Let me tell you how it all started. About 18 months ago I was experiencing occasional periods of extreme heat, that kind of covered my whole body and I HAD to cool down, by any means possible. At home, the battle of the thermostat commenced, and I spent an inordinate amount of time, running my wrists under cold water, or going to stand outside in the snow. I was the one wandering around in the middle of winter (think -20 degrees) with my jacket wide open or not wearing it at all. And the migraines… Almost a constant headache, with no relief for more than a couple of hours. They were worse than they had ever been and they’d been bad for a few years.
I’ll be honest, menopause didn’t occur to me – I was only in my early 40s. I couldn’t possibly be having hot flushes. Could I? Surely it was just the stress of being a graduate student, working full time and having a family? Eventually, I got fed up enough to see my doctor. I described being hot and bothered, tired and emotional, and jokingly suggested that it might be menopause! He suggested that they were perimenopausal symptoms, but I needed blood work to be sure. The blood work didn’t tell us anything, except that I might indeed be in perimenopause. We didn’t even discuss the migraines; we did that at pretty much every other visit. Relieved that I wasn’t menopausal, I briefly looked at the recommended menopause website and didn’t pay it too much attention.
Fast forward to all hell breaking loose.
My anxiety went from 0-60 (and beyond) in a matter of weeks. I couldn’t concentrate, focus was a thing of the past. I wasn’t sleeping, I was hot, my joints ached. The migraines were unbearable, and I reacted to everything VERY emotionally. Not surprisingly, things got REALLY bad at work. For several reasons, I went on stress leave.
I requested that my anxiety meds be increased and got some great counselling. When not at work the anxiety was manageable, but I would still get incredibly emotional for no reason. I gained weight very quickly – all of it around my waist, my boobs hurt. And the migraines continued…
Coincidentally, I was starting to work on setting up my business which has a focus on midlife. I accidentally fell into a few Twitter conversations about perimenopause; symptoms, treatments, experiences. The penny finally dropped. I was bloody perimenopausal – FOR REAL! Perimenopause is often colloquially known as menopause and that’s where I was at. That is what was wrong with me. I wasn’t going mad. It was real and all of those crappy health things… they were connected.
I have questions...
This knowledge and support from other women gave me the confidence to go back to see my doc, to advocate for what I need. I don’t have it all yet, but I’m getting there. I have the knowledge to know what I want to try and know where to find the resources to back it up. Not every woman is that lucky. But why didn’t I know? Why has there not been education to help women understand what is happening to their bodies? Why do we have to find out the hard way? Why do we have to work so hard to get what we need? Why don’t all doctors have training about menopause? I still have SO MANY QUESTIONS.
Bloomin marvellous menopausal women
I have met (mostly online) so many fabulous women who are advocating for better care for women in menopause. Most of it is driven by personal experience - believe me, there are way too many bad experiences. As a result of these online conversations, I am honoured and privileged to be part of the Pausitivity #KnowYourMenopause campaign.
Being part of the conversation, driving the conversation is phenomenal! Our campaign is simple: Four women, two continents, one aim – to raise awareness of menopause symptoms. We want women to have the knowledge that we didn’t. We want everybody to know what the symptoms of menopause are, because when you know, you can get help. You don’t need to suffer in silence. Life’s too short.
Check out our Know Your Menopause poster