This week the BBC and media are discussing the M word… you know that word that women go through when they are a certain age. That word that is whispered by women who are knocking on fifties door red faced and sweating like a Grand National winner. Yes, the MENOPAUSE.
I am so glad is it being spoken about so publicly now. And that is why I have decided to write a post about this very subject. Ok, my normal line of chat is about horses or the countryside. But as this is my personal page, I thought I would step out of the comfortable blog posts and talk about this long, ongoing and uncomfortable phase of life that many women go through. Now not all woman have any symptoms. Some that I have talked to, just said their periods stopped and that was it. Lucky them and I say that genuinely. I am not one of them…
I am heading to the big five zero (I know you are shocked, you thought I was much younger!) Having gone through the peri-menopause for the last four years, the last year has seen an acceleration in my symptoms. I am now of a level mind to talk about it as I have sought solace in my doctor. I had resorted to tears in desperation and thought I was going completely mad. Yes, tears! Not like me at all but that was how bad I was feeling.
A few years ago I started to forget things. Not birthdays or any major event but if my husband asked me to email someone or pick up a few items at the supermarket, I would totally forget. This got worse and my mind started feeling “foggy”. I headed to Google and decided that I need to up my intake of fish oil and soak my memory in it! So I ordered a jumbo box of tablets from a well know vitamin company hoping that would fix it. This is where the addiction of buying supplements for my increasing symptoms started in treating the way I was feeling. I can’t even begin to add up what it was costing. I made my first of many trips to my doctor complaining about my mind, my joints were painful, I was hot (not that type of hot, sweaty hot…). She announced it was my decline in hormones and I was at the start of the peri-menopause. She said to exercise more, eat well and look at herbal remedies. So I swiftly ordered yet more tablets including Evening Primrose Oil on her recommendation.
I had a year of not being too bad. I was starting to feel hot most of the time and nights were a battle with the duvet. My memory still wasn’t great and I also noticed my hair was started to thin too as well as my skin feeling really dry. Last year though I started to feel worse. I just felt so flat, which wasn’t like me at all. I had no enthusiasm for anything really and life, in general, was just really irritating. I was also waking up three or four nights a week in a complete drenched sweat which was a delight together with not knowing what a good night’s sleep was anymore. I also started to have some horrible digestive issues among other new symptoms and that was the turning point in seeking some REAL help. I honestly thought I had the big C or something terrible going on. Google is the trigger to send your mind into anxiety hell and this was sending me further into menopause madness.
I dragged my exhausted and anxiety riddled body back to the doctors and begged to be heard. So after various tests to eliminate the worst which were thankfully all clear, my hormone levels came back low which was probably the explanation that I was feeling on my knees. I knew what I wanted and was just waiting to see if the doctor mentioned the drug I was after – HRT. Thankfully this was her first offer of help which I grabbed readily with my sweaty hands. I was one of the fortunate ones that ticked the boxes of being able to have HRT. I had a clear mammogram, no hormonal cancer in my family, my weight was (just) in check and I am not a big drinker (although that was my next option!) We had the in depth chat about the risks of taking HRT but the chances of developing breast cancer was so small compared to the quality of life it gave you and protection against other ailments such as osteoporosis and preventing some cancers.
So I headed home with three boxes of HRT patches with combined hormones of progesterone and oestrogen. After a couple of weeks, I started to feel almost human again! No night sweats, sleeping well, my worries and mood levelled and my stomach issues disappeared. I was so happy and relieved. This was to be short lived… The following week I started having the most horrendous periods that didn’t stop and my knockers were so painful. Joy! I stuck it out for a couple of more weeks and then threw the patches in the bin after these issues got worse. Within days, my menopause symptoms all came back including the horrible digestive problems. I was so fed up…. So yet again I ended up back in the surgery whining to my doctor. She assured me there would be one that would help me and it takes time to find the right form of HRT that suits. I headed off again armed with more patches and stuck them firmly with my fingers tightly crossed these would work. And they did…
I am now four months on and I am feeling like me again. The real me, the level headed me, the me that had been missing for the last year. I still get some erratic light bleeding but that I can cope with but all the other horrible exasperating symptoms have gone. My mum who is sadly not here anymore had a terrible time with her menopause. She literally went mad (if she was here, she would readily admit that) and I am positive she never sought any help for it. I honestly think previous generations were left totally in the dark with the menopause, so I feel incredibly grateful that help is available and women are talking about it. This is why I wanted to write this post and be totally honest how awful I have felt for a long time now. We all just carry on in life with the “I’m fine” attitude but actually, sometimes you are just not… So if you are recognising these symptoms and you are in your forties, visit your doctor. Don’t suffer.
I know I am very lucky to be taking HRT but if you cannot take it then look into visiting a menopause clinic or alternative therapies which are out there. Embrace taking exercise and eating better definitely helps. Talk about it with your friends too. I am again very fortunate I have a brilliant group of female friends that are very honest and open about their hormonal experiences. Believe me, some of my friends have gone through far worse than my own peri-menopause.
It is so good to be feeling bright and cheery these days and dealing with any challenges in a level manner. This miserable mare has left the stable and is cantering through the fields full of joy….
by Samantha Hobden