Here’s what I hate about perimenopause: almost everything.
Here’s what I like about perimenopause: carte blanche to blame almost everything on perimenopause.
Let me give you some backstory.
Some days I feel like St. Pauline of Gaines, able to leap over post-divorce obstacles in a single bound. One of those days was a week ago, when I visited my psychiatrist for a six-month check-in to get a refill on my Klonopin. The Klonopin that I need “on occasion,” I assured him, because other than my looming financial crisis, I feel swell.
And I did. I wasn’t joking. It was just that swell was transitory.
Yesterday everything got shot to hell. Franny woke up with a cold. I woke up with a bladder infection, one of the many gifts that perimenopause gives you. This was right on the heels of another not serious, but incredibly annoying gynecological issue caused by perimenopause that I won’t mention. Which was brought on by three months of an antibiotic for YET ANOTHER byproduct of the P-word: adult acne.
So I Motrin-ed up Franny, left her on the couch in front of the TV, and high-tailed it over to my lame-ass HMO doctor who told me he saw “white blood cells” swimming in my “specimen” but thought I should wait two days for the lab results before going on an antibiotic. I told him I once ended up in the ER with a kidney infection that way, so he grudgingly gave me a prescription for the third antibiotic I have taken in the past six months.
By this point my blood pressure was through the roof. And I mean, kind of literally through the roof.
“140/90,” said the nurse.
“140/90?!” I sputtered.
“Let me take it again,” she said.
A minute later:
“139/90,” she said.
So when the doctor who thought I should muscle through my bladder infection sans-antibiotic came in, I told him about my blood pressure. My blood pressure which has never been over 120/80 and is usually even lower.
“Yeah, that’s kind of high,” he said, completely unconcerned. “Probably just stress.”
I left his office feeling more stressed out than I had when I went in. Then I went home — I took the day off from work — and spent some very productive hours surfing the web for information on perimenopause-induced hypertension, which apparently I can now add to my grab-bag of insomnia, irritability, amnesia, acne, and problems down-below.
The more I surfed my way to sure death, the swirlier my panic-laced thoughts became:
What if I lose my job? What happens if Idon’t get child support and my money runs out? What happens if I have to send my kids to live with Prince and move into a shopping cart?
At 9:00 p.m. I swallowed a Klonopin and unwound to Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity. At least I’m not fending off assassins, I thought to myself, until I realized that in a way, I kind of am. At least one of them. And then, thank the Lord, I fell into a pharmacologically-induced sleep.
* * *
I think my blood pressure started to rise over the weekend. A weekend in which I spent what felt like the entire time in the car, schlepping children to various activities in far-flung parts of the city. A weekend with so much personal-assistanting that I crossed off maybe two things on my to-do list that is just slightly shorter than War and Peace.
On Sunday night I sat the kids down for our weekly family meeting. And after assuring them that, no, they were not in trouble, I told them that money was tight and things would most likely be changing in the new year.
I had deliberated and agonized over when to tell them, and about the advisability of telling them. I grew up in a house with ambient financial stress, especially during the two years my father was unemployed. So I believe that kids don’t have to be literally told about money problems: they feel them. They hear their parents’ sighs, the muscle stiffening upon the arrival of bills, they listen through the bedroom wall at night to their parents’ whisperings, the whisperings of how are we going to make it through the year?
And because I grew up like this, I decided to tell my kids what is most likely around the bend. But I did my utmost to tell them in my best just-the-facts-ma’am tone of voice, that money was tight. And money was tight because I didn’t get child support.
I know many will disagree with that last part. Once upon a time, I would have disagreed with that too. But my kids are sixteen and eleven, and they are old enough to know the truth. I don’t believe that covering for Prince is the right thing to do. I am not going to take the fall for his part in this.
I also don’t believe it’s right to wave dirty laundry in front of them, to wring my hands and rail about the impact of his epic stinginess, or mention looming Income and Expense declarations.
So I just said that I had made him aware of my financial situation and that he did not appear inclined to help. And that without his help we would probably need to move to a smaller place.
“You know, there are things you can do about child support, Mom. I mean, Franny’s not old enough to know, but I am,” said Luca.
“Thanks for the suggestion, but I’m not going to go into that. I just want you guys to know what may be happening so you can prepare if we have to move to a smaller place.”
“I’m not sharing a bedroom with Franny,” said Luca. I looked at Franny, who seemed relieved. “If I have to share a bedroom, I won’t come here.”
“I completely understand,” I said. And I did. What 16-year-old boy wants to share a room with his 11-year-old sister or SHOULD share a room with his 11-year-old sister?
“And anyway, the reason I want to be here is because of Paolo. He’s my one friend.”
My heart cracked a little. Because Luca spent so many years friendless. And the fact that, not only has he made his first real friend, but that first real friend lives two doors down, is reason enough for Prince to pay child support.
“I don’t want to move either,” said Franny, all stiff-upper-lippy. “I have, like, seven friends here.”
And she does. She can walk out the back door onto the gated quad and frolic with her posse.
“I know how much you guys like it here,” I said. “And I’m going to do everything I can to keep us here. But I also want you to be prepared that that might not happen.”
And then I tried very hard not to let them see that my insides were all crumpled up.
* * *
After ten years of post-divorce mayhem, I still am, on occasion, brought to my knees by the boundlessness of Prince’s five-star narcissism. I am flummoxed by the injustice of family court, where one parent can own three homes and jet around the world, while the other parent can barely hang onto an apartment. And I am BOILING MAD that Franny has to be saddled with yet more upheaval the year that she is applying to seven rigorous private schools. And that Prince has the abiltity to change all of this simply by logging into his on-line banking — but he won’t.
I’m starting to think that they should live with him. They’re at the age where they care about what their friends think. What kid wants to bring friends back to an apartment where they sleep on air mattresses when they can invite pals to swim in a pool in a swanked-out home nestled in the Valley of No Worries?
I know this uncertainty will resolve itself at some point in the next twelve months. I know my kids will never lack for anything, and in the end, they will be okay. I know I need to practice better self-care to weather the slings and arrows of perimenopause.
And I know I need to locate my sense of humor, which is around here somewhere. If I can just remember where I left it.