Two years ago, it became official; I was in menopause. Finally. It seemed like peri-menopause would never end. The wild mood swings have abated leaving only hot flashes and a bit of flabbiness around my abdomen, as lingering reminders of the mayhem “the change” incurred. And luckily, we all survived.
My journey through peri menopause was fraught with mis-information and misdiagnosis, years struggling to get my hormones balanced. I struggled with frustration and loneliness.
No one warned me; there was no handbook or guide. I had no shoulder to cry on when it felt like my symptoms would be the end of me. Roger stood by patiently, while my inner world and body re-calibrated. As much as he loves me, there was nothing he could do.
I’ve written a bit about how my sex life changed during peri menopause and menopause; but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. During peri-menopause, I experienced intense anxiety, fear, and occasional rage I was just barely able to keep a lid on. I made a point not to express my rage because I could see it was unfounded. I knew it “wasn’t me” so luckily, everyone in my household made it through with limbs intact.
I consoled myself by remembering that women the world over survive menopause and go on to live happy lives. I have a whole bunch of friends who are evidence of this fact. I kept reminding myself when I would see them, that they lived though it, and so would I.
There are lots of myths surrounding menopause as well as a few things I didn’t expect, so as a public service, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned. Hopefully this will get the dialog going.
Not everyone has a rough time going through menopause.
So, yeah. While I was up to my elbows battling demonic hormones, several of my friends didn’t even know they were in peri-menopause. One day their periods stopped, and they barely noticed. We should be studying these women; looking at their lifestyle, diet, exercise, so we can learn from them. I would have happily done anything to improve my lifestyle!
Menopause doesn’t necessarily equal automatic weight gain.
Our body composition changes as we age, and we need fewer calories, especially if we are sedentary. American portions are notoriously large, and we tend to consume high carbohydrate diets which lead to weight gain in general. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting, low carbohydrate diets, combined with weight bearing exercise to maintain muscle mass can prevent middle age weight gain that is often associated with menopause. Weight gain and many peri-menopausal symptoms can actually be symptoms of other issues, so it’s a good idea to have some blood work done if you have gained weight or are struggling to lose weight while on a healthy diet. (When I lost weight, I did so under a doctor’s supervision because I was so tired of fad diets.)
Our Beloved Ob/Gyn may not have the training to help their patients through menopause.
As my peri menopausal symptoms began to ramp up, naturally, I turned to my Ob/Gyn. I’d been seeing her for years, she’d been great with the basics, pap-smears, and pregnancies. Since we were similar in age, I figured she’d be on top of the menopause thing. I was wrong.
A few diagnostic hiccups lead me to a doctor practicing integrative medicine, which highlighted how far off my gynecologist had been in attempting to treat my symptoms.
Many traditional gynecologists, including mine were not specifically trained to work with peri menopause are slow to adopt new treatments, such as the patch and pellet, and are quick to make suggestions without performing tests to insure their diagnosis is correct. I found myself frustrated by the lack of information and vague answers I received. In talking with other women, I found I was not alone.
From a recent article by AARP, I learned that most gynecologists receive very little formal training on menopause and there is not much research and development being done either.
Our best friends won’t talk with us about menopause, nor will our mothers.
Maybe younger generations of women will be different, but Baby Boomers like their mothers before them, are not inclined to discuss menopause, potential treatments, what is working or not working for them. When I began looking for a new doctor, I surveyed 30 women. Only five were happy with the doctor they were seeing, three were going to naturopaths, and two went to acupuncturists for relief of symptoms. The rest were like me, looking for a doctor willing to put the work in to treat their symptoms.
During the darkest part of my menopause journey, I turned to books and even subscribed to a YouTube channel to learn more. Most of the information was very general, and offered little in terms of actual relief of symptoms.
Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy is not a Panacea
I’ve talked to several people who have been very happy with their bio-identical hormone treatment. Mine was a bit hit and miss. Quarterly, I went for a blood test, and the creams and capsules were adjusted accordingly at a compounding pharmacy. Bloodwork was not always covered by my insurance and ran $1,400-$1,800. The medications ran $200 per month and are not covered by insurance. All in, I spent between $8,000 and $10,000 out of pocket per year on bio-identical hormone treatments.
While my blood work showed that the treatments were shifting my hormones, it seemed as if no sooner had we adjusted one way, we’d have to completely adjust it again. Over the years I considered discontinuing the treatments because I wasn’t sure they were actually improving my symptoms enough, especially for the expenditure. It wasn’t until I had to discontinue them a year ago, that I have reached equilibrium.
Our symptoms may be caused by other heath issues
I thought all of my issues were being caused by peri-menopause, however that was not entirely true; some of my symptoms were actually related to an under active thyroid. My gynecologist suggested treating those symptoms with anti depressants and sleeping pills. My integrative doctor prescribed a natural thyroid treatment that has made a world of difference. Just that alone gave me a good portion of my life back. The treatment of my thyroid improved my sleep, I was able to loose and maintain a healthy weight, and my anxiety abated.
You Can Be As Sexy As You Want To Be
There is no question that hormonal shifts and imbalances can wreak havoc in the boudoir department, but this doesn’t mean your days as a hottie are over. What makes a woman sexy is her self confidence. And yes, your self confidence may be tried during peri menopause, I know mine was. I’ve written about how I felt like a “flat tire” for a while. I can share that now that everything seems to have leveled out, and I am back to enjoying celebrating my femininity. It’s different now, but I am back.
Life is pretty rosy on the other side.
Now that I’m through and my hormones have leveled out, life is pretty darn good. I’ve already forgotten what it’s like to have a period every month! It is freeing not to have to worry about that, for sure. My joy for life has returned, I sleep well, I rarely feel anxious. If you are having a rough time, hopefully this will give you some hope.
Making it through, and confronting all the demons that cropped up turned out to be a cleansing and empowering experience. The self mastery and wisdom I’ve gained from he experience gives me a greater sense of self confidence and perspective. As I look at the lives of my friends in their seventies and eighties, and how happy they are, I feel good about the road ahead, at least near term. That’s pretty good, I’d say.
Why do you think women don’t talk with each other about menopause? How can we better support each other through difficult times?