How are you navigating your way through the menopause?
Finding my way through the menopause was a challenging time for me mentally, emotionally and physically. But it doesn’t have to be that way! So, I thought I would share my menopause journey with you and how I rebooted my wellbeing.
When I was a teenager, my mum told me I would start my periods. She prepared me practically and emotionally. I wasn’t traumatised when it eventually happened, because I had been informed. I knew exactly what to expect. My mum told me that one day my periods would stop. This was called ‘the menopause’ or ‘going through the change’. She also told me that she experienced no symptoms, so I didn’t think much more of it.
In my early thirties, I was having regular periods where I felt a bit rubbish each month. Then, in my late thirties, I started to consider the menopause. I observed work colleagues or friends of a certain age fanning themselves or quickly taking their jumper off even though the room was cold. Apart from hot flushes, I didn’t know much more about the menopause. No one discussed it and I didn’t ask. I happily went through life thinking nothing more of it.
In my mid-forties, things started to change. I would get what I thought were urinary tract infections (symptom 1). My GP took urine samples. The results were negative, but he gave me antibiotics anyway. Then my periods started to go a bit haywire (symptom 2). My GP told me to take a pregnancy test. It was negative – thank goodness! I really didn’t want to start a family at the age of 49. I became forgetful with terrible brain fog (symptom 3), I couldn’t concentrate (symptom 4), I had an overwhelming feeling of fatigue (symptom 5) and I lost motivation for the things I loved doing the most.
In my early fifties, I started to feel lost and stuck in a rut. I started tennis lessons, I completed an MSc and I retired from nursing. I still felt lost and stuck in a rut. I started to question this new way of feeling and googled my symptoms. I discovered the term ‘perimenopause’. How could I be perimenopausal, as I was still having my periods? But my symptoms fitted. I started to research the menopause further and discovered that there was a lack of understanding not just by women, but also by the medical professionals.
Then my periods stopped altogether. The nights sweats started (symptom 6), I couldn’t sleep (symptom 7), I experienced loss of libido and vaginal atrophy (symptoms 8 and 9), I had 15+ hot flushes a day, which triggered anxiety and panic attacks (symptoms 10 and 11 and 12).
With a super-supportive husband, we googled natural treatments. I tried every herbal remedy on offer, but nothing worked. I saw a nutritionist and changed my diet. I started supplements. I continued to exercise. Nothing was helping to relieve my symptoms fast enough for me!
I was desperate. I googled HRT and, armed with information and determination, I went to my GP. Luckily, this GP was well informed and gave me time and space to go through the risks and benefits of taking HRT. I made a choice and decided to try it. Within two weeks, I was back to being me. I regained my overall sense of wellbeing mentally, physical and emotionally. I had my life back – and my husband had his wife back!
While I was taking HRT, I felt able to make further lifestyle changes. I took up meditation, I practised mindfulness, I reduced my alcohol intake (I even managed one year alcohol-free) and I retrained as a Wellbeing Life Coach, providing menopause support to women over forty – my passion!
I have made the choice to continue taking a low dose of transdermal HRT. I am aware that HRT has been in the news recently, linking it to an increased risk of breast cancer. However, the breast-cancer risk from HRT is lower than some lifestyle risk, such as obesity and alcohol. Instead, HRT offers me health benefits beyond symptom management by guarding me against the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and dementia.
HRT is not for everyone. Some women can’t take it or tolerate it, and others wish to manage their symptoms naturally. This can be achieved by introducing lifestyle changes including diet, exercise and reducing stress – it just takes a little bit longer to see the results!
If you are concerned, speak to your GP. They may wish to rule out other medical conditions like thyroid issues, which have similar symptoms. They may offer to test your FSH (follicle-stimulating hormones) levels. This can be an indicator that things are changing. However, hormone levels vary constantly, so it isn’t always a reliable check.
Instead, when you go to your GP, take a list of your symptoms. There are 34 in total: 13 irritability, 14 mood swings, 15 depression, 16 hair loss, 17, dizziness, 18 weight gain, 19 bloating, 20 allergies, 21 brittle nails, 22 osteoporosis, 23 irregular heartbeat, 24 changes in body odour, 25 breast pain, 26 headaches, 27 joint pain, 28 burning mouth, 29 electric shock, 30 nausea and digestive problems, 31 dental problems, 32 muscle tension, 33 dry itchy skin and 34 tingling extremities.
Have you been experiencing any of these symptoms recently?
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