You probably don’t want to read this. You may learn a lot if you do.
I first had symptoms at the age of 43/44. I didn’t understand for some years (the beauty of 20/20 hindsight!) that they were “peri-menopausal”, i.e. pre-menopause, symptoms.
There will be no further details here (phew!), but it led to a gynae operation under general anaesthetic, and both physical and psychological changes.
Things I didn’t expect about this mid-life experience that we usually refer to as “the menopause”;
· severe knee and hip joint pain – seriously, who knew? (not me)
· anxiety – a physical feeling of dread in every cell – that lasted for months
· low mood, verging on depression
· difficulty sleeping (NEVER suffered from that before)
· always feeling that the temperature in the room is too high even though everyone else thinks it’s ok
· and the one everyone knows about – hot flushes
How do I deal with it?
I often wear my hair up to keep myself cool. I allow more time to get to places. I walk more slowly, so I’m not pouring with sweat by the time I arrive somewhere. I take sage, vitamin D, and maca root. I’m considering HRT too.
If I sweat I point it out, “I apologise – it’s probably an age thing”.
Once I apologised “I’m sorry, it’s really hot in here”, to which a client, a twenty-something woman, responded “it’s freezing in here.” She was right. My body wasn’t calibrating too well.
At one point I was up to 20+ hot flushes a day. That is seriously not funny. To the uninitiated, it feels like someone just held your face dangerously close to a tanning sunbed. And it lasts for a good couple of minutes before it subsides with a wave of heat though the body.
It is debilitating. It feels like an illness, only it isn’t.
My gorgeous 13-year-old niece was unbelievably understanding as I virtually melted at the theatre one night. I’m not sure I would have been so kind at her age.
I get that it is awkward for others.
But it is very real. It affects around half the population directly, and no doubt the other half directly or indirectly.
In Amsterdam, walking to a workshop I was running with my peer, a woman who is a little older than me and understands what I am going through, I mentioned that I had hardly
slept. She asked me “how do you think a man would cope with what we are about to do if they had hardly slept?” It raised a good question to which I don’t have an answer.
My final thoughts on this for now? Apart from thanking the rather wonderful Jayne Harrison for inspiring this blog that is?
Be kind to yourself if this is you. Yes, it sucks. But it is inevitable. Once you realise that what you are experiencing are the normal, and yet widely unspoken, symptoms of a very natural mid-life transition, it might just get a little bit easier.
Take supplements, drugs or seek any other kind of help that makes this a little bit easier.
And if you are not peri-menopausal because you are too young, or too old, or are a man, be kind to those experiencing it.
I am absolutely not “a woman of a certain age” to be giggled at. (And I’m embarrassed and sorry for giggling at women my age when I was too young and naive to know any better.)
I am a smart, capable, attractive, ambitious woman who just happens to be peri-menopausal and has learned both to accept that and manage it. Most days anyway.