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Peri and Me
Over the last 18 months I started to notice many things about me changing. I’m 42 years old and hadn’t even contemplated that I could be starting ‘the change’ as many people call it.
In my mind the menopause started around the age of 50, I knew it could last for many years, but I thought it basically involved suffering with hot flushes, mood swings, headaches and then once your periods had stopped those symptoms would vanish and I’d be on my merry way again.
How it all started I was well and truly wrong. Turns out I started the perimenopause (the stage before your periods stop) when I was 41, thinking I was suffering the after effects of having had Covid, with things such as fatigue and brain fog.
I started to log my symptoms on an app called Balance, set up by menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson, little did I know that my ever-changing hormones were actually causing all these changes.
My periods started to fluctuate (my cycles have always been like clockwork 27-28 days, now they vary from anywhere between 12 and 49 days). I also suffer from fatigue, memory loss, brain fog, an inability to concentrate, anxiety, night sweats, facial flushes, sore breasts, chronic neck pain, mood swings, irritability, sore gums, dry eyes and more.
On starting this journey, I realised just how poorly educated we all are in this very crucial part of women’s health, even our GPs. Getting diagnosed can be super difficult and getting the right treatment even harder.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – helping our future health
However, in summer 2021, I managed to convince my GP I didn’t need any more blood tests, that I know my body and that I need HRT.
There’s very little information about the positives of taking HRT, thanks to some misinformed research a couple of decades ago. Many forms of HRT are now plant based gels/patches and they’re a body identical match to our own hormones; therefore there’s zero risk of blood clots and drinking a couple of glasses of wine a night will increase your chances of getting breast cancer more than taking HRT will.
HRT is replacement therapy, we’re not adding extras, we’re putting back what our bodies need to function for the extra years we now live. 200 years ago, we weren’t living long enough to go through the menopause, these days we could spend up to one third of our lives post-menopausal, therefore living with a deficiency in the hormones our bodies need to keep our bones strong and our hearts and brains healthy. If we don’t take HRT we could be increasing our risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, dementia and more.
It really is good to talk
I will also vouch for communication being key to getting us through this stage of our life. Some days I think the world is against me, that I’m totally useless at my job, as a mother, as a partner, I argue with everyone, cry at everything and then two days later realise that actually everything is ok, I’m not a bad person, everyone isn’t out to get me and that it’s just my joyous hormones playing tricks on me.
The only way my relationship is ever going to survive this rollercoaster is by communicating. I’ve told my partner everything, he knows how much I’m suffering and tries his very best to be patient with me. Don’t get me wrong, we mess up regularly, but we always find our feet and remember that this is just a phase in life and the more we talk, the more we can get through this with a few more smiles.
My top tips
If like me, you’re just entering this phase of life, or indeed if you’ve been suffering for years, there are a number of things I’d recommend:
1) Find your tribe: find those you can talk to, start conversations with your friends – you’ll be surprised how many are going through the same struggle, and keep talking at home – your family will appreciate the honesty and you will then benefit from their understanding
2) Get informed: I follow many menopause experts, fitness coaches and dieticians on Instagram and can’t recommend enough looking up Dr Louise Newson. She has a website full of useful information, ways to arm yourself with the right info when you visit your GP, a new book and the Balance app.
3) Be kind to yourself: some days you will be on fire, everything will go right, you’ll feel strong, energetic and proactive, but then there will be days that you feel sad, frustrated, irritable and angry. If you can accept all the emotions, they’re easier to control. I used to beat myself up on the days where I didn’t feel like I was ‘on it,’ but I’ve realised life is much easier if you give yourself a break, be grumpy, take a rest, say no to going out, accept some days are not going to be productive – you’ll feel much better in the long run. After all we are humans not robots.
4) Look after yourself: nurture mind, body and soul. Our brains need time out, our bodies need exercise to stay strong and our souls need comfort. I personally like a hot bath, book and an early night for my mind, walking, boot camps and yoga for my body and laughter with friends or some easy watch comedy for my soul. Whatever your thing – look after you.
5) Insta accounts to follow to help guide you through:
If I can help just one woman with the knowledge I’ve gained, and am still gaining, by sharing my story I will be happy. We’re in this together.