I just received this letter from a reader:
Dear Miss Menopause,
I enjoy your column. I wonder if any of the experts who write about depression in us menopausal women have considered what it's like to find oneself in bed with an old geezer/grouch/curmudgeon. When the handsome, winsome young lads we fell for become old grouches and refuse to do anything about it, do WE take Prozac because they won't? Or do we throw away many years of relationship and have to start all over again, without the comfort we've built together? This is a serious question, which would probably bring in more letters than you would care to handle if you print it ( I give you permission ). But then, you're not Ann Landers, you're just a regular person, like me, bumbling through life and doing the best you can and sharing your life with us online, so maybe I've written to the wrong place.
I'll just sign this,
Who would have thought my claim to fame would be as Miss Menopause? But I'll give it a try.
Dear Ms. Doe,
No, I'm not Ann Landers. But a couple of things occur to me. Perhaps the grouch in your bed is going through male menopause. Apparently, it happens. It's called andropause and is also a case of declining hormones. You imply that his curmudgeonly outlook is the result of depression, and mild depression is one of the symptoms. If that's the case, and he refuses to seek professional consultation or medical advice, my first course of action would be to ply him with chocolate. My friend Terry makes traditional brownies with dark chocolate chips. That should give him a lift. In fact, I'd feed him brownies even if he does get help. And eat a few yourself for a boost.
Nevertheless, depression is supposedly common in menopause. But are your feelings of disillusionment and depression due to menopause or because of life circumstances? Living with a grump can be taxing. It seems to me that what you describe is a kind of midlife crisis; looking at what you'd hoped your life would be and feeling a little let down. Lackluster love, divorce, children in trouble, the children we didn't have and career disappointments are all underscored as we age.
Depression and Menopause
On top of that, sad and disheartening events occur during the menopausal years. We go through empty-nest syndrome; some of us find ourselves caring for elderly parents, witnessing disease and wasting. Then there's Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some of us have battles with our own health issues. And many of us lose loved ones.
In a three-year period, I lost three of my best friends, two to cancer and one to a car accident. Then my father died and I couldn't stop crying. Literally, I cried for about two years. Every day I'd think, "How can a person be so sad?" Finally I went to the doctor, who said I was depressed. Was I depressed because I was starting menopause or because I was overwhelmed with grief? He didn't mention menopause. He explained that chemical imbalances due to emotional trauma coupled with genetic predisposition can result in depression. He did mention Prozac. And though I'd been reluctant, I thank him.
What should you do? It's hard for me to tell how depressed you are and whether there might be reasons other than the geezer. If you find yourself crying constantly or experiencing other symptoms of major depression—suicidal ideation, inability to do anything, sleep disturbances, etc.—you should probably seek professional help.
On the other hand, taking Prozac or ending the relationship are only two choices. I've already suggested brownies as a third option. The tone of your letter made me think that you are very close to this man, that the two of you have a lot going for you. Do you really want to give it up? Could you think of his grouchiness as a great big wart, a cosmetic blemish? Or maybe you could ask that instead of telling you, he write a book of his complaints about the world ... a kind of instruction manual. What about taking the view that his grouchiness is a wonderful outlet for his stress—much better than a heart attack? Do you try to talk him out of his funk? Maybe you should just agree with him. He might find some comfort in feeling understood.
I like to explore multiple options. But remember, I'm just muddling along through menopause, where there are no right answers.
I'll sign this,