Operation Transition & Truth
(Having read and re-read what I’ve written, I implore you to read it to the end, as you may find some useful information in my first – but not last – post on this subject. Please feel free to ask questions or leave comments. I, and many others, could use the wisdom of our collective experience).
June 5 – 14, 2018 – A very emotional week in the life of a 53 year old woman. Woke up at 8:00 am feeling ambivalent. Felt lost and uncertain about the course of the day upon taking those first breaths. Extreme irritability emerged as feet hit the floor. Sound of a trash bin lid slamming shut startled me beyond reason. Spouse entered the room with a loving smile and sudden rage at the intrusion overwhelmed my senses. Guilt for the rage followed quickly behind bringing on tears and great remorse. Logical desire to return to bed, pull covers over head and remain there for the rest of the day. It was 8:20 am. WHAT THE HELL?
I’ll tell you WHAT THE HELL, my friends. Peri-menopause. That’s WHAT THE HELL. Having talked to several of my girlfriends, some female acquaintances, and not a few strangers about this phase of life, I realize that although every single woman has or will experience this transition, not a lot of them understand that there’s a difference between peri-menopause and menopause. Nor do they often realize it when they are IN IT!
My first experiences with this transition were unexplained muscle spasms I thought were originating in my heart. Then I experienced two separate incidents of anxiety that I thought were heart attacks. They were not. These symptoms are directly related to the beginning phases of the Change of Life.
So – let’s start with simple: What is the difference between peri-menopause and menopause?
“Perimenopause, or menopause transition, begins several years before menopause. It’s the time when the ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen. It usually starts in a woman’s 40s, but can start in her 30s or even earlier. Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs.”(1)
“Menopause is defined as the absence of menstrual periods for 12 months. It is the time in a woman’s life when the function of the ovaries ceases. The process of menopause does not occur overnight, but rather is a gradual process. This so-called perimenopausal transition period is a different experience for each woman.” (2)
During my recent emotional 8-day span, I experienced:
- debilitating anxiety;
- memory issues including short-term memory loss, an inability to focus or keep a thought, and confusion that led to anxiety attacks;
- sudden, unexplained rage;
- easily startled by unexpected, and expected, loud noises;
- sudden, extreme fatigue;
- slow-to-build extreme sadness; and
- weeping uncontrollably, for no apparent reason.
Oh, and hot flashes, and night sweats.
I would gladly embrace hot flashes one moment followed by cold-to-the-bone the next, and difficulty sleeping, if it meant avoiding all that other stuff. Because, frankly, during that 8-day period I felt mentally unhinged. I felt insane – the thoughts that ran through my head were extreme, and the desire to take action based on those thoughts was STRONG.
“If I am experiencing theses many symptoms of peri-menopause,” I thought to myself, “then maybe other women are also experiencing this, too.”
September 2016: I overheard a couple of friends discussing women’s issues at a camp out and wiggled my way into that conversation. What I’d overheard was with regard to symptoms I recognized and possible remedies, and I wanted to hear what they were doing about it. This led me to a compounding pharmacist in February 2017, a saliva test, and several natural supplements that helped to manage the few symptoms I was having at the time.
October 2016: I began experiencing what felt like heart palpitations. Heart monitor for three weeks and not an inkling of a heart issue. My step-mom later told me that muscle spasms in the chest is an indicator of the hormones shifting.
November 2016: Realizing I may be entering what I thought was menopause (and discovered peri-menopause) I searched the internet for a book that could explain this transitional phase. I found one (ONE) out of print book titled Menopause & Emotions by Lafern Page. This book shed a lot of light on the emotional aspects of this transition, and a little more on the physiological aspect. I had hoped to find a LOT more written on the subject. There is the Internet, I know.
2017: Nothing major, Took supplements, rode minor roller coasters of emotion, had maybe three cycles (first one, in February, was very heavy and caught me by surprise; hadn’t had one in several months)
April 2018: Met with Women’s Issues Doctor to discuss a 3-day emotional roller coaster and the options I had to better manage the hormone change. The supplements were not working as well as they had been, or the change was increasing rapidly. I was offered Paxil or Bio-identical Estrogen and a synthetic Progesterone. I took the hormones. All my symptoms slowly improved.
June 2018: 8-day roller coaster and a cry for help. I searched on Psychology Today [Find a Therapist (3)] and made an appointment with a women’s issues therapist who was of an age that she’d probably already been through the Change of Life, and employed her assistance in providing strategies to weather the storm. I’ve had two sessions and here’s the most important thing I’ve gotten out of this so far:
“Women of our age were taught anger is not attractive, so we are unable to express anger. Bottled up for years, our only acceptable release of that anger is during PMS or during Peri-menopause. We blow up, then we blame the hormones.” I plan to return to deal with a lot of unaddressed anger.
All of this leads us to today, when I finally sat down and scratched the surface of a perfectly normal, natural transition that is rarely talked about. Well, I’m talking about it. I hope you found this first installment helpful. Please feel free to chime in.
In Upcoming Posts (not necessarily in this order): The Unsuspecting Spouse; Everybody’s Got a Remedy; Essential Oils – Hype or Help?; Those Who ‘Breezed’ Through It; What Mom Never Told Me; Supplements I Took, Still Take; Physical Exercise is Your Friend; Meditation for Relief
- (1) https://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/guide-perimenopause#1
- (2) https://www.medicinenet.com/menopause/article.htm
- (3) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists?utm_source=PT_Psych_Today&utm_medium=House_Link&utm_campaign=PT_TopNavF_Therapist1