By Sheryl Kraft
Dear Doctor (and any other health professional who is caring for me):
This is a rather confusing time in my life. In fact, it's almost like being a teenager all over again (minus the wonderfully un-saggy skin and quick metabolism). My hormones are shifting. My body is changing. I'm feeling new sensations—both mentally and physically—and everything seems to be fluctuating. For me, the earth—my earth—is shifting, and I feel my inner magnetic field striving for equilibrium.
I'd like to take this opportunity to reach out to you with this important letter. I think putting it on paper can help both of us. I know it helps me gather my thoughts and document everything, because: 1) I can no longer depend on my memory to retain all the facts; 2) I need to be efficient in our visits, since the average doctor's visit these days is somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes—way too short for a decent conversation.
READ: Menopause Guide
1. Please don't dismiss me as just another "hysterical" midlife woman. I am an individual who is navigating through some foreign waters.
2. Please don't do as many mothers of my generation did and hand me a manual like "How Babies Are Made"—or the grown-up version of that, "What to Expect When You're Expecting Menopause." Each experience is unique. In talking to friends around my age, I've noticed there is definitely no one-size-fits-all solution to problems like hot flashes, weight gain, insomnia, memory loss, mood swings, adult acne, food cravings, loss of sex drive, irregular periods, breakthrough bleeding, vaginal dryness, headaches … what was I saying?
READ: Secrets of a Memory Champ
3. Likewise, please don't automatically offer me a "fix" like hormones to treat my various symptoms. At the very least, I'd need to learn about the proper timing, dose and benefits of hormone therapy before I could make an informed decision. And I'd love to discuss more natural alternative treatments for menopausal symptoms.
4. If I'm a newly single midlife woman and have started dating, please realize that I might still be interested in sex. It's important we have an honest discussion about the risks of sexually transmitted diseases, which have increased among women aged 45 to 64 in the last decade. I may no longer be able to get pregnant, but I do need to know how to protect myself.
5. On the other hand, the drop in my estrogen levels might cause my sex drive to droop. But rather than write that off to menopause, let's explore other possible causes, like certain prescription medications, a thyroid problem or other medical conditions.
READ: Midlife & Beyond: Sex and Intimacy
6. Please don't keep me waiting more than 15 minutes. My time, like yours, is valuable. I realize you work very hard and emergencies do come up. But if you're running late, there's nothing better than a call or a text in advance from your receptionist—or at the least, being told when I arrive how long I might have to wait. If it's longer than 15 minutes, I may choose to go have a cup of coffee or run some errands and return at the approximate time that you'll be ready. (It might be nice to be offered an alternate appointment—or even a discount on my bill or a gift card as a token for waiting longer than 30 minutes.)
7. Please don't call me in for my examination, only to put me in a tiny room behind a closed door with nothing to do or read—and then have to wait another 20 minutes or more. It's no wonder my blood pressure reading is high.
8. Speaking of high blood pressure, please don't automatically prescribe medication before we discuss alternatives. The same goes for other conditions that become more common in midlife like high cholesterol and osteoporosis. I might be willing to consider lifestyle changes before popping a pill.
9. Please don't think I am being "difficult" or "challenging" if I ask questions. I've done my homework, and although I didn't go to medical school like you did, I understand my own body pretty well.
10. Please be patient with me and give me time to talk and take notes if necessary. I will not remember everything you are telling me. That's a guarantee.
11. Please give me a copy of all my test results. I'll never remember all the numbers, and I like to keep a record of my visits.
Now that I'm solidly in midlife, I don't feel a so-called "crisis," but, instead, a wonderful freedom to be able to know—and speak—my mind. Still, I look to you for information and guidance.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to read my words and respect my thoughts.
You might also want to read: Midlife Crisis?