Embracing the Journey: Navigating Perimenopause, Brain Fog, and Lifelong Learning at 59

The Daily Aches and Pains of Aging: Feeling 59 and Strong

Today, I am 59 years old. This past Thanksgiving weekend and part of last week — I had my period. I still get my period at 59 years of age. Sometimes, I feel every single day of all those years, with aches and pains that appear without rhyme or reason. These are the daily reminders of aging, and while I may not be as spry as I once was, I consider myself a healthy and strong woman for my age. Each day brings something new, although it’s not really new — nothing is new in this aging body.

By Kittiphan

The Assumption That Left Me Feeling Older: “You STILL Have Your Period?!”

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a younger member of my extended family. I mentioned having a headache due to my period, and I couldn’t help but notice the shocked look on her face. It seemed to scream, “You still have your period?! I assumed you were in menopause!” That moment left me feeling a bit older than I’d like.

It is important to challenge the assumption that a woman’s stage in life can be determined solely based on her age. I am 59 and have had my period regularly since I was 14 years old! I still have to worry about pregnancy – just like I did when I was a teenager. On the other hand, a younger woman may face menopause much earlier in life due to medical reasons, when most women are typically in the prime of their reproductive years. These instances highlight the need to consider individual circumstances rather than making assumptions based on age alone.

The Elusive End: When Will My Cycle Finally Stop?

Lingering questions continue to haunt me, especially as I approach the age of 59. Despite being in the throes of perimenopause for over a decade, I find myself knowing little more than I did when this journey began. It’s perplexing how elusive answers can be when it comes to such a natural phenomenon. In the past, there seemed to be a scarcity of articles to peruse, or perhaps I simply hadn’t discovered them.

However, it seems like a positive shift is underway, with more women beginning to openly share their experiences and engage in discussions about menopause. From hilarious videos that add a touch of humor to informative articles shedding light on the subject, there is a glimmer of hope. Perhaps in the near future, there will be an abundance of information available, ensuring that women no longer feel isolated in their unique situations.

The Night Sweats Saga: An Unexpected Introduction to Perimenopause

The onset of night sweats hit me like a tidal wave, and it just had to happen during a trip to sunny California with my kids as we embarked on the infamous college tour. I suddenly I wake up in the middle of the night, feeling like I was doused me with a bucket of water. I mean, seriously?! And to make matters worse, I hadn’t packed nearly enough nightshirts to combat this unexpected deluge.

My goal the next morning was to find suitable replacements, resulting in a collection of quirky t-shirts that became my unlikely sleepwear companions. With the sweat-soaked shirts piling up, I couldn’t help but find the whole situation hilariously. It was a memory that’s vividly etched in my mind, reminding me that life has a funny way of making even the most mundane moments memorable. Ah, the joys of parenting and personal climate control!

Denying the Sea of Perimenopause: Coping with the Unexpected Changes

At the time, I didn’t immediately recognize that these were night sweats and marked the beginning of perimenopause. Denial — forget the river — I was swimming in the Sea of Denial. It was hard to recognize because my periods were as regular as ever, coming like clockwork.

Stripping Down to Beat the Heat: Managing Night Sweats with a Sense of Humor

A few months later, it happened again, this time at home. Wet nightshirt — yuck! But finally, a lightbulb went off. Duh! You are going into menopause. I didn’t even know the word “perimenopause” until talking with my gynocologist at my yearly checkup.

That was over 12 years ago, and the night sweats have come and gone and come back. When they start, I swiftly rip my nightshirt off and sleep naked. I’ve read it’s the best way to combat night sweats, and it works for me. I can usually catch it before my nightgown is soaked. I sleep naked for a few nights afterward. Mark loves this, and I have to give him fair warning – “It’s not a sign. Sorry, sweetheart.” Well, it is just not the sign he was hoping for. Eventually, the nightshirt goes back on; after all, it’s New Hampshire, and it can get cold. Plus, we have dogs that jump on the bed and adult children who visit occasionally.

The Confounding Brain Fog: Menopause or Self-Inflicted?

Ah, the brain fog — it’s so hard for others to understand unless they’ve experienced it. It could explain a few things. But is it menopausal brain fog or something else? I listen when told or read something — only to forget shortly afterward. Mark gets frustrated with me because he knows he told me whatever it was — we even talked about it. Yet the next day or even later that same day — I will look at him like I have no idea what he is referring to. Weren’t we high when we were talking about that? By the way, where did I put my phone?

A Life Unfolded: Taking Responsibility

But maybe it’s just the culmination of decades of self-abuse to your body and mind catching up to you. A history of early drug abuse in high school and college + decades of continued marijuana smoking + overtiredness due to single parenting + stress + age + grief + the pressures of everyday life = brain fog. I take responsibility for my part in this demise.

The Path to Mindfulness: Nurturing Inner Peace Amidst the Fog

The challenges of perimenopause and the haze of brain fog have led me to explore a path of mindfulness. Over the years, I’ve delved into various practices, from Buddhism and Taoism to Transcendental Meditation, guided meditation, and mantras. Daily meditation has become a cherished ritual, providing me with a sanctuary to calm and focus my menopausal mind.

In the stillness, I have discovered the profound power of self-awareness and inner peace. Mindfulness has not only helped me to navigate the ups and downs of this transitional phase but has also enriched my life in unexpected ways. It’s a reminder even as I age, the journey inward continues to unfold with new insights and serenity.

By Nikki Zalewski

The Joy of Lifelong Learning: A Personal Revelation at 59

However, at the ripe age of 59, I’ve discovered a few things about myself. I love to learn, and I’ve made it a point to learn new things as I age. You’re never too old to learn something new, whether it’s acquiring a new language, taking a course in something that interests you, or simply reading books that entertain you. The brain needs to be exercised; learning is how you do that.

Recently, we have added 20 minutes of Tai Chi to our morning routine. It’s something that we have wanted to do for a while but for one reason or another never did it – until a couple of weeks ago.

Embracing the Journey: Aging with Resilience and a Sense of Adventure

My life at 59 may bring challenges, but it’s also an opportunity for self-discovery and growth. From perimenopause to brain fog, these are just chapters in the book of life, and the key is to navigate them with resilience, humor, and a thirst for lifelong learning. Embracing the aging journey, we find that each day holds the potential for new experiences and insights, making the road to 60 and beyond an exciting adventure.

The Only Constant is Change

It’s mid June and the summer will be officially beginning next week. It’s one of the subtler shifts of seasons. Spring to summer is not as dramatic as the other shifts in seasons. Summer’s shift into fall greets us with crisp cooling winds and the leaves shift from greens to reds, oranges, yellows and browns. We switch our wardrobes, putting away the spring/summer clothes and start bringing out the leather boots and suede jackets. From fall to winter the landscape features changes even more dramatically as the trees shed their leaves and we are left with their mere silhouettes. Our heavier wardrobe comes front and center – coats, gloves, hats and scarves. Mother Nature gessoes her canvas with snow and ice. Winter into spring is one of the most dramatic shifts as we all thaw and watch with amazement Mother Nature begin to paint the barren landscape with fresh colors of a new season.

As the days fly by, my body seems to constantly change. An old ache here, a new ache there. Last summer I dropped 20 pounds, only to gain it all back by the end of the year. I made the mistake of buying myself smaller pants as I was losing the weight, vowing that this would be the last time I was a size 14. I’m back in my size 14 pants. Buying the 12s was fine but I tempted the weighty gods too much when I bought myself the 10s.

I’m 57 and my body continues to change as I age. I’m not yet in menopause but I have been experiencing night sweats since July 2011. I remember it well since I away with my kids looking at colleges. I had borrowed a t-shirt from my then new boyfriend (we are still together 11 years later) to have with me while I was traveling that I used as a night shirt. I remember at first thinking it might be the shirt because it had a Bob Marley graphic on it and the plastic stuff that made of the graphic I thought might be causing me to sweat. No such luck, it wasn’t the shirt. Just the first of what would eventually be many nights I’d wake up in the middle of the night cold from the soaking wet front of the my nightshirt.

I understand that it maybe easier to regulate my body temperature if I slept in the nude. According to WellandGood.com “Sleeping naked can also be beneficial for women experiencing menopause. “Hot flashes and night sweats can [wake] women up several times a night,” says Jodie Horton, MD, chief wellness advisor for Love Wellness, a women’s wellness and personal care products brand. Sleeping naked can help alleviate the not-so-fun symptoms of hot flashes.”

I slept naked for a while (although Mark would say it was for just a little bit). When the kids would come to visit I would wear a nightshirt. I raised two kids by myself, a single mom doesn’t sleep naked. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of sleeping naked in winter when it’s freezing cold. It seemed ridiculous so I fell out of the habit. Now from time to to I think maybe I should try to give it another shot.

One of the big changes that I was able to make for myself was in creating a new habit. I am trying to be more mindful in every aspect of my life. To make something a habit, I have read that you need to do whatever it is that you are trying to make that new habit for three weeks straight, And then keep going. I have been mediating daily for over a year now. I has helped give me tools to use when I get anxious. That’s another change I have been facing more recently – increased anxiety.

My anxiety increased yesterday when we discovered Mark has COVID. SO now after being so cautious and careful for the last two years, it’s here in our house. I feel like I now waiting for it to be my turn. He arrived home from a weekend away for a family funeral which required him to have to fly to Chicago. Who knows if it was the plane rides, was it on the way out? on the way back? Was it while he was with his family? I will never know the answer to these questions and it doesn’t really matter at this point. If I am going to get it, I am going to get it. He came home Sunday and today is Friday and he just started feeling shitty yesterday. So if I am going to get it I guess I may present symptoms this weekend? Breathe and stay in the present moment Xine ! Don’t let your mind go wildly off into tangents that may freak you the fuck out but never happen. Breathe.

Thankfully he is feeling better today than he was yesterday. He never gets sick so seeing not feel well is tough. I pray each day he gets stronger and we can continue on with our summer. We don’t have any plans to speak of really. We just want to enjoy working in our gardens, playing with the dogs, puttering around on the boat and enjoying one another’s company. I am so thankful for his presence in my life and the life that we share together. I am truly blessed. Which is probably why I feel like something is going to go wrong, something is going to change.

The summer solstice is approaching, sunset is now as late as 8:31pm here where I live. The irises are all in bloom, the wind is blowing in from the south right now. It’s 79ºF at 6:18pm and the barometer is dropping like a stone. The weather is changing – again. What is they say about New England? If you don’t like the weather just wait 5 minutes. I think they say this about everywhere.

When it comes to changes I try to remind myself that change can be good. Things can get stale and stagnant when there is no change at all. We change as people, not just outwardly in our physical appearance as we age – although that’s a biggie. I find I am in a minority when it comes to women my age. Many people just assume that I have already gone into menopause and are shocked if they find out otherwise. My mother was 60, she told me when she finally had her final period. It caught her off guard since she hadn’t been bleeding regularly and it had been some time, enough time that she thought she was done. Of course she was out when it decided to show up for the party one last time. She had been wearing a yellow dress and was at my brother’s graduation. Ironically she had been wearing a yellow dress the first day she got her period too. A terrifying day for her since – she had literally no idea what had just happened. She was at school and had to wear a sweater tied around her waist for the rest of the day.

At the graduation, my mother had a backup of sorts. It was my skirt that I was wearing. We had driven up for the day so we had no luggage to dive into for spare clothing. So I had to wear a pair of my brother’s pants which I literally had to hold up with my hand because his belt didn’t fit me either. What can you do? You just have to go with the flow?

One last change: Mark’s fever is back up