DEAR AMY: My wife of 11 years started transitioning into menopause a few months ago. "Sally" is now 54, and our adolescent daughter "Maggie" is really starting to be affected by her mom's mood swings. She tells me that she's at times afraid of her mom. She's hesitant to ask her anything, fearing a verbal assault. Sally's mood can change at the drop of a hat. When she becomes angry there is no stopping her. She's not physically abusive but is heavy-handed with her language. We both love her very much and hate to see this happening to her. Sally's doctor will not prescribe any medical treatment unless she experiences hot flashes, which she does not. And the few times I have broached the subject, Sally has become irate and blamed her anger on me and Maggie. What can we do to help her?
-- Hoping for a Change
DEAR HOPING: This sounds very serious. These extreme outbursts might be related to your wife's hormonal changes, but she could also be experiencing symptoms related to depression, bipolar disorder, another mood disorder or another illness altogether.
You say her doctor refused to treat her medically. She should seek a second opinion (and a third, if necessary). She would benefit from advice on how to get more (or better) sleep. Recognizing the signs of a rage before it overtakes her and using meditation and breathing techniques will help her to cope.
Meet with your wife privately (outside the home and away from your daughter). Lovingly tell her how worried you are. Offer to walk this path with her in the hope that she will find a treatment that works for her so she can live a more stable and peaceful life.
You must advocate for your daughter, and you must do everything possible to protect her from her mother's rages.
It's important that you get help for yourself. A family therapist can strategize ways to cope with this at home.