A few people have been asking me for an update on my menopause. It’s not just the women who ask, but, interestingly, there are men who are keen to have a new instalment! It seems that my blogs about the peri-menopause and the menopause are proving helpful to the guys, as well as the women. I guess that is because women tend to chat among themselves, while the men are left trying to figure it out for themselves; and trying to work out why their female partners are acting/complaining as they do.
Here are a few things I have learned more recently about the menopause.
1) It is possible to laugh in the face of of the menopause. I was invited to join a Facebook group called Totes Merry Peri. It is filled with women who are happy to say things how they are and to reveal exactly how they are feeling.
Amid the tales of physical and mental difficulties, there are plenty of funny and wry comments. On more than a few occasions, I have laughed out loud at a comment made by one of the women in the group. It has been amazingly helpful – and incredibly heart warming.
2) I am not alone with my wide range of symptoms. Almost every symptom that I have experienced is echoed by other women. The symptoms include hot flushes, anxiety, sleeplessness, breast cysts, weight gain, reduced libido, brain fog, memory loss, mood swings, itchy skin, hair loss, crazy periods and muscle cramps in legs, shoulders and hands.
I have suffered almost all of these in one way or another.
I have recently realised I have a new symptom. At first I thought the burning and tingling feelings in my mouth were oral thrush but I think thy are more likely to be Burning Mouth Syndrome, which, of course, is linked to a reduction in oestrogen. When I mentioned this on the TMP Facebook group, several women said they felt the same symptoms.
You can bet that any time that I post up a symptom or a question on the TPM page, other women will have felt or suffered the same. I have heard multiple times that CBD works well for anxiety as well as joint pain and some other symptoms. I have not yet tried it but with the HRT shortage (more on this below) I am willing to try another natural alternative.
3) HRT is a great solution for many women. It appears to me that more and more peri and menopausal women are taking HRT. While not everyone can take HRT due to other health issues, those that can are choosing to do so.
The stigma and previous worries linked to increased risk of breast cancer are not preventing more women from choosing to take HRT.
HRT does not “cure” the menopausal symptoms but it does help at great deal. You have to think about the oestrogen and progesterone reductions as being on a roller coaster. Sometimes the supplies are at a low in the body and sometimes they increase. This can happen on a daily, weekly, monthly, and several monthly cycle.
You never quite know where your hormones are at and sometimes the HRT does the trick and other times it really does not.
It is all exhausting and frustrating.
4) A UK-wide HRT shortage is a huge concern for many women. According to the news – and the TPM Facebook page – many women have been forced to change their usual HRT or seek alternative ways of receiving HRT.
I ended up an anxious mess when my HRT of three years, Elleste Duo, was unavailable. I am now on Femoston but I have no idea whether that is one of the HRTs in short supply. Just now I am hoping not.
It takes a while for the hormones to settle down when you start HRT – and, again, when you have to change it. I worry that HRT of all kinds will end up in short supply.
There still does not seem to be a plausible explanation for this sudden shortage. I have not found anything that points to why some HRT treatments are suddenly not available.
Added to this there are all kids of meaningless explanations. A Scottish Government spokesman was reported as saying in the Daily Mail: “We are aware of supply issues with a number of HRT products, most of which are temporary.
“Any patient affected should discuss alternative treatment options with their doctor.”
The shortages do not appear to be temporary. Elleste Duo has not been available for at least six months in the UK. And “alternative treatment options”… Grrrr.
5) I have heard – and read – that it’s okay to stay on HRT for longer than the previously recommended five years. It appears that medical experts have reviewed the three-to-five years’ limits. I feel relieved about this because I do not want to face a life without HRT in the foreseeable future.
6) The future looks much brighter for younger women. A new medical procedure could delay the menopause by 20 years.
7) Some women don’t appear to feel any menopause symptoms. When I speak to women of the menopausal age who do not appear to have any symptoms I am incredulous. I can’t imagine how they have “got away with it”. But perhaps they are not aware they are feeling some symptoms, or maybe they are very lucky. I wish I was one of those women.
8) Just when you think symptoms are easing, they get worse again. A few weeks ago I thought my hot sweats were a thing of the past and I was even starting to sleep for more than a few hours at a time.
Then, the hot flushes suddenly returned and my sleep is worse than it has ever been. I am anxious trying to get to sleep and I wake several times in the night. When I wake up I end up with whirring anxious thoughts and find it very difficult to get back to sleep.
Lack of sleep affects my mood and motivation in the day-time. It’s absolutely horrible.
9) I am getting better at putting less pressure on myself. I have long been someone who likes to be on the go all the time – and I like to do some kind of exercise every day. But sometimes I simply feel too tired or too low to be bothered.
I am learning to be kinder to myself and simply have a rest day.
10) Slimness is relative and being dismissed as out of my mind for suggesting I feel anxious about my weight is annoying. I have found that despite being slim for all my life, in the last year or so I have put on weight, especially around my waist. bum and thighs.
I might still be slim in other people’s eyes but in my mind it is a lot to cope with. I still exercise, eat healthily and I have introduced new classes, such as weights-based circuits, to my regular routine to try to combat the metabolism reducing effects of less muscle as I age, but still I feel heavier than I was. I am heavier than I was!
It doesn’t matter how many times people tell me I am still slim, it is a relative thing. In the menopause years, every woman has a greater likelihood of putting on weight and whether I am now still slim (although not as slim as I once was) or other people have put on three stones where I have put on only half a stone, it doesn’t matter. It is still mentally challenging.
I had anorexia and bulimia for many years, aged 16 to 30. Those feelings have started to creep back in again and I am convinced it is hormone related. I feel anxious and negative about myself and my mind plays tricks with my body image. So, even if I still look slim to you, it’s worth considering what is actually going on in my head and some days my thoughts are not at all pretty.
Thankfully, I am aware of all this and I am managing not to revert to those terrible years of eating disorders but it’s still a lot more at the front of my brain than it has been for two decades.
11) It’s nice to feel generally warmer. I am usually a cold person. I mean I get very cold. I have found that the menopause makes me feel much warmer. This can have bad side effects because I now over-heat and sweat a lot more but in general life I feel mostly warmer.
12) I have found a solution to over sweaty armpits. I never used to sweat as much as I do and I don;t recall my sweat being quite so smelly. But a tip from the TMP group sent me to Mitchum roll on deodorant. What a god send!
13) Taking a holiday can be very helpful. I think that the everyday stresses of work and home life can make the menopause even more difficult to live with. Having a holiday is not only good for your general health but also a huge relief for women in the menopausal years.
Even being in a hot climate, such as in the Alps recently, I found the menopause symptoms were hugely reduced. I think it could be that stress makes the menopause symptoms seem worse.
I am now craving more holidays!
14) The menopause chat is growing. More and more people are talking about the menopause and you hear it mentioned on radio and TV programmes. My friend and former colleague Elizabeth Ellis is behind a fast growing campaign to enlighten women about the menopause. See my earlier Pausitivity blog post. The more we talk and share the better because it mans than fewer women will struggle alone with the menopause.
15) I have become a menopause bore! Well, it does feel a little like this to me… I write about it, talk about it and I am a case study in newspapers. Some friends are eager to chat but others would probably prefer they didn’t hear about it all the time. I guess it’s the same with all stages or life because we talk most about the things that are affecting us at that time.
16) I worry about what is to come. Will life after the menopause be better – or worse? I hope it is better because some of the frustrating symptoms will be reduced but will I feel permanently tired, old, weak and grumpy due to reduced oestrogen or it is simply something you get used to and get on with?
Tell me the things you have learned about the menopause.