The Brain Fog Caused By Menopause

Increased forgetfulness or fogginess in the brain has to be one of the most debilitating symptoms of menopause, and it comes at a time when dementia is already a terrifying prospect, particularly for those who have lost parents or older relatives to the degenerative condition.

Two or three years ago, when we were deep in the trenches of Kurt’s troubles, I rushed out of the house one day to get into my car and for some reason my attention was drawn to the little storage area in the door where I there was a lighter and some cigarettes. My immediate reaction was one of anger, because I thought that (on top of everything else) Kurt had not only used my car but smoked in it as well, and it was only after I had snapped my seat belt into its lock and was searching for the ignition that I noticed that the car’s dashboard was a different colour to mine.

I was in someone else’s car!

In a menopausal brain fog, many of us will have walked up to a car the same colour and shape to our own in the street, tried to open the door, and then made a hasty, red-faced retreat. But it’s another level of humiliation to have to get out of a car, praying that no one witnessed your (potential) theft of the vehicle.

Fortunately, I haven’t committed anything quite as embarrassing as that incident of late – and I still blame my poor brain function on the stress I was going through at the time – but pouring juice in my coffee, wearing clothes inside out, forgetting names, losing my keys and walking into rooms with no idea why I’d done so, have become regular occurrences.

Issues with memory loss, lapses and “brain freeze” associated with menopause are often attributed to hormonal imbalance, but did you know that those symptoms can equally be caused by poor sleep, certain medications, stress, and too much alcohol? Hmmm. So there were likely several very good reasons I got into the wrong car that day.

Forgetfulness is a topic that comes up regularly when the girls and I get together to discuss which of us has the most embarrassing dementia story that week. So when one of them told me that she uses the Lumosity App to keep her brain healthy, I decided to give it a go.

The aim of the app is to “challenge your memory and attention” and to improve your mental reflexes in terms of problem-solving and processing in a fun, want-to-cry kind of way, and it offers three free games per day to keep you on your toes.

Since I started using it, I’ve discovered that I am crap at games that involve cars, circuits, and especially parking – but funnily enough, I have demonstrated quite a talent for the coffee-making game and remembering ocean creatures. I can already see the benefit of the tool. I’m not grown up or boring enough to want to tackle crosswords or Sudoku yet, but I can now see how our brains need a workout in much the same way that the rest of our bodies do, particularly when our muscle starts to waste away in menopause.

The only problem with the app is remembering to do it.

Why Is My Hair Thinning In Middle Age?

sphynx-814164_1920

One of the greatest challenges in a woman’s life – apart from men – is to find the right hairdresser – someone who truly understands the fickleness of female hair. Once you discover your hairdresser, a bond of trust is formed that can be almost (if not more) precious than those you share with the closest members of your family. So if, (God Forbid), you decide to move, the distance to your hairdresser has to be a prime consideration. 

Although I admit that I’ve been in denial for some time, the white tiled floor of my bathroom has highlighted recently that I am losing my hair.

I was aware that hair loss is one of the symptoms of menopause but I had naively assumed that ‘thinning’ referred to the quality of the strands rather than the uglier evidence of swathes of the stuff falling on the floor whenever I brushed it.  

I’ve always had a fine head of hair considering how much I’ve abused it with chemicals, and my hair loss might be due to any number of factors such as aging, menopause, diet, the chlorine in the pool or a simple iron deficiency. The bathroom floor was the perfect canvas to ram it home to me that I might be going bald.

What started as a minor irritation, when people would brush escaped strands off my shoulders in that invasive way they do, (rather like when they wipe stray food from around your mouth), soon turned into a daily nightmare as the pools of hair began to collate on the bathroom floor. Stepping on strands of hair in bare feet is almost as unpleasant as getting old food on your hands in dirty dish water if you’re a little on the OCD side and I’m beginning to realise that this problem has the potential to turn into a real body image issue if I catastrophise about it in my usual way. I am already imagining a future with no hair on my head while the rest of my body is as hirsute as a monkey. Furthermore, I’ve studied the shape of my head in the mirror from every angle and have come to the conclusion that it unlikely I will have the sophisticated beauty of Charlize Theron in Mad Max when I am bald. 

Like the alcoholic who hides their stash of alcohol, the initial shame caused by my hair loss forced me to change the location where I brush my hair of a morning to the bedroom. There, I can camouflage the loss of my mousey strands in the darkness of the timber floor, but even I know that is not getting to the root of the problem and if I don’t find some remedy the old man could have twenty years of bald jokes to catch up on.

I’ve done my research (here) and apparently a lack of protein can be a trigger, as can stress, so I’m back eating meat and have excused myself from all housework duties on medical grounds. My suggestion that the family move out completely fell on deaf ears, but I have also discovered that heat exposure is another culprit; one that is somewhat difficult to curb in my current predicament of several hot flashes a day in spite of living in the repercussions of the latest cyclone.

In other hair news, I can recommend the movie Hackshaw Ridge as a viewing must-see, especially if you want to obsess over a head of truly marvelous hair because Andrew Garfield must have the most voluminous head of hair I’ve ever seen. It generally has its own cameo role and trailer in his movies. Rather like Donald Trump’s thatch, I have always thought that his hair appears to have a life of its own and it is easy to be distracted by it. Fortunately, his acting is good enough in this film for it not to take centre stage, unlike when it comes to Trump’s politics.

When Hormones Get In The Way Of Your Work/Life, Family Balance

Ever feel like God was having some kind of sick joke when he coordinated the onset of menopause with the metamorphosis of happy children into entitled, grunting teenagers? When Hormones Get In The Way Of Your Work/Family Balance We all strive for the perfect work/life, family balance but it’s not easy to get that balance right when there are effectively four adults living in one house, ravaged by the dictates of hormones.

And that precious balance can get completely fucked up by the smallest things: like when the food shop hasn’t been done in eleven days and you end up having to pay an exorbitant amount of money at the local shop for milk, bread and bin bags.

I seriously need a housekeeper or a ‘wife’.

I don’t need a cleaner – our little apartment only needs twenty-minutes of concerted effort to turn it from bedlam to show home via a superficial surface clean that I’ve invented which would even fool the mother-in-law. And to be honest, we’d miss that fine layer of dust if it suddenly disappeared from the lining of our nostrils.

But it’s all that other shit, like ACTUALLY getting the dishwasher TURNED ON and EMPTIED; like removing the wet washing from the washing machine and putting it into the drier; like having the luxury of time to clean and divide the recycling into the relevant fucking boxes so the dustman don’t have an epi when he collects it.

I know I only have myself to blame. I should be treating my children like serfs now that they are legally old enough not to fall under the protection of child services. But to be fair, they do their own washing and feed themselves on those days I’ve completely given up and refuse to come home.

The problem is that we all work long hours – well, apart from Kurt who is having a sabbatical from life and in the process of ‘finding himself’, using simple self-help strategies such as eating and sleeping all day. So, you see, once the main priorities have been dealt with, such as walking the Princess four times a day, (who now I’m really time-poor, insists on sniffing each blade of grass before dumping her load), cooking, cleaning and moaning about life, it doesn’t leave much time to enjoy life.

And we’re all super-cranky as a result.

Even the Princess, whose every whim is catered too. Everyone knows dogs have ADHD, but I never realised they suffered from peri-menopause too!

Raging hormones are responsible for a lot in our apartment – sometimes it feels like the Big Brother house, such is the dangerous smorgasbord of dual personalities on display. We have one VERY angry, lethargic teenager with the appetite of ten athletes, one lovesick twenty-something whose biggest fear in life is failing a test, an even ANGRIER menopausal mother and a father who is just coming out of his third midlife crisis.

So what’s the solution? Well, funnily enough, Annabel Crabb has come up with one in her new book ‘The Wife Drought’. Forget about farmers needing a wife, apparently WE ALL NEED A WIFE if we want a better work/life balance. In other words, the optimum domestic set-up is when the main breadwinner has a non-working or part-time ‘wifey’ at home, who deals with all that OTHER frustrating shit like when you’re trying to make a deadline and the dog decides to vomit on the carpet. In the fifties, when many women didn’t work, the ‘wife’ used to manage the domestic chores and so prevented the type of family melt-downs that are so common these days.

In our house, if I haven’t told the old man to ‘fuck off’ within half an hour of us both returning home from work, I would start worrying about the status of our relationship.

I’m not suggesting that everyone can afford a part-timer in the family, but something has to give. The mélange of Kurt’s teenage growth hormones dictating to him to eat and sleep all day, (and in doing so, directly challenging my resentful and permanently ANGRY, menopausal hormones that justifiably feel that if I have to work my ass off, so should everyone else), are having a seriously detrimental effect on my sanity. My walking-dustbin-for-a-son eats us out of house and home, so even that wonderful feeling of elation at the sight of a FULL FRIDGE that I occasionally experience once a week, (and yes, I do know that’s incredibly sad!), is a temporary one, quickly dismissed once Kurt and his friends have raped and pillaged its contents.

http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/502218055

But at least the old man takes it all calmly in his stride and feigns the superiority of the sage yogi as he escapes the domestic trenches to sit beneath his faithful invisibility cloak, that has always protected him from the ravages of parenthood and hormone-driven storms… for all of five minutes, usually, before he erupts too and we all laugh at him callously when he storms off to the bedroom for his therapy in front of the golf.

How’s your work/family balance working out for you?

24 Shocking Facts About Menopause

24 True Facts About Menopause
Found on menno-pause.com

 

  1. You need to carry out a full risk assessment before you wear a white dress ANY TIME during the month.
  2. Some days your boobs are as dense as when your milk came in after giving birth, other days they have the limpness of overcooked pasta.
  3. There is a reason middle-aged women veer towards a line and voluminous tent dresses – to allow for the sudden bloating caused by the most minor food intolerances or hormonal reactions to stress.
  4. Wind is harder to contain in private and has become an eager performer that can burst forth in public without a moment’s warning.
  5. Your body no longer ‘glows’ or ‘perspires’ – it sweats like a racehorse at the end of the Melbourne Cup, and usually at the most inopportune moments, or in bed at night.
  6. ‘Libido’ becomes a foreign word, that leaves you feeling puzzled and these days you find sex scenes on the tv quite repugnant. You can’t actually remember what wanting to make love ever felt like.
  7. You finally realize that dieting is a fruitless exercise when food becomes even more enticing because your body is forcing you to get fat lay down carbs to protect your brittle bones. You decide to take the ‘let it go’ approach to sugar.
  8. The art of sleeping is lost. Anxiety has kicked in so hard that your brain goes into overdrive the minute you turn off your bedside lamp at night, every sound is intensified and you’re hot, FUCKING HOT, ALL THE TIME. This is obviously why your parents ended up in separate bedrooms, you realise. You finally fall asleep around 5am, just before you need to get up.
  9. You become particularly intolerant to men. Your procreation work is done so you don’t need them physically any more and they have become a tiresome drain on your emotions. You take pleasure in windows of opportunity to plan your divorce.
  10. You research ways to get your young adult kids to leave home even earlier than they planned.
  11. God might have made your body less tolerant to wine in a final attempt to test the superiority of women, but you won’t go down without a fight and so hangovers have taken on a new degree of pain.
  12. Comfortable clothing has become hugely attractive. You make a beeline to the top floors in Myer and the plus-size sections. Wide pants, flat shoes, floaty dresses – bring them on! – your brain assures you that they suit your new shape. ‘Invisibility’ is a godsend if it means you don’t have to give a fuck anymore about what you look like.
  13. You become more insular, less sociable and nothing is more appealing than bed before 10pm in the company of a good book. You get excited about getting up early to make the most of the day.
  14. You focus your energies on friends who still drink and REALLY care about you.
  15. Going for walks suddenly becomes interesting.
  16. Hand cream becomes interesting and T2 is your new favourite shop.
  17. You research ways you can convince your doctor to give you a hysterectomy.
  18. You cry at the drop of a hat, but especially when you run out of wine, during adverts and when you stick your mascara wand in your eye because you’re too longsighted to know what the fuck you’re doing with it.
  19. Fuck ‘goals’! Your new approach to life is just ‘living’, ‘surviving’ and making the most of what time you have left.
  20. Fuck ‘saving’ money.
  21. The dog has become your new best friend because your teenagers hate you, you hate them and you ran out of conversation with your long term partner around your ten-year anniversary. The two of you have perfected the art of a long and meaningful conversation through the dog. It is an interesting fact that all dogs lisp.
  22. Everything your long term partner does, irritates you – not replacing the toilet roll, stealing the doona in the middle of the night (even if you are burning a hormonal fever) and not wiping the bench top down can turn you into a vengeful psychopath who ruminates over the torture scenes in Game of Thrones.

    A toilet paper roll
    A toilet paper roll (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  23. People you fantasise about killing include all white-coated, orange beauty assistants in department stores, men over forty, everyone at work, skinny women and anyone who dares to disagree with you.
  24. Remembering names is a daily challenge. You confuse the kids names with the dog and sometimes you can’t even remember who you’re married to when you’re bitching about him with your friends.

Midlife Mayhem – A Question of Maturity


I fear that I have been demoted to the role of ‘has-been female’ in our household.

I’m tentatively thrilled that my relationship with my teenage daughter is now in the ‘rediscovery’ phase after several turbulent years of adolescence, but I am sensing a resulting shift in the family dynamics. Whilst I’m earnestly trying to embrace our new pact, (I think she has to control her outward frustration with family life and I have to relinquish control of her every breath), some of her new behaviors relating to her ‘growth’ are irking me.

This newfound-maturity thing is not as straightforward as it seems, the main obstacle being that I’m simply not mature. There was no warning that the evil duckling was about to turn into a swan and I was obviously ill prepared for the fall-out. The family has welcomed the sudden change in her disposition, but if I’m honest I’m a little sceptical. Furthermore, I’ve observed that she has begun to infringe on my position in the household and, dare I say it, take on my role of alpha female.

Fortunately, she doesn’t seem fully conscious of her new standing yet, but I’m watching her. Obviously, her father fell for her guile the day she was born, and as nauseating as it is to witness his disempowerment in her presence, even I would be proud of her talent for extracting cash from him. And in spite of her newfound control, her brother still knows how to push the bitch switch and is not afraid of the outcome like the rest of us.

But her outer poise says it all and she now sashays around the house (my territory), exuding a shameless inner confidence and all-round gorgeousness that, frankly, I find confronting! I know I am the adult here and should be embracing her metamorphosis, so why do I see her as a threat?

You see her transformation into a young woman has provoked some serious soul searching on my part, although I have tried to rationalize my feelings of ‘offspring envy’. Maybe I can blame that on hormones too, or maybe I’m being too self-critical. I have adapted quite quickly to most aspects of her transition, after all, like the biological modifications neither of us could control.  Her height was only an issue until I re-introduced heels back into my wardrobe but that pheramonal attraction that boys have to her has been harder to manage, and stomach. Honestly, it’s hard to ignore the aesthetically perfect specimens of walking Testosterone that loiter around our home now, fawning over her, like drones around the Queen Bee. Boys used to behave like that around me, but I only catch the eye of male retirees now, and that’s on a good day.

So, do I retreat and lick my wounds or celebrate the success of my parenting skills? Am I really that shallow that I’m allowing my self-esteem to be threatened by the youth and beauty of my own progeny? Maybe I just need to ‘get a life’, like my ‘man mountain of middle age spread’ advised when I was moaning(his words)/seeking reassurance(mine)?

I admit it – I envy my own daughter! She has artfully crossed the boundary from adolescence to young adult, and in the words of the Spice Girls, acquired ‘girl power’. Once upon a time I used to have that power, but it’s been replaced by wrinkles and unwanted kilos. I envy her youth and looks, covet her intelligence and would trade my Chanel handbag for her endless possibilities.

Maybe I just need to grow up like she has!

High Heels 14 Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com (lucyguthrie 1)

Girl Power Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com