Only Women Bleed
Menopause snuck up on me. I was still reveling in the fact my periods were a thing of the past, dreaming of wanton sex on the kitchen counter, with no thought of birth control… when the crying jags began. We never made it to the kitchen counter. My partner was at a complete loss, and then the mood swings came.
The descriptor, “crazy bitch” comes to mind. My partner (now my ex) was no angel, but honestly, there is nary a literate male comparative for the beast I became.
As if the emotional roller coaster wasn’t enough, an older women friend informed me to keep quiet while hot flashing in mixed company, stating it would make the men uncomfortable.
On literal fire, red flames of heat searing beneath the surface of my skin; beads of sweat forming a river, running from my forehead to my nose, dripping down to my upper lip then down to my chin – I dutifully dab my hankie until soaked, nary making a sound… so the men won’t be uncomfortable.
Raging Hormones: The Ride of Your Life
Hormones are fragile things and women are ruled by them. At sixteen smoking pot put an end to the pain of menstrual cramps and gave me clarity, but I never gave the plant kudos deserved for keeping depression at bay until I needed it for menopause with hypothyroid disease.
When emotion rises up in a man’s throat a tantrum can ensue; when a woman feels that lump, she breaks down and cries. It has nothing to do with strength, it’s purely physiological. Women release toxins with tears, a much needed process, preceded by generations of misunderstanding, shame, and, subsequently, a fear of tears for many men.
Yes, a raging hormonal woman can be just as abusive and unreasonable as a testosterone driven man, but our letting go in hormonal rage often comes from a place shushed for decades, after suffering in silence for physiological issues we barely understand ourselves.
Burned for LessHallucinations caused by food poisoning via moldy loaves of rye led to the infamous Salem Witch Hunts and subsequent trials, lasting more than a year from the top of 1692 to mid 1693 in the Massachusetts colony.
One favored theory of those hunted is, the women targeted for heathens were, for the most part, hormonal… adolescent girls, young women in their 20s, and menopausal Crones were all said to exhibit signs of Satan’s influence (ask my ex).
Already known to be an emotionally draining malady, menopause comes with up to 83 available symptoms, all hormonally induced, lasting five to 15 years.
As a once strong and independent woman I found myself sobbing at the side of the road, overcome with empathy for strangers in need; my once confident demeanor slipped into worthlessness at the slightest critique; and my temper flares hotly in defense of the smallest cause – right or wrong. It’s as if everything I learned in Kindergarten to get along in this world is thrown out the emotional window, with no net, and my playmates are standing there, stunned.
Without proper discussion and education, the average woman in her late 40s to early 50s often slides into the event in ignorance, shrugging symptoms off with relationships lost, partners frustrated and distant; and once again, a seemingly normal woman is burned at the stake for naught.
Menopause in my late 40s only irritated a 1999 diagnosis of hypothyroid disease, but I had no idea what I was facing until it was upon me.A bow-tie-shaped gland located at the base of the neck, the thyroid influences every cell and organ in the body, while controlling metabolism, growth and maturation. It’s an on-demand gland, releasing hormones into the blood stream as needed.
At the time I was diagnosed eight percent of all women in the U.S. were aware they had the affliction. Today the stats reflect upwards of fifty percent of American women suffer from a list of up to 35 symptoms. With nearly 60 percent of all sufferers not realizing they are sick, the end result is an inundation of prescription meds given for myriad random symptoms that seem to come and go as they please.
Hypothyroidism slows metabolism causing fatigue leading to weight gain, a black cloud of depression, and multiple symptoms similar to menopause, it’s a double threat, increasing the severity of symptoms two-fold.
The cause of Thyroid Disease is sketchy, but theories lead to environmental issues such as Fluoride in water, depleting natural iodine needed to function; and heavy metals and toxins released to our air and added to our food supply for decades.
Prior to diagnosis I had gained upwards of 50 pounds and began suffering from lower back pain brought on by an auto accident. Pain killers were added to a cocktail of prescription meds treating each symptom until nothing worked. My life became my illness, and at the age of 40 I became another middle-aged, overweight, unwell client of big pharma.
Double Duty Disorders
The dual diagnosis has been called an epidemic in the Boomer Generation (those born between 1946 and 1964), with emotional issues often misdiagnosed as bi-polar, clinical depression, mania, and worse.
Knee deep in menopause, my prescribed thyroid medication, Synthroid, had become ineffective, and pill, Cytomel, was added. I had taken it before, but it wasn’t always covered and was a bank breaker at $150 for a 30-day supply.
Then mania set in and I re-read the warning label… “Not to be used as a weight loss aid,” telling me big pharma was reducing me to a speed junkie, accelerating the rate of hormones sent into my body synthetically in an effort to increase my metabolism, wrecking havoc with my body in the process. And I was not getting better, I was getting worse.
Mother’s Little Helper
Personal problems escalated, infidelity was involved, and my bullshit meter hit the roof. Things were thrown, doors were slammed and I crashed into a sea of prescription pills, despair, and suicide – or at least an attempt with my little bottle of Valium, ironically added to my pharmacopeia to help me reduce anxiety.
Otherwise known as the “chill pill,” Valium was developed in 1963 and was an instant hit with women, treating anxiety and the many unpleasantries of life, inspiring Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones to pen “Mother’s Little Helper” with Keith Richards in 1965.
Used in rehab centers around the world, Valium mimics alcohol, and what this means is, if you have a prescription it’s perfectly acceptable to take your chill pill any time of day – no need to hide Kahlua in the morning coffee.
Kids are different today, I hear every mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she’s not really ill, there’s a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day
And if you take more of those
you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
They just helped you on your way
through your busy dying day
I ended up in a lock-down facility in the middle of the night, sobbing, wishing I were dead; a shoe box full of prescription meds I dutifully took daily at my proverbial side, with a diagnosis of “Bi-Polar” on my psychological record.
There was no mention of menopause, the condition of my thyroid or the combination thereof; and no discussion of the subsequent laundry list of medications taken, or the possible ramifications thereof. I was just a crazy bitch who wanted to kill herself in a sea of highs and lows.
Calming the Bitch Within
Already a cannabis patient when my world fell apart, when the bottle of Valium was gone I had only pot to appease me. Lucky for me, cannabis immediately elevates endorphins. It helped keep tears at bay, but wasn’t enough. I still suffered from life issues with little emotional strength left. And on top of everything else, I just didn’t feel good, physically – causing my emotional issues to escalate.
Around this same time, a mass was found in my right breast and I immediately began eating, then juicing, raw leaves to combat the cancer. I also began taking Rick Simpson Oil, or RSO, a very strong, concentrated oil used in the treatment of cancers, tumors and serious illness.
And then an amazing thing happened… my tummy began feeling better.
In Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert shared while having trouble meditating in an Ashram in India, the first question her Guru asked was about her digestion.
It’s why the painfully shy and depressed cartoonist Charles Schultz gave his alter-ego Charlie Brown an upset tummy – when our tummy hurts, we hurt.
When my tummy felt better, everything else followed. My metabolism sped up; I lost weight; the constant bloating was gone; I had more energy than I’d had in years, and the big, black cloud hovering overhead lifted.
While the cancer was disappearing, my body was healing from the inside-out, as my Endocannabinoid System accepted the cannabinoids of the plant, working together to right the wrong of decades of toxins making me sick, and 13 years of eventually ineffective and ultimately damaging synthetic prescription meds.
With my physician’s blessing I did away with more than eight prescriptions, including Hormone Replacements – and all the negative side effects that came with them disappeared.
My medicating day begins with a quart of blended green leaf, when available. Unless you are juicing crystal leaf or bud, there are no psychoactive properties, as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), is only activated with heat.
The few times I’ve been out of leaf I’ve noted my symptoms returning slowly, starting with digestive issues, leading to a rise in body heat, fatigue, anxiety, and more problems than I care to think about. When I begin the juice again, it all goes away in a matter of days.
At night I ingest strong oil, tincture, or medibles for sleep, as menopause is a sleep disruptor. This also works as a preventative against cancers, infection, inflammation and pain, and a bevy of both common and serious ailments.
Smoking is my immediate go-to when I’m feeling low. It gets into the blood stream quickly, lifts me up and stops the crying jags. If the carbon causes bronchial issues I use the vaporizer for maintenance – it also replaces steroid inhalers for asthma patients, and helps during a cold – but that’s another page.
My thyroid is kaput for life, the cancer is rearing its ugly head again, and they say I may have another 10 years of menopause ahead of me. But I am blessed with the knowledge of this plant, I feel good today, and the only potion simmering in this witch’s cauldron is cannabis.
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Editor’s note: Sharon Letts began her love of gardening in Southern California by her mother’s side, watching as she buried fish heads at the base of roses.
At 24, Sharon hung her shingle, “Secret Garden,” planting flower beds for dainty ladies. Gardening led to producing and writing for television with “Secret Garden Productions.”
Today Sharon continues to write about gardening and all that implies, advocating for the bud, and writing for many magazines, including DOPE (Defending Our Patients Everywhere).
She also pens “Road Trip: In Search of Good Medicine,” touring MMJ states, following the Green Rush.