My Experience Going Through Menopause: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The menopause, also known as The Change usually affects people at around the age of 51 but it can appear in our life anytime between 40 and 58. However, we should be aware that symptoms can start years before this.
There have been a lot of reports in the press over the past few weeks about the menopause (maybe due to World Menopause day on the 18th of October) with reports about people feeling they are losing their mind and who are depressed and suffering. It seems that no one really knows what to expect so I thought I’d tell you my experiences, because everyone is different it seems and my experiences aren’t half as scary as the ones I’m reading about.
There are so many jokes about the menopause, most of them putting down women, making them feel old, useless and cranky. When I asked my Facebook friends for ideas for a blog post title — most of them were extremely negative. Not that I blame anyone, we all think that way. This is why we don’t talk about it. We feel ashamed to be going through something which is natural and will happen to everyone, because it makes us feel passed it or old. Well, I feel great to be on the other side of the menopause, I don’t feel older or more cranky, in fact I feel more sexual, more confident and and so happy not to have that monthly visit. So happy about that!
What is the menopause?
Menopause happens when the ovaries no longer function and periods have been absent for 12 months. — So you got that, if you are in menopause you haven’t had a period for 12 months, thats the good bit! :)
The symptoms that you get before the menopause is part of what is called the Peri-menopause.
What is the perimenopause?
Peri-menopause is the menopause transition; it warns you what you have to come, the change. The “Pre” menopause is when hormones start changing, and the brain doesn’t know what’s going on and it all just gets a little crazy for a while, until you realise what is happening, or this was my case. At first while it all starts happening, your body is changing, a bit like when you were a teenager and the hormones started to fluctuate, thats what is happening now. You do feel mixed up, confused, and like you are walking through treacle.
The menopause, me?
At 47, I actually didn’t realise that I had started the perimenopause. I had not even heard of the perimenopause. I put this ignorance down to the fact my mum died when I was 35 at 60 after surviving cancer for 20 years. Chemo had messed up her hormones so her menopause experiences weren’t typical and I didn’t think to talk to anyone else about it after that, that’s the problem we just don’t talk about these things enough.
So, after around 2 years of worrying about strange things happening to me and my body, not understanding them, Googling them, and not really getting proper answers, I eventually gave in and made an appointment with my doctor. I hate going to the doctors…
“Oh, it’s probably just the menopause”, he said, waving his hands absentmindedly, “but we will need to do a few tests to rule out other more serious things”. EEK!
Just the menopause and tests, freaked me out slightly but thankfully for me, all of the tests came back clear, so that was it, I was just getting old. All we can do is accept and embrace this change — it’s going to happen if we like it or not. And despite what we read in the media, it’s not always really that bad, not for everyone. I appreciate many people do suffer but there are many remedies to help us through it and understanding what you are going through really helps.
What are the symptoms of perimenopause?
Typical symptoms which vary from person to person
- Weight gain
• Hot flushes
• Sore breasts
• Worse PMT symptoms
• Lower sex drive
• Irregular periods — longer or shorter, spotting.
• Vaginal dryness
• Mood swings
Not to mention the emotional stuff, that people mention, lack of confidence, reduced self esteem, loss of identity, feeling low and depressed.
As I said before actually just knowing what was going on made me feel more confident to tackle the perimenopause, after seeing the doctor and having it confirmed I felt much better emotionally and physically, its amazing what you mind does to you when you are worried.
I feel very lucky to have had only a very few of these symptoms and nothing that affected me terribly. That the symptoms fluctuated and changed was the most annoying thing, this happens because the ovaries are waxing and waning production for months or years before the periods stop. And as you’d expect the worse thing for me was the heavy, painful, long periods, I’d mostly been spoilt with a regular, light and short menstrual cycle.
Do see a doctor if your periods are long and heavy, they shouldn’t be that awful.
So, the only other symptoms that I had and that stayed with me through out was the weight gain, hot flushes and insomnia. When I look back I feel that I could have had some emotional issues but I refused to let them get to me, as I knew that it was just my hormones messing me about.
Menopause and sex
The long cycles of menstruation did hinder sex a little, pain and tiredness and everything that comes with it, isn’t very sexy to be honest. A hot relaxing bubble bath and some painkillers work wonders though. I’d heard the horror stories and was waiting for something really bad to happen to my sex drive. I had read articles that your sex life was over when you reached this time, due to pain, dryness and libido, this worried me. Contrary to popular belief women like sex too! However, I found out from experience that you can continue to enjoy a satisfying sex life before, during and after the menopause. I even read some evidence that proved that some women enjoy sex even more after the menopause. Which I can totally agree with and hope that this continues through out my life.
It was a great relief not to have to put up with any of those problems regarding sex, but I would not be frightened to use lube or other methods to continue to have a great sex life and neither should you.
How I beat the perimenopause
I already had a pretty healthy diet, I ate a lot of veggies and drank juices but I was happy to find out that a plant-based diet was said to be very effective for menopausal relief, so I began to follow the “Forks over Knives” diets much more closely. Becoming, in the end, a Starchivore. During the perimenopause I included some of the foods listed below, which are said to directly help menopausal symptoms.
• Peanut butter
• Whole grains
• Foods that contain vitamin E
• Foods Rich in Bioflavonoids
On my 51st Birthday…. I suddenly realised that I hadn’t had a period for over a month! Oh, the joy!
Here comes the Menopause
There are about 30 physical and emotional symptoms of menopause listed here on WebMD and they all look pretty scary.
But don’t panic, seriously nobody should panic — not everyone has all of the symptoms. The duration and severity of these symptoms varies from woman to woman, in fact, most women have between one to three symptoms.
I didn’t get any further symptoms at this stage and even found the ones I had to be subsiding maybe this was due to my Plant-based diet. I felt healthier anyway so I knew it was a great choice.
Menopause is when a woman’s periods stop and 12 months have passed since her last period — whilst postmenopause is from this point forward. So the actual Menopause is a really short time it seems, whereas pre and post are not.
I had made it through! I am now in what they call post menopause. Apparently we can still have symptoms for up to 4 after your last period (1 in 10 people suffer for 12 years) and I still do suffer from the occasional hot flush and sleeplessness 18 months on, but I feel great to be out of the other side, things can only get better. And at last am starting to lose weight!
I felt so good I decided to give up smoking, 3 months now and counting! I felt awful at first, there was tears and frustration and much agonising, thinking I just couldn’t do it (seriously harder than the menopause ever was) and I wondered why the hell I was giving up smoking after 40 years and just after the menopause but now I am so glad I did, I am starting to feel normal again. If I ever was normal :)
Remember — The menopause, this too shall pass.
Author Michelle D Harris runs the Digital and Social Media Management Agency
You can find her on Linkedin
Follow Michelle D Harris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Michelledh