So imagine the sweet delight of finding—and marrying—someone whose attention not only made me feel beautiful and smart and funny, but loved. I had met John before Essay Guy. When I was with him, instead of looking outside myself for validation, I saw what I really was, mirrored in my husband’s eyes.
After a lot of work and therapy, we had a pretty decent sex life for 10 years, and I started to feel the freedom and confidence of someone who has proven her worth to herself by raising two amazing kids in a healthy home using her intelligence, empathy, and humor. I got a new job, we got the house to ourselves, and things progressed like we both wanted.
I’m still angry about what menopause did to all that, and what it’s done to other women in my family. While my anxiety was particularly acute, it was not unique. My mom has struggled with it, and complicating my decision about how to deal with it was that she underwent hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to ease the anxiety and other menopause “symptoms,” only to be diagnosed with breast cancer, which some researchers say is triggered by HRT. There have been several cases of breast cancer in my family.
My dilemma: take the hormones or not. My GP let me know I didn’t have to take hormones. I was already on a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, and she said increasing the dose would restore my emotional balance. But the amount I needed would take three months to build up in my system. In the meantime, she said, I could use an antianxiety drug to cope with the compulsive thoughts and get some behavior modification therapy to learn how to manage those.
In the end, I took the hormones.