerly across the carpet, trying not to break my ankle or pitch completely forward onto my face. The sales woman was looking at me with a look of bemusement, so I asked if they also had classes to teach people how to walk in these things. She just smiled this sort of lackadaisical smile. By the time I found Alex, I felt as if I had had quite a lower body workout already and my toes were almost completely numb. I found a pair of gel heel inserts and stuck them in there, only to find they don’t help at all. Alex thought they looked really nice on my feet [for stripper shoes], but he did note that if I had trouble walking less than four feet in them and for less than 3 minutes in the store, they probably weren’t very practical. Don’t you hate when your twenty year old blinds you with common sense logic? I was looking at these works of art on my feet, but also realistically picturing myself trying to walk down the church aisle in my vestments and in these shoes, holding a hymnal, singing, and trying to remain upright or walking on a wood or tile floor without feeling as if I were ice skating. These shoes with the 4 inch plus heels are so high, it is literally like existing on pointe in toe shoes all day. I have to hand it to the women who do it. I am not sure that I could be one of those women for more than an hour or two at a time. My usual dress up shoes are Clarks, Tevas, and Danskos, and living on the edge for me is a pair of Cole Haans or Donald Pliners.
You might ask, what.. besides menopause, is bringing on this need for heels at this late date? My sister did when I told her this story on the phone on the way home from our shopping trip. She said, “Kim, you’re too old to start wearing ‘ho heels now.” So, I thought about this today, and was surprised at what I came up with. Only, I can’t tell you because it might embarrass my boyfriend, and no it is not what you are thinking.
Needless to say, though, I now am the proud owner of these cute Tom’s wedges that he admired on my feet last week. That is as far as I am taking that.
So, I got my labs back a week or so ago and everything was normal except for very low vitamin D, some individual low thyroid scores, way high thyroid antibodies, high triglycerides, and bad blood sugars.
So, I’ll start with those bad blood sugars since they concern me the most. I have had a fasting glucose of 100 before. I have had HbA1C’s of up to 5.9, but today I had an FBG of 99 and an HbA1C of 6 and I am a believer now- it’s official… I am pre-diabetic. I had a doctor tell me that a few years ago and I scoffed at him and that diagnosis, but it hit home today and I accepted it for the gift that it is. So, even before speaking to my new hormone guru, I knew what needed to be done. I have a plan; and it is to kick that bitch’s ass before she gets into my house. Step one: I downloaded a bunch of books onto my Nook about reversing diabetes and keeping blood sugar stable with diet and exercise. Step two: I started exercising like I should have been exercising all along. My first weekly goal was to walk/jog 10 miles and I beat that goal with 2 days to spare. Step 3: increase veggies and fruits and decrease high GI foods and eliminate as much sugar as possible. I have been trying to have protein at every meal and cut out sweets, but apparently sugar is my drug of choice and it is not easy. I especially love sugar when it teams up with bad fat and white flour, like it does in donuts, but I am working on it.
So, yesterday, my appt day arrived where I got to drive 90 minutes to Greensboro and talk to this new holistic provider. Once again, she is a Nurse Practitioner [pretty much the same thing or better than a PA and much more useful than most doctors] who specializes in gynecology and endocrinology. She was trained out west and she is very much a healthy approach, clean living over a prescription provider. She does sell supplements in her practice, but she is not a charlatan. She is very quick and well-read and knowledgeable about what she treats. She did not try to sell me anything, she assessed my labs with laser precision and gave me a diet and some prescriptions for supplements and natural preparations to take away.
I thought she was going to tell me to decrease my thyroid because my TSH was so low, but she didn’t! She stressed the insignificance of this value, especially in relation to the individual thyroid values like Free T4 and T3 and said since those were low I could actually increase my Armour. I have been on natural thyroid for at least 15 years and my life is worth living because of it- no exaggeration. I was a mess on Synthroid. I have said it to many: it was like I was existing in this flat, gray world that suddenly burst into color like in the Wizard of Oz when I started on natural thyroid replacement. I do self-titrate some, but have been afraid to ramp it up much to prevent going hyperthyroid. It is also important to note that I have Hashimoto’s Disease, which is the type of hypothyroidism that is autoimmune in nature and usually runs in families along the maternal line. My body literally views my thyroid gland as a foreign and unwanted presence and is doing its level best to annihilate it. Tammy commented that my antibody titers were the highest she has seen and asked if I grew up next to a toxic river. So, given the level of my antibodies combined with a low Free T4 and T3, she said feel free to go crazy on the Armour. I currently take 2 grains a day, one in the morning and one in the evening and sometimes titrate down to one in the morning and 1/2 in the evening. So, I was ecstatic when Tammy said I could increase Armour. I could take 2 in the morning and 1 in the evening or up to 4 grains a day with scores like mine. Hot damn, maybe I can lose some lbs now, since clearly, I struggle to lose weight even when I am restricting calories now. So, that was the first good news.
Next good news: Tammy did not lecture me concerning my bad sugar scores. She pointed them out and suggested that I begin by doing a yeast free diet for a few weeks to rest my adrenals and to rid myself of sugar/yeast which apparently causes all kinds of ill effects: bloating, fatigue, mental fog, digestive issues, etc… She also suggested that gluten free might the way to go from now on since many people with hypothyroidism are gluten intolerant and at the very least it would help with my blood sugar issues and overall general health. I knew this and we discussed the book Wheat Belly which talks about the genetic mutations in wheat nowadays that makes it much higher in gluten and much more damaging to anyone with celiac disease or allergies or intolerances.
Next good news/bad news: my vitamin D levels were bottomed out to the extent that it looks like I might be genetically predisposed to this malady. I was like, “okay, what does low D cause?” She said: impaired sugar metabolism and insulin sensitivity [oh noooo], increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer”.. basically all kinds of heinous things. So, she prescribed 10,000 IU’s that I am to take 2x a week. So, the bad news is that I have low D but the good news is that after treatment, I may utilize sugar and become less insulin resistant. That is great because insulin provides keys to my cells so that sugar can go into the cells and be used and not stored in my liver and turned into fat when the keys don’t fit.
We finally got around to talking about my female hormones, which is why I was there, and Tammy agreed that I am a quarter of the way to menopause, well into almost halfway [which means I will need to change the blog name again soon]. My estrogen is still good [yay], but my progesterone and testosterone are low and so she suggested prescribing bioidentical creams of each for me to get some hormonal balance in this area. I suggested that she put them into the same cream, but she said that this would not work because testosterone is energizing and so it needed to be applied in the morning. Progesterone is sedating and should be applied at night before bedtime. I sort of balked at the testosterone, because I was thinking I already have less hair in places I want it and more hair in places I don’t, but she said that is due more to imbalance that a predominance of one, and shared that testosterone deficiency causes lowered libido, brain fog, depression, low energy, fatigue, and belly fat. She said she can look at a man and tell if his testosterone is low by looking at his belly. So, with that, I was in. These creams must be compounded so she faxed them to the local pharmacy that has those capabilities.
Finally, she suggested that with antibody levels as high as mine and the fact that my thyroid is autoimmune in nature, which makes me more susceptible to other autoimmune disorders like MS, diabetes, and ALS [eeekk], that I might like to try the off label usage of a drug called Naltrexone. This is an opiate blocker that is prescribed in higher doses for heroin addicts and alcoholics, but in lower doses has shown promise in strengthening the immune system and assisting in lowering antibodies and reducing symptoms in MS and other autoimmune diseases. I agreed to research it and possibly give it a try. I have the prescription and I think I am going to give it a shot since the side effects are low and it could help in a number of ways. The main side effect is increased or vivid dreaming, and that along with the testosterone cream I am applying at night might prove exciting. If you are interested in researching this yourself, google low dose Naltrexone or LDN along with your personal autoimmune disorder keyword.
Lean Into It
Philosopher William Irwin Thompson says that we humans are like flies creeping along the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We literally cannot see the splendor that surrounds us. As a result, we don’t live in reality. We’re lost in our habitual perceptions, blinded by our favorite illusions, and addicted to beliefs that hide the true nature of the universe. That’s the bad news, Libra. The good news is that every now and then, each of us slips into a grace period when it’s possible to experience at least some of the glory we’re normally cut off from. The veil opens, and previously undetected beauty appears. The weeks ahead will be the closest you’ve come to this breakthrough in a long time.
A perfect example of this shortsightedness has been my summer so far, my summer that is almost over: I have been so hyperfocused on the work list I need to do this summer for my other job and its heft and length, the unfairness of this, and the minutia required to either work at chunking off sections or avoid tackling it at all, that I have missed so many opportunities to enjoy simple splendors surrounding me.
I have been that fly crawling around on the Sistine chapel, unable to see anything except menopause webpages, files in black notebooks, and small avenues of temporary escape. So, starting today, I plan to back it up and take notice of the beauty around me at any given moment.
I am also reminded of some advice I recently read on a Pema Chodron link for dealing with uncomfortable situations or any human suffering or pain: change the way you see it and lean into it. At the time, I did not completely “get” what she was advising. The change your perspective part seemed too simple and the lean into it seemed obtuse. Now it makes sense. I have a few more days of work before I set out on what might be my last getaway of the summer. I am also reminded of a friend’s facebook post the other day that asked people to stop all the whining and complaining. She said:
There is too much negativity out there. Folks need to stop complaining and count their blessings, stop looking at everyone else and judging them, etc. Who is perfect? Be happy, peeps. AND, if you took a vacation this year… what do you have to complain about? Nothing. Nada. Smile already. Oh, and stop watching Fox News, yo. That was on at the gym this morning and all they did was spew more negativity, but the Today Show was highlighting the Olympics and I would have much rather watched that because that, my friends, is a positive. Positive begets positive. Add more happy to your life. Happy = GOOD!
Dawn is on point. This is my second vacation this summer. I have nothing to complain about. I am happy and that equals good.
Ten reasons why I feel crappy today
Bean wants to know why I feel badly today and when I went to bring my son lunch money at work and he asked me to sit with him while he ate so we could talk and catch up, he asked: “why do you look so sad?” I really could not give him an answer. The answer I gave Bean was ‘nothing specific,’ but really ‘nothing yet everything’ felt more appropriate.
So, I am writing to see if I can discover the answer. I guess I could hang it on the menopausal coat rack, but that is becoming farcical at this point.
So, here goes. First to define how I feel. I feel lethargic and like I could cry if I had enough energy to put into it. I feel tense in my shoulders and warm and yucky. I feel unattractive and kind of sad. I have no one reason, but I do have many. Here are some:
1. There are no clean bath towels in my house. I am not sure where they all are– perhaps the same place as all of the teaspoons.
2. My uterine prolapse has been bothering me the last few days, randomly and I am not sure why- so I have a physical heaviness in my pelvic region that makes me paranoid and causes me to google disorders and treatments. I find myself making hypotheses like “having a tipped uterus makes one more likely to suffer from the “cele sisters.”
3. I spent over an hour today googling yoga positions that help with retroverted uterus or prolapse, but didn’t do any of them.
4. My to do list– it is endless and I don’t seem to be making great progress lately.
5. I have gray roots that are approximately 3/4 of an inch and they stress me greatly. I am sick to death of coloring my hair.
6. I am not eating well. When I say that I am not eating well, don’t get the wrong idea. There seems to never be a time where I don’t eat enough; I am not eating the right things. Last night I skipped supper and then ordered Hershey breadsticks from Pizza Hut to eat at 10:36 pm.
7. I worry about the mildewy smell in my house. My dehumidifier fills up very quickly and when my air comes on it smells mildewy. I picture black mold in my crawl space and/or venting.
8. I miss Bean. The on and off nature of our relationship is unsettling and makes me feel unbalanced all the time.
9. I feel like I should be doing so many things and yet I am compelled to do none today.
10. Bean wants me to meet them to go hiking, but that requires a shower and me fixing my hair, and I am lacking energy and a towel.
Just Do It comes to mind just now, so I will. I will just make myself take a shower using a pool towel and go and meet Bean and the little beans for a hike. I will take the advice I give everyone else all the time and choose a positive space to occupy for at least part of this day.
9 vials of blood– 8.5 mil each
That’s how much blood was ordered drawn by my new menopause specialist, Tammy Worrell of Triad Integrative Wellness Center. I found Tammy, who is a registered NP and not a doctor [not a big fan of doctors, myself], using an Internet search of women’s holistic care and natural hormone treatment in my area. Of course, she is not a network provider for the state health plan of NC- of which I am a member- and so I have to pay her $150 per visit charge out-of-pocket and then file myself [for record of payment only], since BC/BS will pay 60% only after I meet a ridiculous $1300 deductible. I had my first visit over the phone where I was asked many questions about my health history and my goals for the visit[s] to come.
My stated goals were:
1. to check hormone levels and obtain access to bioidentical hormone treatment if warranted
2. to have all of my thyroid levels checked and make sure that I am receiving optimal dosing of natural thyroid [I have Hashimoto’s Disease]
I told her of the issues I was having that I am attributing to menopause/perimenopause: dizziness, eye dryness and irritation, wild mood swings, headaches, sleep issues, fatigue, loss of muscle strength, spaciness/mental fog… all of these could be related to thyroid or other issues just as easily, but it’s kind of nice to have one hat rack to hang them all on.
Tammy asks that you pay her a $100 deposit each time you make an appt in order to guarantee you will keep that appointment or cancel it in a timely manner [which seems counterproductive for women suffering from mental fog and memory issues]. She also asks that you sign an agreement that you will not file frivolous malpractice claims against her. I went ahead and signed since I don’t make a habit of doing this, and feel like if I was going to take the time to file a claim against a health provider, it would not be a frivolous act and would be based on some serious misconduct. However, both of these unusual requests make being Tammy’s new patient a little anxiety provoking.
Tammy stood out and was someone I might want to seek out for treatment because she is open to bioidentical and natural hormone treatment and provides treatment in a holistic manner [meaning the whole person mind/body/spirit]. I have been dealing with hypothyroidism for almost 20 years and have a great understanding of this condition and the way it affects me and needs to be treated. In my experience, most general practitioners, gynecologists, and unfortunately even specialists in endocrine disorders, do not have an intricate or extensive knowledge about thyroid disease and how Hashimoto’s is unique in cause, symptoms, and treatment needs. It is very disappointing to have a book/Internet knowledge about a condition that appears to exceed that of the person you are trusting to treat you.
I showed up at LabCorp on Monday morning bright and early ready to leave my blood when I was asked to sign a waiver and hand over a credit card stating that if my $3,469 worth of lab work was found non-covered then I would be responsible for payment on that card. Wow, just wow. I said, “hold on,” and called my provider to make sure that this lab work would be covered even though ordered by an out of network provider. And… whew, yes… so, we proceeded.
Waiting for lab work now and about to make an appt to go in and discuss the results. This summer has been hot as hell on earth and new occasional episodes of personal warmth [I cannot call them full-fledged hot flashes because I don’t feel like I might die during them, just very warm] make it even hotter. I have never been so ready for fall before August!
I escape by reading about hiking the Appalachian Trail [but that’s another blog entry] since I am currently plowing through AT thru-hike memoirs and enjoying each hike vicariously. Currently, I am on day 28 of 46 Days: Keeping Up with Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Appalachian Trail.
So, today I changed the name of this blog to “One Quarter of the Way to Menopause.” Oh, and since you read the word menopause in the last sentence and since it is a key word in the new title of my blog, you are likely to encounter talk here now about periods, hormones, hot flashes, and other things some men [& some women or young people] might be uncomfortable reading about or at the very least, uninterested in reading about. So, here is your warning to leave now if you don’t want to hear about the last time I had a period. I understand that I am narrowing the focus of this blog pretty sharply and that is entirely okay with me. I am writing in order to help navigate this new territory I seem to have stumbled into, and if you are stumbling round the same territory, you might be somebody I’d like to share information with.
One symptom of this new phase is that when I become tired, I literally cannot keep my eyes open, so I am about to have to go and sleep, but first I will explain how I came to decide I am one-quarter of the way to menopause. It has been about 2 1/2 months since my last period, I think. I have an app on my phone that could tell me exactly, but about 2-3 months seems about right. According to what I have read lately, menopause is actually a state that is achieved after a woman has had one straight year with no periods, so I figure I could very well be one-quarter of the way there right now. After I mark that one year point, I will be considered post-menopausal, which seems really unfair since I won’t get to spend much time being menopausal. I have apparently been peri-menopausal for quite some time, but things kicked it up a notch here lately. A sneak peek of some of the new symptoms I will write about when I can again keep my eyes open: dry, red, tired eyes, dizziness, loss of muscle strength, irritability that can lead to occasional to frequent irrational anger/rage, fatigue, night-time tiredness that can literally result in eyes slamming shut for the night and not wanting to open right away in the morning, or random occasional insomnia, and fuzzy thinking that has made me forget the rest of the new symptoms. So, if you are a woman some place between ages 40 and 59- welcome. Let me hear from you.