July 9, 2002
The Ick Factor

miles to go: 1,088.38

Imagine waking up one morning ... and discovering that The Little Meat Grinder Guys have shown up in the middle of the night, unannounced.

You're caught totally off-guard: you thought you had at least another week to go before *that* time of the month. More than enough time to lay in some supplies, and to warn your loved ones to arm themselves, and to lock Grandma's antique teacups safely in the vault. But if The LMG Guys are here,  that means you're probably already plunk in the middle of The Seventy-Two Hours From Hell. 

(Then again, maybe you shouldn't be surprised at all. Lately your schedule has been so out-of-whack, you could be eleven months pregnant with octuplets ... and *you* won't know about it until they start asking to borrow the car keys.)

Imagine that you lay there in bed for a few minutes as The Little Meat Grinder Guys pound on your ovaries with their meat mallets ... as they twist your Fallopian tubes into rope sausage ... as they squeeze your uterine muscles through their Oster 400E Ultra-Grind with vicious, Little-Meat-Grinder-Guy-like glee.

It's going to be a hellish couple of days.

When you finally force yourself crawl out of bed, imagine that you're nearly knocked down all over again by an overwhelming wave of tiredness. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with how late you went to bed last night, or how many times you woke up in the middle of the night, or what time the alarm went off this morning. This is a dull, nonspecific, achey-all-over exhaustion, like wearing a fuzzy lead bathrobe. Imagine that you crave nothing more than to slip back into bed and pull the covers over your head and hibernate for the next eleven years. (Or until re-run season is over: whichever happens first.)

Imagine that you look at your husband, snoring peacefully over there on his side of the bed, and that you want to drop an ANVIL on his head.

Once you manage to straggle into the bathroom, imagine catching a glimpse of your pale, puffy, Jiminy Glick face in the mirror. You look like you've gained thirty pounds overnight, 99% of it in your jowls. Plus your eyes are rabbity pink, your breasts hang on your chest like two medicine balls, and you have two big wet zits, pupating on either side of your jawline like a couple of beetle larvae. Imagine that you console yourself with the knowledge that this is temporary, this is hormonal, this will pass in a few days. As soon as your period starts -- as soon as the floodgates open and you are wrapped once again in the soothing embrace of regular hormonal inflow/outflow -- everything will go back to normal again.

(Imagine that you're not sure you really believe this is true ... but it's what you tell yourself anyway.)

During the ride to work, imagine that you pick a snarly one-sided fight with your husband over something stoopid. ("Neil Young is actually adding to my misery.") It doesn't matter how he responds, does it? If he's gentle and considerate and replaces the offending tape with one of your Lilith Fair tapes, he's patronizing you ... but if he ignores you and continues forcing you to listen to "Guilty Train," he's a cold heartless bastard. Either way, you're sitting there in the passenger seat, sulking like a nine-year-old voted out of the Tetherball Club. Imagine that by the time you reach your office, you've already shed the top four layers of Maybelline.

You spend the rest of the day working on the remaining four layers.

Everything makes you cry: crabby clients on the phone ... cucumbers in your Chinese Chicken Salad ... spelling errors in your wastewater management report. It's sort of like Inside-Out-Backwards-Day at Girl Scout Camp, except that instead of wearing your swimsuit on the outside of your camp uniform, you're wearing your central nervous system.

You're dysfunctional in lots of other interesting ways, too. Your bladder, for instance, appears to have shrivelled overnight to the size of a Milk Dud. When you're not sitting at your desk, blotting mascara off the WIP reports, you're running down the hall to the bathroom again. Or else you're sneaking Oreos out of the lunchroom. Or else you're standing in the doorway of the office supply closet, trying to remember why the hell you went to the office supply closet in the first place. (Your short-term memory having also shrivelled overnight. What were we talking about again?)  By the end of the day you're a weary, bleary, frazzled, overloaded mess. You don't want to eat. You don't want to bike-ride. You don't want to write. You don't want to do anything, in fact, except go home and lay down on top of the bed, fully-clothed, announcing to your husband that you're 'just going to take a little nap.'

Two hours later, you wake up long enough to eat a bowl of cereal for dinner ... just before falling asleep again.

And now imagine feeling all of this misery and malfunction and ridiculous hormonal mayhem -- not for the usual sucky-but-tolerable seventy-two hours -- but EVERY DAY FOR FOUR SOLID WEEKS.

That should give you some idea what June was like around *our* household.

I don't intend for *FootNotes* to turn into The Perimenopause Diaries ... any more than I intend for it to turn into The Recovery Diaries, or The Runaway Mom Diaries, or The Look! I'm Riding My Bike Some More! Diaries. As far as possible, I try to bore my readers with a WIDE VARIETY of self-absorption.

(Plus there is the whole Ick Factor to consider. According to my mailbox, not everybody wants to read about the condition of my reproductive system ... even people who have actually spent time there. Imagine.)

On the other hand, my journaling policy -- if I've got a journaling policy, that is -- has always been this:

Let the topic find you ... and not the other way around.

It's a lesson I learned early in my Internet journaling career  ...  back in the days when I actually tried to plan *FootNotes* entries in advance. Once in a while I would come up with what I felt was a fabulous idea for the journal: an entry all about yellow M&M's, for instance. To prepare, I would spend days researching yellow M&M's online ... corresponding with other people about yellow M&M's, looking for alternate points of view ... outlining my entry, writing snappy first and last paragraphs, drawing adorable cartoons of yellow M&M's. And of course I would almost invariably wake up the morning I was due to post my epic Yellow M&M's Entry ...

... and find that all I could think about were green M&M's.

The more I tried to force the issue and write about yellow M&M's ANYWAY -- the more I tried to resist writing about green M&M's, even though they were clearly the issue du jour -- the more stilted and awful and unreadable that day's *FootNotes* entry turned out. 

Eventually I realized that fighting it was futile. The topic had found me ... and it wasn't going to be yellow M&M's.

That, also, is what June was like around our household. Or at least, around the Internet journaling portion of our household.

Now imagine this.

Imagine that you wake up in the deepest darkest middlest part of the night, more than a month after The Little Meat Grinder Guys made their initial appearance ... wrenched from sleep by a familiar *sensation* in your midsection. You lay there for a few minutes, barely breathing. Could it be? Dare you hope? Imagine that you fumble through the darkness to the bathroom and shut the door and turn on the light so you can investigate the situation.


Imagine that you haven't been this happy to see your period since The Great Pregnancy Scare of 1975. (Or The Great Pregnancy Scare of 1982 ... or The Great Pregnancy Scare of 1984 ... or The Great Pregnancy Scare of Last Month ...)

You're SO happy, in fact, that you have to fight the urge to wake your husband and share the thrilling news with him, right then and there. After everything he's been through the past month, though, you figure you owe it to him to let him sleep. So you strap yourself into one of those weird air-activated disposable heating pads, and you swallow a fistful of Ibuprofen, and you crawl back into bed next to The Other 50% of the Population and sleep the sleep of the hormonally unencumbered for the first time in over a month.

The next morning is like waking up in a brand-new world. The sun is shining outside your bedroom window! The sky is blue! The flowers are blooming! The birds are singing!

There are four new colors in the rainbow!

Well ... OK. I may be exaggerating a molecule or two here. But you do feel about 43,897,621% better than you've felt in weeks. (Or to be precise, better than you've felt in 27 days, eleven hours and forty-seven minutes.) You're feeling so good, in fact, that you ride over 100 miles on your bike in one weekend, without telling a single solitary Good Morning Person to fudk off.

Best of all, now that the dam has burst, you'll be able to start taking the cycle regulators ... meaning that this may have been the very last Month From Hell you will have to endure for a long, long time. The Little Meat Grinder Guys may have to find another reproductive system to terrorize.

You imagine that you're probably going to have to write more about all of this stuff in the near future ... Ick Factor or no Ick Factor. Perimenopause is one of those subjects that a lot of people seem to have heard of but not everybody actually understands. *I* certainly didn't, until just recently.  It's not pre-menopause. It's not menopause. It's perimenopause: an entirely different condition, with entirely different symptoms and an entirely different timeframe, requiring an entirely different course of treatment. (You're not on HRT, for instance. So although today's decision by the NIH to discontinue hormone replacement therapy testing is disturbing, it doesn't address what you're going through. Yet.) You definitely feel that perimenopause is a subject that merits further research, especially since so much of what you've found in the way of information so far is skimpy and contradictory at best, and downright dangerous at worst. It is certain to be one of those topics that *finds* you again.


But in the meantime -- now that the curse has been lifted, so to speak -- you're hoping that you can write about SOMETHING ELSE for a change. Something fun and happy and uplifting and as far removed from Oster 400E Utra-Grinds and hormonal malfunction as possible.

Who knows? Maybe it's finally time to drag the Yellow M&M's entry out of mothballs.

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