Here’s the deal.

Straight up.

I’m in menopause. It’s kind of like the first time I admitted I am an alcoholic: “Hi. I’m Christine and I’m in menopause.”

I’m sure by looking at me you would never guess. “Golly, she doesn’t look a day over 32.” However, I am a few weeks from 52. I am sure my gynecologist will want to draw blood and do a hormone test to CONFIRM it. She will want to know whether I am in perimenopause or full-blown menopause so we can discuss hormone replacement therapy and osteoporosis.

Seriously, do you think I care? It’s not like I wake up in the middle of the night, dripping wet and ask “Hmm. Is this menopause or perimenopause?” Frankly, I don’t want to know if this is perimenopause. If it is just perimenopause that means it is going to get worse and I don’t need to know that.

According to the Cleveland Clinic’s website, here is what I can expect on the emotional front:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Loss of enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Irritability
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • A change in appetite causing weight loss or gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Attempting suicide

Pardon my snarkiness, but as a woman with alcoholism and depressive biopolar disorder, that list pretty well sums up my life for the last 40 years.

And here is what I am supposed to do about it:

  • Find a self-calming skill to practice such as yoga, meditation, or slow, deep breathing.
  • Avoid tranquilizers.
  • Engage in a creative outlet or hobby that fosters a sense of achievement.
  • Stay connected with your family and community; nurture your friendships.
  • Seek emotional support from friends, family members, or a professional counselor when needed.
  • Take steps to stay cool during hot flashes, such as wearing loose clothing.
  • Keep your bedroom cool to prevent night sweats and disturbed sleep.
  • Take medicines, vitamins, and minerals as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Eat healthfully and exercise regularly.

Excuse my snarkiness again, but these things have been “suggested” to me for the last 40 years. What’s a girl to do?

Indulge the doctor: Let her do the hormone and bone density test. Open your mind and do your research on menopause and depression. If you already have depression, menopause could make it worse. If you do not have depression, be prepared for the possibility of slipping into a depression.

For me the most important and helpful thing in dealing with my depression is an open mind. There was a time when I thought antidepressants were for losers – folks who could not pull themselves up by their bootstraps. After five years on meds, I don’t think that way anymore. Meditation, aromatherapy and mindfulness – pul-leez, a little new-agey for me. Then I hit the bottom of my black hole and became willing to try damn near anything but a drink.

So, open your mind to the possibility that there may be something out there to make those “Florida moments” – as a fellow menopauser calls her hot flashes – a little less annoying. Besides, we are entitled to make our lives a little less annoying. We’ve put up with a lot of crap over the decades. It’s our time now.

Here are my suggestions:

Sleep buck naked. What’s the point of wearing jammies? The little night-sweat gremlin is going to wake you up in the middle of the night to remind you that you are getting old(er). You realize your jammies are soaked. You put on a clean, dry pair of jammies. Two hours later the night-sweat gremline returns to remind you AGAIN that you are still getting old(er). You realize your jammies are soaked. You put on a clean dry pair of jammies. By the time you wake up in the morning you have a load of sweaty laundry on the floor beside your bed. Who wants to wash a load of sweaty jammies everyday?

Have sex. Lots of sex. Yes, your estrogen levels have dropped. Yes, that can lower your sex drive. But did you ever stop to think that the reason you don’t want to have sex is because you’re not having the kind of wild and crazy sex you had in your 20s, 30s and 40’s? You cannot look or feel sexy if you don’t have sex. Besides, the kids are gone and you can have wild sex again. And don’t give me the “I’m so dry” excuse. That’s why God made all of the groovy new lubricants on the market. And your partner’s ED isn’t an excuse either. Tell him he needs to get some Viagra or Cialis. What’s the worst thing that could happen? A four-hour erection?

Drink lots of water. Think of how dehydrated your body must be after sweating all night. Stand up straight. Pull your shoulders back and your chin up. I don’t care how gray your hair is or how many chins you have. Stand up tall. Then, sit down an make a bucket list – things you want to do/accomplish before you kick the bucket. I am talking about things YOU want to do. Not things you want to do for someone else. Stop being so damn co-dependent.

Get yourself a therapist or girlfriend who will keep an eye on you. Give her permission to tell you when she sees a troubling change in your mood and/or behavior. The thing about depression is the earlier you catch it, the easier it is to get out of it. Don’t wait if you start feeling bad. Don’t assume it is just menopause.

Treating your depression at any age is a proactive endeavor. Many general practitioners and gynecologists have had little training in diagnosing, treating and prescribing medications for depression AND menopause. You have to take responsibility for your mental health. You my have to push and push and push to get what you need. But at this point in our lives we deserve to be happy.

Sweaty, but happy.