My Perimenopause (and Menopause) Experience So Far

I knew I’d be writing this at some point: part one of my menopause journey. Or should I call it an ordeal?

As I write this I’m itching at the minuscule plaster still in the crook of my elbow, stuck there after yet another blood test was taken this morning at the doctor’s surgery.

In a nutshell, I have felt like SHIT for ages now. It’s the best (and only) way to describe it. One of two things has happened: I’ve either got something quite wrong with me health-wise, or perimenopause has hit me like a [freight] train. And by that, I mean a train that’s been waiting for me at the station for a while now. It’s been on the departures board for ages but they’d not yet announced the platform number.

I think that the platform number was announced sometime around Autumn 2021. And without warning… WHAM. The ‘Destination Menopause’ train left the station and hit me with everything it had. Okay, I’m done with the train analogies.

 

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And when I say something wrong health-wise, it’s both physical and mental. One affects the other in a neverending circle of wanton viciousness. I’ve been to the doctor and with everything that’s going on, she’s a little worried too… hence, the blood tests. We’re ruling things out first.

So I want to know if there IS any sort of underlying health issue because recently I’ve got to the stage of “All of this can’t be perimenopause, can it? ALL these issues?”. I don’t want to leave all my various ailments to chance by saying “Oh darling, it’s just the change of life” – and then finding out that it was actually something else (quite serious) that’s caught me out in the 12 months leading up to my 50th birthday.

Never in a million years did I think I’d ever feel this shit in my life (I thought that when my mental health was poor it was bad enough). And here’s a caveat… I’ve used the word shit A LOT in this post. Let’s just say I’m talking shit here ; -)

 

Lethargy, low mood, and out-of-control weight gain

Without wanting this post to be too depressing (sorry!), I’ll talk briefly about how I’ve felt and what’s been wrong. And then I’ll address perimenopause. Gird your loins…

In the last nine months or so, this is what’s been happening/how I’ve felt:

  • Constant, extreme lethargy. Lethargy like I’ve never experienced before ever. I wake up with zero energy every single day.
  • Rapid weight gain: I’m talking serious, it’s-frightening-me weight gain… for someone who’s been generally slim all her adult life – with a pretty small frame (skinny wrists, boney back) – I gained nearly three stone (38lbs/17kg) in six months. This, and the lethargy, is what I’m having all the blood tests for. And it doesn’t seem to be letting up.
  • Injury after injury: my leg pain is back whenever I exercise, my tennis elbow has gone from the right elbow to the left, and I’ve been seeing the chiropractor for a pulled neck/shoulder that has taken an eternity to get better. I’ve also seen him twice lately for a particular muscle that likes to give me stabbing pains in my lower back.
  • Feeling like I’ve been pummelled all over any time I walk. I get back from a 30-minute walk absolutely shattered. Shin splints, aching joints, tendonitis in my feet, lung capacity non-existent. This time last year I was hiking up steep hills for hours. This year, I’ve had to forgo walking up my lovely local hill for the flat and it’s STILL killing me.
  • A general mood that’s so low I can’t even remember what it’s like to feel really happy anymore. It’s like I’m in a constant daze (I guess that’s the brain fog) that makes contentment an impossible, unreachable goal.

So far, an underactive thyroid has been ruled out (it wasn’t even borderline, it was completely normal). And a few other things like my liver, but it was my thyroid that I really thought was causing the weight gain. An underactive thyroid apparently also causes injuries to take a long time to heal – after both a friend and my chiropractor mentioned the possibility of thyroid issues I put the two together. It honestly would have explained everything… so I’m baffled.

Ergo, more blood tests this morning, and next is an appointment to see the doctor in person.

And in case anyone is wondering: no, I don’t eat takeaways every night. (I can’t even remember the last time we got a takeaway.) Yes, I’m capable of eating several biscuits in one sitting and yes, I’ll always have a slice of cake when offered – but this is only ever at other people’s houses. I don’t drink fizzy drinks or wine (EVER), I rarely keep snacks in the house. I’m also well aware that some healthy foods – a huge fruit salad with mango, pineapple and melon, or a large handful of dried fruit and nuts – are calorie-dense. I know that large quantities of those things, eaten on a regular basis, are going to lead to weight gain.

So yeah – I’m no saint/health freak, but my “base” diet is pretty balanced with lots of veg and some fruit (mostly berries and apples), little to no red meat and reasonably devoid of saturated fat. I just add naughty stuff on top, and often eat too late at night.

 

My perimenopause symptoms – so far

Obviously, there are a few things that I know for a fact are down to perimenopause. My periods haven’t stopped but they last barely two days and can be anything from 19 to 32 days in between. Their erratic nature is (WA-HAY!) sooooo much fun.

My worse symptom so far has been the night sweats. They were THE WORST. I’d go to bed freezing cold, then wake up in the early hours so overheated and drenched that my fingers were often severely WRINKLED from resting them on my tummy or chest in all that soaking, dripping sweat for hours. (Apologies if that’s TMI but you may as well know the extent of how bad they were.) I had to sleep on a thick towel to prevent the sheets from needing to be changed every day.

And all the other health issues? I don’t know whether I can attribute them to perimenopause, circumstances – or both. One thing that WAS positive, though: I saw my GP earlier this year and she prescribed HRT [patches] straight away for me, no questions asked.

(Well, apart from the usual ones she’s pretty much obligated to ask as my general practitioner, but let’s just say that, unlike some stories I’ve heard about GPs, all the battle gear and tactics I’d prepared for the fight to get HRT weren’t needed. I wondered if it helped that she’s female and roughly my age? It’d be interesting to know in the comments what your experiences of asking for HRT were and what age/gender your GP is.)

Long ‘going onto HRT’ story short: I’ve been using the patches for about three months now, and the night sweats stopped almost immediately. An occasional hot, slightly sweaty night, but nothing like the previous tsunamis of perspiration I’d experienced before.

However, my low mood continued… in fact, it may even have got worse. Therefore, I wanted to investigate more than just blaming it all on perimenopause, especially as I’d heard so many women saying that HRT made them feel like a new woman.

Me? I felt worse than ever. Not because I was taking HRT, but it just wasn’t helping.

 

Other factors

There are so many other factors that can easily be attributed to why I’m feeling so low at rock bottom. Without wanting to sound dramatic or depressing [er, too late Catherine…], it’s all become a bit much lately. I’ve had some awful skin issues which crescendoed in the worst-ever eczema attack that had me climbing the walls due to the itchiness and pain. I’ve had eczema before, but it was never as bad as this. A common cause of eczema is stress, so it’s hardly surprising that my ears, neck and chest decided to erupt in a flaming, itchy expanse of sore red skin and flakiness because YES, stress has been abundant.

All the other shit that’s been going down lately:

  • Earning almost zero income this year (it’s been on the wain since before the pandemic) and resulting money worries. I think this is my number one worry. Pre-pandemic I’d work on about two campaigns a month, so far this year I’ve had two campaigns total.
  • Not being able to go anywhere or do anything due to said loss of income (we can’t afford a meal out, let alone a holiday).
  • Elderly parents are a constant worry (one with dementia and the other not fit and well enough to be a full-time carer, aged 93 and 88 respectively).
  • A canine daughter that seems to be getting injured as much as her mother. We’re currently on a serious Achilles injury after a pulled back, a split paw and a broken claw, one after the other. One injury gets better, and another thing happens. This is also a strain on our finances.
  • A house that’s in a bit of a state because I’m too lethargic to tackle housework with any sort of gusto.
  • Not being able to fit into any clothes that I’d deem “nice” and hence not being able to afford anything new (so sweatpants or stretchy leggings every day it is). Necklaces and anything with a neckline higher than the scoopiest of scoop necks are irritating the hell out of my eczema-riddled décolletage, so “a nice top” isn’t possible either. FEELING shit because you LOOK like shit is inevitable.

I’m sure I don’t need to go on.. you get my drift. Looking over at what I’ve written down seems like I’m being dramatic, but really, I just want to be given a break SOMEWHERE. Anywhere.

 

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So is this perimenopause, depression, or something else?

This is what I’m hoping to find out at my doctor’s appointment – or, at least, rule something serious out first. Maybe I’m downplaying my perimenopause symptoms. Maybe I’m downplaying (possible) depression. As mentioned in my post last year about how my mental health was getting a lot better, I don’t think I’m someone who is predisposed to depression. I still maintain I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, but even glass-almost-full people will be broken at some point.

When you’re feeling physically shit it’s really, really hard to maintain a sunny disposition. It making you feel negative mentally is unavoidable (I wrote about that last year: how my mental health is inextricably linked to my physical health and fitness).

At the moment I’m keeping an open mind as to what it is I’m going through. Perimenopause? Very likely. Self-inflicted? Quite possibly. Something more serious and underlying? Hopefully not, but at least we’re looking into it.

I’ll keep you updated.

Any of my symptoms sound familiar to you – for either you or a loved one? Let me know in the comments box below, then check out all my other posts featuring my mental health or general health and beauty.

 

Stay safe XOXO

Catherine signature

 

P.S. I started writing this about 10 days ago and am currently at the detox retreat in North Devon which I’ve been to a few times before (it works wonders for both my physical and mental health). Although I mentioned our money worries I managed to sort something out to be able to go, it’s not something I need to explain (the bank I robbed didn’t need the money anyway 😉 ). When I write the follow-up to this I’ll of course write about how I got on during and after my stay – as well as what the doctor said…

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Catherine

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