At 39.8 years of age I humbly walked into my doctor’s office. The nurse forced a stop at the scale on our way to the exam room–an exercise I always enjoy (Not so much). After stripping off my jacket, shoes, watch, earrings, glasses, and all other extraneous garments that may have added an ounce to that digital read out, I slowly put one foot on the scale, then the other. I closed my eyes and held my breath, listening for her signal.
Ugh. Taking. Too. Long.
I cracked my eyes open a millimeter fully expecting to read some error message. The nurse fiddled with it a bit and then, finally, said, “Okay.”
She acted as if it was no big deal–what had just happened back there at the white machine of judgement–and led me into the exam room. She pointed at the crinkly paper covered exam table and I stepped up and took a seat. I tried to take a few deep breaths so my blood pressure read out would be normal. She cuffed me, squeezed the life out of my right arm, took my temperature, wrote a few things down, and then asked the question.
“So, what seems to be the problem? Why did you come in today?”
I took a deep breath.
“Well, I’m feeling tired. A lot. You, um, may have noticed I’ve gained a little weight and I can’t seem to shake it no matter what I do. I feel a little sad. But, there is no real reason. I think I’m grinding my teeth at night, too. I just want to know, is there something wrong or is this just…” I almost choked on the words.
The nurse just smiled. She said they’d figure that out, but my age “certainly played a factor” in those symptoms.
Last July the day came and went–my 40th birthday. I wasn’t worried about turning the big four-O. In fact, I wanted to celebrate it. My friends threw me an incredible birthday party that rivaled my wedding in its level of elaborate detail. While my husband asked that we not speak of his fortieth (which happened just a month before mine), I was totally okay with letting the world know I had arrived.
Forty is the new thirty, right? I had no reason to be down or out. This was a good thing. . .
Or so I thought.
But now, almost one year after that initial doctor’s visit, I’m not sure I like forty so much. Perhaps it’s easiest for me to explain exactly what my problem is by sharing with you the abridged version of a text message I sent to an over-forty friend yesterday:
“I’m a total mess. I think it’s hormones but can’t shake it. Feel like I’m in a fog. Depressed. Blank brain. Headache, sore neck. Want to cry. No real reason why. It’s like I’m walking through quicksand. I can’t make progress. I’ve done nothing today. Just feel blah! Got my period early – just 23 days after last. If you google all of my symptoms it says I only have 30 days to live. The way I feel right now I may be okay with that.”
“Oh, and I have a pimple the size of a small grapefruit on my chin.”
So, this is 40.
Would you like to know her response?
She said I’d be okay in a few years. IN A FEW YEARS?
You’ve got to be kidding me.
Seriously! This whole 40 thing is not at all like it is on television. The media tells me that I’m in my prime and I could still have another baby if I wanted to and that forty is fabulous. And, my body is rebelling against all of that hype and chanting to me these four words only, “YOU ARE GETTING OLD!!”
This level of hormonal craziness is a lot like being pregnant only I don’t have the promise of it going away in nine months at which point I would get to snuggle a newborn. No promise of that. At all. Which makes this whole thing just futile and annoying.
And then I read online that my symptoms are normal. Just a sign that “the change” is coming. The “change of life” they say. Could we possibly find a more freakish description than that one? I doubt it. What exactly am I changing into within the next ten to fifteen years? I go from woman to what? Does anyone know?
I just don’t like this. At all.
Now, I know what you are thinking. If you are over the 40 or 50 or even 60 hump you are ready to give me a, “Just you wait, dear…it’s only just begun.” I can hear you say this in a not-really-meant-to-be-condescending-way that still sounds a little patronizing.
Then those of you who haven’t reached this fantastic milestone are thinking I’m going to turn and say the same to you, “Just you wait dear.”
But, I’m not. Because instead of waiting for this awfulness, I think you should just live life to the full and enjoy your days of hormonal stability, if you have them.
Because, if this is forty, I’m not sure I like it.