I’ve experienced puberty myself as a girl once and from the outside as a mom, twice. My husband and I refer to the time periods when our sons each went through puberty as “The Surly Years,” due to the level of shade that was constantly being thrown our way. Still, as someone who’s been there and as unpleasant as it was, I understood it.
While trading puberty war stories with friends during The Surly Years, I often stated that while I loved high school, I’d never want to go through puberty again, “and thank goodness I don’t have to!”
Well, that was silly of me, wasn’t it? Over the past few years I aged enough to start thinking about what was coming and realized that I was going to have to buckle up once more. Puberty has an evil sister and her name is Menopause.
Hormones, as defined by the Virginia Women’s Center, are “‘chemical communicators or connectors’ that carry messages to and from all the organs in the body.” While hormone levels increase during puberty, at menopause they decrease. Oddly enough, hormone travel in either direction can lead to the same place: Crazy Town.
During puberty, a young girl’s body changes into that of a grown woman and prepares for the possibility of bearing children. Sex hormones, including estrogen, are in charge of the physical changes in the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts as well as the first menstrual cycle. Side effects of these hormonal changes can include mood swings, mild depression, sleeping difficulties, temperature variances, and crying at the drop of a hat. Other symptoms of puberty can include feelings of confusion and vulnerability as well as a downturn in self-esteem.
Throughout the 35 to 40 years after puberty, we engage in lots of assorted activities like growing a family, building a career, traveling the world and countless other enterprises which take up brain space and allow us to forget (or repress) memories of those turbulent years. Just when we’re becoming blissed out mature women who feel like we just might have it all together, Puberty’s evil sister Menopause enters through the front door without even knocking.
Menopause marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles (and with that, the ability to reproduce). As hormone levels decrease, side effects can include mood swings, mild depression, sleeping difficulties, temperature variances, and crying at the drop of a hat. In addition, feelings of confusion and vulnerability can be experienced, possibly with a downturn in self-esteem.
Sound familiar? It should; it’s all in the “family.”
Sidenote: The trend over the past couple of decades to have children later in life means that many women are going through menopause at the very same time that their daughters are experiencing puberty. Families who fit this description, take heed: patience (with each other) is a virtue!
The good news is, while puberty and menopause seem to be related in that they have so much in common, they’re definitely not twins. Young girls going through puberty can have so much confusion and fear about what their life will be like, what they will do, and where they will end up. They are on the precipice of making important decisions that will guide them for the following decades and that can be so scary it can cause anxiety. Mature women going through menopause are also at a crossroads, but their life experience can more often lead to feelings of excitement about what’s to come. They have friends who “get it.” They know that they aren’t alone and know how (and have the ability) to reach out directly to their doctor if necessary. They know that “this too shall pass.” Even if fear is involved, freedom can come along with it. Long story short, mature women have it going on!
Menopause may start out to be that evil (and terribly annoying) sister who leaves her junk all over the house, takes control of the television remote, turns up the thermostat without asking, and generally overstays her welcome, but she’ll eventually figure out that she needs to leave. The waiting (and the mood swings and the hot flashes) is the hardest part. Once you re-adjust yourself and your life, you’ll be laughing with your friends about the hot mess that blew into town for a while but couldn’t handle your greatness!
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