Tag Archives: perimenopause

Weekly roundup

I haven’t been feeling great this week.  The weather’s been boiling (30C) but I actually fare better in summer on the whole, and I haven’t been doing anything out of the ordinary.  So I was a bit stumped as to why I was feeling so exhausted, nauseous and generally rubbish when on Friday night Aunt Flo rocked up.  She’d been awol for 60 days this time but I should know better than to think she was gone for good.  So much for the average British woman entering menopause at 51 – I’ll soon be 53 and that bitch is still on the premises.

I had a lovely day on Wednesday, meeting my bestie down by the river for a picnic.  The weather was glorious and for the first hour we had the place to ourselves in blissful silence, but then more people started to arrive including a group of eight boys aged around 10 years old.  They hollered, squealed, screamed, dive-bombed the water and generally caused mayhem as 10 year old boys do and it was like a cheese grater on my brain.  I’m still pretty noise sensitive and simply can’t handle that level of racket, so I reluctantly had to call it a day as every nerve end in my body was protesting.

My bestie and I were discussing how overwhelmed and exhausted I constantly am, and how busy my life is.  I think she wonders what the hell I do with my days and to be fair so do I at times, so I decided to write a diary for a week and log all my activities.  Turns out living on your own and having to do every single little thing with no help, plus owning a dog and running my parents lives and home is a lot.  Add to that my photography, which I love but is massively time-consuming (you don’t get to be internationally successful at anything in life without a shit load of hard work), and it’s a LOT.  What I learned from completing the diary is that I’m doing the best I can to balance my caring duties, the essentials of running my life and home, and trying to do some things I enjoy like my photography, while also managing chronic ill health not to mention 8 years of peri-menopause and enough rest to function.  It’s a struggle and I don’t always get it right, but I need to give myself more credit for how well I cope, plus stop being so hard on myself and comparing my life to anyone elses particularly those who aren’t in the same leaky boat as me.

Thursday I found out I was one of 10 winners of a massive global photography competition.  I still can’t quite believe it.  Little old me, propped up in bed in my tiny cottage in the middle of nowhere!  The overall winner will be announced during a Zoom ceremony in September and the prize is a trip to Oman 😮.  Not that I am well enough to go even if I were chosen, but that didn’t stop me Googling Oman and daydreaming!  The organization are also going to donate €30,000 to Covid-19 research, which is more important than any holiday.

I was clearly on a photography roll this week, as the next day I discovered I had won 2 gold medals in an international photography exhibition based in India.  Go me! 😉

The weekend has been taken up with thinking about the bungalow and asking the Universe to help me secure it if it’s in my best interests.  The builder got back to me to say he was still interested in doing the work which is great, however I’ve written to my buyers to ask if they still want to buy my house and have had no reply as yet and that’s worrying as they were so keen – the thought of the effort involved in putting my house back on the market fills me with dread 😦  I want the bungalow so much I can’t even put it into words but will just have to try and relax and go with the flow, as much of the situation is totally outside my control.  I’ll keep you posted.

MCAS Update

Anyone who has been following my blog for a while knows that my mast cells hate stress.  My number 1 mast cell degranulator is drugs.  My number 2 is high histamine foods.  But my number 3 has always been stress of any kind.

When I’m under acute stress I flush, get pins and needles, severe brain fog, can have what feels like a seizure, oesophageal spasms which make me retch and retch, severe nausea, painful bowel cramps and just feel really unwell.

When I’m under chronic stress I break out in hives, itch all over, stop sleeping (histamine is wake promoting), stop pooping, start peeing like a racehorse particularly during the night, my pain levels significantly increase due to muscle spasms particularly in my back and I feel generally exhausted and run down.

Virtually the entire world has been under stress during the pandemic.  Acute stress in the initial weeks, and chronic stress as the months have worn on.   In the initial few weeks I was also dealing with my acutely unwell Dad and the bed bugs in my house, not to mention staying up til midnight each week to try and get a grocery delivery slot on which 5 vulnerable people were depending for food, and my sister-in-law started her chemotherapy about which we were all concerned.  It was a LOT to be dealing with, when I am unwell myself and on my own with zero support.

3 ½ months down the line I’m still doing shopping for 5 people, am having to solely look after my parents while having no help in my own home, eg. my cleaner, and am helping my very disabled friend with all sorts of issues.

By now, I fully expected to not be sleeping, be covered in itchy hives, be peeing for England, to not be able to poop and to be utterly exhausted.  And I am utterly, utterly, exhausted, but few of the other symptoms have materialized.  In particular, I have not had a single hive this entire time and am sleeping like a baby 😯.  It’s nothing short of miraculous.  My pain levels, however, are much worse and I have had a very sore throat and swollen glands for the past few weeks but these are symptoms I associate with M.E. and hEDS, rather than MCAS – I don’t get flu symptoms as part of my mast cell disease and the pain is very different to the pain from hEDS.  In fact, my hEDS is particularly bad at the mo, but that’s a post for another day!

Looking back, I’ve had mast cell disease since the day I was born but it didn’t explode and become a life-threatening issue until I was 44 – right around the time I began peri-menopause and my hormones started roller-coasting.  I am now transitioning into Menopause and am wondering if my now almost total lack of hormones is helping to stabilize my MCAS?  I can think of no other explanation as to why my mast cells aren’t having a total hissy fit to the massive stress I’ve been under during the lockdown.

Having said all that, there is one symptom which has been much, much worse lately and that is my migraines.  I am being tortured on an almost daily basis.  However, 6 weeks ago I changed the pillow on my bed so am wondering if my new pillow isn’t supporting my neck while I sleep.  I might look into ditching it and getting a proper foam support one instead.  Watch this space for the results of that.

I know that I will never be free from MCAS as I’ve had symptoms since I was a baby.  However, if it reduces to the point of just being an occasional or mild problem as it was when I was a child and young adult I’ll be a very happy bunny and it would be an interesting topic for researchers to look into.

Aunt Flo the Stalker

I first noticed my periods were slightly different to usual in 2012 when I was 44 years old.  My menstrual cycle had always been regular as clockwork every 27 to 28 days, but that started to subtly change to include slightly longer cycles of 30 days.

In 2013 my cycles became a bit more erratic, ranging from 21 days to 30 days.  I had a word with my GP and she told me that once periods had started to change I’d be in menopause within two years.  I have no clue WTF doctors are taught in medical school but this is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard.  While some women do transition through peri-menopause and into menopause swiftly and without problems, for the majority of us it’s a long, slow, sometimes tortuous journey which can take a decade.

I’m now eight years down the line and Aunt Flo is still stalking me.  She goes AWOL for a bit, then I’ll wake one morning to find her lying on my couch with cigarette in hand.  Her longest absence so far has been 129 days, giving me a glimmer of hope she’d gone for good, only to turn up again causing mayhem.  I’ll be 53 this year and am starting to despair that she will ever fuck off and leave me in peace.

The symptoms of my peri-menopause are constantly changing.  There are some positives, such as:

  • Having been literally tortured by endometriosis and adenomyosis since I was 11 years old, I now rarely have gynae pain.  Gone are my 4 weekly periods, where it felt like there was a man with a blow torch in my pelvis.  I can’t begin to tell you the relief of that.
  • Two years ago, my boobs were like footballs and so swollen they rounded a corner 3 seconds before the rest of me.  I had a couple of years of permanent breast pain and tenderness, but now while my breasts are still larger than they’ve ever been in my life they are no longer painful.  Hurrahhh!
  • But one of the biggest positive change is currently to my Mast Cell Disease – I’ll write my next post on that so keep an eye out!

Over the years the negatives have been wide and varied and having written about them before (look at the Categories menu on the right-hand side of my blog and choose ‘Menopause’ for previous posts) I won’t go into them again.  Current issues include:

  • Being hot, all-of-the-time.  I’m still not getting traditional hot flushes, I just feel like I’m uncomfortably close to an open fire 24/7.  I wouldn’t be sleeping a wink without my ceiling fan on all night.
  • I am exhausted.  It’s totally different to the chronic fatigue of hEDS, or the ill, fluey, pole-axed fatigue of M.E.  I’m simply knackered and want to blob on the couch all day watching repeats of Keeping Up With The Kardashians and munching Haribo gold bears.
  • Over the last 5 years I have put on a stone (14lbs) in weight, despite eating no differently to normal or taking less exercise.  My previous hourglass figure has disappeared, to be replaced by a pear-shaped figure, fat rolls and a pot belly which makes me look 4 months pregnant.  One is not amused.
  • My skin has aged overnight and I now have jowls and a turkey neck.  I’m not so much wandering gently into old age, as hurtling towards it at 500mph in a Boeing 747.
  • In the last 6 months my migraines have gone off the Richter Scale.  Recently, I had 9 migraines in 12 days, some of which were so bad I literally couldn’t move all day because it felt like my head would explode.  I have one now, lurking away behind my right temple and making me feel queasy.  Of all my current symptoms, this is the only one which is really getting me down.
  • My brain fog is so bad it scares me that I’m starting with early dementia.  I’m not kidding.
  • I’m still having stinging nerve pain in my legs and feet, which seems to start just as I decide to settle down to sleep.
  • My current back and hip pain is making me walk like a constipated duck and also keeps me awake at night.  I’m using my crutches most days and am considering a second mortgage on my house to pay for all the Kinesiology tape I’m going through – I’m probably Amazon’s no.1 customer.
  • My GERD is rampant.  Stomach acid is coming back up into my oesophagus and entering my lungs, which means I have a permanent, irritated cough.  I am on medication (40mg famotidine + Gaviscon double action liquid) and it’s not keeping the acid at bay.  I can constantly taste it in my mouth and am worried my breathe reeks, so am swigging mouthwash like an alkie swigs cider.
  • My appetite is up and down like a bride’s nightie.  I’m either ravenous and stuffing my face like the Hungry Caterpillar, or living on Weetabix and bananas because I’m not hungry and can’t face food.
  • I’m having random dizziness episodes for no reason I can fathom.
  • It goes without saying I’m not sleeping well.
  • All of my joints are as stiff as a board and any kind of movement is difficult.  Bye-bye hypermobility, my lifelong companion!

Other than all that, though, I’m good 😁.

My peri-menopause is definitely trundling along, but it’s going at a snail’s pace and I’m so over my hormones I’m considering applying to the Courts for an eviction order.  So far this year my cycle lengths have been:

  • 60 days, 26 days, 50 days and 28 days so I have zero clue if, or when, Aunt Flo is going to rock up.

I’m currently on day 37 of my cycle with no sign of her imminent arrival, but then last month she showed up completely out of the blue with no warning whatsoever.   When is the bitch going to realize she’s not welcome and fucking do one?!

 

 

The never ending Peri

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.   However, I found nothing online so started keeping a chart on my cycle length as well as notes on my symptoms and I now have another 12 months worth of data to share with you.

I’ll start off with my first chart.  I’d 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.  The red line indicates 28 days – click on each chart for a larger view.

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 FSH level tested and it came back as “normal” which isn’t at all unusual in the early stages of peri-menopause.  However, it was in this year that my previously unknown mast cell disease exploded and I was very unwell.

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.  By now I’d started on a low histamine diet and thankfully had stopped passing out every time I ate.  Many of my other MCAS symptoms remained, however, and continue to this day.

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


In 2017 my periods became even more erratic.  My moods had fairly much evened out, though, and I was back to feeling more like myself despite episodes of anxiety for no apparent reason which is fairly common in peri-menopause.  I still hadn’t had any hot flushes, though my sleep was definitely affected and there were times I struggled with insomnia.  I did have some wicked skipped heartbeats and palpitations, though, and in the end had this checked out by wearing a 24 hour holter monitor and it show up on the trace but was put down to peri-menopause and not any kind of heart issue.  My migraines around ovulation and menstruation definitely became worse and could last for days which was crippling.  My energy levels took a nosedive and my brain fog some days was dreadful, however this may have be due to the fact that I was borderline anaemic rather than being solely down to my hormones.  Two other symptoms I noticed this year were weight gain and very painful, itchy breasts which were checked out via mammogram and were thankfully fine.


In late 2017 I started taking iron supplements for my low ferritin levels and my insomnia and exhaustion improved.  In fact, my sleep during 2018 was the best it’s been in 25 years for which I am grateful beyond words.  I continued to struggle with weight gain despite eating the same amount of food, though I did have the rampant munchies and know I ate more sweets and crisps than I should have 😉  I still didn’t have any hot flushes, however I had some very scary episodes of feeling like was having a stroke which I put down to vasomotor issues – about 5 in one year, which doesn’t sound a lot but they frightened the life out of me.   My skin was becoming much drier and I developed jowls on my face – I now avoid mirrors first thing in a morning because I look like my Nan!


During 2018 and the early part of 2019 the trend for erratic periods has continued (ignore the months on the chart as I no longer have a period every 28 days so the months now don’t tally!).  I had my shortest cycle to date at 12 days and my first missed period and thought “hurrahh, I’m finally going to reach menopause” only for Aunt Flo to continue her visits as usual.  Bugger it.  I have been profoundly tired and often horribly brain fogged and confused again in the last year and really should get my iron levels re-checked – the more tired I am the less well I can cook and then I don’t eat as much iron-rich food as I should.  My migraines have also been the worst in years, which is so disappointing as they had settled down quite well since going on a low histamine diet.  My weight seems to have stabilized even though I’m now 10lbs heavier than I’d like to be, but I do have to be careful what I eat and certainly can’t eat the portion sizes I always have.  I’ve had a few more of the stroke-like attacks, which I still think are hot flushes in disguise, and am definitely hotter in general than I used to be particularly first thing in a morning.  My skin is now very dry and my ladygarden is very itchy (though not dry as yet).  In 2019 my joints started to constantly hurt and if I do any kind of activity I tear my ligaments.  However, I’m still sleeping really well most of the time which is the biggest blessing from all this hormone malarkey.

So, my peri-menopause seems to be trundling along at a snail’s pace and, despite the fact I will shortly be 52, there is no sign that my periods are imminently going to end.  I’m having many of the symptoms of peri-menopause, but so far they’re 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.  Howwever this all may change as the actual Menopause arrives and I’ll probably end up reaching for the Prozac and the desk fan, but so far so good!

 

Menopause Myths

It’s brilliant that the Menopause has finally been hauled out of the closet and is being talked about, although the peri-menopause is still lurking in the shadows.  The fact these fundamental female issues have been ignored since the dawn of time is scandalous and you can guarantee if they happened to every man on the planet we’d know a shit load more about them than we do.

I read a truly excellent article on Menopause recently and if you’re interested in the subject it’s well worth a look.  The more I learn about this monumental change in women’s lives the more livid I become.  In the article, trainee GP Hannah Short states “The menopause wasn’t in any of my textbooks”.   Say what?!   A biological process which causes problems for over 70% of women often for the rest of their lives doesn’t even rate one sentence in the training of our health care providers?  It’s insanity.

The myths surrounding Menopause are legendary, so I thought I’d highlight a few:

  • It’s a natural process, not a disease, and doesn’t require treatment.
    Pregnancy and childbirth are natural processes, but that doesn’t mean expectant mothers don’t need monitoring, advice, sometimes medical intervention or any kind of health care.  Men’s prostate function declines as they age, and ageing is a natural process, yet they are still placed on prostate drugs when they have to get up 5 times a night to pee.  In other words, all sorts of issues can be put down to ‘natural processes’ but that doesn’t mean we ignore them and offer no help, guidance or treatment.
  • The Menopause lasts approximately 2 years.
    This is a blatant lie.  For a start, most women experience peri-menopause (winding down of hormones) before the actual menopause (periods ending) and the peri-menopause can last anywhere from 2-10 years.  I’m in year 7 and my periods are still regular, if totally haywire.  Virtually nothing is known about peri-menopause as nearly all the limited research has been conducted on menopausal women, not on peri-menopausal women.
  • The Menopause begins in your late forties.
    Having read many menopause forums now, I can categorically state that for many women this is absolutely not true.  It seems to be quite common to experience the first symptoms of peri-menopause in your late thirties, a fact not recognized by most health care professionals.  My periods started to behave differently when I was 44, and my best friend started noticing changes aged 41.  When it comes to actual menopause, see the next point.
  • The average age of Menopause in the UK is 51.
    I appreciate the word ‘average’ is being used, but it kind’ve gives the impression that your periods will end between the ages of 50 and 52 and that isn’t born out by the experience of my female relatives.  My mum was 54 when her periods stopped.  Three of my cousins all had their last period by the age of 49.  My sister-in-law went through menopause at 46, my other sister-in-law was 53 and my next door neighbour was 54.   I’ll shortly be 52 and my periods are showing no signs of ending.  And that’s just a small sample of the differences experienced.
  • The earlier you start your periods the earlier you will reach Menopause.
    Virtually no research has been conducted on this, but from the little information available this appears not to be the case.  I started my periods aged 11 and at the age of 51 am still menstruating.  The three cousins I mentioned above all started their periods in their mid teens yet all reached menopause before the age of 50.   So I can certainly say in our case this is a myth.
  • There is a blood test to tell you if you are in Menopause.
    If you live in the UK and think you might be in peri-menopause there is no test which will confirm this for you.  FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) can be used to check your status but if you’re over the age of 45 and having peri-menopausal symptoms your GP won’t offer it to you as it’s considered unnecessary.  If you are under the age of 45 and showing peri- menopause symptoms you may be offered the test, but unless you are on the brink of actual menopause the results will be about as much use as a chocolate fireguard as your FSH can swing wildly during peri-menopause.  So realistically there is no blood test to indicate you are in peri-menopause and if you’re in actual menopause you don’t need a blood test to tell you your periods have stopped.  It’s a crap situation which desperately needs addressing.
  • There are no treatments for Menopause.
    When you Google peri-menopause and menopause you get all the usual shite about drinking more water, eating better and taking more exercise.  Why is there an assumption that middle-aged women are alcoholic couch potatoes who live on chicken nuggets and curly fries?!  It’s so insulting, as most of us lead incredibly healthy lifestyles and are very careful about diet and exercise as we are putting on weight without trying (a consequence of our declining hormones).  There are hormonal options for treating the symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause (HRT and testosterone replacement) although they are currently crude.  Finding a doctor with any decent knowledge of them, however, is rare.  There are only 2 hormone clinics in the whole of the North of England serving 2.5 million peri-menopausal and menopausal women.  Of course, not all will need treatment but as 70% of women experience problematic symptoms it’s obviously a vastly under-resourced area.  Your GP may prescribe HRT (but not testosterone) and then again they may not – confusing research on the risks of cancer due to HRT has caused reticence.  You absolutely won’t be offered bioidentical hormones on the NHS and realistically are more likely to be offered antidepressants than anything.
  • Symptoms go when you are through the other side of Menopause.
    This is the biggest myth of all.  My Mum asked me the other week if I could get anything at Tesco to help with vaginal dryness and itching.  “Why, are you having problems?” I asked her.  “I’ve been having problems since my periods stopped” came the reply – she’s now 79.  She also still has hot flushes and so too did my 76 year old paternal grandmother, who used to sweat so much every day of her life that it dripped off her chin end.  The information on what happens post-menopause is virtually non-existent and more women than we realize have menopause symptoms until the day they die.

That so little is known about peri-menopause, menopause and post-menopause is shocking but unsurprising.  Issues which solely affect women have historically been ignored and those women experiencing problems have been told it’s their fault for lacking the constitution to cope with this ‘natural’ change.  We are clearly mentally fragile and overly emotional.   Bollocks is what I say to that.  If men went through a fifth of what women deal with the country would come to a grinding halt.

I hope in the current climate of female freedom of expression that health issues which affect women will finally start to be researched.  However, truly effective treatments are decades away.  There are really easy things that could be done now, however, to improve the situation such as regularly checking women’s ferritin levels as many of us are iron deficient during both puberty and peri-menopause.  Even that simple measure doesn’t happen though and women are basically just left to get on with it and to cope the best we can.

You’re Fired!

I am as grumpy as a bear with a thorn in its arse.  I started my periods at the age of 11 and am now in my fifties, yet does The Curse show any signs of gasping its last breath?  That would be a big, fat, no.  I’ve read all the blurb online about Menopause and every article states that it happens at the average age of 51, but my body clearly hasn’t got the fucking memo.  I’ve had 40 years of cramps, backache, migraines, sore boobs, insomnia, nausea and painful bowel movements and I have had about as much as I can take.  Both my oestrogen and my progesterone need to jog the fuck on and leave me to my old age.

I can’t believe that not only are my periods not stopping, they’re getting ever more frequent.  In fact, Aunt Flo has just been back for a visit only 9 days after she last left the building and she didn’t come alone.  Oh no.  She brought with her Migraine-The-Torturer and his hanger-on Nausea, The Munchies who moaned there were no Star Burst in the house and made me drive 14 miles to buy some, and my old friend Back Pain who still thinks it’s hilarious to keep me awake half the night in agony.  My exhausted ovaries have served them all with an Eviction notice but they’re not playing ball (although it feels like someone’s playing ball with my bladder, the amount of peeing I’m doing!).

There is one person who has vacated the premises, however.  Energy.  Yup, he deserted me months ago and only flits back now and again to have his washing done before packing his bags and sodding off back to Siberia.  Traitor!  I hope he gets frostbite or eaten by Cossacks.

I’ve worked out that in the last 40 years I’ve spent at least £2,400 on sanitary products and what has my Uterus given me in return?  Agonizing, fiery pain that’s what.  I could have gone on a cruise with that cash.

Hormones you’re fired, and if you don’t vacate the building soon I’ll have security escort you off the premises!

 

 

 

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 😀

 

 

 

Peri-menopause update

This post isn’t meant to be whiney because I personally feel menopause is a natural event and just something we women have to get through.  That being said, I write about it because it‘s still challenging and I personally trawl the message boards looking for other women having the same symptoms as me so that I know what I’m experiencing is ‘normal’.  Well, as normal as you can get when you live with 4 other diseases (I’m now counting my Endometriosis and Adenomyosis as a disease in its own right, because I suffer from the symptoms every day of my life).

My menstrual cycle starting changing in 2012.  I’ve always been regular as clockwork, sometimes down to the hour, with a 27/28 day cycle but in 2012 this shifted slightly and for the first time in my life I experienced 30 day cycles, and 26 day cycles, and everything in between.  As the years have ticked by my cycles have been consistently longer, or consistently shorter and this month I’ve had my shortest one to date at 19 days.  It’s come as a bit of a shock because my vision of peri-menopause was that my cycles would get longer and longer and then just peter out but the reality is that my cycles have been all over the place, and on the whole shorter than usual not longer.  This apparently happens in the first two phases of perimenopause and only in the latter two stages does the cycle lengthen.

Other than my cycles being a bit nuts I’ve had virtually no other symptoms.  I can count my hot flushes on one hand, though I’m sure these will increase the further along the line I get, and I’ve noticed no worsening of my pre-existing insomnia.  In fact I sometimes think my deep sleep has improved.

I do get night sweats.  Well they’re not sweats as such, I just feel like my legs are on fire.  By 9pm every night it’s like someone’s flicked a switch and my legs are boiling hot and jumpy.  However, I’ve had restless legs my whole life so this isn’t new to me and the hot leg thing has been happening for about a decade now so whether it’s caused by my pre-existing illnesses or part of my hormonal changes I’ll never know.

I’ve luckily never suffered from PMT.  I can have a short fuse, or be a bit weepy, around my period but nothing that has ever interfered with my life and at the moment this hasn’t altered.  I have had two or three massive meltdowns in the past 3 years which are totally out of character for me, but these could be as a result of my own stressful health situation and having to adjust to caring for my parents every bit as much as they could be down to the perimenopause.  There have definitely been times, though, where I’ve been snappier than usual and felt boiling rage for no particular reason which is definitely hormone related.

Bleeding-wise my periods are heavier.  They don’t last any longer, but the flow has increased and is much more clotty than it used to be.  I usually have a break from bleeding after day 3, only for it to return on days 5 or 6 which isn’t usual for me though from what I read is normal for perimenopause.

My menstrual migraines have definitely increased this year which is a bummer.  I can only pray I’m not in for too rocky a road in that direction over the coming years as my hormones surge, crash and finally burn.

Many women complain of increased joint pain and muscle weakness during this time of their lives and I’ve had my fair share of both.  I feel like I’ve turned into a pensioner overnight and do the whole “oomf” thing every time I get out of the chair 😉  I can still crouch down to get something out of a drawer but genuinely struggle to get back up again. Whether this is an EDS thing or a hormone thing, or a combination of both, is impossible to know.  I’m 48 going on 78!

This month my short period has hit me hard in the exhaustion stakes.  I took Bertie out Saturday morning, came back at 11am and had to go back to bed where I slept until 1pm.  This was repeated on Sunday, and both times after I’d woken back up I felt like I’d been hit by a truck and was useless for the rest of the day.  This morning I’ve woken feeling just as weak and knackered but I’ve got too much on to be able to snooze the day away.  In my 22 years of having M.E. I’ve never been able to sleep during the day, even when I’ve only had 1 hours sleep at night, so this daylight kipping is totally new to me and makes me feel like crap.  As I’m typing this I feel like someone’s slipped me a couple of Valium and my brain feels so foggy I simply want to lay my head down and sink into oblivion!

Perimenopause is supposed to last between 1 and 10 years, though most doctors wrongly tell you it will last 2 years and you’ll be done (I wish!).  This is year 4 for me and it feels like very little is changing – my periods are continuing on their up down up down course and not really moving on.  So far the experience isn’t at all like I expected and is better than the horror stories I’ve read online.  Or it could be that I simply cope with the changes in my body better than healthy women as I’m used to feeling rubbish all the time anyway.  Maybe I’m in for a rude awakening in the next couple of years as the whole thing goes belly up but I hope, just for once, I’ll catch a break – I think I deserve that at least!

More On Hormones

As I’ve mentioned before, I am nearly 46 and think I have started the peri-menopause (blood tests are inconclusive, but apparently this is common as hormones fluctuate so wildly during this time).  Having looked online at the symptoms I’m yet again staggered at the similarities between this and the other conditions from which I suffer.  Peri-menopause (and full menopause) can cause:

  • palpitations
  • flushing
  • itching
  • nausea/GI problems/reflux
  • dizziness/vertigo
  • insomnia
  • night sweats
  • fatigue
  • confusion/brain fog/memory loss
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • muscle and joint pain
  • new/increased allergies
  • and a host of other undesirables

MCAD can also cause all of the above, as can a combination of ME, dysautonomia/POTS and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.  I pity the poor doctor who has to try and unravel my symptoms: which are transitory and which are not; which will respond to anti-histamines and which won’t; which would respond to hormone therapy and which would not (not that I can take HRT due to my MCAD!); and which I just have to live with.

The weird nose thing which started a few weeks ago turned out not to just be a virus.  My cold is now on its way out and the prickly nose and running mucus carry on unabated.  Super!  I also have the worst case of itchy skin I’ve ever had in my life – it feels like someone is tickling my entire face, scalp and body with tiny feathers.  I can’t help but scratch, which brings on my Dermographism, so then I’m covered in red welts and look like I’ve been dragged through a thorny hedge backwards!  I’ve switched my washing powder to Fairy non-bio but it hasn’t helped.  Other than that, nothing in my life has changed so I’ve no idea why I’m suddenly itching and suffering from hay-fever like symptoms.  My heart is also performing all sorts of acrobatics, flip-flopping all over the place and doing random huge beats that surely can’t be good for me.  Could it just be my changing hormones?  Am I having an MCAD flare-up?  Have I developed some new allergy?  Heaven alone knows because I surely don’t!

Unhinged

Which is exactly what my jaw has become apparently!  I went to bed one night absolutely fine about 10 days ago and woke up unable to chew anything on my right hand side.  The jaw joint doesn’t click or pop, it’s just really really painful and the pain goes up the side of my head and into my ear.  Super.

Made an appointment to see my Dentist yesterday thinking that I’d have to wear some kind of brace or retainer while I’m sleeping to keep the jaw joint in place.  But he doesn’t think this will help.  Most people with jaw problems develop them because they grind their teeth in the night and cause wear and tear arthritis on the jaw joint – gum shields help keep the mouth slightly open to stop the teeth from grinding.  But in my case the ligaments holding my jaw in place are lax which is making my jaw joint move, hence the pain.  A gum shield, he didn’t think, would make one iota of difference although he said we could try it as an experiment (which would cost me £50).  I think I’ll leave that for now as I’m stony broke.

The only thing he could suggest is resting the jaw as much as possible and only eating soft foods on the left side of my mouth, which is what I’ve been doing in any event.  If I could take drugs he’d suggest some anti-inflammatories and maybe a muscle relaxant for the spasm, but as I can’t I have to try rubbing some Ibuleve gel into the joint every 4 hours to try and calm any inflammation.  He hopes I’ve just sprained the ligament and it will settle down in a week or two.  Me too, because with chewing everything on the left side of my mouth my left jaw joint is now starting to hurt!

I currently feel like I am falling apart in spectacular fashion.  My hormones (and emotions) are all over the place – had a blood test to check for perimenopause last week but don’t expect it to show anything as it’s early days.  My back hurts me every second of the day and I can no longer find even one comfortable position in bed consequently I don’t sleep (don’t let’s talk about sitting and standing which have been an issue for years).  My fingers are falling apart.  My pelvis is shot.  My gums are receding.  My stomach is painful 24/7 and I have constant nausea. My uterus and bladder area is inflamed all the time, causing awful period-like pain and a need to pee a dozen times a day (and during the night).  The floaters in my eyes are so severe they interfere with reading and driving and drive me absolutely bonkers.  And to cap it all what little energy I ever possessed has bogged off too (I hope it’s in the Caribbean  and eventually comes back all tanned and refreshed from its holiday 😉 ).

My mast cells also seem to be having some kind of dicky fit.  I keep having what look like blistery bug bites all over my body, which itch like crazy.  Maybe they are bug bites, but I get them when I’m covered from head to toe so how do bugs get through jeans and wellies, or jumpers and anoraks and bite me under my bra?!  Then a couple of weeks ago a whole new and peculiar nose issue began.  My nose is inflamed and prickly, but with no itching, no feeling of being blocked and no running.  Occasionally I’ll have a massive sneezing fit for no good reason, but once it’s over my nose isn’t runny or blocked or itchy………..just inflamed and prickly.  I bought an air purifier for my bedroom, thinking I had developed an allergy to my dog, but it has made not one iota of difference.  My brain fog is also dire and my eyes constantly dry and sore. There’s something afoot, I just don’t know what.

I currently wake up in the mornings wondering what life is all about.  Am I depressed?  Probably.  Do I swing between crying and wanting to end it all, to telling myself to get a grip andPhoto of my dog stop being such a bloody whimp?  Absolutely.  My life currently feels like a pile of shite with no redeeming features and, if I’m being honest, that’s probably a fairly accurate description.  The only thing that keeps me going is my little dog, the fact that my parents are elderly and can’t manage without me, and the thought that some day the man of my dreams will come looking for me on his white charger brandishing a winning Euromillions lottery ticket.  You can add ‘delusional’ to my list of ailments 😉 .