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.

15 Things Every Middle-Aged Woman Needs In Her Handbag

  1. Panty liners and wet wipes – for when you sneeze, cough, laugh or have to jump on a trampoline to pretend you like little kids (and trampolines) at a family kid’s party.
  2. Thick foundation – to cover those break-outs of middle-aged acne or Rosacea triggered by all that intense red wine drinking exercise you’ve done recently.pete-bellis-458961-unsplash
  3. A timer – to make sure you don’t digress from your daily routine of a) pajamas by 3pm b) wine by 5pm, and c) bed by 9pm.
  4. Earplugs – so you can’t hear him when he begs for sex, mansplains or wants a money conversation.
  5. Aldi trolley coin – because one day… they will bring their Churros back.
  6. A backpacker’s expanding travel towel -for hot flushes.
  7. Spanx – in case you bump into another soulmate.
  8. Tweezers – for those rogue hairs that sprout when you’re away from home and are nurtured by office lighting.
  9. A pacifier – to remind you that life isn’t that bad.
  10. Snacks – for those hunger emergencies in between snacks.
  11. A hip flask – for your morning gin.
  12. A mini fan – because…menopause.
  13. Perfume – because you might be invisible, but you can still knock them dead with your scent.
  14. Condom – because you just never know
  15. Valium – In case there’s nowhere to buy coffee.

What have I missed?

The Hidden Link Between Muscle Tone And Weight Gain In Middle Age

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I know I drone on about the unfairness of weight gain in middle age a lot. I don’t want to sound like some narcissistic bitch bemoaning the first-world problem of the loss of my youth, beauty, and self-esteem, (which I am…obviously), but we women of a certain age have a lot to come to terms with.

Almost a year ago, as I began to watch the weight creep on, I decided to try something new. I took up exercise again. I suppose I got caught up in the hype of wanting to look young again – thank you Revitalift – and so I’ve been secretly beavering away at some fitness stuff in an attempt to shed the kilos and keep the old ticker working as it should.

I suppose I thought I’d surprise you. If women’s magazines are anything to go by, many of us struggle with our weight at this age and I thought that one day I would put up my before and after photos and my secret to losing weight on this site and you’d all hate me. I’d sell my story about how I did it, and how simple it really was, because all it really involves is loving yourself, drinking lots of red wine (not white) and walking to the pub instead of catching an Uber. I thought I’d be one of those unrealistic representations of health that you see in photos of beautiful, young people in the gym. Only I’m no longer young and beautiful.

But then, in a moment of sheer madness, I decided to get on the scales – something I haven’t done since the last time I couldn’t do up my jeans – and to my horror, I discovered that I’d gained six kilos. This, after almost killing myself for a year.

And the problem with that is that I’m not the sort that sees the unfairness of life as a challenge. I see the world in black and white – as in I’m the type that receives that kind of devastating news and heads straight to the pantry for a six-pack of Kettle Chips and a bottle of Baileys, in spite of everything I write about accepting myself for who I am.

To be honest, I’m feeling kind of cheated right now about all that time I spent gritting my teeth through the pain in my lungs and the swelling in my knees, and my disappointment isn’t entirely linked to vanity. It’s linked to the unfairness of working so damned hard for fuck-all results. It is linked to the sacrifice and unfairness of losing not only my looks, my hair, and my memory, but of also having to come to terms with how my clothes sit on my new size 14 frame.

We’ve all heard overweight friends say things like, ‘I don’t know why I can’t lose the weight,’ and then we watch them eat and become smugly judgmental. And I will admit to enjoying my food as well. On occasion, I have been known to give in to my body’s natural bent for eating MOST of the pies, and yet, in general, I eat healthily at least five days a week.

And yes, (before The Alcohol Police remind me), I am fully aware of those naughty wine calories, which I had hoped would be compensated by my hour of exercise each day. Two glasses of wine equate to 160 calories, which by my calculations, equates to an hour’s walk. Added to which, I must lose the equivalent amount of liquid in sweat during my jogs around the park.

Cortisol can be another cause of weight gain at this age, and I admit that I have been content in the past to latch onto the excuse of stress as a result of Kurt’s antics and living with the old man. And yet I can’t even blame the boy at the moment, who has been suspiciously tame for a while now.

Which leaves only a couple of possible excuses reasons for this weight gain. 1. The first is that biologically-speaking, many middle-aged women gain weight during menopause – something to do with an extra padding of fat to protect our crumbling bones, which is vital if we want to continue to outlive men and lead the human race. Because seriously…who wants to leave this world on something boring like a fall, unless it’s in a bar, of course? But as I’m not officially in menopause yet, it has to be the second reason.

2. Muscle tone.

Menopausal Mood Swings And Not Turning Into “That” Couple

Elderly couple sitting on bench in front of a view of the water.

There are weeks when we reach for the bikini briefs from our underwear drawer each morning, and others when we choose the big girl panties. There are weeks when we stop at the second cookie, and others when we devour the packet.

Life can be like that; a rollercoaster of emotions and ups and downs, with no real warning of how the next day will turn out. We are led to believe that the downs are a necessary part of growth and make us stronger, and yet it can be hard sometimes to embrace life lessons when we find ourselves permanently in the dips.

Menopause may contribute to those dips. Hormonal changes within our bodies make us vulnerable; they exacerbate our mood swings, diminishing our confidence. Some days it can be hard enough to get out of bed, let alone think clearly enough to make life-changing decisions that affect our future. 

Menopausal mood swings make PMT look like a walk in the park and the worst part is that they don’t stop after five to seven days. We never know quite how we’re going to feel each morning, and those disconcerting changes to our mental make-up – such as increased forgetfulness – can force us to second-guess ourselves. This is a period of our lives when we are coping with the passing and care of elderly parents, children leaving, downsizing – perhaps a terrifying sea change to another area – and changes to our work patterns and stability, and it can be easy to feel insecure and unsupported.

The topic of retirement or semi-retirement, (and more poignantly, WHEN we will be able to retire), is a subject that dominates conversation among my female friends. Most of us, independent of how successful our careers have been up to this point in our lives, have been ready to reduce our hours or work for ourselves (in an ideal world) for some time now. Sadly, few of us have the financial means. A reality that increases the anxiety of some women to such a level that they can find themselves reliant on anti-depressants to cope – or in the hands of dubious personal trainers. This, at a time when they should be reaping the rewards of empty-nesting.

There is a growing sense of frustration and restlessness about still being on the hamster wheel as the tiredness of age seeps into our bones, tempers and tolerance to dickheads. We feel compromised about still having to work for other people – often with no acknowledgment of the good job we are doing and that permanent, underlying fear of the consequences of ageism in the workplace.

A different headspace comes with the territory of middle age where our focus changes to freedom. No longer dazzled by the riches promised by work, (because we have a newfound sense of what is important), the dangling carrot is now the greater freedom to do what we want with whatever time we have left. How many times do we hear the story of the couple that worked hard all their lives for their retirement, for one of them to fall sick at the start of it?

Don’t be that couple.

What Happened To The Fearlessness Of My Youth?

It is no secret that anxiety can be linked to menopause, and for some women, the condition can be so bad, it forces them to turn to anti-depressants to get through it.

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According to Medical News Today: ‘Hormone changes, life stresses, sleep problems, worries about body image, infertility, boring marriages and aging are all factors linked to menopause that can contribute to mood swings, stress, anxiety, irritability bordering on psychopathy and a decreased sense of any rationality well-being in women.’

There’s nothing worse than feeling anxious all the time, and if I could change one element of this period of my life, it would be the sense of irrational fear that has worked its way into my everyday consciousness.

I often wonder where the fearlessness I had as a child and young adulthood disappeared to in the ageing process. Anxiety diffuses my every thought to the point where I’ve even started to worry on behalf of others. I stop to watch the surfers at the beach and instead of envying them their majestic feat of travel through water, all I can think about are the waves strong enough to crush them, sharks, rips, Russian submarines, and ear infections.

Fortunately for them, their passion overrides their fear.

What happened to the kid that used to roll and bound down steep hills and steps, without worrying about falling over? When did I stop swinging across monkey bars, spinning the swing almost 360 degrees and climbing trees – okay, so I never actually climbed trees.

Did we do all that because our brains were underdeveloped, or has experience taught us to be more careful?

I often wonder what happened to the girl who lived and worked in a foreign country, drove across Europe by herself, hitchhiked and took her chances with Lotharios she’d never consider leaving her daughter with now.  What happened to that courageous young woman who reinvented herself so many times in the workplace that not even she recognised herself?

What happened to the fearlessness of my youth? When did fear start to impede my enjoyment of life?

Anyone else feel this way?

Is Menopause To Blame For My Poor Concentration As Well?

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‘Just call me a homing pigeon,’ said the old man smugly as he traversed the narrow streets of our neighbourhood, Italian Job-style, to avoid the traffic on the main arterial road to the city. 

I’ve never had and homing skills, a fact that was proven only a few days before when I got a bus to meet NC and ended up twenty kilometres further north. I had to call her anxiously to tell her I was lost.

‘I thought you told me that all the buses go to the city,’ I said accusingly as I dug around my handbag for my glasses to check Google maps – only to realise that I’d left them at home with my brain.  

‘Where are you?’ she asked me, sounding like my mother.

‘Fuck knows,’ I answered in a bleak voice, praying this was just another one of ‘those days’ and not the early signs of dementia.

I’ve never had a great sense of direction. I blame it on the timetable clash at school between Geography and Art, but I still like to think that my current issue is more linked to a distraction problem than short term memory loss.

I find it more and more difficult to concentrate these days, particularly when I’m not interested in what I’m supposed to be concentrated on. I zone out, I drop out of conversations, (or more rudely, I attempt to veer them in the direction I want them to go). Even watching Netflix, I struggle to maintain focus on complicated plots and and I catch my mind wandering to tomorrow’s dinner or my plans for the next day. 

I can concentrate on my writing, on reading books and articles on social media – the pastimes I enjoy – but the rest of the time it feels like I’m running around in a permanent fug.

Can I blame menopause? Apparently so. You see, it has been universally acknowledged that hormone fuckery and lack of sleep contribute to poor concentration in both peri-menopause and menopause itself, which means – I hope – that I’m not in the early stages of Alzheimer’s after all.

Perhaps, it’s simply that I struggle to relax. Like most women, I made a career out of multi-tasking, but in recent years my life has become less hectic and my body is still acclimatising to that change. It isn’t used to being able to sit still for periods of time.

‘Breathe, Mum,’ NC advised before she hung up. I think it’s time to take her advice.

Why Is My Hair Thinning In Middle Age?

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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.

Middle-Age: The Best Way To Gain Kilos Without Really Trying

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Do you, like me, sometimes look in the mirror and secretly wish you were larger? Are you disappointed when you can pinch less than an inch, or can’t find clothes that fit because you’re simply too small? Do you watch other women on the beach flaunting their curves and muffin tops, and imagine yourself in their body? 

Well, worry no more because I’m about to share with you here my secret for gaining weight. And all that’s required for you to look YOUR BEST EVER YET is to be 1. Peri/menopausal, 2. A serious food junkie, and 3. A functioning alcoholic with a positive outlook.

I promise you it’s REALLY simple.

Here are my top tips for gaining weight in middle-age:

Holidays – The more the better, because…BUFFET BREAKFAST! Every one of us knows how easy it is to eat compulsively on holiday and pile on the pounds. Somehow, it’s so much easier to forget food discipline when the sun is shining and you can wear kaftans. Holidays gives you that free pass to eat as much as you can because in your head you’ve worked hard all year and your deserve it. Scientists have proven that our mindset changes as soon as we see an ice cream parlour or a cocktail bar in a relaxed environment where there is no-one we know to judge us.

Menopause – Thank God that our bodies think of us and protect us at what could be a difficult time of our lives, and one of the hardest transition periods of the ageing process for women. But ladies, I’m here to tell you that Menopause is our friend, proven by the way it increases our appetite to make us feel mentally stronger and better about ourselves, as well as laying down extra fatty tissue to protect our bones so we are physically stronger as well.

Serial snacking, is how I like to describe the chips n’dips that I like to indulge in right before meals (as well as mid-morning and mid-afternoon). I like to kid myself that eating natural, savoury snacks like hummus and peanut butter, i.e., foods that look low in calories, really are.

Meditation – Or what I like to call ‘mind over matter.’ I use the power of my mind to think about what food is in my cupboard – like ALL OF THE TIME. Obviously, I continue to count calories, but I use a reverse psychology where I have to think about how many calories I can gain. Scientists may remain uncertain about the true benefits of sugar consumption, but what we do know is how good it makes me feel and that’s good enough for me.

Alcohol – The jury may still be out about how much alcohol it is safe to consume, so I’ve decided to empower myself and run my own research at home.

Exercise – Step away from the gym because it turns out that it is not your friend when it comes to gaining weight. Exercise turns fat into muscle, makes you drink loads of water (which fills you up when really donuts feel so much better), and worse, it makes you incredibly boring. Have you noticed the reaction of your friends’ to tales about your work outs, new gym equipment and yoga? Instead, try mentioning that Amaretto ricotta cheesecake with white chocolate shards you baked recently and ate in one sitting.

The best part about this diet is that anyone can do it. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t eaten exactly what they wanted without gaining weight. It’s almost guaranteed! No more disappointment each time you get on the scales!

Concessions for Women

Hats off to Fu Yuanhui, the twenty-year old swimmer, for mentioning the P word at the Olympics. And I’m not talking about the P in Phelps.angry-1429013_1280

 

When asked how she felt after her race, she responded with:

 

“My period came last night and I’m really tired right now … but this isn’t an excuse, I still did not swim as well as I should have.”

 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be that honest in the workplace and our colleagues were mature enough to demonstrate some empathy rather than smirking patronisation?

 

No, menstruation is not an excuse for poor performance and women don’t expect it to be, but perhaps it should be? Other athletes concede matches due to injury such as inflamed joints or muscle strain. Picture the pats on the back when a guy comes into the office with his arm in a sling because he sprained his wrist playing rugby; then imagine the reaction in the photocopying room if a woman suddenly bent down in agony from excruciating period pain.

 

Why is there this expectation that women have to be stronger and tougher to be equal ie. Superwomen? They suffer through menstruation, giving birth and breastfeeding while working and are still not considered as good as their male counterparts.

 

I read a very funny article recently about the true, nitty-gritty symptoms of menopause – the bits we don’t talk about. ‘Clots the size of tennis balls’ is one of the descriptions that stuck in my brain – cue exit of all my male readers – and it made me laugh out loud, because every one of us has at least one horror story about birth and embarrassing period accidents.

 

So, even though I’m usually quite vocal about my demand for equal rights, it did cross my mind when I read that piece that too right! women should be given some concessions in the workplace for all the hormonal shit we have to put up with at the same time as doing our jobs. But we’re not. We’re expected to forge through it, which means that sometimes our life feels like our own Olympic competition to to see if we’re good enough to do ‘a man’s job’; as if what they do is what we need to aspire to.

 

Even though we push their babies out of our bodies.

 

At the same time we’re fighting the stereotype of women being complainers and moaners, so to counter balance that accusation most of us try to make as little fuss as possible in the workplace, even though no man has ever had to give a presentation while worrying about leaking from either boobs or vagina or being over-tired because they couldn’t sleep through period pain or the crying of a newborn the night before.

 

*Steps down from soapbox*

 

Insomnia In Middle Age: Why Old People Have Separate Rooms

The old man predicts that we will be in separate rooms soon because of my snoring, but it’s far more likely to be due to our mismatched sleep patterns. lion-1477963_1280

 

One of the major and most debilitating symptoms of Menopause is insomnia. I REALLY need my sleep – ideally a solid twelve hours to feel human – anything less than that and I’m walking on a tight rope between psychopath and White Walker.

 

Over the past few years as my sleep patterns have changed, I’ve done everything in my power to shake up my bedtime routine in an attempt to procure more sleep. I exercise during the day, avoid screen time before bedtime, have hot baths and milky drinks and have switched back to reading paper books. I’ve also dropped caffeine from my diet as well as any spicy food stuffs that might keep me awake.

 

And generally, within fifteen minutes of opening a book, my eyes begin to glaze over and I feel ready to turn off the light, spoon the Princess and roll onto my side to go to sleep, feeling ever hopeful.

 

Usually, my eyes are wide open again within minutes.

 

There are other reasons why I don’t sleep, of course: the first being the third person in our bed in the shape of the Princess; the second, the unfortunate decrease in bladder control that many of us stoic mothers succumb to in middle age, having sacrificed our pelvic floor muscles for the birth of our children. Fortunately, mine’s not as bad as the midwife predicted when I gave birth to my Buddha of a son but it’s enough to make me worry subconsciously about it through the night.

 

My final issue is directly related to sharing the bed with the old man and his enviable ability to fall asleep immediately, which has developed into a new level of marital torture.

 

He comes to bed, usually after me and following two hours of golf on television, rolls over onto his side and within seconds begins to fuck me off with the taunting sound of his regular, deep sleep breathing.

 

Like, doesn’t this man have any thoughts that he needs to compartmentalise in his brain at the end of the day? Why doesn’t HE lie awake, like I do, wondering if he remembered to turn the heater off, or why Kurt isn’t back yet, or whether NC made her flight connection from Doha to Heathrow.

 

How can anyone possibly switch off their brain that quickly?

 

Meanwhile, there I lie next to him, rolling around in a state of increasing anxiety, changing from this position to that at the same time as trying to control the perpetual shift in my body temperature from as cold as ice to a sauna, one leg in, one leg out; shirt on, shirt off.

 

Which is why old people have separate bedrooms.

The Secret To Combatting Tiredness In Menopause

I’ve always loved my sleep, but this past year I’ve superseded all previous records for just how much I can sleep and how often. bed-945881_1280

 

We all know that the excuse to ‘nap’ is one of the biggest benefits of ageing for both men and women, but when you sleep for ten hours or more a night and still feel you like a complete bitch the next morning, that’s got to be symptomatic of a little more than just ageing. Anyway, the old man is like a prime minister, and can survive on very little sleep these days, while I wake up after ten hours, as irritable and bad-tempered as when I went to bed.

 

So the culprit has to be menopause.

 

Admittedly, I don’t sleep deeply, like I used to. A lower back pain problem has resurfaced over the past few weeks so I’m finding it difficult to find a comfortable sleep position – the story of my life, having recently conquered my lifelong intolerance to exercise by finally discovering an exercise routine that works for me

 

Then there are the additional problems of sleep disturbance caused by anything from noisy revellers in the street four floors beneath us, to Kurt not coming home by his curfew and then making toast in the kitchen, or the Princess snoring loudly in the bed next to me. Not forgetting the disruption caused by the nightly nagging of the call of nature; that annoying, niggling little reminder that your bladder is not as young as it used to be… but since you’re awake….

 

And when I do wake up, usually around 3.30am, I can’t just doze back off again in the space of a few seconds, like I trained myself to when the kids were newborns. I lie there and over-think…and worry…and get all cross about the unfairness of life – particularly the part where the old man can sleep so inordinately deeply while I’m stranded in insomniac hell.

 

Apparently, the fatigue and lack of energy in menopause are due to fluctuating hormone levels, (particularly Oestrogen), and stress and anxiety can compound the problem; once again, I hit the jackpot.

 

If you want the science behind it, read this, but below are some simple changes that can help:

 

Cut your caffeine. I did this a few months to help with my Rosacea and although at times I still look like Two-Face in Batman, it seems to have had a more positive effect on my sleep patterns. It has also helped reduce the night sweats – although that might also have something to do with the onset of Autumn which has pulled us out of the nightly furnace of Sydney’s summer humidity.

 

Drink less alcohol – I know… boo, hiss, fuckity fuck fuck!… but it simply doesn’t contribute to a good night’s sleep.

 

Avoid using electronic devices right before you go to sleep and revert back to the good, old-fashioned book. I picked up this advice a while ago when I was trying to resolve Kurt’s sleep issues, a common problem for people with ADHD. Having studied it ad infinitum at high school, I can strongly recommend Middlemarch by George Elliot as the most effectively tranquillising of reading materials.

 

If, unlike me, you aren’t fortunate enough to have the excuse of a really serious sports injury that prevents you from getting out there  with other serious-minded professional sports people, you need to exercise. I know the whole premise of exercise giving you more energy just isn’t logical, but apparently it also makes is produce those endorphin-thingummys that make you feel good about yourself.

 

Learn to relax – personally, this has never been a problem for me, and if you find some success with my second recommendation but then feel that life is no longer worth living, a script for medical marijuana should help, the added bonus being that you’ll sleep like a baby.

Shopping, Friendship and Embracing Your New Middle Aged Body

I am usually a lone shopper. I take my shopping habit very seriously and can quite easily waste an entire Saturday trying out new styles that I would never actually buy in a million years. I enjoy the beauty and creativity behind beautiful clothes, fabrics and home accessories – I like looking at them, touching them, trying them on or imagining them in my home. The benefit of my impulsive nature is that sometimes it leads me to try on wildly different styles than neither my wallet or body can really take, but even on those days I come away from the shops empty-handed, shopping is always a delicious stress-buster. buy-1299519_1280

 

And I have built up good brand knowledge as a result of so much active research in the field. I know which brands are shockingly under-sized and make me feel like I’ve eaten all the pies, and which ones are more accurate for older women. Interestingly, I have a far calmer approach to buying clothes now that I’m officially middle-aged, whereas in my forties I stressed out when nothing fitted or looked right, or when I couldn’t find the appropriate style to suit my increasing age and girth. I’m much more chilled about the process now; finally, I know what suits my body and can appreciate that rare experience for what it is, when something… ANYTHING…fits. If all else fails I console myself with lingerie and shoes.

 

Although, that approach may also have something to do with my meds, too…

 

Not so for one of my besties, however, who up until recently avoided shopping malls like holidays in the Middle East. Just as I’ve been forced to discover a new pleasure for buying underwear in middle age, my friend has transferred her shopping affections to the purchase of super-expensive cosmetics, such is her fear of trying on clothes that don’t fit or flatter her new body shape.

 

So much so that occasionally when she reaches rock bottom or has a major ‘nothing to wear’ moment, she’ll reach out to me in desperation for some guidance – I assume to boost her confidence. 

 

I agree that at our age clothes shopping can be about as as much fun as having your eyebrows threaded; not like in our younger years, when everything looked good on our pre-baby/menopausal bodies. Whenever NC and I shop together, I take a perverse pleasure in admiring just how good everything looks on her, as though it was designed for her fabulous, lithe, young body, whereas statistically I have about a 10% chance of getting the zip up on a good day.

 

Yesterday this friend joined me in the city on impulse, and although I only returned home with one purchase (much to the old man’s delight), in the form of a beige trench coat that was reduced by 50% in the Gap sale, meaning I actually saved money, it gave me the fuzzies to see how excited she became in what is normally a terror zone for her, egged on by a little help from a friend. It’s not that we necessarily share the same taste in style, (hence there was no in-store fighting over the last pair of Cue sale trousers), all she needed was a boost to her confidence; someone to push her to try things on, tell her when an outfit looked good, be firm if it looked shit, to surreptitiously steer her away from her comfort zones and force her to embrace her new figure rather than resenting it.

 

We’ve both gone up a size since our forties, although we suffer from different body issues, but we shared a mission yesterday, with trips booked back to the UK in a few weeks time – mine for Dad’s third wedding and hers an overdue trip to catch up with family and friends.

 

So we want to look our best.

 

By the end of the day, I had even convinced her to buy three new bras – once she’d finally conceded that she might have gone up a bra size since her previous purchase at Marks and Spencers in London three years ago.

 

It’s a new world out there, and we need to feel brave and empowered, not anxious. It’s a time where it’s important to draw our true friends closer, and embrace the physical embellishments of a good life lived thus far.

When You Have To Deal With Shark Month, Stress And Work, All At The Same Time

Don’t you just hate it when your real job gets in the way of what you really want to do with your life? shark-674867_1280

 

My day job has been woefully demanding of my time over the past few weeks, which has meant that not only has my writing/parenting/viewing of ‘I’m A Celebrity’ suffered, but my stress levels have escalated to crazy Trump-support proportions.

 

I can’t complain really because I don’t have little ones demanding my time, (although Kurt still feels the need to text me every hour on the hour from TAFE, usually to ask what’s for dinner), and to be honest, feeling professionally needed does make me feel like a very important person at home and means I can justifiably brush off the old man patronisingly with an ‘I’M WORKING’ superiority whenever he asks me to contribute to anything domestic.

 

But adding to the increase in my anxiety, (which has already triggered an attractive and professionally humiliating sheen of perspiration permanently on my skin as a result of the current climate of this crazy Australian summer and menopause – listen to Leo), and although I wouldn’t ordinarily bring this up, (being aware of the sensitivities of my few, loyal male readers who will instantly click out of this post in the same way that the old man visibly winces when I ask him to buy period paraphernalia when he does the weekly shop) – the topic of menstruation does seem to be currently de rigeur as a result of one British company’s decision to give women time off for their cramps – and I’ve recently experienced a fucking shark MONTH as well as working like a dog.

 

There, I said it. I mentioned ‘menstruation’, and you’re still there. Aren’t you????

 

Just another minor side effect in the lead up to the delights of full-blown menopause, when your uterus begins to implode rather like an old star at about the same time as your ovaries decide they’re truly fucked. Not that I care about my uterus dying – it’s not like I need it anymore – but it’s annoying that it refuses to go quietly. My uterus wants a final moment and it’s having a painful, drawn out death, with all the pomp and ceremony of an Indian funeral, which is tiring when you have to deal with life’s demands at the same time; rather than be allowed to lie in bed, order room service and feel sorry for yourself.

 

So when, despite the flexibility of my job, (which is wonderful), its demands get backed up and I have a week ahead of me like the one I faced this week, I could really have done without the added complication of the death throes of my vajayjay.

 

You’ll be relieved to know, no doubt, that I have booked myself in to be put down, I mean see a specialist – she must be a specialist, judging by her charges – for a procedure called a D and C, (something I previously thought was a type of comic superhero or a skate brand), and I imagine that she’ll use some special and very painless vajayjay Dyson suck-monster to extract all that excess menstrual ickiness and allow me to be finally done with reproduction and it’s grossness and say hello to becoming truly, physically old.

 

What I’d really like, of course, is a full-blown hysterectomy, because neutering animals makes them so much calmer, but I worry about feeling completely asexual then and not even noticing Chris Hemsworth.

How Does Facebook Know Me Better Than My Husband Does?

It’s kind of spooky just how perceptive Facebook has become about my personality.

 

The choice of articles, memes and funny/cute dog videos that flood my homepage each day accurately paint a picture of my character (and all its flaws), as well as pander to my quirks and interests far more intuitively than the old man ever has. chocolate-brownie-995134_1280

 

For the man I have shared my life with for thirty years still cannot determine between mine and my daughter’s knickers when he sorts the laundry, nor can he remember that I like weak tea and strong coffee. Yet Facebook unfailingly remembers my birthday, reminds me of the birthdays of the important people in my life, helpfully sends me adverts for clothes for the more mature woman, the latest diet crazes and advice on how to cope with a child with ADHD.

 

Facebook knows that I have an insatiable appetite for any article about mental health issues – particularly in the areas of ADHD and anxiety; it also knows that I have a weakness for wine which looks after my own mental health issues.

 

It knows that I am prone to obsessing about healthy eating and dieting, yet am happy to forgo the latest fad diet for the ‘ultimate’ chocolate brownie recipe, and that although I am concerned about how much alcohol I drink and will do anything to increase the longevity of my life, I am a strict practitioner of ‘living life in the moment’.

 

Facebook has surmised that I am a bit porky and more and more conscious of it, that I am middle-aged and suffer from mood swings, (in fact the full smorgasbord of menopause symptoms), and am well on the way to becoming a candidate for Tena pads. I’m not certain from where the articles on how to improve my sex life emanate, when that ceased to be a priority a while ago, but apparently I also have an interest in lube and vibrators.

 

Obviously, what I thought was a secret obsession with Chris Hemsworth is not so secret at FB Headquarters and prompts many articles about the habits of the middle-aged cougar. I expect to be notified whenever a Hemsworth brother pees. In fact nothing is secret on Facebook, which is why sometimes I choose not to allow my curiosity to get the better of me and click on those articles that may well momentarily intrigue me but which I’m aware could lead to repercussions in the future – I don’t want some employer knowing that I have shown an interest in penis size, lesbian sex or suicide – all of which are obviously topics that I’ve needed to research for my book.

 

Facebook knows I like a good laugh, sometimes at my own expense but especially at the expense of others. It has surmised that I have a serious hang up about being a bad mother, that my kids are my world and hence ‘entitled’, and that I am immature for my age.

 

For some very strange reason it believes it is doing me a favour by suggesting my clients and psychologist as future friends.

 

If only the old man had as much insight.