Perry meets Darcey Steinke, author of the book 'Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life' is based in Brooklyn and has an unconventional and refreshing take on peri/menopause. Menopause hit Steinke hard with hot flashes, insomnia and depression. As she searched for some way to understand what was happening to her she came up against a culture of silence. While some books promoted hormone replacement therapy and others encouraged accepting the coming crone, Steinke longed to understand menopause in a more complex, spiritual, and intellectually engaged way.
In your new book Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life, you call
menopause an enigma. What makes it so mysterious and how can you, us and other activists
Talking about it. Ask your mother. About her menopause. Ask your older friends how it was for them. Tell your daughter about what you are going through. Talk about it. Be honest when you are having a hot flash. Do not feel shame. Or if you do feel shame be honest about the same and try to deactivate it with the knowledge that you are going through a totally normal female life cycle passage. It’s the world that makes you feel shame. And particularly the patriarchy. Define what’s happening to you in your own terms.
Take it back as a transition of growth and power, not a disease.
In your experience, what is the worst and most overwhelming part about being perimenopausal?
In the years running up to menopause I remember a lot of crying. In the morning particularly. Sometimes I also felt quite anxious. I did not know that this was perimenopause, but now I do think those symptoms were part of that
What is the best part about it? What would you tell 35 year old Darcey to look forward to?
I am now 57 and having few to no hot flashes. Which is great. I feel steadier as well. More able to stick up for myself and content in my body and in myself. It’s like before I was always worried about how others saw me, particularly men. Now I just don’t care. The world sees that as ‘giving up’, but that’s just wrong. Older women don’t give up, they get happy with who they are and have to do less prop up their femininity. I can also concentrate better and feel more focus. I can sink deeply into my own projects, that’s how flash count diary got written.
Have you found your go-to treatments, rituals, habits, which unfuck your peri/menopause ride?
Take what is happening to you seriously and let yourself revel in it, but do not try to cure it.
Getting enough sleep is key. I take 10mg of Doxepin to help with that. It’s very mild. But very good. Exercise! I do everything. Swim, Yoga and lift weights a bit too. Meditation. Wine. Meeting with friends. I think at this at this time of life girlfriends are key. Age mates. I make sure I can be alone some, to contemplate my life and the world. Take what is happening to you seriously and let yourself revel in it, but do not try to cure it. Help it along yes. Cure it – no.
If you want your readers to take away one key mantra about being peri/menopausal, what would that be?
You are just finding ways to move through it. It’s like the seasons, there is no reason to think of it as a disaster. You are coming in to the last and most meaningful, I would say, part of life. This is a wonder.
That it’s a natural part of life. That we have to take it back from the medical world and the patriarchy. There is nothing wrong. You may feel out of sorts and want to try things to make it better, which is great. Do that! But still don’t think you are curing it. You are just finding ways to move through it. It’s like the seasons, there is no reason to think of it as a disaster. You are coming in to the last and most meaningful, I would say, part of life. This is a wonder.
Darcey Steinke is the author of the memoir Easter Everywhereand five novels: Sister Golden Hair, Milk, Jesus Saves, Suicide Blonde, and Up Through the Water. Her books have been translated into ten languages, and her nonfiction has appeared widely. Her web story “Blindspot” was a part of the 2000 Whitney Biennial. She has been both a Henry Hoyns and a Stegner Fellow, and a Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. She has taught at the New School, Columbia University School of the Arts, New York University, Princeton, and the American University of Paris. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn.
Flash Count Diary, with its deep research, open play of ideas and reverence for the female body, will change the way you think about menopause. It’s a deeply feminist book, honest about the intimations of mortality that menopause brings but also one that argues for the ascendency, beauty and power of the post-reproductive years.
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