MENOPAUSE, BEDTIME, THE PEE FACTOR AND WILL I EVER SLEEP AGAIN?
When my Grandmother Kitsie was alive, she used to joke about writing a book about the location of every free bathroom in Boston for all the women who suffered like she did from having to pee at what seemed like every thirty minutes. Little could she have predicted, though I do not know this definitively, that there is now likely an app for this. These days I am sure some granddaughter would know how to make one to satisfy this aging need of their grandmothers and mothers for that matter. Like an UBER for peeing. Brilliant if you ask me.
Peeing is just one factor that is part of the complex world I now reside in as I move into my evening routine and climb into my delicious bed for those precious z’s we are all supposed to be getting. Everywhere I turn it seems as if everyone now has the memo about the importance of a good night’s sleep. Arianna Huffington has been in the news recently about her own sleep depravity and this has helped the conversation about its seriousness regarding health. I used to be in the ‘not being able to relate to this’ camp. I never struggled with sleep and when I did it was usually a 3am wake up with some mind message that I needed to deal with, but those moments were rare. Back then in the ‘I always got a good night sleep land’ I used to happily live in, I drank wine nightly, (too much and not the biodynamic specialty wine that I snobbily only allow to pass my lips these days way, I ate inordinate amounts of sugar and I didn’t exercise. I preface this with these notations because what I am about to write makes no sense at all. What I am about to write defies the whole health conversation and the only thing I can contribute this to is hormones.
Every woman, post my age, warned me like a crone handing down her pearls of wisdom to the generation rising up about Menopause and sleep. I never bought into it; it never occurred to me that I would ever have sleep issues. I fall asleep as soon as the first five minutes of just about any television show comes on. I can barely stay awake past 8:30pm. I am the healthiest I have ever been. I barely drink anymore, on only rare occasions do I indulge in sugar and since I write about exercise constantly, there is no reason to even mention the frequency of which I subscribe. I meditate easily and though my mind is filled with non stop ideas, I also am really comfortable shutting it down to give it a nap so it can recharge itself in the process.
So now that I am self proclaimed healthiest ever despite three rounds of surgery in the last three years, why is this happening to me? One reason is surely because I went through surgical menopause during my second surgery almost three years ago. This means that I wasn’t going through natural menopause yet and with the fear looming of potential ovarian cancer, I made a thoughtful decision to have my ovaries and fallopian tubes (salpingo oophorectomy if you want to use the big girl words here) removed as a bit of preventative measure. I am not going to evade the other deciding factor though, the added bonus was not only forced menopause but no more periods. So in deciding to have this surgery, though this would mean I would not be going through menopause slow and steady, I would also not have to deal with the ridiculous and unpredictable periods that menopause is known for. Seemed like a bonus to me. So in April of 2015, one month after my fiftieth birthday, I took a photo of the last box of tampons I would ever have to buy again and just like that I never had a period again. This itself was worth the 0–60 mile per hour hotflashes that would soon accompany my nighttime bed ritual, but having no period ever again was worth every sweaty and freezing moment. I mean the nightly frequent wakeups wouldn’t last forever, right and how bad could it be?
Holy shit. Wrong. And Really Bad. I don’t wake up with the hot and cold anymore, that actually wasn’t really a big deal, I addressed this easily with a fan and layers of light weight blankets. Now the healthier than ever breast cancer free, ovaries and fallopian tube free, sugar free, almost alcohol free, fuck, even mostly bread free, 36D reconstructed superchick is on a twice a night wake up. Really?
So this is the drill these days. I go to bed around 9pm sometimes 9:30 sometimes earlier, I read, I don’t bluelight generally. I easily fall asleep and then like an earthquake erupting, I wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed expecting it to be 4am earliest. When I decide to break my hard fast rules of not looking at the clock after I get up to pee because let’s not forget to mention that this is also part of this next midlife phase of femaleness, the clock now says 11:30! I usually stare at it for a few extra seconds because I seriously can’t believe that I have only slept for three hours max. I feel like I could get up and start my day- but I know well enough not to. For anyone reading this, you are likely screaming at the page wanting to let me know that part of my problem is I am going to bed too damn early. I have considered this and I have actually tried to stay up later, but this has not solved the problem. So I usually have no trouble falling back asleep, thank goodness for podcasts, they get me right back to sleep in about five minutes until the next round of wake up at 1:30 or 3:30 or both. It is maddening. The irony now though is when I get that 3am wake up, I am not endlessly thinking about something causing my brain to go into overdrive. This is what the 3am wakeup calls used to do, but now I wake up with no thoughts really, just an ‘Oh Shit I am awake again at 3am, let me see if I can lull myself back to sleep by doing the ABC’s of gratitude like I learned in ALanon’. This usually works, but it is still not a full night of complete rest which supposedly if you don’t get completely fucks with your metabolism and mind health. One more health concern to consume myself with. So I considered maybe it was the lack of carbohydrates or maybe I was eating too much fruit before bed as a late night snack; so I made some adjustments there and this did not fix the problem either.
So last night without really thinking about anything my partner (who I am going to start referring to as Michael C so as not to confuse with my son Michael W or my brother Michael H in my writing because I can’t stand saying partner or boyfriend or companion); has anyone noticed that we have no word for anyone other than husband in our aging lives? More on that in a different writing. Michael C and I had an awesome afternoon of wine, fried chicken from Winner Winner on lower Thames St. in Newport (omg go if you haven’t, crazy yumminess) binge watching The Crown and homemade ice cream sandwiches. (These were also from Winner Winner, probably some of the best $5 snacks I have ever indulged in). Biscuits, grits, homemade tator tots and a bottle and a half of delicious regular non biodynamic Pinot Noir and in bed by 8:30. This combination was a surefire cocktail for frequent wakeups but it was such a fun day, I threw all cares to the wind and partied.
Much to my surprise, when I checked my clock this morning it was 4:45 am. I slept through the entire night. Sugar, carbohydrate and alcohol ladened, I didn’t even wake up to pee. I don’t even have a conclusion to this writing today. I am in awe of the irony and yet here I sit this morning with my laptop completely rested feeling tempted to do it all over again.
Maybe there is no rhyme or reason. Maybe just the allowing of pure fun and the release of the rules and regs was the ticket to the full night of rest. Maybe it was just a freak accident luring me into the nightly habit again of wine and dessert. Maybe there is no lesson here and I should just shut the fuck up and just enjoy the ride. Whatever it may be, I wouldn’t change any of it, yesterday, the last three years or any of the time before. Just like I loved and continue to love every single age of my son, I also feel this way about my own aging process. There is really nothing I would change, it is all a wild and bumpy and yet super exciting ride and I feel lucky to be the driver. Hotflashes, sleeplessness, overthinking, perpetual peeing and everything in between.