The Menopause Monster: Some of the things I’ve learned
I think we should talk a lot more about the menopause. For women, it helps to know we are not alone amid the crap of it all. For men, it’s important they can understand why the women they share their lives with feel miserable amid the crap of it all.
It seems this idea is working because quite a number of women recently have said they follow my blog to better understand/seek solace in how others are feeling/coping. Meanwhile, other friends have said they have told their friends to follow FionaOutdoors to find out more about how the menopause can affect women who like to run/bike/swim etc…
The menopause affects every woman in a different way and at a different age, but we all go through it. There are many, many different symptoms and while some women suffer few (or even none) most have multiple problems. See Menopause Matters for some good advice and information.
Reading this blog will not cure the menopause but it might make you feel a bit better – and stop some women who feel as thought they are going mad, feel a whole lot better knowing they are not alone with their symptoms.
Also read Ultra training: The menopause pains
My symptoms crept up on me. I started to have peri-menopausal symptoms from my early 40s, although I wasn’t aware they were peri-menopausal until my mid-40s.
I chatted to my friends and they mentioned a few issues – which made me realise I was suffering in the same way. In the past few years, especially as I have turned 50, the symptoms have become worse/heightened and I have gathered a few more annoyances.
Some of things I’ve learned about the menopause
I sometimes feel so irritated/intolerant of my nearest and dearest that I want to scream: “Shut the fuck up you feakin’ pain in the arse.” This is apparently normal when you are going through the menopause. It makes me want to hide myself away in a room because I don’t want to be so horrible.
I sometimes feel so irritated/intolerant of strangers that I want to scream: “Don’t be so bloody annoying you stupid person who I have never met before and never, ever want to meet again.” This is also apparently normal.
The hot sweats come every few hours, every day for weeks and then disappear.
And then they return again but worse.
The periods disappear for months and then return like a scene from a bloody Niagara Falls. Try riding you bike, skiing, running or swimming when the bleeding is so bad you need change both your tampon and towel every hour.
Sleep is never more than a night from being horribly disturbed. It can be upset by hot sweats, a need to go to the loo three times each night or simply just disturbed because something about the hormonal changes means I can’t bloody sleep.
Cramps are not just for the stomach area. I started getting cramps in my feet, calves, hands and neck that were so bad at night-time that I would end up pulling a muscle. I didn’t even know I was stretching my hands, legs, feet etc. but then I would wake up with severe cramp and a pulled muscle. This was caused by hormonal changes, as far as I can determine.
The cramps came on in the swimming pool. They were so bad that I could hardly get out of the pool. The cramps also hit me while cycling my bike, while stretching after a run, during yoga and as I tried to take the lid off a shampoo bottle. They were HORRIBLE.
HRT cured the cramps. They are almost non-existence since I started on HRT.
HRT has helped in other ways, too. It made me less of a Menopause Monster. Think of PMT but multiplied by 20 – and for more than a few days each month. The HRT toned this down.
HRT has relieved some of the brain fog. Menopause Brain Fog (MBF) is a classic symptom. You forget names, places, why you came into a room, why you walked out of a room with a random object in your hand etc. I once forgot what to call a paper clip. Read this poem I wrote about the menopause.
MBF is very embarrassing especially when you want to introduce a friend /partner to someone but you have no bloody idea whatsoever what their name is. Sometimes I just fess up and say: “Sorry but I have Menopause Brain Fog, can you remind me what your name is.” It’s a bit embarrassing when it’s your husband’s sibling but not half as bad a guessing the wrong name!
HRT helped with repeated urinary infections. The menopause causes things to be a bit drier down below and internally (I’m writing this in lay-wo-man terms here). Sex can be trickier and more painful – and too much jostling around inside can cause urinary infections. It puts you off doing it, to be honest, but HRT keeps things a bit, well, moister. (Gahhh, it’s not easy to write that but it is good to let others know they are not alone with being less interested in sex because of the after effects.)
HRT also restarts the libido, although it can still be hot and cold.
The dryness down below can cause you to suffer more urinary infections if you spend hours on a bike.
The menopause can make you feel so fatigued. It’s more than tiredness through lack of sleep, rather it’s an extreme form of exhaustion that can hit at 9am and last all day long. It can make you useless at work and totally lacking in motivation to do anything, especially exercise.
The menopause can cause terrible migraines. These migraines are only cured by going to bed to sleep.
The menopause causes dry and itchy skin.
The menopause causes you to grow random hairs in horribly public places. For example, your chin, out of your nose, on the back of your leg (just one or two thick ones) that can only be spotted by the person positioned behind you at a yoga class. It is MORTIFYING when you realise what they probably saw while you were holding a yoga posture and YOU HAD NO IDEA at the time.
The menopause makes you doubt yourself and hits your confidence. It makes you feel down when life is actually just fine.
During the menopause you are much more likely to out on weight – and around the middle.
The menopause strikes when you should be thinking about adventure and excitement just as your children leave the nest. It is fucking ironic.
And just when men are described as looking ruggedly handsome in their late 40s to 60s, women are desperately trying to remain positive against the cruel mother nature of it all as their skin starts to hang and their looks disappear in a blobby, wobbly blur.
Worst of all, I think, that even if you do stay fit and try to be as healthy as possible the Menopause Monster still strikes and pisses all over your years of built up strength and speed. Thankfully, the HRT has helped me to overcome some of this – and I have discovered that endurance is much, much better through those menopause years – and in the future, so I hear.
While this blog post might seem excessively moany and annoyed it actually feels good to let other people know that what they are experiencing is just a process of hormonal changes as they get older. It will also alert other people to some of the problems they might face as they head towards the menopause years.
HRT is not the answer for everyone, and not for all the symptoms. Some people cannot take HRT due to other health issues. HRT also comes with an increased rick of breast cancer. On balance, I have decided to take HRT.
There are plenty of alternative remedies and diet can help with some symptoms.
You learn to live with many of the symptoms – and in the end they go away (again, so I have heard!)
Being 50 and menopausal is not at all bad actually. It has taught me to listen a lot more to my body and how it feels, rather than trying to push through regardless. I think I am kinder to myself.
I also talk to my husband a lot more about it all and explain why I am behaving annoyingly or erratically. I think this has brought us closer in this respect, even if I might want to sometimes push him away!
The menopause has also given me new sporting challenges. While I tried to get over the cramps I gave up swimming, but I then discovered I wanted to run longer and in new places. I have made new friends through running.
Oh, and the menopause has given me something new to blog about! I hope some of this Sunday evening ranting has helped at least a couple of people.