I have been in peri-menopause (where hormones are declining but you still have periods) for nearly 8 years now but have recently skipped 2 periods so assume I’m finally transitioning into full menopause. I am 52, which is the average age for Menopause in the UK, and have been desperate for my periods to end due to decades of horrendously painful endometriosis & adenomyosis-related menstrual cycles.
In the first 5 years of peri-menopause I only had a few symptoms, such as:
- Sudden uncontrollable rages (though in fairness I was having a nightmare with my alcoholic Mum, so maybe not all of that was hormone-related!)
- Dizziness (which turned out to be very low ferritin, ie iron, stores and once that was addressed the dizziness improved substantially)
- Occasional itching in the lady-garden, particularly after my period which sounds trivial but drove me bonkers
- Itchy skin
- Oily night sweats, which went on for a good 4 or 5 years
- Hair loss on a grand scale, though this could also be related to my mast cell disease
- A couple of hot flushes
In years 5-7 of peri-menopause some of these symptoms went, only to be replaced by new symptoms:
- The night sweats ceased
- The rages subsided
- The itchy skin was much improved
- After treating my low ferritin stores the insomnia was much better and I slept really well
However, I then developed:
- Shooting nerve pain in both breasts, plus a pea-sized lump which worried me enough to see the Doctor. I had a mammogram and all was thankfully fine.
- Palpitations and skipped heartbeats, which again worried me enough to see the Doctor. I had a 24 hour Holter monitor fitted, which showed the electrical activity of my heart was abnormal but this was put down to hormones and no-one seemed concerned (they weren’t the one whose heart was having a hissy fit!)
- I had several episodes of what felt like strokes – suddenly feeling like I’d been coshed over the head, saw stars, then struggled to speak. This was usually followed by crashing blood sugar levels. Very scary. I think these were my version of a hot flush – trust me to be different.
- My migraines increased in both frequency and severity.
- Periods of anxiety, which is something I’ve never suffered from before.
- I started feeling poleaxed by exhaustion, which was quite different from the poisoned, fluey exhaustion of my M.E. or the over-work exhaustion of my hEDS.
- My brain fog increased.
- I gained yet more weight (aided by out-of-control munchies), felt bloated with water retention and my breasts were often massive and very tender.
- My periods became heavier and more clotty, but nothing uncontrollable.
This last 6 months, as I’ve clearly been transitioning from peri to actual menopause, things have changed again:
- The shooting breast pain has gone, to be replaced by shooting nerve pain in my legs and feet. It’s like being stung by a cattle prod and is truly unpleasant.
- My back pain, from which I’ve suffered all my life but was under-control, has gotten much worse and my legs often feel numb.
- My already present brain fog has been severe. It reminds me of the days when I was bedridden with M.E. and feels like I’ve been drugged.
- Exhaustion has been crippling and not helped by ongoing insomnia.
- I’ve lacked motivation to do anything, which is very unlike me.
- My moods have been up and down, either irritated by everything or completely overwhelmed by life. Again, this is very unlike me as my mood is usually stable.
- My migraines have been dreadful.
- I’m as fat as a whale.
- My entire body is stiff and I ‘ummpff’ when I get out of a chair.
- My muscles are definitely weaker, my legs in particular but I also have no power in my hands for taking lids off jars or even writing.
- My skin is very dry and starting to sag everywhere.
- I’m hot most of the time. It’s hard to describe, but is like I’m sitting uncomfortably close to an open fire.
- I have a mild version of the head coshing events every morning. I can be sitting watching the telly and my brain suddenly feels like it moves in my skull, then I get a whooshing sensation (a bit like I’m starting with anaphylaxis), then I feel a bit dizzy and off-kilter and my blood sugar plummets. I’m still convinced these are my version of hot flushes – why couldn’t I just sweat like a normal person instead of worrying I have a brain tumour or am having a stroke?!
- My brain fog is truly dire and I am slightly dizzy and disoriented all of the time.
During peri-menopause, I felt like my symptoms were manageable (stroke-like episodes aside which frightened the life out of me), but the past 6 months the whole menopause thing has become harder to cope with. The worst aspects are the profound exhaustion where I literally don’t have the energy to get off the settee let alone cook a meal, and the brain fog which is so bad at times I simply can’t function. I’m also continuing to have the stroke-like attacks, which now happen every morning and still scare the bejesus out of me. I have aged literally overnight and it’s very disconcerting to look in the mirror and see some random stranger you don’t recognize staring back at you (I genuinely mean this – the ‘me’ I’ve seen my entire life has gone and it’s like my face has been replaced by someone elses!).
On the plus side, in the 2 months since my last period my migraines seem to be settling down again and I can’t describe how fabulous it is not to be tortured by severe period pain. However, I am still getting period pain! I seem to have constant low level, grumbling pain which ratches up into proper period pain every 2 weeks or so (though nowhere near as severe as when I bleed). I wasn’t expecting that, though Dr Google tells me that “phantom periods” are normal and could go on for some considerable time.
So, that’s where I’m currently at. This year, I must admit, has not been much fun and although I never thought I’d contemplate HRT there have been times when I’ve not been able to get out of bed where I’ve seriously considered it. I’m holding off for now as HRT has its own side-effects (not least thrush, which I suffered from constantly when on the contraceptive pill) but never say never – watch this space.