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.
Ringing in my ears. A constant, high-pitched ring. Never a moment of silence. Never a moment of peace and quiet.
I have no idea when it started. I always assumed the ringing was some sort of a normal, inner physiological refusal of silence.
The first time I noticed the ringing in my ears might not be normal was the only time it really disappeared. I had complained to a doctor about my pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and he suggested I try taking half of a mild anti-depressant pill for two weeks a month. He said that should help with my PMS symptoms. The very first thing I noticed a few hours after taking my first pill was how quiet everything had gone in my head. I wasn’t sure at first what was missing until I thought about it a bit. The ringing. The ringing was gone. What a tranquil feeling that was.
I didn’t take the anti-depressant for long. It was causing me to be very apathetic. I was losing the fire in my belly that made up a large part of who I was. And as a psychiatrist later assured me, I was not depressed to begin with.
This ringing in my ears is a medical condition called tinnitus. Many things can cause tinnitus but for many people, the cause of their tinnitus will remain unknown. Things like hearing loss, exposure to loud noise, impacted ear wax, problems with the inner ear or the jaw joint, and stress and depression have been linked to tinnitus. It’s possible to treat tinnitus in some people by treating the underlying cause. But for others, it is a condition that will remain with them. All they can do is train themselves to mask or ignore the sound.
I’ve had this sound with me for so long that I do not normally notice it unless I focus on it. When I focus on it the sound gets louder and louder until it’s deafening. Sometimes when I’m sitting comfortably and quietly at home reading a book the ringing will come to the forefront of my attention. If there are other noises in the house, the television set turned on or the children roaming about, the ringing is completely and subconsciously tuned out.
One in five people suffer from tinnitus. I’m part of that one-fifth of the human population.
There is a ringing in my ears. A constant, high-pitched ring. I wish it could go away.