One of the main inspirations for starting this blog was the M word. You know, that word that Cissy and Ada used to silently mouth on the brilliant Les Dawson show. The thing your older female relatives cryptically referred to as ‘the change.’ The condition that you think you know about until you start it and then realise that you know nothing or very little anyway.
I’m talking, of course, about the menopause. Also, the peri menopause. Who even knew that was a thing? A menopause before your menopause. Like a trial run menopause. Now I should point out that I don’t even know for sure if I have started the menopause because I haven’t had it confirmed by my GP and also, I am reluctant to give up my mini pill because my periods have always been a nightmare. About two years ago the practice nurse said I should come off to see if my periods had stopped but within a week I was a hormonal, moody, tearful wreck so after the fortnight from hell, I thought bugger this and went back on it. However, I am closing in fast on 53 so the chances are I have.
Also, when I read the symptoms for the big M, I am definitely there or there abouts.
- Change in the frequency and heaviness/lightness of periods – the jury is out on that one until I stop taking the mini pill but they didn’t suddenly reappear last time.
- Hot flushes – Tick. Especially when I’m cooking. I have to break off and go and stand in the garden wringing wet and puffing like a carthorse.
- Night sweats – Tick. But few and far between.
- Difficulty sleeping – Tick. But then I always have, so may or may not be connected.
- Reduced sex drive – Huge tick. I always had more than my fair share of a libido but now, in the words of Boy George, I’d rather have a cup of tea.
- Vaginal dryness – Tick. Moves swiftly on.
- Mood swings – Tick. Although I fear they would be far worse if I wasn’t taking the pill and various anxiety medications.
- Weight gain – Tick. Dear goodness, yes and thrice yes. I’m beginning to wonder if the Menopause Bad Fairy creeps into my room at night and attaches me to a bicycle pump.
- Brain fog – Tick and then some. But I suffer that anyway with my Fibromyalgia, so who knows.
- Other symptoms – Tick. I have less body hair than before which frankly is bliss. I can now go four days instead of two between leg and underarm shaves. Dry, thinning skin. Tick. The tell tale signs of aging are now showing on the back of my hands and on my décolletage and I don’t tan as easily as I used to.
In spite of all the doom and gloom above I’m looking forward to finishing with all the hormonal stuff. I certainly don’t want any more children, other than grandchildren, so frankly I can do without my female plumbing and its accompanying problems. I see it as liberating, the ultimate in female emancipation. Although I am rather wary of ending up with osteoporosis, so I’m making sure that I’m keeping my calcium and Vitamin D levels up through diet and supplements, trying to exercise more, (when I have the energy) and I have replaced cigarettes with an electronic puffer.
I had thought about going on HRT, mainly because it makes your skin all glowy apparently but recent breast cancer scares have put me off and to be honest I don’t seem to be having too torrid a time at the moment. Then, I also found out something that shocked me to the core. Something I had never heard before but I guess made perfect sense. HRT can re-start your periods. Oh no, no way, not having it, not ever! The thought of going back to that monthly hell and shenanigans had me running for the hills. I’ll just stay moody, sweaty and achy thanks.
So what support is out there for us ladies of a certain age? I would say your first port of call is your similar aged female friends and family group. They will all be experiencing the same or similar symptoms and are probably more than willing to discuss their own experiences. Secondly, head to that fount of all knowledge, the internet. Just type the word menopause in to Google and over 31 million results pop up. Gulp. Obviously, you have to be selective in what you read because some of it is utter poppycock, so I would say stick to the tried and tested, the NHS, BUPA, mainstream media sites etc.
You will also find some excellent peer written websites out there such as Menopause Goddess and Fab Over Fifty that are packed full interesting articles, tips and advice. Social media is another great platform on which to search. If you put #menopause into the Twitter search bar you will find a wealth of people, pages, news, videos, all sorts. For instance, I found out whilst researching this, that in a recent survey only 19% of U.S. women questioned knew what to expect from the menopause. An interesting conclusion gained from the results is that the majority of women don’t think about the menopause until they start experiencing symptoms and that was certainly true in my case.
What now? Well, for me it’ll be a case of keeping on doing what I’m doing. It also gives me the best excuse in the world for everything. Missed appointments. Sorry, it’s not me it’s my menopause. Getting snappy with people because they are just really, really annoying, menopause or no menopause. Sorry, it’s not me it’s my menopause. Fancying a day slobbing on the sofa? Sorry, it’s not me it’s my menopause. Brilliant! I may never have to go anywhere or do anything again.
Join in the conversation on my social media channels and let me know how you a coping with the menopause journey.