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    BWS Stories - "I Will Survive"...Menopause

    "I Will Survive"...Menopause - Possessed by Peri

    Deb Sellars Karpek is a writer, Reiki Master and Jewelry Designer. She is married and lives in the Midwest. Her writing can be found in Chicken Soup for the Recovering Soul, Sobering Thoughts, the National Newsletter for Women for Sobriety,, and her website at

    Possessed by Peri

    I figured I’d have more time before I had to worry about menopause. I assumed that I’d bleed until I was 50 and then stop. I’d officially be in Menopause and celebrate by burning all my feminine hygiene products at a bonfire, with my other menopausal pals.

    In a word, NOT.

    I didn’t realize there was one more stop on that old hormone highway. That would be Peri Menopause. And it’s chock full of all kinds of interesting suprises - body morphing, bloodbaths to rival the horse head adventure in the Godfather, missed periods, constant periods, hairy nipples, cramps, PMS (yes! two for the price of one - PMS and Peri!), mood swings, weight gain, hot flashes, zits, wrinkles, incontinence, bleeding and bloating - to name just a few. I’m positively possessed by Peri!

    Who knew? Until recently Peri was virtually unheard of. And I don’t know about you, but these things are not so freely discussed. Women tend not to share the gorier details of their hormonal hysteria.

    It would have been nice to know I would be sprouting hair on my nipples and bleeding like a pig every 14 days, crying at the drop of a hat and losing muscle control in my stomach and vagina. Or that cotton ball brain feeling I like to refer to as hormone head, which shows up pretty much on a daily basis. Dry vaginas and loss of sex drive are forecast but luckily I’m not there yet.

    Yes, it’s been a smorgasbord of symptoms and some days are better than others, but believe it or not there is a positive in all of this. As I fade on the outside I begin to bloom on the inside. As the estrogen ebbs away and my skin dries up, I truly am becoming a new woman.

    One of the perks of Peri is that you feel grown up. Grounded. Strong. You know you’re ok. I know, I know, it’s sounds so contradictory, after everything I’ve mentioned so far . But despite the mood swings and body changes and hair and smells, I feel grounded and strong. I know who I am and even better, I like who I am. After years of worrying about what others thought of me, it doesn’t matter any more. What I think matters.

    I am no longer defined by others’ opinions of me. I don’t live for the love of men or family members. I enjoy it, but I don’t kill myself trying to get it. And paradoxically once I stopped trying, it all began to flow towards me. My life is rich and full, fueled by the love of myself, my family and friends. I’m not afraid to say anything, good or bad. I am who I am, offering no apologies. I am Popeye in peri!

    I remember my mom saying to me on her 45th birthday “It gets better as you get older.” Yea right! I thought she was nuts. I was a smug 23 year old. She was just beginning her dance with Peri and she was famous for her mood swings. She used to chase us kids around the house with a fly swatter. I remember feeling sorry for her and thinking she had to say things like that that to make herself feel better. She certainly could not believe it! She had a fridge magnet that said “over 40 and feeling foxy”. It made me just cringe. C’mon, this was my MOM! Over 40 and FOXY? I’m sure! Well, guess what? Mom’s gone but her magnet has the place of honor, front and center on my fridge. You betcha. And guess what else? I’m over 40 and feeling foxy. And I can guarantee if I had kids they’d be cringing just like I used to.

    I don’t want to look, feel or be 20, or even 30, ever again! A hard body and fresh face is not worth the struggles those years bring: the self doubt, constant comparisons, need to fit in, to measure up, be as good as. Nope, I’ll take this age and Peri with all its problems…any day!

    I’ve found that what I lose on the outside I gain on the inside. As I grow in age, I do in wisdom as well. That old adage “Wisdom comes with age” really is true! Things that used to drive me crazy no longer bother me. My anxiety has lessened. My body talks to me and I listen. Sure, my hormones are raging, but instead of seeing this as a negative experience, I look at it as an opportunity to hear what they are saying and fix what needs to be fixed. I’ve cleaned up my act. I quit drinking and began paying attention what to I put into my body. In fact, I began to respect my body. Gone are the days of fast food lunches and lost weekends. I regularly go to the gym, where I’d always had a membership, but rarely visited. And as the outside wears down the inside blossoms!

    At 46 I had my “mid life opportunity” and made some significant changes in my life. I stopped putting all my eggs in everyone else’s baskets and began to fill my own. I discovered I have a creative spirit and initiated many projects that have filled my life with joy and prosperity. Courage comes with age. I would not have been able to do some of the things I do now, even in my forties. Courage,and a kind of faith and acceptance, that even if things don’t work out, I’m happy to be doing them just the same.

    I’ve rediscovered laughter and play, the kind I had when I was a kid. I go out into the woods and talk to the trees. The woods have become my church without walls and my spirituality is thriving. I walk and meditate, go within, getting to know myself on all levels. Like an onion I am peeling back the layers of myself and with each passing year I am less fearful of new layers. I’m learning my fears won’t kill me; rather once faced they fade and I feel stronger. I keep moving forward.

    As my inside blossoms my outside continues to wilt, but I am ok with that as well. I now find it possible to have bad arm days and have discovered pockets of fat in new places. I caught sight of my naked backside in the mirror the other day as I was walking out of a room and thought it must belong to someone else. When on earth did that happen? The water aerobics, bike rides, walks and yoga may cure what ails me but they are not magic salves. I am growing softer. And it’s ok. It’s who I am. I’ve earned the wrinkles and the soft spots. They don’t shame me or make me want to rush to the doctor, to fix myself. They are part of growing older. I can admire my new mature look.

    This acceptance is liberating. I’ve grown tired of worrying about how I look, spending so much time trying on and discarding outfits, shopping for something new to make me someone new. The women at the cosmetics counters probably had to take second jobs since I’ve stopped trolling around looking for that elusive serum that would smooth out my face and defy my age. It’s also a relief to know what I want and to have the gumption to go after it. Not much holds me back these days. Fear is replaced with faith. I find it possible to put my needs first and no is a new word in my vocabulary.

    Despite all the hormonal hysteria I do feel good. Happy. Sure of myself. Completely the opposite of the scared 13 year old when I first began to fill up with hormones. Now, on the other side of the river I’m self possessed. I have a strong sense of faith, of who I am. I accept myself, all of it, good and bad. It’s a nice place to be.

    At this point in my life I am facing my fears and healing the hurts. I know there is no such thing as perfect and I no longer strive towards unrealistic goals and expectations. I now trust my instincts and set my boundaries and walk away from people, places and things that are hurtful or harmful. I realize dreams are attainable and we have everything in us to create the kind of lives we truly desire.

    Bottom line: While possessed by Peri, be your best you. Live. Love. Laugh. While we may be fading on the outside we are blooming on the inside. I’d say that’s a damn good trade off! Life is good.

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