I’ve been going through perimenopause for God only knows how long. I’ve been surprised about how little I understand about this process despite having a medical degree and considering myself generally well read on the topic. I wanted to know what to expect when the time came. So I thought I was going to be prepared.
I have experienced symptoms for years that I’ve thought might be because of changing hormones. But then, when it comes to things like anxiety or restless nights, how do you know if it’s down to a hormone imbalance or if life and its stresses are just fucking you up?
I’ve been complaining about anxiety for several years. I’ve told my doctors, I’ve gone through therapy, I’ve learned coping strategies. If someone were to tell me that the anxiety that I developed in my thirties was down to life’s fuck-ups, I can believe them. But the anxiety I developed later on in my late 40s/early 50s felt different. Sure, life’s fuck-ups are still there and probably still need to be dealt with. I swear to God I’m working on it as best I can. But I can tell there’s something else. I know there’s something else.
You know what upsets me? It’s how difficult it is to get someone to listen. You go to the doctor as a lady in your late 40s and tell her time and again that you have anxiety, and you’re told to try to get in touch with a counsellor or, “Here. Take this pill that will give you the worst brain fog you’ve experienced in your whole life and fuck being able to work.” You mention potential symptoms of perimenopause and you’re met with a blank stare.
Eventually, I had so many symptoms of perimenopause that I wrote them all down on a piece of paper, called up my doctor, and gave her the list, and basically told her, “Give me drugs. This isn’t working anymore.”
So finally, I was prescribed a hormone replacement therapy patch.
The symptoms are improving, but slowly. I’m giving it three months just like the doctor ordered. But I suspect I’ll need something stronger.
My anxiety has actually started to improve. There is a difference. Although, that could be down to me significantly reducing my social media exposure as well.
I’ve decided that what I’ve generally considered to be a healthy lifestyle needs to be even healthier yet. I think we overwhelm ourselves with a constant bombardment with information from people and the media that is representative of our times. I’m constantly feeling like, if I don’t put in the effort, I’ll miss out on something. I’ll miss out on the trends. I’ll miss out knowing what people are talking about. I’ll miss out on my friends’ latest news or even thoughts. When did it start becoming important for us to know what our friends are thinking, even ones we haven’t seen in person for years? I keep telling myself that I’m a journalist. I need to be on top of what’s happening everywhere. But am I really keeping on top of what matters? I think I’ve distorted the meaning of what matters, just as so many of us have done.
I’ve been trying to strip away lots of different layers I’ve built up over the years, whether knowingly or subconsciously or through society. I’ve been trying to figure out what my real needs are and who I really am underneath it all. So every now and again I remove something to figure out if it’s actually as important to me as I think it is. I’ve done this with things that pertain to religion and spirituality. I’m now trying to do this with my social media and media use.
I’ve found my experiences all very helpful. I’m learning more and more not to care about other people and to care more about myself and what is right for me. I’m learning that I don’t cease to exist if my Facebook feed doesn’t know my every thought. I’m learning that I still matter to me and to the important people in my life even if I’m not constantly updating them and everyone else with my goings-on. It sounds silly. But I needed to go through the experience.
I think it’s helping with my anxiety.
I think the hormones are too.
I’ve had the night sweats and the irregular sleeping. I had started waking up at night every two hours just before I demanded drugs from my doctor. It was horrible, all that tossing and turning at night. I haven’t had night sweats since I started using the patch. The tossing and turning is better but not gone. But it’s at a level I can tolerate now. Even my nightmares seem to have improved a bit. I still feel hot sometimes at night, but it’s so much better now than before.
The symptom that got me to pick up the phone and demand drugs from my doctor was that I had started developing brain fog. It was absolutely awful. I’ve had a sort of weird dyslexia thing going on for maybe three years now. My brain mixes up the order of words sometimes. Also, when I’m typing, I can get the spelling all mixed up. It’s been really weird. But then came the brain fog and I thought, “That is it. I cannot do this. I have to WORK!” My work involves reading really complex scientific studies and trying to decipher what these people are going on about so that I can then write accessible news stories about them for the general public. You can’t do that when you get brain fog. It’s impossible.
The brain fog improved significantly once I started the patch. But now it seems to be sliding back in. Which makes me think that the introduction of hormones was good, but now my body needs more.
You know what the problem is? There is no one I’m aware of that I can have a proper sit down with and explain it all to. The general practitioners (GPs) here in the UK can only spend ten minutes with you. It’s a rule. Also, they want you to focus on a single problem during your visit. If you mention more than one thing, they redirect you to focus on your main symptom. But dude, there’s too much going on! It could all be related! Maybe it’s not. But there’s too much going on! It’s turned me off of resorting to the GP here in the UK. I do it only when I’m at the end of my rope. I decide what’s bothering me most and tell her about that and take it from there.
I think I need a menopause consultant. Do they even exist? Who refers me? Would I have to pay for it out of my own pocket? Would private insurance cover it? These are all things I don’t know. I should look into it.
Like, why don’t doctors do blood tests to figure out where my actual hormone levels are and how it’s affecting different systems? Is that not a thing? Why don’t I know the answers to all these questions?
I’ve had tinnitus for as long as I can remember. I have memories from long, long ago thinking that it must be normal to hear a faint buzzing sound in the background. If I thought it was normal, I must have had this since childhood or something. Anyway, it wasn’t until I had learned about tinnitus that I realized that what I was hearing was not normal. I’ve had tinnitus for so long that I normally don’t really hear it unless I consciously focus to look for it. There have been times of stress when the tinnitus suddenly becomes worse. But then, as I work on reducing my stress, the tinnitus slides back into the background where I can forget about it. But I’ve now had loud tinnitus again for maybe three months or more. It’s been awhile. It’s not going away. I was hopeful that getting the hormones might improve it. It hasn’t. That’s the one symptom that has remained and not changed at all. Is it related to perimenopause? Quick internet searches show it might be. But I can’t be certain.
Anyway, it sucks. All of it. I’m going to be patient and give this patch another month and a half. That will be three months and then I’m supposed to get back in touch with the doctor.
Why isn’t there some sort of a system where once women reach their 40s, for example, they can be monitored for signs and symptoms of menopause? Half the people in the world go through this shit! It’s expected. We know it happens. But any woman I know in my age group or older seems to have gone through a whole lot of confusion trying to figure out how to get through this stage of life. Just having some information out there in the media isn’t enough. We literally need the personalized help of a professional. But that’s not forthcoming. You pretty much have to demand it, even when you’re not certain that your symptoms are due to perimenopause.
I’m frustrated. I needed to vent.
My life isn’t all negative. My last three blog posts probably make it look like that’s what I think. There’s lots of positives happening too. I just rarely feel the need to write about them.