Perimenopause: I was so excited – as featured in Menopause Life Magazine April
Excited about the menopause? Yes, you read correctly, that’s true!
I must be one of the few women who was actually looking forward to the peri menopause and menopause because for 30 years I had experienced quite debilitating premenstrual symptoms which would last for two weeks every month.
I behaved like Jekyll and Hyde. At the beginning of the month, I was calm, positive, focused, eating well, and exercising effectively. As each cycle progressed, I would often experience raging mood swings, depression, swollen tender breasts, abdominal bloating, and fatigue. The first two days of the usual heavy period often meant that I felt generally unwell, so I would go to bed. I have even lost friends because of my behaviour during that stage of my cycle.
My hormone health was further challenged when I had twins at forty. My husband worked away during the week; I also had a four-year-old son. Life was very stressful.
For me, the start of peri menopause was a very subtle affair. In fact, it was so subtle at first that I didn’t really notice. However, in hindsight, my mood swings were more explosive, I often felt like I could cry at the slightest thing, and I was physically anxious in the car on the school run. It wasn’t until I started to experience migraines around the age of forty-six that I started to consider that I may be peri menopausal. I had blood tests at the doctors to check my hormone levels, I was so disappointed when they came back normal.
The migraines eventually stopped but were replaced by frontal headaches which lasted for about eighteen months, until I saw a physiotherapist who treated my neck, and they stopped almost straight away. This was an important moment, because as we are becoming more aware of the symptoms associated with the peri menopause and menopause, it’s easy to put everything down to hormones when there could be something else going on. This was again demonstrated when my joint pain improved with exercise. I was now on a mission to find out as much as I could about what was happening to me. That was when I got scared!
It was the middle of another night listening to a podcast because I couldn’t sleep. This one was by a prominent GP leading the way on menopause management, and she was talking about the negative effects of a lack of oestrogen and progesterone on our long term cognitive and cardiovascular health. I practically ran to the GP’s for HRT. I was so scared. Fear can be a powerful motivator. Prior to listening to that podcast, I was convinced that I didn’t want to take HRT as I just wanted my periods to stop so that I could be free of the constant physical and emotional highs and lows each month. I was given HRT patches. But after several weeks, my under arm started to swell. Then when I struggled to get my prescription filled for the second month, that was it, I stopped. I tried HRT a second time; this time I hadn’t had a period for six months but the insomnia I was experiencing was awful. I had been awake for thirty-five hours and I was desperate! However, it wasn’t too long after starting the medication that I experienced a very challenging bleed, I was never taking it again.
Instead, I started to meditate. I had learned how to in my twenties, but I was never consistent. Now I found it invaluable. If I found myself ruminating on negative thoughts, I could sit quietly for twenty minutes and reset my thoughts – it was wonderful! I started to use aromatherapy and discovered that it wasn’t just the essential oils that were beneficial, but the diverse carrier oils and butters were lovely. I made a body oil using flaxseed and hemp oil fragranced with sage and chamomile that was effective in reducing the hot flushes that I had started to experience, and so my business, Otrera Aromatics, was founded. My intention is to bring relief to women at this sometimes difficult time of life.
There was one other factor in my life that made a huge difference – my mum. The constant voice in the background reassuring me that “everything will be alright… you will get through this… you won’t know myself on the other side… you will be a different woman”. She was right, I am different, I’m getting better!