Friday, November 10, 2017

Winter Writers Series: Guest Post By Emily Gaffney

     I'm so thrilled to have Emily Gaffney, who writes over at 50 Shades of Aging, on the site today! Talk about a woman I can relate to!! Not only does she have a great sense of humor, but she's also a mid-lifer and an empty nester. A few weeks ago, Emily featured me on her site, and I asked her if she would be so kind as to share one of her inspirational posts here because I KNOW you guys are gonna love her!

     Please welcome Emily to Meno Mama's site today with lots of comment love!

                  IF I ONLY HAD A BRAIN.......

The speed with which I lost my membership in the Yummy Mummy club was crushing. I was an energetic, reasonably hot, 48 year old woman with comparatively taut skin, a head full of (almost) naturally brown hair, and a healthy amount of fine lines. My days were filled with GTL (gym-tan-laundry), volunteer work, and raising children. I had energy, ambition and a brain. 
Seemingly overnight, I was an aging, 50 year old mother of five grown kids, sporting gray roots, rosacea, lines in my upper lip, and hiding my neck under fashionable scarves. Most distressing was that my once highly functioning brain, had become a vast wasteland, operating at a snail’s pace. 
To say I was losing my memory would be a gross understatement. Forgetting what I had for dinner was normal. Forgetting what to do at a green light, was not. With a family history of brain cancer, and a father who just barely pre-deceased Alzheimers, I had valid reason for concern. I hoped I was just an average, middle aged woman suffering from average, middle age menopause....nothing a little estrogen couldn’t fix. I began my memory recovery mission with a visit to the gynecologist. 
The doctor shared the blood test results:
So...looks like you’ve been through menopause for about 10 years, but I see you’re still taking the pill? Let’s get you off that... Although not likely, it could be contributing to your memory issues... and the chances of you getting pregnant at 50 are slim. 
Whoooaa....ah... no... “slim” and 50 are not “chances” I’m willing to take.  
Well, we can start with a very low dose of estrogen, and ween you off slowly. We’ll check back in a month, and see how your memory’s doing.
Although optimistic at the outset, it didn’t take long to realize that HRT should rightly stand for WTF. All those years on the pill had apparently staved off aging in measurable ways. I anticipated hot flashes, fatigue and possibly dry nether-lands. What I got, however, was dry and thinning hair, gravity induced muscle loss, and collagenically challenged skin. Clearly my new estrogen level was inadequate. The dreaded phrase “you look good for your age” played like a broken record in my head... the kiss of death for a woman whose identity had been in part, defined by her appearance in younger days. No more “unwanted attention” from men (Husband excluded). My invisibility was cemented, and I still had the memory of a gnat.
More unsettling was the emotional fall out from my depleted estrogen. I braced for mood swings, indifference and fatique, but was met with depression and mourning over the loss of my 48 year old self. This minimal change in hormones, was having maximum physical, mental and emotional effect on me. I spent more time at home, and more time alone. My waning confidence was evident in my posture as well as my attitude. I was also sure I’d never be able to put two thoughts together, or craft a meaningful sentence again.  
Menopause (or, in my case, super post-menopause) hit me hard. I came to fully understand the mighty power of estrogen. I returned to my gynecologist after a month and detailed my hormonal woes. Her response was to up my daily dose... Cancer be damned. I was sure the negative effects of menopause would be reversed and I’d be the female Benjamin Buttons. But they weren’t... and I wasn’t. My brain was still on pause.
Lingering concerns about the big “C” lead me to my GP who thought I should see a neurologist. He intimated that I might consider a neuropsychological evaluation first; “It’ll give the neurologist more information to work with.” Truth be told, he thought I was losing it. 
Weeks later, after a full day of mind games and mental gymnastics, test results showed  no red flags or flashing red lights. For better or for worse, I was apparently “average,” and “within normal range.” Good news for those living with me, but my brain was still a sieve.   
The last effort on behalf of my memory recovery mission was to go right to the source; a brain scan. I struggled - would I rather succumb to the malady being investigated, or suffer through a slow and torturous MRI? With an “open” MRI option, I chose the latter. 
The neurologist was completely unimpressed with my colorful scan.  Again, tears trickled down my cheeks, but at least I had a “base line” for down the road, when I would certainly need it. 
Ultimately, scientific and emotional testing showed there to be absolutely nothing clinically “wrong” with my brain. Somehow, days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, and after a year or so, I’d forgotten about my devastating, apparently non-existent, brain defect. Although my memory didn’t improve, my attitude about it did. Questioning other menopausal women, and reading books on the subject, assured me I wasn’t in this memory loss thing alone, and that it was just another part of being an aging woman...and being an aging woman was just another part of my changing identity.
By the end of brain-gate, my kids had all flown the coop, and, like all baby booming, empty nesters, I decided to become a Realtor. Dormant memory concerns resurfaced, and I doubted my ability to pass the state licensing exam. Flash cards, highlighting, and on-line quizzes shored me up, and seemingly rebooted my brain. All that studying made it possible for me to postulate, consider, conjugate, formulate, fabricate, and manipulate all kinds of information again. My brain was on fire for the first time in years... expanding exponentially... and it felt great. I just couldn’t get enough of thinking or writing. First for real estate issues, and then for pleasure. 
These days, I don’t perseverate on what’s happening above my neck - inside or out. I understand that the operational success or failure of my brain and memory, are directly related to how much I use them. I’ve come to realize that my imagined “defect” was actually the result of simple inactivity. I’ve come to understand that my brain has muscle memory, and all I have to do to keep it in shape, is use it or lose it

With a clean bill of brain health, and my renewed confidence in all things written and oral, I’ve begun a new and exciting chapter in life. No longer fearful of forgetting everything I hear, or not remembering where I’m supposed to be, exciting opportunities are everywhere. I feel like a kid who’s just learned to ride a bike, and the open road is calling.  

Author Bio: 

Emily Gaffney is a post-menopausal, Baby Booming, Empty Nester who’s currently living life-on-hold, while her 91 year old mother (Right.Next.Door.) decides her next act. Emily’s days are filled with retail therapy, peddling real estate, and watching her friends on Bravo TV. She’s committed to throwing in the towel at 60, at which time she will joyfully end hair dying, weight watching and, working out. Find her (and Mom) at 50 Shades of Aging and on Facebook


  1. Maybe just one less bottle of wine a day would do the trick :-)

  2. Funny and inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

  3. This cracked me up ageing sucks at times

  4. Oh, gosh. I think humor is so important as we age. I'm glad I have it. This is so hilarious...and honest!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...