Do You Feel Like Menopause is a Firecracker About to Explode?

Debbie Walker

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Are you a Granny in menopause raising a teenaged granddaughter? I invite you to watch the fireworks that pop off at Menopause Avenue.

Look out! Hormones are erupting in both our minds and bodies. Mine are up and down processing through the last fizzle of a sparkler. Hers are fired up through a Roman Candle taking shots at me, and erupting into a mile-high fountain.

I should also add, my fizzler sometimes lights up and ignites a whole pack of Wild Cat firecrackers. It does feel like the Fourth of July around here.

With changing families, and higher rates of family breakdown, grandparents are now playing an increasing role in their grandchildren’s lives.

Stats

Nationwide, 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, and about one-fifth of those have incomes that fall below the poverty line, according to census figures.

Their ranks are increasing. The number of grandparents raising grandchildren is up 7 percent from 2009. Experts say the trend is likely to continue as the nation responds to the opiate epidemic. Military deployment and a growth in the number of women incarcerated are other factors forcing grandparents to step into parental roles.

Already, child welfare agencies are reporting an increase in the number of children, especially infants, taken from parents battling drug addictions and mental health issues. After years of decline, children in foster care rose by nearly 1 percent in 2013, and by 3.5 percent in 2014 to more than 415,000.

I could not find any stats on the grandmother/granddaughter ratio, however, I believe there are many of us out there.

Biology

According to my research, we are both going through a time of biological reorganization. She and I experience many of the same symptoms because of the fluctuations of hormonal activity in our brains. I think I am experiencing puberty in reverse!

Puberty and menopause mark the beginning and end of the female reproductive cycle. These are the two major transitions in a female's life.

Estradiol is the primary form of estrogen released during reproductive years. It increases during the onset of a girl's period and decreases during menopause.

The erratic rise and fall of this hormone send signals to the brain that affects our bodies. My granddaughter and I both experience the same symptoms. We get stressed, have body aches, headaches, and leg cramps.

The rise of the hormones FSH and LH are characterized by physical and emotional symptoms. This must be the reason why Girls and Grannies experience mood swings.

Is that why we get depressed at the same time or have outbursts of emotion?

For example, recently, we were arguing about phone time. My granddaughter spends too much time playing games and talking to her friends. All right, I understand that is what girls like to do.

However, she doesn’t want to complete household chores. I inform her that she will get the phone back when her work is done. She looked at me and said, “Ok, I will just go to sleep.” What? Is she depressed? I cannot figure it out.

I took her to the pediatrician, who told me to chalk it up to puberty. That was encouraging.

Emotions

Meanwhile, the interplay of estrogen in the brain affects neural activity that can spark the emotion centers of the hippocampus.

That may explain why our volatile responses tend to flow like lava.

For example, the other day, my granddaughter looked angry, and I asked what was wrong. She looked at me and exclaimed, “You!” and ran into her room and slammed the door.

When I peeped in, she was sobbing in her pillow. The next morning, I asked her if everything is okay. She shrugged her shoulders and walked out as if nothing happened.

Now that I think about the incident, I remember when we were out of tea, and I shuffled to my room, exclaiming, “Nobody cares!”, and sobbed in my pillow.

Also, we tend to mirror each other even though we are not alike. Her eye rolls, wisecracks, and passive/aggressive behavior drive me to eye rolls, wisecracks, and passive/aggressive behavior. We are two of a kind who are polar opposites.

Sharing

Also, menopause and puberty can be a lonely stage of life. You may feel like you are the only one in the world going through this tempestuous time. Sharing in an empathic manner may diminish these feelings.

She is leaving childhood and becoming a woman entering her reproductive years. I’ve left my reproductive years and am becoming a woman with words of wisdom to share.

To alleviate the stress of our conditions, I remembered some therapeutic activities from my days as a case manager. Journaling our feelings about each other was one way to express what we could not say in words. You would be surprised how much it helped.

Another activity we did together was role playing. I pretended to be her and she pretended to be me. It was an eye-opening event!

We saw each other from a different perspective. Now, we had a starting point to work on ourselves in light of this new revelation. We had the opportunity to learn and love ourselves in a better relationship.

We have the unique opportunity to support and bond with each other as we enter new phases of our lives.

Diffuse

I discovered several tips to diffuse the fireworks show at my house.

· During a hormonal meltdown, sit down quietly beside each other. No one has to speak, hold her, and be silent.

· Offer examples of how you handled your pubertorial crisis.

· Ask her for suggestions or ideas to implement.

· Talk about the dynamics of your relationships.

· Own your feelings. Use “I feel” statements such as, “I feel depressed when…”

· If she is not comfortable talking, suggest writing a story about how she is feeling. Do the same and share your stories. You may find solutions.

Puberty and menopause in the same house are akin to a fireworks show. Fluctuating estrogen levels in our brains can manifest as behaviors that seem as if our minds have blown up or blown away.

However, a few simple strategies of empathy, sharing, and writing may help to assuage the effects of hormonal blasts.

If your household is in the grip of a potential blow up, try my tips, you may find the slammed doors open a little.

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