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[peri]menopausal journey

Okay! The missing piece of the puzzle in what's been going on this year particularly now appears to have slotted into place: even though I can't tell by the conventional method of periods going wonky/away, in doing a lot of reading and watching a Mayo Clinic DVD about menopause in general, perimenopause what I've been experiencing for at least this past year- maybe even longer, but definitely since the spring. Not having any mood stabilizers that are effective is also a factor, but this one explains so much. Not just some of the crazy thoughts I've had, but also me being hot (which never happens) and at unexpected times, weight gain for no reason and in places I've never carried it before… I'm convinced I've found the remaining piece to work on.

So! For my sisters who've preceded me on this journey, I want to plumb your experiences and knowledge of this time. I recognize it's different for everyone, but I welcome your anecdotes, what helped and didn't, and your wisdom about how this period of time changed you— or didn't. If you'd rather email me off-list, I think you all have my email address. If not, let me know and I'll share it.

This entry was originally posted at http://thrihyrne.dreamwidth.org/528728.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 20th, 2015 02:55 am (UTC)
Menopause. *sigh* A bane and a blessing.

For me, I started a long, slow road into menopause in my early 40s. I feel like I was in perimenopause for about 5 years before I finally hit the Big M at 47. My mom went into full menopause at 39, so I got some bonus years. 47 is considered early, but whatever. My periods were wonky but still there. I had heavy flow hours, as in, can't leave the house for a few hours because the flow was extraordinary. And the cramps came back near the end, bad ones. So by the time my final period in August 2007 happened, I was so ready.

Gone were the PMS symptoms, but I had terrible hot flashes several times a day, facial flushing, feeling...not like myself. Maybe a little depressed, more like feeling flat. The weight gain--gah! And it settled around my middle. That's been the worst because it fucking won't go away. I went on HRT for several years because I was young-er than most. It helped a great deal; I was on the lowest dose they make. But all good things come to an end; my doctor pulled me off it after 3 years. I went back on it for a full year, but then I stopped taking them mostly because of the cost. I miss it because I still feel a little off my game. I'm 55 now. The hot flashes are few and far between; still have the weight around my middle. Emotionally, I've evened out; I have good and bad days, but now the bad days are situational and not generated by my cycle. And the bleeding is gone. God, I do NOT miss that at all. That's the best part.

You will get through it. You will come out the other side and feel like good days are ahead. And despite feeling a little off my game, I just have to redefine what that is, accept what is my new normal. Eating better, getting enough exercise and sleep--all of that really comes into play. I've almost stopped drinking alcohol all together; cutting out caffeine has been a blessing; I eat vegetarian about half my meals; and I'm intentional about going to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekends. I got a FitBit to encourage me to make my set activity goals every day.

My mom and I had a long discussion about her journey. She was the first generation of women that had HRT. She took them for over 20 years! She has not suffered any adverse effects, so I'm hoping I'll continue to follow that path. Talk to your mom about her experience and you will probably find you will parallel her.

*hugs* I promise you will survive this.
Nov. 20th, 2015 02:30 pm (UTC)
(((hugs))) back. Thank you so much for sharing some of the high and low points! Thanks to the oral birth control I took (of wildly varying doses) I didn't menstruate for about 1/2 of my adult life anyway. Then in 2013 I had a Mirena IUD put in and it releases a small amount of the hormone levonorgestrel. Two months after that, no more periods, again. So I haven't menstruated in nearly 3 years, making a certainty of this impossible to tell from that perspective. I'd been thinking something might be changing as of last year though, and I went to a specialist to find out if there was any sort of blood work they could to do establish it— I was told they could do blood work, but it would be inconclusive. So… when I see my nurse practitioner this spring I may ask if it makes sense to have the IUD taken out 2 years prior to its expected removal in 2018. I mean, the worst that could happen is that I would get periods again and see what they're like. But I know I'm on that road.

I will reach out to my mom- I know she had early menopause and at one point knew the age, but I've since forgotten. But I always assumed for whatever reason that that would be the case for me too. In terms of hormone therapy, there does appear to be almost as many pros as cons, but it really seems to depend on how severe the symptoms are. I'm definitely going to get some black cohosh and start taking it, as well as get back to a more rigorous workout regimen and relentlessly find a psychiatrist who will assist me in terms of mood who also supports the Sinclair method for my alcohol pharmacological extinction. I plan to approach this liminal passage with as much grace and self-acceptance as possible— the latter being the most difficult. :P

Thank you again for your candor. I feel fairly alone in this amongst my peers and friends who are local (or even not) as I'm older than many of them, and hearing from other friends will be a huge support- as you've always been. ♥

Nov. 20th, 2015 03:44 pm (UTC)
I've always been in awe of your self-awareness and honesty and your search for peace. I have so much respect for you for that alone. I really hope you find a psychiatrist who will give you the care you need and want. I have faith that you will.

I can't comment on the IUD, but I do know the medical profession goes back and forth on HRT. If you don't have a genetic predisposition to breast cancer, you are at a lower risk and can take it, especially through the more severe symptom years. That's the only reason I was able to take it for as long as I did. But my doctor was vigilant and took me off it after 3 years.

I'm certainly no expert, but I am here if you need anything. Just ask. *hugs*
Nov. 20th, 2015 10:52 pm (UTC)
I am 41. I went through menopause at 34. Similar situation-- decided to go off the pill and get an IUD. I got the copper T-- no hormones. And... no periods, either. And then the hot flashes started. My gyn had me wait it out for a few months, assuming that maybe my system just needed to acclimate to the lack of BC hormones, but nothing happened. So they put me on a megadose of progesterone to try and jump-start my cycle and... nothing but worse and worse hot flashes and night sweats so bad that P. took to sleeping on the couch. I didn't really have any emotional symptoms (that said, I have a history of depression and have been on and off SSRI's most of my life. I was not on them at the time this started).

My doctor said that the recent studies that showed HRT as risky were dealing with an older population (over 60), and that the risks did not apply to someone starting HRT in their 30's-early 50's. At my age, HRT is essentially mandatory-- the threat of endometrial cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis are much higher for us youngins without estrogen in our systems, and risk of some cancers increases if you take estrogen without progesterone... so the sad irony is I went off of hormonal birth control just to find out that I need to be on, well, hormonal birth control :(

I'm a horse person, so I was very adamant about not taking Premarin because of the abuse of horses that occurs in its creation. For many years, it was the only option. Fortunately, there are many more options out there now. I would encourage you to do some research and discuss with your doc.

Be sure to get a bone density test if you haven't already. I have osteopenia and need to take calcium + vitamin D supplements to stave off further bone loss.

I didn't have a high sex drive to start with-- it has really tanked. That's the worst part of all of this. And, frankly, I really don't know what to do about it. It's a sensitive issue that P. and I are trying to deal with together, but he spends a lot of time frustrated, and I spend a lot of time feeling like a failure as a wife. And whenever someone makes a jocular remark about how "women don't hit their sexual prime until their 40's yuk yuk yuk!" I think about stabbing them in the eye while I smile at them with clenched teeth. :(
Nov. 21st, 2015 10:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for sharing your experience! That does seem awfully young, but this dialogue has made me wonder if the same kind of environmental factors that are causing more of the population to develop breasts and menstruate earlier and earlier might be doing so on the other end…? I don't know. I'll be seeing my nurse practitioner at the usual annual time next year and will discuss options. At this point I figure I'll leave the IUD in as it's not doing any harm and will definitely keep an eye on bone density.

So sorry to hear about the sexual drive part, though. (((hugs)))
Nov. 20th, 2015 10:15 pm (UTC)
Oh gosh. Periods and everything menstruation related has been a disaster for me for my entire life. Awful, debilitating cramps so bad that I'd be in bed at least one day a month when I was younger. Hellish flows that lasted 8-9 days. Ugh. Finally, about 2 years ago, I had endometrial ablation and life is SO much better.

I don't think I'm in menopause yet, and it would be a bit early for me to be in it, but I've definitely had a flash or two. Frankly, I'll be happy when it's all over.
Nov. 21st, 2015 10:48 pm (UTC)
YOUCH! I'm so sorry to hear that you've had to deal with that for so long. Very glad that it's much better for you. I was so fortunate in that when I was menstruating, it just was never (or almost never) a big deal, or hurty, or even gushy flowy. But I spent years and years not having periods due to my birth control. This just isn't what I expected— mostly that though I didn't change eating habits, just because I'm not working out 4 times a week wouldn't [in the past] have created the weight shift I've rather suddenly experienced. That and the heat, which is very atypical, is what has convinced me I'm on the path. There seems to be little consistency, so I suppose it will just be what it is!! :P
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