“Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: This Is the End of the World—Hair Trauma Edition

I have naturally curly, frizzy, wavy red hair. I was teased relentlessly as a child. When I was about 46, I discovered the flat iron, which enables me to make my hair smooth, shiny, and straight; something I have wished for my entire life. This was before chemical straightening, which I’ll tell you about in another journal entry. I realized that I had become extremely attached to my flat iron, but when do you know if you have a problem with flat iron dependence?

On the morning of my son’s end-of-preschool music pageant, I was alone in the house, air conditioning blasting, and mega-sized ice water within reach. I was in the hair-styling “zone,” on the home stretch of blow drying—the phase just prior to ironing. Suddenly, I blew the fuse for my dryer. Annoyed, I searched the house for another operative plug. The only one in the house that worked had no mirror near it. Throwing on a bathrobe, I went outside to the circuit breaker to see what I could do. I...

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“Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: Precious OCD Girl Searches in Vain for Menstrual Cycle Patterns

I love patterns. I especially love to analyze, chart and graph anything that pertains to bodily functions. When my son was born, I had difficulty getting into a routine with breast-feeding, so I composed a table to record my son’s bodily functions regarding his feeding frequency and duration. In a way, charting relaxes and comforts me. It enables me to let go of things a little.

So naturally I tried to find a pattern to my menstrual cycles ... impossible. I would have 40-day cycles followed by 20-day cycles. I would have PMS symptoms for three weeks prior to my period, followed by a period that lasted only two days. Then it would stop for two days, then resume for two weeks. I had cramps and sore boobs before, during and after my period. I experienced anything and everything relative to my menstrual cycle except what I had experienced for the preceding adult years of my life.

Meditation/Prayer for the day: 

Dear God, Give me the courage to embrace change. I feel scared...

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“Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: Poplars and Pointillism

I love poplar trees. My love for gazing at poplar leaves began long before I knew to take note of things that made my heart sing. My earliest memory of them was in my teens. There was a fancy outdoor shopping mall near my home and the entrance to the mall was lined with a huge semicircle of very tall poplars. I remember loving to watch their delicate, paper-thin leaves quake and flutter freely in all directions in the ocean breeze. It made my heart sing. I don’t really know why; I love to watch poplar leaves quaking in the breeze. It’s something about the way my brain processes visual events. 

But if I had to guess, it’s something about the way the sunlight hits the leaves as they move freely. The leaves are all moving simultaneously, but independently, in endless combinations that cause a light show of color juxtaposition between the blue sky and the green leaves.

Another thing that made my heart sing was looking at paintings created using the technique known...

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“Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: In Search of Fiddlehead Unfurling

I love ferns. They are all over my backyard. I am fascinated by the journey of each individual “fiddlehead” of the fern. A new fiddlehead unfurls itself toward the sky to join the existing fully developed fronds to increase the collective beauty of the plant as a whole.

Each unfurling fiddlehead reminds me of a human spine as it articulates out of flexion and into a beautiful upright posture. The new fern fiddlehead represents the spine of a confident, courageous woman who is transitioning and articulating into her full upright potential in life. I am so moved by this growth process that I based my business logo on ferns. 

My parallels between robust, flourishing ferns and robust, flourishing women continues. Many ferns are so hearty that with the proper care, they can withstand both winter cold and summer heat. With women, it is the same, and women need water and the right balance of sunshine and shade.

Every so often, fern fronds turn brown and they look a little...

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“Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: When You’re Hot, You’re Hot…

When You’re Hot, You’re Hot…and Not in a Good Way

The next strange awareness I had was that I seemed to be warmer than usual—constantly. It was the beginning of summer, so at first, I just assumed that was the reason. But then I started to perspire in weird places, like the backs of my knees and the tops of my thighs, and at weird times, like in the evening when it wasn’t really that warm out anymore.

And now those odd women at the gym in my Cardio Dance Party classes who always demanded the overhead fans be turned on didn’t seem so odd anymore. In fact, now I would high-five them when they did so. 

It was clearly time for me to do another survey. At first, I was really against holding a conversation using any “perimenopausal” vernacular. I reluctantly talked to one of my best friends, Cordelia (60), about the “F” word (hot FLASH). She assured me there would be no mistaking it if I were having a hot flash. She said it...

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Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: Is PMS supposed to last 3 weeks?

Another early perimenopausal (PM) awareness was that my state of PMS-ness seemed endless. We are talking sore boobs, acne and cramps, to name a few. I even entertained crazy fantasies. Any PMS woman knows what I’m talking about. Whereas I used to be a little cranky for the 3–7 days prior to my period, now I had a full-blown Murder-Death-Kill—aka MDK from Demolition Man, 1993 sci-fi action film—attitude for at least three weeks prior to the big day.

Meditation/Prayer for the day: 

Dear God, What is going on? I don’t like it. Help me trust You to get me through this uncertain time.

You can find more excerpts from “Dammit … It IS Menopause!” by clicking here.

Sally Bartlett, ©2021

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“Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: Feeling Old, Forgetful & Overwhelmed

Feeling Old, Forgetful and Overwhelmed: Making Mistakes, Experiencing a Diminished Ability to Focus

I made the mistake of looking at my bare arms in the distorted reflection of the car window today. Bad idea: I feel really old. As if that weren’t enough, my four-year-old son keeps getting frustrated with me when I don’t complete sentences because I have forgotten what I was talking about mid-sentence.

Several times lately I have put on the wrong turn signal while driving. Things that used to seem insignificant now seem overwhelming and I just want to go to bed. I frequently forget where I was going, what I was doing, or whom I was calling, all for no apparent reason.

Meditation/Prayer for the day: 

Dear God, I feel so frustrated. What’s going on? Please guide me. Give me the ability to embrace “what is” for today.

You can find more excerpts from “Dammit … It IS Menopause!” by clicking here.

Sally Bartlett, ©2021

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“Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: Am I losing it?

In the weeks following the crying jag episode, I exhibited several other traits that were abnormal for me. I misplaced my keys. Except for one time at age 16 when I locked my car keys in the trunk, I am not the key-losing type. On top of that, I left the house without my  purse more than once. This is SO not me, and what’s more, I was on a trip to purchase one of my favorite things—frozen yogurt. I do not think I have ever left home without my purse prior to this time . . . EVER!

Meditation/Prayer for the day: 

Dear God, What is going on with me? Why am I doing all these things that are so out of character for me? Please give me patience and self-compassion as I embrace and explore this new place in my life ... gentle, gentle.

You can find more excerpts from “Dammit … It IS Menopause!” by clicking here.

Sally Bartlett, ©2021

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“Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: This Can’t Be Happening to Me

Looking back, my first realization that something unfamiliar was going on with me was when I was about 45 years old. I was crying more than my usual PMS (premenstrual syndrome) amount … sobbing. I called my friend Cordelia, saying, “I don’t know why I keep crying so much today. I don’t feel like myself.”

What was happening to me? 

I was in the midst of choosing which kindergarten to send our son to in seven months. I know that’s big, but the volume of tears that were flooding my ducts just didn’t seem to match the intensity of the circumstance. I felt this strange urge to call my son’s preschool teacher to discuss my options. From the phone I told her, between sobs, I wanted to speak to her, and asked if she was available. I had never cried in front of her, so she probably thought I was dying or something.

She offered to see me right away. When I arrived at her classroom, the floodgates were open. This volume of crying alone was...

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[QUIZ] Is it … menopause? Is this community right for me?

The Varsity Menopause Quiz

I’m so happy you found your way here—to a community of women who have experienced menopause (and yes, survived all the emotions, physical symptoms, ups and downs) and have made a decision to make it a Varsity Menopause experience

But, how do you know if this is the right place for you? And … is it even menopause anyway? I’ve put together a quick YES/NO quiz to help you determine if what you’re experiencing is a hormonal shift, perimenopause or menopause, and if this community is right for you. 

  • Are you experiencing overwhelming physiological symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, erratic periods, cramps, breast pain, waking in the middle of the night, inability to stay asleep or go back to sleep, body odor, dry skin, itching that wakes you up, night sweats, hair loss)?
  • Are you suddenly more forgetful than ever in your life? 
  • Have you experienced “brain fog”—trouble finding...
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