Dear Dr. Pat:
I am 46 years old and am terrified of menopause for good reasons. My mother, who was a great beauty when she was young, had terrible symptoms with depression and drinking in her late 40s. She was never easy, but became really bad-tempered during this time. She gained weight, and before she was 50 was a divorced, angry, overweight, stay-at-home woman whose children were happy to be out of the house and away from the mess. She finally got sober and moved back to her hometown in the Midwest after many unhappy years in a big city. My brother and I rarely see her, because she may be sober but she is still self-absorbed and demanding. My brother, unfortunately, has a drinking problem and has work and marriage problems as well.
I want to do everything I can to prevent my life from turning out this way. I have two teenage daughters who are doing well, and both will be in college in two years. I have a really good marriage with a great sex life. I eat in a healthy way and exercise daily but have noticed that I have begun to gain some weight. I do have a drink most nights, and a bit more socially, but don’t have any other bad habits. I have a great job where I have the opportunity for advancement, and, of course, I have the usual overwork that everyone complains about.
I now have some night sweats before each period and my periods are less frequent. In the last six months, the periods occur every eight weeks. I used to sleep a sound seven hours, and now I fall asleep and wake up in the middle of the night. I am not sure why I wake up, but I have a hard time turning my brain off when I do wake up. When I wake up in the night, I generally think about never getting back to sleep, being exhausted the next day, and then begin to worry about MENOPAUSE. The daytime fatigue seems to have caused some kind of brain fog as well, and I certainly don’t need that.
These symptoms have triggered my fear that I will become like my mother as I become menopausal. I saw my GP, who did blood tests and an exam, and I have no health problems. My gynecologist told me that I was too young to have menopause and that these symptoms were nothing to worry about anyway. My girlfriends and I talk all the time about how we will manage menopause. What can I do to prepare for this horrible time so that I don’t ruin my life like my mother did?