Why Is My Body A Mystery?

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Hold on a second while I grab my soapbox.


Ladies! How? How is it possible that we live in a world with artificial intelligence, Amazon Prime, and astrophysical studies of the space-time continuum, yet no one has figured out the woman’s body? As I near the mid-century milestone, I am continually alarmed to find my body in complete revolt. I have lost all control: night sweats, weight gain, fatigue, bloating, irrational anxiety… all for no explicable reason. I’m not more stressed; I haven’t changed my diet or exercise. I am simply getting older. And I get it. I know it’s “that time.” I know our bodies evolve, and we won’t always recover like we did in our youth. But I refuse to accept the sweaty fate of misery and forever-too-tight blue jeans.

Like most of us, I started my counter-attack with the usual self-education tactics, taking to Facebook groups, podcasts, and Google searches. A longtime negligent of my own health, I didn’t even have a general practitioner, only an OBGYN who had since left the practice. I took the opportunity to switch to a female physician with hopes of being truly heard and understood and finding an empathetic ear armed with answers. Imagine my dismay when she, too, met me with, “Welcome to this time of life,” and suggested I lift a few weights and get comfortable in my new body. Traitor. Where was the solidarity, the “I’ve got you”? Dejected, I bought the workout book she recommended and tried to maintain hope.

Not shockingly, hope was an unsuccessful tactic. I pouted, raged, cried, bought the next size jeans, and continued to suffer like a champ. My family meant well with their “you look great for having had eight kids.” But they didn’t get it. I felt horrible in my body, like HORRIBLE. It wasn’t just the vanity metrics that were overwhelming my mental health. It was the bio-physical changes that left me unrecognizable. Brain fog, fatigue that no amount of coffee could overcome, aching joints, and sleepless nights. More research, diet changes, herbal supplements, exercise… more tears. The more I read, the more I learned that the true study of women’s health had been neglected until now and that modern medicine had mostly skipped over half of a woman’s life. After her reproductive years were over, so was the research. Perimenopause was, at best, a short chapter in a book in med school. Physicians were simply not trained in the art of womanhood. And, though now aware of the research gaps, the benefits of long-term studies won’t be available until our daughters’ generation. It was an answer to my problems, but definitely not a solution.

It wasn’t until a cross-country soccer trip brought me face-to-face with a mom friend from home that she looked great! My age and with several children my kids’ ages, she was a pretty good comparison study on multiple counts. And clearly, she had cracked the code. I approached her and was relieved to hear she not only looked great but she felt great. She referred me to her NP, specializing in women’s health and weight management. I logged into the patient portal from the soccer field sidelines and made the appointment.

I devoted the next six months to getting healthy. For the first time EVER, I prioritized getting the help I needed. I paid for the thorough blood panel, and I spent hours discussing the results with my NP. Whereas I once felt too guilty to invest in supplements, I now consider it too costly not to. I listened to her research. I began hormone therapy. After a lot of reticence, I started a weight-loss program. I didn’t want to need interventions, but I didn’t want to live in discomfort more. And I am definitely improving and feeling better, but I am definitely not where I want to be. I have learned (and continue to learn) so much about myself: it is not selfish or vain to want to feel good in my own body, I should not feel guilty investing a small portion of our family’s resources in my health, and I must be patient. I have also learned that there is research to validate anything I want to believe about my body, but a woman has to be her own judge of what works (or doesn’t work) for her. And though I’m still frustrated by our lack of information on all things women- health-related, I am so thankful for the women practitioners who are blazing the trail and not accepting, “It’s just that time.”

Onward, ladies! Onward…


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