My Mum was 33 when hers started. My sister was around 40 when hers started and I was 34 when mine started.
Here are “some” of the symptoms (these are JUST the tip of the iceberg):
- Hot flushes. I think you mean the feeling of a flame thrower being directed straight at your back, whilst you stand in front of a roaring open fire, and your feet are secured in a 2 foot block of ice surely? Not just a little hot flutter that needs a quick wave of the latest edition of Cosmopolitan to cool you down again.
- Breast tenderness. You mean when it feels like your nipples are being pulled off at high speed by Network Rail while your back aches as if you are giving birth to a bowling ball and your boobs feel as if you’re carrying around the entire contents of the Thames Water Desalination Plant?
- Worsening of premenstrual syndrome. Worsening? You mean that thing when your husband is afraid to ask you what’s for dinner, or indeed throw a look in your direction for fear of being decapitated?
- Decreased libido (sex drive). Sex? What’s that? That’s never happening ever again.
- Fatigue. No, you mean feeling as if you have been in a marathon all night, and then doing the conga for the rest of the day but still can’t keep your mind straight to do anything productive.
- Irregular periods. Or periods that you never see the back off, which make you red raw because you have to wear 20 pads all at once just to go from the bathroom and to the bedroom then back again?
- Vaginal dryness; discomfort during sex. What sex? There is no sex.
- Urine leakage when coughing or sneezing. Where you need shares in Tena Lady.*
- Urinary urgency (a pressing need to urinate more frequently). Just get out the way FFS!!
- Mood swings. Swings? I used to like swings. They are NOT swings. Don’t ever let her out of your site or she WILL turn into a Dr Who Weeping Angel, I guarantee it. 100%.
- Difficulty sleeping. Sleeping requires calm. “Difficulty” doesn’t cut it. You mean, you will forever be tired during the day and ready to sleep but as soon as you close your eyes your brain decides it’s going to bring up every ear worm that you have ever had the misfortune to have in your whole life and every single time you think you are going to fall asleep, you either wake yourself up snoring (even though you know you’re not sleeping as you can hear every other monkey snoring around you) or you just give up and surf Facebook for the foreseeable future until someone either knocks you over the head with a hammer….
- Memory Loss. ^^^^ uh huh, yep I know I didn’t. Point proven.
Perimenopause, also known as pre-menopause or “Living Hell That Might Start In Your 30s and Makes You Think You Are Going Mad.”
We had only just moved here to Essex in 2007, and a few months before my mental health had started to decline. I had originally been diagnosed as having anxiety and depression, but would be categorised as having PTSD after 3 bereavements within 15 weeks left me feeling like a non-entity. So when it started to slip, I asked my GP to increase my anti-depressant and for a few months it worked well but cracks started to appear. Generally it was happening right before my menstrual cycle, which once I started would then disappear as quickly as it arrived. So just tied it in to “PMS”. I now know the extreme swings of mood during the phase of what would essentially be known as PMS is named PMDD however, often times I would still have my cycle appear but the devastating depression just wouldn’t dissipate. THIS IS NOT PMDD. I started to get the odd night when I’d wake up drenched but just thought it was me just being overheated. In the middle of November? Yeah right. Head in sand moment.
Fast forward several increases in medication, additional ££££s spent on numerous vitamins and minerals, supplements, to this time last year. I wrote a blog post “PMDD, Depression, Menopause or What?” where I originally spoke about my struggles but never tied in the fact that my hormones were causing it all and they’d been doing it all for years. That’s all well and good I thought, but why now? Why so early? It’s the acceptance I find hard. It’s learning to accept that your hormones are gradually depleting and will leave you feeling like a useless piece of meat rather than a vibrant middle aged woman. I know my Mum had a rough time but it certainly didn’t “seem” to go on for a long time, not like what I’d been experiencing anyway and eventually after she had her hysterectomy and popped a few pills she seemed ok again. Lies, it’s all LIES I tell you!!!
They do say that women of a certain age are invisible. Do you know why? It’s because women when they are going through this HELL just want to keep themselves locked away from everyone because they fear being labelled as mad, crazy, or just plain nasty when they’re going through complete turmoil in their heads which they have no idea how to control, or how it’s happened so quickly. I know my idea of going through the change was a woman in her 60s who grew a few hairs from her moles and sat in front of a fan because she was “a bit hot”. Not a woman in her early 30s, struggling to get herself out of bed as crippling fear of nothing in particular overwhelms her every being. The sweat pouring down her face every 20 minutes, and wanting to throw the fan on at the first sight of snow in December because it’s too damn hot. It’s not just that!
What astonishes me is that no one ever talks about it. I don’t remember being taught at school that at the age of 34 I would be set on a rollercoaster of emotions wanting to visit the local psychiatric ward, with the hopes of being sectioned every month. I was told that I’d either be a high flying career woman, or on the dole, 2.4 kids and a single mother (or not make anything of myself as I was “thick and would never pass a Mensa exam” according to my old Biology teacher – and he can suck it and see, as after I did the Mensa test, I was in the top 4% of the UK). I digress. But I never envisaged that I’d would physically want to hide myself away, not being able to sleep ever again, and too scared to talk anyone as I thought I’d pass out. Where were all those female role models I looked up to telling me how they had coped by taking that wonder pill and how easy it was to sail through it? Anyone?? Anyone out there?
It’s only been in the last few years that women in the public eye such as Denise Welch, Carol Vorderman, and Lorraine Kelly have mentioned that they’ve had “issues” but even then it’s just in passing. Why aren’t there great double spreads features about how it makes you feel when you REALLY go through it? None of this clickbait nonsense of how wearing a magnet in your underwear will cure all ills. None of that please. But a high profile campaign. Come on, 50% of the world are dealing with this when they get to that age, yet no-one is saying anything. It’s not taboo.
We need to educate younger women about it just so they don’t have it as bad as we have it right now. Or do we just sit back and watch it all unfold. Watch when the likes of Holly Willoughby take time off for “personal issues” and stops posting her Instagram pics because she actually feels like her whole world is crumbling around her and laugh? Nope. It’s time to educate and arm younger women with tools and techniques, access to menopause clinics at earlier ages and help them combat the emotional damage that it’s going to do to them before they run head first into the wall of “The Change” hand in hand with their teenagers going through puberty, stop them feeling like they’ve lost the plot. Make Bio Identical Hormone Replacement freely available for them when they get to that certain age rather than making them go private to clinics hidden away for £300 a pop to then come away with a private prescription for medication that will cost them £80 a time. Teach them when they’re young how to cope with it. Don’t keep brushing it under the carpet leaving it under the title “The Change” but not tell them what’s going to happen!!
They say it’s like puberty in reverse. It’s not. I sailed through puberty. I even remember having depression for 3 months when I became a woman. But this. This is NOT like that. This is everything and more. 10x the anxiety, 10x the crying, 10x feeling useless, 10x feeling scared. It’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, yet it’s the least talked about. Is that fair? Hmm.