Health
Mayim MishegaasMayim Mishegaas

Mayim’s first hot flash

How can this be happening at just age 42, on set of 'The Big Bang Theory'? One word: perimenopause.
By Mayim Bialik     Published on 04/11/2018 at 10:00 AM EDT
Mayim looks totes zen due to meditation, no? Dove Shore

I am 42. I started puberty very late—pretty much at the same time that I started birth control. After many years on hormonal birth control, I went for hormone free choices and am much happier.

I have two sons who are 9 and 12 and you could basically keep time by my hormonal patterns. If you know anything about me, you know that there’s nothing about me that’s regular. I’m an oddball, a walking fireball of complex and seemingly opposing notions. I’m a feminist but I’m socially conservative; I’m a scientist and also a religious person; I’m a vegan but can’t live without some very unhealthy things like movie popcorn and fried pickle slices. But. My moon cycle is very regular. Very.

Or at least it was.

In the years since turning 40–and prepare yourself for some deep deep honesty coming at you right now–I have had a handful of months where my cycle has shifted. Like…a few times it has lasted over 2 weeks. No pain, nothing out of order except it WOULD NOT END. And a few times it was really late. And sometimes noticeably different than usual. Like really heavy. Or super light.

I choose midwifery for my wellness care even though I am not having more babies; midwives do not just deliver babies. Many are nurse practitioners who take care of women in more comfortable settings than doctor’s offices, even when the women are not interested in making babies. So my midwives have heard from me as things like this have happened. In the absence of pain, no referral for an ultrasound or anything was needed, they said. And everything looks fine. What they have told me is that I am starting menopause.

Now, you might be as shocked as I was. Because I’m “only” 42. Menopause is something that happens to–forgive me here–wrinkly old women in those commercials on cable. Ladies who are grandmas. Dry skinned women past their sexual prime.

I’m 42.

My midwife clarified after seeing the look on my face, the look that indicates that I may leave her office and go jump into the ocean off the nearest cliff, and let me know that perimenopause is the term for the decade or so of changes that precede actual menopause.

Did I feel better? Only slightly.

I felt better knowing I am not STARTING menopause. I am simply…starting to start menopause?

I was grateful nothing was “wrong” except that my entire identity as a fertile/attractive/young-ish woman was being taken away without my consent or permission. I was simply…in perimenopause.

I felt better knowing I am not STARTING menopause. I am simply…starting to start menopause?

I’m not used to thinking like this about myself. Since I was 29, I have been a mom. I was someone’s wife for a decade. And now I am finding my identity as a divorced mom. And yes: women’s sexual prime is typically in their 40s. I had this image being built up of myself as a woman finding my stride. I’m confident more than I ever was, my psychotherapy sessions have reached new boldness and I’m getting into shape for really the first time since my first son was born. I’m in my prime, right?

And then this perimenopause thing started happening. I haven’t had a weird month in a while. My cycle went back to normal. I chose to forget I had received the notice of my imminent demise as a woman.

But recently during tape night at The Big Bang Theory, I started to feel hot. As the heat built inside of me like a coal furnace on an old train chugging its way up a mountain, I kept asking myself if I was coming down with something. But this heat was not a fever.

“Nope,” I kept saying to myself. I was remembering lines to recite in front of the live studio audience we film in front of. I was not sick. But why was I so hot? My neck started to sweat and I could feel my genetically programmed Jew-fro trying to fight against the straightening iron my hair lady uses weekly to tame my waves. I was sweating enough that the hair underneath started to curl. My brow was moist and I was perplexed.

In between scenes, I cranked up the AC in my dressing room and stood directly under the vent. I was HOT.

And then it hit me. It’s a hot flash.

It passed in about 20 minutes. And I felt exhausted and kind of fuzzy after it.

I had my first hot flash and it’s not funny. It’s not something I want to joke about. I didn’t even want to write this. Because it feels yucky. It feels like the end of my life, honestly. It feels like the beginning of the end of my life.

I chose to forget I had received the notice of my imminent demise as a woman.

Will I have mood swings? I don’t want more mood issues. Will it affect my relationship romantically? Sexually? Ugh, this is so awkward. Am I no longer useful to the human race?

I’m told there are cultures where menopause is uneventful chemically; women are given herbs and support and love and they move from fertile to not fertile effortlessly. I don’t live in that culture. But now I want to.

I feel like I haven’t had enough time. Not to have kids, but to just be me without my hormones governing me. They governed my timing to have kids. And they governed my ability to birth and breastfeed and nurture my boys when they were young.

But just as my boys are pulling away, which is natural for boys their age (read here and  here about my coming to terms with that), I feel it’s unfair to be given a physical reminder of how much I am not needed.

What do I do now? I do what all women do. One step at a time, one day at a time, see what Mother Nature has in store for me. And in an industry where a woman’s worth and value is often determined by her sexual appeal, her fertility in a way, I worry. I worry if I will need hormonal therapy and I worry about the controversy about that.

It’s like the Curtis Mayfield song “People Get Ready.” I guess for this journey, you don’t need no baggage, you just get on board. All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming. And you don’t need no ticket; you just thank the Lord.

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