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Wendy Gan
Writer; academic; weaver; resident of Hong Kong.

Learning from Perimenopause and a Kpop Idol

Illustration by Jackie Ferrentino

Wendy Gan | Longreads | October 2019 | 19 minutes (4,746 words)

If anyone had told me five years ago that I would become a Kpop fan, I would have laughed in their face. If anyone had told me I would be actually be learning life lessons from a Kpop idol, I would have been even more incredulous. I am in my mid-40s, 20 years into an academic career, a responsible mortgage-payer, and a survivor of a dysfunctional family. I am also in perimenopause, which might help explain why life has taken such a strange turn.

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I had never heard of perimenopause before, but when a nexus of rather odd physical symptoms from arthritis to sleeplessness to abnormal spikes of anxiety began to plague me, I started to wonder if a new rhythm to my monthly cycle was to blame. Some research revealed potential connections, and the rather sobering piece of information that this shaky run-up to full-blown menopause could very well last up to eight years. If 52 is the average age when most women reach menopause, I would have, quite likely, a good seven years more of this hormonal instability and its physical repercussions to both endure and manage. While I am sure there are worse cases out there, I often do not feel quite myself, and it is disconcerting to say the least. The body that you used to take for granted begins to call attention to itself with various aches and pains, or with strange happenings, like a sudden rush of adrenalin that keeps you awake at night wondering why your heart is pumping with such fury. A work meeting that you would normally take in your stride begins to cause an unusual amount of consternation. Even meeting an old friend for a catch-up can leave you feeling nervous and on edge. Then there are the weeping fits. A sweet animal rescue video as you scroll through Twitter makes you keen in despair. A soppy ending to a television drama makes you sob as if it were the end of your life. And in the midst of the crying, something dislodges, sadness surges and sweeps over you, and it really does feel like the end of your life.

Did I say perimenopause was disconcerting? To be frank, it has been maddening. And hormone-induced depressions (thank you, perimenopause) that hit me unpredictably each month do little to help. Only Kpop keeps me sane.
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