When you need reader glasses to find the tab on your tampon wrapper, it’s probably time for menopause. This actually happened to me last week, and I thought you’d get a laugh out of the image of me literally asking my husband to bring me some readers after trying to tear it open with my teeth. I went from a predictable 29-day cycle to a 100+ish-day cycle, so my skills are waning. Nothing like wondering if you’re pregnant with triplets for two whole months. That would at least excuse the belly bulge.

Recently at a party, a young woman (post hysterectomy) was asking me about hormones and didn’t realize so much of what she was experiencing was due to menopause symptoms. It got me thinking that most of us have no idea if what we’re experiencing, changes in our cycles, bodies, thoughts, is menopause or not. You’re not insane if you’re regularly asking yourself, “Is this menopause?”. If so, the answer is probably yes!

Guess what? You don’t have to be 50 for menopause to start.

Perimenopause is the time before your period stops for good, and it usually starts in your 40’s, even early 40’s, and even 30’s for some women. There are no set guidelines to the timing. Each woman’s menopausal journey is unique, so get your special snowflake on because it’s your due! If you’re starting in your 30’s, no worries, that’s just normal for you, so let’s leave our, “you’re starting early” shaming BS at the door. Shaming is ALWAYS bad manners.

So, what are signs and symptoms of menopause and how the heck are you to know if you’re in it?

Right at the top of the list is menstrual changes: skipping periods and freaking out you’re pregnant, or getting your cycle, again, after only 13 days. Needing to somehow finagle two super absorbent tampons with an overnight maxi pad backup (almost made it through the night) to thinking you could really get used to this pantyliner-only needed are a few sure signs you’re beginning “The Change”.

Following right behind a completely unscheduled cycle are hot flashes and night sweats – really just night time hot flashes. You’re cruising along, minding your own business and wham-o, you notice a flush, then your clothes become downright overbearing. You rip layers off to get your skin exposed to cooler air, never mind it’s 22 degrees out. At a different time in life, sweating through your pajamas and sheets might be cause for concern, but not with menopause! Crossing serious disease off the list!

Hot flashes at night constantly wake you up, throwing off the covers to cool down. My husband was convinced I was trying to kill him by freezing him to death, as I kept the door open, even in winter. Quickly you put the thin sheet back on, and finally the big ole comforter again too. Rinse and repeat, over and over, which leads to lots of trouble sleeping. I’m convinced there’s a mechanism that kicks in during menopause to make us be able to decently function on so little sleep… for months. It’s gotta be the same mechanism that helps new moms.

Lack of sleep brings me right into grumpiness.

Yep, that moodiness you’re experiencing is a sign of menopause too. Emotional swings from my husband is so dang funny to will he ever shut the F up?!? Over a five minute span. Not unusual at all! I think a lot of this moodiness comes from a woman’s need for peace and internal exploration during this time. We’re growing into sages, and somebody yammering in the background is a freakin’ distraction!

Waist band cutting off your circulation lately? Do you just want to wear sweats because at least they don’t feel like sausage casings? Noticing that “old lady” flab taking over your triceps? Yup, blame it on menopause.

Brain fog, forgetfulness, serious concern you’re getting dementia – all normal!

Feeling differently about sex, want it, hate it – all normal! Oh, and it hurts now too – bonus sucks!

Last but not least physical changes, such as your hair and skin getting thinner, feeling more stiffness and aches and pains. Again, totally menopause!

Sounds like crap huh? Well, at least you’re not pregnant! See there’s a silver lining to everything, and I’m talking about more than your hair color. Once you know you’re not losing your mind, and that in fact you are in menopause, you can get down to the business at hand of getting to really know yourself. I mean getting to know your Soul, your Spirit, and finding your serious jam this lifetime.

That’s the cool part… being a Sage/Priestess/Goddess is rad!