I wanted to share openly about my own experience of coming to terms and living with being peri-menopausal, I have written this and I am sharing this because this weeks experience is still raw and I am still coming to terms with the fact that as well as impacting on my personal life, that this condition will at some points impact of my working life and this week it did.
My personal development, growth and self-esteem is a priority for me, particularly in the line of work I do, I know the value and importance of self-care, particularly when you are caring for others. I have worked in the addiction field for over 20+ years, I know first hand how much the stigma, shame and limiting beliefs can keep people trapped in a vicious cycle where they believe they should settle for less.
Normally a confident, tenacious, pragmatic and outgoing person, I’m a doer I rarely stop, I am passionate and love my job, but for three days this week, I was transformed into quite the opposite, I was a shadow of my former self. I don’t want sympathy, I don’t do that well, but what I hope to achieve by sharing this post is some understanding and greater awareness about what some (not all women) may be experiencing, suffering even in silence, whether that be out of fear of being judged, or accused of being an hypochondriac, being overlooked for that promotion because of a condition that no one in the work pace rarely talks about… The fucking menopause, or in my case peri-menopause.
Now before I start, I am not blaming everything in my life over the past year on hormones! But I cannot simply ignore the changes that are taking place in my body neither.
Monday 30th September
Today is a good day, todays make the end of national recovery month, its time to start planning the Christmas cabin in November, BBN assessments are nearly completed, works gone well. I’ve got loads done and I’m looking forward to going out with two mates after work for a good old catch up, and we did. I cannot recall the last time I had laughed so much. I go to bed with a smile on my face.
Tuesday 1st October
I woke up feeling groggy, it felt like a hangover, but I hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol, I couldn’t be sure, I had been sniffling over the weekend, perhaps it was a little bit of cold coming on. Today was going to be a long day, I had a 6 pm meeting which worked well for me as today was a 5:2 day so the busier I am the less I think about food and the easier it is to fast. I can normally go no problem through until 4 pm without even thinking about food, surviving on caffeine and water and keeping busy with work.
I have already had my coffee this morning before leaving the house, but this morning I don’t finish it, I can’t stomach the taste. I arrive at work and don’t finish that coffee either. Its 10.30 am and I am craving food, any food will do, but as its a fast day my options for eating something under 100 calories are slim, and I sense deep down that once I start I won’t be able to stop. I take to making another black coffee to quench my hunger but it tastes like metal, I’m craving a cup of tea, I only drink tea on an evening or a weekend
By noon I have caved in, I find a bag of crisp and a tomato cuppa soup, 200 calories down, that should sort me until 4ish.
Wrong, once I started I couldn’t stop, I could feel myself going downhill, feeling mardy and sorry for mesen I could physically feel, dark cloud descend over me, it started to feel heavier, I was looking at the computer screen but couldn’t take in any emails, I decided to take myself outside for a break, some fresh air, give myself some time to have a word wi mesen.
I bumped into my daughter who was on her way back to work after her lunch break, she asked me what I was up to and all I could say was “ feeling shit, just needed to get out of the office for a bit” I glance further up the street to see Sarah* (name changed), shes street homeless and addicted to heroin she is sat in the pissing rain begging, normally I would spend 10 minutes chatting to her, or making a call to probation for her, but today I wasn’t ready to hear the bullshit excuses that would come flowing from out of her mouth.
Under normal circumstances, I have the patience of a saint with her but as soon as I saw her bloke trotting over to her, recently released from jail, I knew she was back to square one. Now don’t get me wrong, I get the excuses, I understand the fear of failure that comes from years and years of not just letting her family, her kids down, I know she’s given up on herself, I am a realist, I know that change has got to come from her and I will always listen. But not today – she looks up, shes embarrassed when she sees me, she knows I am going to ask after her leg, which should have been treated over two weeks ago, she attended hospital, and should have stayed, but discharged herself early. She comes out with feeble excuses for missing her script, not going to housing, she’s got an appointment at the local drugs service later and is going to ask them to increase her script so she doesn’t have to beg! and all I can say is “
I am just about to leave her when a woman I have never seen before stands at the side of us, she looks me up and down, there was an awkward silence, and I’m not sure why? Sarah senses it and explains that it is her bloke’s support worker, but all that is running through my mind and is just about to roll off my tongue is “who the fuck do you think you are looking at”.
I take a deep breath, say my goodbyes and head into Sainsbury’s, I still haven’t got a clue what I’m going to get with only 300cals left! I walk up and down all the isles and come across some items on sale, grooming kits half price, I purchase two. (That’s two early Christmas presents out of the way) and leave buying nothing to eat.
I head back into the office and I am still ranging over the way that support worker looked me up and down “Shes lucky I didn’t smash her fucking teeth in” and I gasp at what I have just said out aloud across the office floor (christ I haven’t used language like that since I was 15 and at school. and the cloud just feels darker and darker my mood is slipping, to the point, I don’t give a fuck about only having 300cals left, I’m going in for the leftover kids birthday chocolate cake that was brought in the week before by a colleague! But I don’t stop there, I ask my gaffer if she’s got any nibbles in her locker, she never fails to disappoint and before I know it I have munched my way through another two snack bars. My energy levels are dropping, I could just lay down there and then on the floor and sleep! I can feel myself snapping and with practically no tolerance left in the bank, I send my apologies for the evening meeting and leave work early.
I get home and there’s a loaf with my name written all over it and a tub of cold Lurpack fresh from the fridge and before I know it I have scoffed two slices! Now the 5;2 is well and truly outta the window. I am no company, the telly is shit and all I want to do is be alone, mainly so I don’t offend anyone else. I go to bed early, I just want to forget about my day, the overeating, being a bitch and fingers crossed wake up tomorrow in a better mood.
Wednesday 2nd October
I was so sleepy after pressing snooze for what seemed the hundredth time, I crawled out of bed, I head downstairs to make a coffee, perk me up. But I simply have no energy, I cannot think straight, the thought of actually going through the rest of my morning routine and getting ready for work seems impossible and soon I am having an internal argument in my head, which brings me close to tears!
I head upstairs and I cannot even think about what to wear for work let alone get dressed for work! I give in, I cannot go into work like this, I simply don’t have the energy to walk let alone work. I call my gaffer and explain, going through the menopause herself I know she understands, but deep down I am still paranoid that she is thinking “come on trace is it really that bad”. I finish the call and head back to bed. I am woken about 11 am, the phones ringing, it is our old man. He knows something is wrong, I tell him I’ve not gone into work and explain. I feel like a fraud, how do I explain that two days earlier I was laughing and joking but today I cannot move?
- I spend the whole day in my PJs, some recently washed clothes need putting in the drier – but I don’t have the energy, I cannot be arsed.
- I could spend the whole day writing – but I cannot think straight let alone write
- I switch tv channels to find something that will help pass the day – I search for the Jeremy Kyle show I mean at least that might cheer me up, remind me I ain’t got it all that bad, but then I remember that’s been cancelled!
- I take some comfort from some of the posts in the closed menopause FB group, I see post about different tablets people are taking with claims that they have worked wonders and I am tempted to get online to order everyone on amazon prime, but deep down I know that everyone is different, this is trial and error for everyone and fuck me, if I took everything, how the hell would I know which one was working? Or what was not, I mean some tablets counteract each other and others take months to work?
- I’m a month in on the Estrogel and progesterone, apparently, it takes 3 months to kick in, but then I think, but what if it doesn’t work? What a fucking waste of time?
- I want a solution NOW, I want to go back to the old me, positive, optimistic Tracey, the one who would do anything for anyone, but who at the moment can’t do fuck all for herself!
- I wonder is it the menopause? I mean it could be ME or chronic fatigue, what if I have been misdiagnosed? But then I remember the sweats and swollen tits, that always take me back to the days when I was lactating, sensitive tits, weighing me down like cannonballs.
- I consider calling the doctors and insisting that they give me EVERY blood test going, to help determine what the fuck is going on with my body
- I look online to consider going private, but they can fuck off robbing bastards, earning money off women misery, I mean £250 for an hour consultation, other women taking advantage of a sister – it is fucking wrong!
- I don’t want to eat, I fucked up yesterday, I can feel myself getting fatter, but I am craving carbs, shit food, anything to help sooth these feeling of self-pity, nothing is working.
- I have had a fun day of self-loathing, I fucking HATE feeling shit, I HATE feeling powerless, I HATE it when I act out as a sad victim, this is not ME!
- I try to remind myself that this will pass, I mean this time last week I had organised and was hosting a conference for over 100+ people in recovery from substance abuse, I had a lovely email from one of the attendees letting me how much my kind words meant to her, Now I have none for anyone, not even myself!
- This time last week I was juggling managing three different projects, I was on fire! Today I could even piss on myself if I was on fire!
I head to bed early again, hoping and praying that this will have passed by the morning, its got too, I cannot go on like this.
Thursday 3rd – I open my eyes and feel ok! I allow myself some time to come around before getting into the morning routine, but as soon as I stand I know straight away, this heavy dark fog is still clinging onto me. I know there is no way I’ll be going into work, I am more accepting this morning, I mean what’s the point in beating myself up, I mean I did enough of that yesterday, I make a couple of calls, rearrange some meetings, then head back to bed.
I wake up a couple of hours later, I remember the washing going stale downstairs and remind myself that despite feeling like shit, there is no excuse for being a tramp!
I manage to tidy the kitchen, potter around and I wonder, is the fog lifting? I decided I ought to have a shower, change out of the PJs and put on some clean clothes. By late afternoon, I still feel groggy but I also feel a lot better?
I spent the afternoon reflecting, trying to make sense of how I was feeling. My mom phones me, expecting me to be at work, she’s off today so pops around for a coffee. We have an offload about how shit it is being a woman. oh and fucking bunions, another ailment that I have developed! I’m glad that mom was off work and called around and I realise I should spend more time with my mom.
Back to thinking – Everyone talks about what to expect when you start your periods but no-one mentions what it’s going to be like when you come off! There was no mention of how you periods change across your life course how they are affected by contraception, pregnancy, childbirth and perimenopause, the menopause?
Well, I think I know why! It’s because it’s fucking worse than starting!!
Coping with two sprouts and hairy armpits was bad enough but when the time came I went straight to my mom, who gave me a box of Tampax and was told to go to the toilet and read through the instructions. I remember it was pretty dam daunting considering I had never inserted anything inside myself before! The first failed attempt resulted with me dropping the mouse down the basin, I watched it expand to twice its size, wondering if that happens once it is inside how the xxck I was supposed to pull it our afterwards!! After failing on numerous attempts, before finally, successfully inserting a Tampax, I found it a breeze, well apart from the thought of walking around with a piece of string hanging out of me totally which freaked me out.
I was ok with the mood swings because I was permanently in a bad mood anyway which, I could validate as a reason for being a bitch every month! apart for the monthly cramps and indignity of shoving something alien inside me every month, it just became a part of being a teenager, it became the norm!
It wasn’t until after the birth of both my kids that I started to notice PMT, I was like the Incredible Hulk on steroids for a week into the lead up to my period, as soon I started the monthly bleed I could feel my whole mind and body transform from being angry and tense to being relaxed, or normal whatever the fuck that means. I have been managing the PMT symptoms with a daily dose of Prozac for the past 20+ years, with little or no problems!
Well, that was until Last year when I went to the doctors, I explained my symptoms, he suggested that I might be peri-menopausal, he explained that my moods may be due to a fluctuation, lack of serotonin, due to going through the change, my options were, go down the herbal route (i was like Nah, too much time and trial and error required), take HRT, (Nah, that will give me cancer) or up my current dose of Prozac from 20 – 40 ml, I opted for the latter and it worked for a while. But over the past 6 months, my symptoms had gotten worse, a month ago i agreed on the HRT, after 4 weeks of feeling better I am now sat here feeling like I am back at square one! but today I am being a little easier on myself, I know that pulling myself down isn’t going to help, I know this feeling will pass, I reason that I will just have to ride it out. I go to bed early again and pray for a miracle
Friday 4th October – I wake, I feel ok, I could write this week off, but I know that I couldn’t spend another day sat staring at the four walls so here I am I’m back at work, firing on full cylinders, the dark mist has lifted, I feel back to being myself, I can drink my black coffee without baulking, I am feeling assertive, its lunchtime and I have already achieved loads. I met with a friend, a published author for some tips about my book, and she too shares some of her experainces with “Going through the change”
And whilst I feel a 1000% better, I am still slightly pissed off and angry, I am angry because if according to the research over 70% of women will go through some sort of biological hormonal changes, then I question why isn’t this spoken about more?
I always thought I understood what the change or menopause meant I have sat in meetings with women suffering from impromptu hot flushes, wafting fans, or even using cloths to clear their brows. These are all typical symptoms I always associated with the menopause. I hadn’t been suffering from either of these symptoms and genuinely thought I would be one of the lucky ones! It wasn’t until earlier on this year that I had even heard the phrase peri-menopause!
But hey how would I know? Because no fucker talks about it! I now know that there are plenty of online secret forums, where women openly share about their different symptoms and for me, this has been a lifesaver, reassurance that I am not alone.
I am slowly coming to terms that this isn’t going away so for now, I need to find some new coping strategies, I will have to adapt some of the old coping strategies I adopted during my recovery from drug-induced psychosis 20+ years ago, I know I have been through worse and even though I don’t want to have to deal with another challenge, I know and accept that I cannot avoid it, all I can do is manage it the best way oI can.
I am learning to accept that
- I am going through some hormonal changes
- Managing the change will be a process of illumination
- There will be times when I’m not at my best
- That there will be times when I will feel physically, emotionally and spiritually drained is part of the process
- It may take longer than I would like for the symptoms to pass
- There are no real quick fixes
Well, that has been my personal experience and I’m only just starting on the final cycle of what has been a lifetime of monthly cycles, in fact, 24,072 to be precise.
The conversation about what it’s like being a woman shouldn’t stop when school stops, learning and sharing about periods continues – supporting women throughout their lives, from menarche to menopause and beyond. So in the meantime, I need to work on practicing more self-care and self-compassion and ride the menopausal wave until it finishes and if that means it affects my performance at work occasionally then so be it, after all