Tag Archives: peri-menopause

The hormone bitch from hell

It’s finally happened.  I’ve turned into the exhausted bloated frazzled dippy hormone bitch from hell.  Y’know, the bad tempered middle aged woman whose husband and kids you pity cos she looks like no-fucking-fun to live with?  Yup that’d be me.

My peri-menopause is somewhere in the outer stratosphere as my ovaries desperately churn out hormones so exhausted their tongues are hanging out.  They feel beaten, like a whipped dog, yet refuse to lie down in the corner and just die.

My day started with period pain.  In fact, my week started with period pain.  It’s been 7 days of cramp riddled hell but no fucking period.  What’s up with THAT?!  Aunt Flo will no doubt arrive at 2am after I’ve gotten up to pee for the 4th time in four hours, passing clots so huge the toilet bowl will look like a blood bath.  Yes my friends, I now have periods which look like a crime scene in which I am the victim.

I have pimples.  It’s like being a teenager all over again but without the taught, lean body and hours of heavy petting.  I can’t believe my 17 year old self had more sex in one year than I’ve had in the last decade.

I’ve lost my car keys.  Again.  I go into the kitchen to look for them. Why am I in the kitchen?  Think woman, think!  Ah, yes, car keys.   Where the fuck did they go?  Hmm, I’m thirsty maybe that’s why I’m in the kitchen.  Oh, car keys!  What the hell are they doing in the fridge?  Er, why am I in the fridge?  Maybe I need to get something out for dinner tonight.

I am evil.  I can hide it until 10am when I need to get my dog into the car.  “Bertie” I call sweetly “time to get in the car baby”.  He ignores me and continues to sniff other dog’s wee on the bush at the corner of our drive.  “C’mon fluffy child, I’m late.”  He cocks his leg and moves a good foot further away.  “Bert” sounding steely, “get in the sodding car.”  He disappears round the corner out of view entirely.  I stomp off down the drive screaming like a banshee “get in the goddamn car you fucking disobedient German fucking Schweinhund!” and unceremoniously help him back up the drive with my foot, at which stage 5 Ramblers walking past my house consider reporting me to the RSPCA.

I set off into town.  I am the only person driving correctly and everyone else is an arsehole imbecile who has obviously never heard of the Highway fucking Code.  What the hell are they doing on the roads in the middle of the morning anyway, don’t they have jobs?!  Idle fuckers.

I go into Sainsburys for a pair of jeans a size bigger than I’ve worn for the past 30 years.  I only have to look at a Ginger Crunch and I’ve gained 3lbs and am so swollen with water you could use me as a beach ball.  I ignore the skinny stretch because lycra and I are no longer friends, and choose the pair with the elastic waistband which look reassuringly comfy.  I need a new bra but they don’t make them big enough.  They don’t even make a tape measure big enough.

I have frown lines between my eyebrows that 100 years of botox couldn’t fix and jowls that look like Schnorbitz.  Only Schnorbitz has more hair.  Wayyyy more hair.  I wonder if Sainsburys sell eyebrow pencils?


On my way home I drive 5 miles past the petrol station before I realize my tank is on red.  I must remember to do a “need petrol” post-it note and stick it on the hall table.  Remember Jak, petrol post-it.  Petrol post-it.  Petrol post-it.  As soon as I’m through the back door I reach for a pen.  Hmmm.  Why did I need a pen?  Was I supposed to be writing something down?

It’s 2pm and I crawl into bed for a nap.  Not a rest, an actual drool-on-the-pillow old fogie’s nap from which I wake bathed in sweat and with armpits which smell like death.  I’d dreamt I was being arrested for some heinous, but unknown, crime like forgetting to pay my council tax bill even though it’s done automatically by direct debit, or stealing invisible plans to the rights of way on the local footpath.  I wonder if my phone is bugged or the government are spying on me through my TV.

I slob under the duvet, chomping like the hungry caterpillar and binge watch 3 hours of Bake Off to combat the anxiety and paranoia.  I prefer Pru to Mary.  Mary was nice and nice people are irritating.  I forget I used to be one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yet another year of Peri

Even though we’re only half-way through 2017 I already have an entire year’s data on my ever changing menstrual cycle.  That’s because my cycles are now regularly shorter than 28 days, so I’m managing to fit in double the amount of periods than I used to.  Lucky me, especially bearing in mind I have endometriosis and adenomyosis and they are excruciating.

When my periods first started to change back in 2012 at the age of 44 and I realized I had probably started peri-menopause, I wanted to know about other women’s experiences.  There were legions of horror stories online, very little about the positive and hardly any actual hard data.  “It’s different for everyone” was a common theme, which is all well and good but I still wanted to know what was physically happening to other women to give me some companionship in my own journey through The Change.

Being as though I didn’t find a single story which tracked progression through peri-menopause I thought I’d track my own, so began compiling data on my menstrual cycle.  I’ve been a regular 27/28 day cycle person my entire life but in 2012 my cycle length started to subtly change and I initially experienced slightly longer cycles than usual.

MC2012

In 2013 things went totally haywire.  As you can see from the chart below I basically had alternating long and short cycles, with a couple of very short cycles (for me at any rate).  I had my first daytime hot flush this year, but only the one, and no other real symptoms.  I did have my hormones tested and they came back as “normal” which isn’t at all unusual in the early stages of peri-menopause.

MC2013

In 2014 my cycles were still abnormal, but not quite as erratic as the year before.  Again, no other symptoms of peri-menopause that I could put my finger on.

MC2014

The start of 2015 saw my cycles even out, only to become erratic again in the second half of the year.  I also saw a couple of symptoms appear – vaginal dryness around my period, which doesn’t half make your ladygarden itch and is well uncomfortable as your undies rub against your bits, and changes in my mood.  I had sudden and inexplicable rages which were absolutely overwhelming.  Having never suffered from PMT I found being so out of control of my emotions really difficult, though thankfully the hooha only usually lasted a day or two around my period.

mc2015

In 2016 I continued to have vaginal dryness and mood changes, but the dreadful rages I felt in 2015 thankfully disappeared.  I did still have a short fuse at certain times in the month but it was nothing I couldn’t control.  I also had some really weepy episodes, usually in the few days before my period started and by the end of the year was starting to feel quite overwhelmed.  As someone who usually has very stable moods this was unusual for me.  I didn’t know how much was down to the perimenopause and how much was down to what was going on in my personal life, ie the situations with my parents and my Mum’s drinking, so decided to see a therapist to help me work through it.  Three months later and I was feeling much calmer, so you really shouldn’t put everything down to your hormones!

mc2016

This year as you can see from the chart below, my periods are becoming even more erratic.  I don’t have a clue when The Curse will arrive, which makes planning difficult.  I am grateful my moods have fairly much evened out and I’m back to feeling more like myself, though I have periods of anxiety for no apparent reason which is fairly common for peri-menopause.  I still haven’t had any hot flushes though my sleep has definitely been affected and there are times I struggle with insomnia.  My migraines around ovulation and menstruation have definitely become worse and can last for days which is crippling.  My energy levels have taken a nosedive and my brain fog some days is dreadful, however this may be due to the fact that I am borderline anaemic and now on supplements for my iron levels rather than being solely down to my hormones.  The biggest two things I’ve noticed this year have been weight gain and painful, itchy breasts which have been checked out via mammogram and are fine.

I’m definitely having symptoms of peri-menopause but they’re so far nowhere near as bad as I was expecting and nothing like the horror stories I’ve read about online.  They can be annoying but are manageable and it helps that I know what’s happening and that it will all eventually pass.  Everything that’s happening to me is normal and to be expected – very few women just stop their periods with no symptoms at all and I’m happy for nature to just take its course.  This all may change as the actual Menopause arrives and I may end up eating my words but so far so good!

A full 5 years into peri-menopause and there is absolutely no sign of Aunt Flo packing her bags.  Due to my endo and adeno my monthly cycles are incredibly painful and debilitating, and I have to say I’ve been ready for some considerable time for the monthly torture stop.  So, periods, if you’re listening I am over you – feel free to leave the building!

Aging and chronic illness

As most of you know, I turn 50 shortly and while that’s not exactly old it’s not exactly young either. In the decade since my 40th birthday my joints have starting subluxing, I’ve developed stiffness so severe at times I can’t even walk to the loo, my back pain is so bad it both scares me and stops me sleeping, and my previously unknown MCAD has reared its ugly head, to the point where at one stage I actually thought I would die from multiple anaphylactic events every day.  Make no mistake, getting older when you’re already chronically ill sucks.

I have the utmost respect for anyone who works for a charity having done it myself for many years, and know I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the wonderful people working for EDS and M.E. organizations, however I do have a bit of a beef with them and it’s this: all their information is aimed at either kids or young adults (and by young I mean pre-menopausal).  Their magazines are full of young folks doing sports, fundraising by whatever means possible and generally being positive and not letting their disease beat them.  Which is great.  But speak to them again in 20 years time and they might be telling a very different tale.

Did you know there is not a single piece of research that’s been carried out on older people with either EDS or M.E.?  There is loads of info on possible complications in pregnancy yet not a thing on the Menopause, despite the fact that not all women will have babies yet all women will go through The Change!  I find this utterly shocking, particularly in the case of EDS where patient forums show that many women aren’t diagnosed until their forties because that’s when their symptoms seem to go nuts (as did mine).  Consequently there are no information leaflets from the charities on what to expect as we age, which is actually quite discriminatory.  I should really sue, if I could find a solicitor to take the case 😀

Due to an absolute lack of information on aging with my diseases I have no idea what to expect.  Even healthy women can struggle with joint pain, exhaustion, dizziness and stiffness at Menopause so when I have these symptoms I don’t know if they’re normal or part of my hEDS.  I don’t know if they’ll pass or if I should be concerned and ask to see a Rheumy.  I don’t know if I have a greater chance of wear and tear arthritis, though I assume I must have.  I have no clue if the extra exhaustion I feel is part of my waning hormones or whether age is negatively affecting my M.E.  Will my decades of inactivity adversely affect my heart and, if so, why is that not being monitored?  Am I more, or less, likely to have a stroke?  What’s the deal on osteoporosis?  Skin thins with age, so will mine be worse as a result of having hEDS?  Am I more likely to bruise as my veins, skin and capillaries weaken?  And 200 other questions I don’t know the answers to.

Health in general seems to be all about either children or pregnant women.  No-one seems to give much of a stuff about issues which affect the middle aged.  It’s almost like we don’t exist, and it’s not until we’re in our seventies and at risk of old age diseases like Alzheimers that the medical profession starts to give a stuff again (my Dad’s dementia care, for example, has been excellent yet I’ve never once had my memory problems evaluated let alone treated).

At the moment I feel like I’m dropping to bits, but is that a normal hormone-induced dropping to bits or is my hEDS actually deteriorating?  Should I be pushing for a referral or just putting up and shutting up?  There is an urgent need for studies on chronic illness in the older age bracket.  We need to know if there should be more regular monitoring of our conditions, whether treatments which are affective in younger adults are still as effective in older adults, and most importantly what the normal progression of our diseases should look like as we age because unless we know what’s normal we can’t know what’s abnormal.

Of course, the lack of information on hEDS and M.E. is nothing in comparison to the lack of information on MCAD, particularly in the UK.  Peri-menopause has caused my mast cells to go off the charts bonkers yet I haven’t seen a specialist since I was diagnosed 4 years ago.  I’m not being monitored in any way, am having to treat myself in the best way I know how, and am basically white knuckling it with no idea what my post-menopausal future will hold.  Which is scary considering MCAD may pre-dispose me to leukemia and other cancers and carries the daily risk of sudden death from anaphylaxis.  Or MCAD may not predispose me to cancer – noone knows, which is kind’ve my point! It seems that, in respect of the middle aged, no-one knows much of anything when it comes to my diseases and that, as a matter of urgency, has to change.

 

 

 

Carry on Matron

My peri-menopause has definitely ramped up a few gears this year (OMG, when is it going to end?!).  I’m getting some of the more common symptoms like dizziness, insomnia, emotional ups and downs and itchy skin but also things which aren’t much talked about, like what’s happening to my breasts.

When I was in my early twenties I wasn’t exactly well endowed, wearing a 30C bra size.  I referred to them as fried eggs cos that’s just what they looked like – they were quite round but didn’t stick out very far, which was fine by me.  I was a size 8 (US size 4), am 5ft 2″ and weighed about 7½ stones (105lbs) so they were in proportion to my small frame.

Fast forward to my early forties, by which time I’d been unable to exercise for 15 years.  Inevitably my body shape had changed and I’d gained weight, now wearing a size 10 (US size 6) and weighing 8½ stones (120lbs).  My boobs had also increased in size to a stupendous 30DD and I was into the realm of having to wear supportive (code for fucking uncomfortable) bras, with straps an inch wide and underwires so painful they were like a form of torture.  Thank God the Belvia bra was finally invented without which I fear I would just have let the puppies run free 😉

Ten years on, and in my fiftieth year, my boobs seem to have taken on a life of their own.  Pre-perimenopause I’d ovulate mid cycle, my breasts would swell and be achy and sore, I’d have my period and they’d go back to normal.  Not any more.  Oh no.  They swell and are achy and sore, I have my period, and they fucking stay swollen achy and sore.  I have what feels like two water melons on my chest which disappear under my armpits making waving impossible.

So I Google “peri-menopause + larger breasts” and discover, to my horror, that 1 in 5 women during their Menopause years get significantly bigger boobs.  OM-flippin-G.  At 5ft I don’t need to be bigger than a DD and simply can’t imagine having to wear bras to fit an E, or god forbid, EE or F cup.  Gravity would pull me over and I’d end up flat on my face 😉  And if that weren’t bad enough breasts also start to sag in middle age, in some women up to 4″.   When my floppy boobs meet my spare tire my belly button might disappear forever.

“Quit moaning” I hear you cry, “women pay good money for big boobs” and I’m sure they’d look fabulous if they sat above a flat stomach, lean thighs and a perky arse.  But they don’t look quite so alluring sat above back fat, a muffin top and a tummy so swollen I look five months pregnant.  No-sir-eee-bob.  My scales no longer say 8 stone something they say 9 stone something and my size 10 clothes have been at the back of the wardrobe for so long they’ve been eaten by moths.

This peri-menopause malarkey is a right old carry on.  I started off as Barbera Windsor and have ended up as Hatty Jacques.  Ooo err Matron 😀

 

 

 

Weekly roundup

This week has been dominated by my hormones so I’m guessing my period will arrive shortly.  My cycles can be anything from 19 days to 31 days so I can no longer just look at my diary to know when it’s due and have to go off other clues.  Tuesday morning I woke up fine, got up and fed Bertie, made a brew and took it back to bed to watch the news.  I’m sitting there minding my own business when the world suddenly lurches to the right like I’ve been kicked in the head and I spend the next hour with the room spinning.  I hate shit like that!

I panicked a bit, because that night I’d agreed to do a talk to my Camera Club’s beginner’s class which I knew I couldn’t do if I were dizzy, but luckily it wore off and I was able to go although I felt spaced out for most of the day.

Wednesday was the first warm, sunny day we’d had in weeks so my friend and I decided to visit a nature reserve where she looked at plants (she’s doing a botany course) and I sat and photographed dragonflies.  We were the only people there the entire afternoon.  The birds were singing, the insects were buzzing, we took a picnic………..and it was heavenly.  I swear, days don’t get much better than that in my world and it did me the power of good even if I did get sunburnt.
My friend: do you want some suntan lotion for your arms?
Me: No thanks, my arms never go red.  #lookinglikealorrydriver

Friday I woke with a migraine which is still lingering this morning.  I had a really busy day planned and just carried on regardless, which was hard work when it felt like there was someone in my brain with a pick axe, and I was so sick Friday night I couldn’t eat a thing.

This morning I’ve woken with endo-related period pain, the dizziness is back and I feel generally fluey and crap.  I am SO over this peri-menopause malarkey.  It’s not like I’m having a horrendous time compared to the horror stories I’ve read about online, but it’s been 5 years of symptoms now and I’ve just had enough.  I’m over the hormone induced migraines.  The feeling extra exhausted.  The joint pain.  The forgetfulness and confusion.  The nausea.   The nipple pain which feels like I’ve been stung by bees.  The swollen stomach which makes me look pregnant.  The ravenous appetite which has made me gain 8lbs in six months.  The never-ending peeing.  The constantly swollen breasts that feel like bowling balls.  And I’m absolutely over the endometriosis, which I know won’t go away after Menopause but which at least won’t ramp up every 3-4 weeks until I feel like my entire pelvis is on fire.  I’m 50 shortly and after 5 years of declining hormones surely to God the end can’t be too far off.  Can it?!

The M Word

Last week, Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark appeared in a documentary on the Menopause.  To be honest it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know but it was nice to hear about another woman’s experience because we just don’t talk about it in this country, not even amongst ourselves.  Yet it will happen to every single one of us.  I remember joining my Camera Club and was talking to a woman there in her early 60s.  I was rampantly hormonal that night and got confused so said jokingly “ignore me, I’ve got Menopause brain” and her eyes nearly popped out of her head that I would mention the ‘M’ word in polite conversation.

Historically, women’s hormones have been a taboo subject because we’ve lived in a male dominated world, even though men are currently in a 48% minority here in the UK.  Yes we had a female Prime Minister in the form of Margaret Thatcher but she only rose to power because she acted like a man, which kind’ve defeated the entire purpose of having a woman in charge.  Girls have always been seen as emotional, hysterical creatures simply because we behave differently to men and anyone who shows emotions is still seen as weak and not to be relied upon – then we wonder why mental health issues affect 1 in 3 people :-/

Women are just supposed to get on with their periods.  The adverts on tv tell us if we only use x brand of tampon we’ll be running marathons or climbing mountains, and if we pop a Feminax Ultra we won’t know what pain is.  Thankfully for some women this is the case but for others periods are a form of 4 weekly torture and going about our day business as usual is jut not possible.  This of course intensifies during Menopause yet we’re supposed to act like nothing is happening.  We are, thankfully, now sympathetic to puberty-induced erratic behaviour, door slamming and crying fits, and pregnant women are allowed days off work if they’re unwell, but the Menopause is still ignored and I can’t for the life of me understand why.  It’s the largest bodily change in any woman’s life and can cause absolute havoc.

We aren’t even honest about Menopause amongst ourselves.  When my periods first started to change and I suspected peri-menopause I went to see my (female) GP who said “well it’s a bit early but it only lasts 2 years then it will all be over with” which even I knew was a big fat lie!  Six years on and there is still no sign that my periods are about to stop for good.  The biggest shock of the documentary for me was to hear that at age 61, and ten years after The Change, Kirsty still has Menopause symptoms in particular the fact that she still doesn’t sleep well.  The myth that our periods stop and that’s the end of that may be true for some women, but certainly not for all.  In a phone-in for the documentary a 72 year old woman rang up to say she was still having hot flushes every single day of her life twenty years after her final period and I remember my paternal Grandmother started to sweat profusely following Menopause and didn’t stop ’til the day she died.  My own Mum’s vagina atrophied so much in her mid seventies that she was prescribed oestrogen pessaries and her (female) Gynaecologist joked “women were supposed to die shortly after Menopause, so to be honest we’ve no idea how to treat hormone-induced symptoms in old people!” which tells you everything you need to know about the lack of information given to medical students in respect to older women and the female-related issues they face.

I don’t particularly want to celebrate my Menopause but I have no intention of ignoring it either.  I will bring it up in conversation if I feel the need and people can be as shocked as they like.  I won’t beat myself up, or apologise for, feeling irrational or emotional and will pamper myself when I’m feeling physically crap.  I won’t be hard on myself when I’m fatter at 55 than I was at 45, or joke about needing an afternoon nap.   All this is normal and it’s about time society recognized this huge transition in women’s lives and made allowances.

 

Weekly roundup

This has been the second week of my stay-cation and the weather has been absolutely baltic.  As I walked Bertie in the howling wind, my face battered by hailstones, it felt more like Autumn than Spring and my plans for sitting outside on my swingseat reading a book and chilling have gone by the wayside.  I appear to fail dismally at chilling.  Much as I think it’s how I want to spend my time when I get the opportunity I still seem to find something to do, usually all the things I haven’t had time for in the past 6 months!

My very busy week last week inevitably led to me feeling like I’d been in a car crash and I endured a three day migraine which left me pretty miserable.  Having said all that, it was still worth it and I’d do it all again 😉

I am not vain about my looks but do like to keep my teeth nice.  We Europeans have manky teeth compared to our American friends and I’ve no idea why.  While it’s true there were virtually no cosmetic dentists in the UK until ten years ago we’ve caught up now and even here in the back of beyond one can have one’s teeth bleached, which is exactly what I’ve been doing recently.  When I reached 40 I realized my teeth were already yellow, so treated myself for my birthday to teeth whitening.  I did the cheapest option whereby the dentist makes custom trays into which you place the gel whitener and you wear them for a couple of hours a day over two weeks at home.  At the time I was still quite ill with M.E. and hugely chemically sensitive, so the first time I put the trays on with the peroxide in I held my breath wondering what would happen, but all was fine.  I bleached again when I turned 45 and being as though I’m 50 this year I thought it was time for another bash.  I will never have white teeth, as they aren’t white to start with, but at least they look nice and bright and I feel more confident when I smile.

When I had my bloods done in February my kidney function came back at 73 when, for my age, it should be in the 90s.  This is classed as “stage 2 chronic kidney disease” and, as mast cell disease can affect the kidneys, I was a bit panicked.  My GP, however, wasn’t in the slightest concerned and said the test is only a snapshot and can be affected by all sorts of things, eg. dehydration, but agreed to re-do the test recently just for my peace of mind.  Thankfully it had increased to 83 which, if 2 of my friends of a similar age hadn’t both had kidney tests which came back in the 80s recently would still have freaked me out, but I now recognize seems to be fairly normal.

My backside is currently covered in hives and I’m not sure why.  I am not stressed, I’m relaxing (at least doing my version of relaxing!) and have actually had a lovely few weeks.  I have woken up sneezing my head off a lot recently though and am wondering if it’s hayfever (I’m allergic to Birch pollen) – if so, that would explain the mast cells in my butt going nuts.  I’m also still coughing up mucus following the cold I had in March and am pig sick – surely to God it should have gone by now?!

My hormones have been absolutely rampant since my last period, so I’m sure that’s not helping the mast cell situation one iota.  OMG have I got the munchies and am craving ice cream which I only ever eat when I’m pre-menstrual.  I’ve gained 7lbs in the past six months and my clothes are all uncomfortably tight, so I’m trying really hard not to cave in to the cravings but it’s sooooooo hard!  I think the only thing that would stop me eating crap at the moment would be chaining me to the bed 😉  Add to that hormone-induced insomnia, which also makes me want to snack, and I’m a lost cause.

I’ve been having some problems with my dog Bertie the past fortnight.  For those that don’t know, he’s a rescue Mini Schnauzer who I adopted when he was 2½ and is now nearly 9.  He’s always had isolation anxiety and can’t be left on his own, but is happy for me to leave him so long as he’s with someone he knows.  He loves my Mum and Dad who spoil him rotten and I’ve never had any issues leaving him with them……….until recently.  All out of the blue he became reluctant to even go over their doorstep and once there and given his usual Dentastix treat he refused to eat it until I appeared in the lounge.  We can’t work out what has upset him, so I’m having to start from scratch again with the separation anxiety and go to my parents’ every day, staying with him so he doesn’t associate us going with me leaving him.  Just what I needed to do on my holidays when I was looking forward to a break from visiting my folks!

The only fun thing I’ve done this week is have my friend’s two kids over for a photoshoot.  It’s absolute chaos and I’m knackered after the first ten minutes but they love being ‘models’ and having their faces made up.  I get all sorts of weird and wacky ideas in my head for photos and they are happy to let me practice on them.  Here’s one of Saturday’s images (reproduced with the parents’ consent):