Just writing the word menopause makes me feel all peculiar. It is a reminder of how the last five years or so of my life have been a rollercoaster of exhaustion, emotions, strange symptoms and uncertainty about what the hell was happening to me.
Some women go through peri and menopause with little or no symptoms I was not one of them.
Looking back now I realised that something was going on quite a while before my periods even started becoming erratic.
Each month before my period my PMT was gradually getting worse, I felt like I had a bad dose of flu for two days and I would be completely out of action feeling dreadful.
Next came what I can only describe now as a huge power surge, I felt like I had been plugged in and turned onto max power!
I felt full of energy verging on hyper, I felt indestructible, I was going a hundred miles an hour.
I also felt very aggressive and I was enjoying it.
At this time my marriage was under strain and I felt like I didn’t care.
I was ready to walk out the door and I nearly did.
This went on for around two years and then the crash came and boy I didn’t like this bit!
I started getting a lot of random strange symptoms.
I became very itchy It was like creepy crawlies were under my skin.
The worst thing for me was the constant exhaustion, I would go to bed at 9 pm and wake up in the morning and feel like I hadn’t even slept, this made training, working and being a good Mum very difficult for me.
I started having anxiety attacks for no reason, my heart would start racing and I would feel like I couldn’t breathe.
I got a weird bad breath – convinced it was my teeth I visited my dentist who could find nothing wrong although he did say it could possibly be hormonal.
My sleep became really disrupted, I would wake several times in the night and I just couldn’t get back to sleep.
Then the night sweats started, I felt like a fire had been lit within me, a radiating heat spreading through my body leaving me hotter than I had ever felt before and lying in a nice soggy wet bed.
All night long I felt like I was doing the Hokey Cokey with my duvet “ in out, in out – shake it all about!” Hot, cold hot, cold – sweaty tired mess!
The skin on my face became thinner, more lined and it felt constantly dry and dehydrated.
My feet were suddenly really dry around the toes and heels. I felt like all the moisture was being sucked out of me and I was turning into a sun-dried raisin.
I had never been one to mince my words but suddenly I turned into this bubbling cauldron of aggression ready to boil over at anything.
One occasion really sticks in my mind, it was when I was driving my 10-year-old son Beau to school.
I was turning left and I forgot to indicate, a young woman in a car with her company name on it waved her arm at me and said something I couldn’t hear.
Beau turned to me and said, “Mummy why did that lady call you a Pratt?”
Something inside me started to bubble, I could feel the heat of being humiliated in front of my son rising like an erupting volcano.
I just said, “ Oh I don’t know Beau, are you sure she said that?” “Yes Mummy I saw her!”
With that I became a cartoon character from Looney tunes, I felt like steam was coming out of my ears and I was going to combust at any moment from the naked fury that suddenly consumed me.
I kept myself together until I got Beau into school then I sprinted to my car, got my phone and googled the woman’s company name.
When I found the address I sped off like Lewis Hamilton with my teeth gritted and blood boiling to where she worked.
I hadn’t even washed on this morning, we were late and so I planned to do all that when I got home, I had grabbed the nearest clothes which were a dirty old tracksuit with coffee stains and my dads old tartan fishing cap, as you can imagine I was an interesting sight!
I arrived at the woman’s glass-fronted office, I could see her sitting there in a meeting with two smartly dressed men.
I felt like a big red raging bull and I burst through the doors, the woman looked up smiling sweetly thinking I was a customer and asked: “Hello can I help you?”
“Yes” I replied and then in a haze of red mist I began my volley, screeching “On what planet do you think it’s ok to call someone a Pratt in front of their child and while you are driving a company car advertising this business?
I had to give it to her she tried to argue back and denied everything, the men in suits were looking on open-mouthed, they were obviously the bosses!
Her defiance made me even worse, I don’t remember much after that as I became so engulfed in my hormonal fury all I know was that I was shouting like a lunatic, my eyes were bulging and I was probably spitting everywhere!
It ended with me screaming” maybe you will think twice next time?” nearly ripping the glass doors off their hinges and stomping out like a disgruntled rhino!
Throughout my manic tirade and afterwards, the thing was, I actually felt like I was enjoying it!Looking back now though, it does make me go a bit hot and embarrassed inside, but thankfully I can see the funny side.
Anyway, that was just one of many examples of how the menopause and the fluctuations in my hormones affected my mood and my temper.
I am also surprised I have any friends left, as for a few years I must have been boring them every week with a different ailment or symptom and a few times they also got the brunt of my menopausal twisted tongue.
I started to think I was going mad, my husband would say “ What’s wrong with you today then? and roll his eyes “
I couldn’t blame him at all, as it was literally something different every day and I had horrible bouts of depression absolutely no motivation whatsoever and panic attacks too.
Then I started to notice my periods were misbehaving, I had always been extremely regular, 28 days each month and an odd period pain.
My PMT became a lot worse and I started feeling really unwell just before my period would start.
Then the time in between started changing. Sometimes another period would appear after two weeks then another month it would be 6 weeks.
Soon I started missing one here and there and then they stopped- I decided to go to the doctors.
I had been chatting with a friend at my gym about my symptoms ( probably boring someone else yet again!) and she had gone through similar and recommended a gynaecologist.
I got an appointment and went along to see her and had some blood tests.
At this point, I was 47 and menopause had not even entered my head.
When I returned for the results I was told that I had actually gone through something called a crashing menopause. The gynaecologist explained that where perimenopause and menopause were usually a gradual decline in hormones over a period of years, for me it had happened very suddenly and in a matter of months – this had been a shock to my body and that was why my symptoms had come on quickly and been severe.
When she gave me the results I burst into tears, I was actually so relieved that I hadn’t been losing my mind.
She straight away said I needed some form of HRT as my oestrogen was so low it was that of a 70-year-old.
My son was 7 at the time and I needed to be able to function and have some energy to look after him and for myself with training and work.
I started taking the HRT and I can honestly say within 3 days I felt a difference – I felt brighter more optimistic and could feel some energy returning. My sleep also improved.
I thought wow! this is it! I’m sorted, back to being human again and I was for about 6 months.
I started getting indigestion, something I hadn’t really suffered with before and it got really bad, to the point where I was rolling around the bed in the night in horrible pain that nothing would relieve.
Then I started getting terrible itching on my arms, it was like a little torture so itchy and then when I scratched a blissful relief, then my skin would burn and the itch would be a hundred times worse.
I began to realise these symptoms had only appeared after I had begun taking the HRT and it became apparent that it was not agreeing with me.
The stomach pains became so bad I was referred to a gastroenterologist who admitted me for an endoscopy.
This revealed I had gastritis and reflux disease which I was sure had been caused by taking the HRT.
I returned to see the gynaecologist who I told about the problems I had been having. She decided to give me an oestrogen cream to use and progesterone pessaries.
I tried these for a while but I found I
became bloated and the pessaries were messy and uncomfortable.
I read and tried all the alternative natural treatments as well and I obviously exercised regularly and ate a really healthy diet but nothing seemed to help that much, the worst for me was the extreme lethargy and exhaustion.
I started to think that if this was how I was going to feel for the rest of my life I didn’t want to be a part of it.
I wasn’t enjoying anything.
During this time my husband was working with a friend who said she had tried a different form of natural HRT, it was called bio identical and it had changed her life but it meant going privately.
I did put off going for a long time because I was concerned about the cost but eventually I was so at my wit’s end I just had to try something.
This was the best decision I ever made, it was the start of getting me back to normal and feeling like a human being again.
For me personally even this route took some trial and error and it did take a while to get the dose correct and the method in which I take it, but finally I am there and back to feeling like my old self, someone I thought was lost forever.
I feel vibrant, enthusiastic and motivated about my life again.
This was my story and how menopause affected me and obviously, everyone is different.
Some women find that natural treatments are enough to relieve their symptoms and a few fortunate women don’t even get any symptoms apart from the cessation of their periods.
I do think for all women though, this time of life is challenging and that’s why it is called “The Change” and let’s face it most people are resistant to and don’t like change.
I questioned and doubted myself when my symptoms were at their worst and I completely lost my confidence.
It came to a head when I was actually so panicked depressed and full of anxiety that one day I felt too overwhelmed to pop down the road to the Tesco express for some dinner.
That was the turning point I thought “blow this”! and gave myself a good talking to and sought the help I knew that I had to have to be able to function day to day.
I feel so grateful that I am back to me again and have regained my zest for life.
I actually have a sense of peace and contentment that I never had before and I appreciate everything in my life so much more.
I don’t give a hoot what people think about me and I have the confidence I wish I’d had at 20.
I allow myself to like me, and I am content with my body and appreciate so much that it is strong able and healthy.
I think the menopause can “change” a lot about a person and their outlook.
For me, I felt I came out the other side a better person.
I will go into menopause treatments in a lot more depth but if you would like more information on the bio-identical hormone replacement that I use contact Dr Amalia Annaradnam firstname.lastname@example.org