Groove. A slang definition of groove is an enjoyable time or experience. Or, as from the fictional “Stella,” your mojo, your vibe, that which makes you click, tick, thrive, survive. Your essence. At times, if you lose your “groove,” you can lose that which helps makes you wake up happy each morning, your compass, your roadmap to life. You may feel if something is missing. “It” may be hard to put a finger on but when “it” is gone, you definitely know it. For me, my groove is the essence that makes me happy and helps me accomplish life with an anticipation of what is yet to come, also helps me to be fearless, adventurous and nurtures my being. In fact, serendipity is one of my groove mantras!
I have experienced some “take you to your knees” things in my life — my father suffering from and dying young of a debilitating horrible, horrible disease; physical abuse in my first marriage; discrimination at work (yup, discrimination is real and more awful than you can imagine if you’ve never been through it); and endometriosis. Yet I survived all of those things, knees wobbly for sure, but I was left standing heading into my 50s pretty darned happy. In fact, I was lovin' life in my late forties! I had figured out some real important stuff, including who I wanted to be, put some tricky relationships in order, got remarried to a sexy-smart-oh-so-yummy-loved-kids-guy who I loved AND really liked! When I was around him, I felt butterflies in my stomach. Ah…real love! Although Stella found her groove in Jamaica, I took my new husband and family TO Jamaica to get my groove on by jumping off the cliffs at Ricks Cafe, dancing on the beach, wearing bikinis, going snorkeling and watching the sun come up each morning, sitting on a lounge chair facing the ocean with a cup of coffee that was so good, it made you want to slap your mama!
I was active, excited, invigorated, alive! Yes, I did dread the every 28 days, but by my late forties, I had learned to manage the nuisance. I had my groove thing goin’ on!
Now just when I was poised to conquer the world, I started going through menopause. Menopause caused me to go to one knee. In fact, I was down on both knees. The hot flashes, memory lapses, vaginal dryness, weight gain, insomnia. Seriously! A lifetime of cramps, and now I was going to go through this this...horror? I cried foul but to no avail. My groove started to elude me. I was in a serious funk. Menopause was sucking away my groove. I felt like a different person...not a person who was happy, sunny and optimistic, but someone whose body was turning her into a unhappy, lethargic, moody pessimist! I was losing control and I wasn’t curious anymore. I found myself existing from one crummy bad feeling to the next.
Menopause is not for sissies or the faint of heart. For those of us who have experienced childbirth free of drugs (only one birth, I learned with the other two...at the first sign of pain, hello…drugs NOW!) you understand what I'm talking about. Most women that I know are strong. We have to be to keep all the balls of life in the air! But now Menopause is a whole ‘nother program. All women will go through it, but HOW we go through it can be a defining time in our lives. In fact, it can affect how we view and live our life for years!
My Mother sailed through menopause as she sailed through her menstrual cycle — pain free and more of a nuisance than anything else. Started at 16, ended at 50, and nary a cramp in between. Wow.
Me, on the other hand, I started my menstrual cycle at 10 years old in the fifth grade. I immediately had cramps. I mean the kind of cramps that aspirin won't help, and every 28 days I knew I would be in bed for at least two days. The kind of cramps that made me miss a band trip to Disneyland when I was in high school. The kind of cramps that made me question if I was being punished for something. When I was 18, I was diagnosed as having endometriosis and that the only real cure was a hysterectomy. Well, what I knew for sure was that I wanted to get married and have children and AFTER that, then I would reassess the situation. I went on to get married and have three beautiful children. Eventually dumped the abuser, and still suffered from cramps and endometriosis.
Needless to say I was actually looking forward to and slightly excited about the onset of menopause. It would end the curse! For years, I had fended off doctors who advised me to just go ahead and have a hysterectomy. Well, I didn't WANT to have a hysterectomy. I wanted to make it to and through menopause with all my parts in place and have nature take care of my lifelong problem (o.k. not totally lifelong, but when you start having periods at 10 years old, by age 50, it seems like a lifetime). But even though I was "looking forward" to menopause, mainly as the final cure to my endometriosis, I'd heard stories about the difficulty of actually getting through those menopausal years. Research was suggesting that perhaps synthetic hormone replacement therapy wasn't the 'holy grail' for treatment of menopause. So, I dutifully did my own research so I could figure out what would be the most effective and safest course of treatment for me.
After scouring the internet for alternatives to synthetic hormone replacement therapy and after having read Suzanne Somers book The Sexy Years, I decided that I would try a natural approach. I must say that Suzanne's book was informative as well as down right funny at times. Her description of the Seven Dwarfs of Menopause (Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Forgetful, Bloated, Sleepy and All-Dried-Up) was hilarious and so true for many women! So, once I started going through menopause, I dutifully scheduled a doctor’s appointment and the tests she took came back saying, yup, you’ve started menopause). I explained to my doctor that I had already decided that I would not be taking synthetic hormone replacement therapy that I wanted to try a natural approach. She gently reminded me it could take years to actually get through menopause. Gulp. I knew that …right? Okay, I breathed deeply and said yes, be that as it may, I was determined to use diet and exercise and bio identicals to get me through. My doctor smiled knowingly (I'm sure she'd heard THAT before...just like some first time moms who think they want to go through a drug free, natural childbirth). She warmly advised me that she would be available should I change my mind and went over alternatives to natural approach, just in case I changed my mind. My doc was NOT a rookie!
About two months later, after hot flashes that felt like my insides were literally on fire, and I’d broken out in a sweat during the most inopportune times (like while at work with customers at my desk, then all of a sudden I’d go from fresh faced to soaked in perspiration…a sheen that couldn’t be missed). That was fun, I can only wonder what those poor people thought was happening to me…I mean I didn’t want to say, “excuse me, I’m just having a hot flash…don’t worry, it’ll be over shortly”!) Then, I experienced hot flashes that shot me straight up in my bed from a deep sleep, soaked and burning up at the same time. And, I had a love life that was on life support (my body felt like it had been invaded by an alien...making love was not on my top 10 list). I finally decided to cry “UNCLE” and decided to do something that would involve drugs a.k.a. synthetic hormone replacement therapy regime. To be honest, I wasn't following the advice I'd gotten from the Suzanne Somers book, or my own research. I was winging it, which is NOT a good idea when going through menopause. For some reason I started living in my head, which is never a good place to live, too many one-sided conversations. Also, I was cranky, unorganized and just felt old, and forgetful and muddled and uninspired! I just wanted my groove back, and I wanted this menopause curse to be over! So, frustrated, I called my doctor. I am certain she was not surprised to hear from me but she was very professional, gracious and non judgmental (didn't say told-you-so).
My doctor gave me a combination low dose of estrogen and progesterone. The estrogen came in the form of a patch that I put on my backside and changed every 4 days or so. Easy-peeze! While I wasn't thrilled about depending on drugs and I did experience weight gain as a side effect, I have to admit, my life became much less stressful and my mood swings stabilized. I started feeling less alien-like and more like my old self. I felt my groove slowly coming back though it was drug assisted!
A few months after starting hormone replacement therapy, my husband and I went to Cabo San Lucas for a vacation. We got to our resort, and it was a beautiful, magical place where I was poised to have a romantic fun time with my hubby, margaritas, Mexican food, dancing til all hours and lying out by the pool alternately listening to Pandora radio on my iPhone and reading the latest Daniel Silva spy novel. In other words...my sort of paradise. However, while unpacking my bag, I couldn't find my patches. Holy moly, the one I was wearing needed to be changed, and I had forgotten the replacements at home! I knew what was in store for me, and I literally panicked. My vacation (and my husband's too) was ruined! There is no such thing as cold turkey when you are on hormone replacement therapy. My doctor had warned me if I wanted to get off, I'd have to wean myself with a lower dosage until my body readjusted itself. All kinds of unpleasant side effects awaited me. Crap!
I decided then and there to get myself off the hormone replacement theory and get on a natural routine that I could control without a prescription. A year and a half later, and I can happily report that I am drug free and entering my fourth and hopefully last year of menopause, but my groove is BACK and is natural and drug free. Hip hip hurrah!
Here's how I conquered the stranglehold of my menopause-joy-and-groove-and-joy-snatcher.
To combat my weight gain, I exercise three to five times a week at the gym, 45 to 80 minutes each time doing circuit training. As a result, I’ve lost 12 pounds, and I feel less stressful. I drink eight glasses of water a day. I do X-box Dance Central with my kids and grandkids a few times a week (the fitness feature is a great way to dance, lose weight and have fun all at the same time). I take one estrogen with vitamins tablet each day (purchased over the counter). I also take an airborne tablet every day to help my immune system. I eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I confess to a sweet tooth but while I don't go overboard, I also don't diet and I don’t deprive myself. I have added healthy items to my diet, but I eat what I want, but practice portion control. I have a massage and an adjustment once a week at my chiropractor. Soy milk and edamame (yummy) are new staples in my diet.
After one year of this regimen, I now only have a hot flash about once every two weeks, my insomnia has abated and turned into sweet dreams, my memory is not so fragile (coming out of a fog and don't fear Alzheimer's) and my love life is oh so delicious again! I go dancing, travel, and spend lots of time with my three darling grandkids. I love Oreo cookies and karaoke (my first karaoke performance was in Mexico — what a blast!). I have trips planned to Brazil and want to go on an African safari, definitely going to back to go to New Orleans to Jazz festival next year and am writing a book. In other words, full steam ahead! Balance and joy and fearlessness and curiosity are staples in my life again. I am living my life on my terms, synthetic drug free and definitely have my groove back, with all my parts in place! I’m thinking about buying a pink scooter to tool around town on. Way cool!