At the end of episode three, Cath, at the end of her tether, had visited her family doctor and was facing a big decision; HRT, antidepressants, or both. Read on to find out what she decided.
To pill or not to pill?
Ah June and the beauty that is midsummer! Cost Centre 1 is in full preparation mode for that rite of passage, the school Prom. Coincidentally it’s on the same day I am booked in to see the doc about my treatment path.
‘Good morning Mrs Dean. Take a seat. Have we come to a decision? I see you’ve had all the tests I ordered. Everything looks grand.’ he says, glancing through the results screen; height, weight, blood pressure, hormone profile.
‘Morning doctor. Good to know everything is fine. Yes, I’ve talked it over with Mr D and as I’m not actually depressed I think that I’ll give antidepressants a miss and just go with the HRT.’
‘Ok… I trust you’ve read through the leaflet on HRT risks and benefits. Is there anything you want to ask?’
‘No. Everything seems to be just the same as it was all those years ago when I was a rep, promoting HRT. It seems quite ironic now that I should be on the receiving end of my own medicine!’ I laugh.
‘Well things have moved on a little since then. Do you know whether you want tablets or patches? Obviously you’ll have the preparations that give you a monthly bleed.’
‘I’ll go with tablets please.’
‘Righty… start the tablets at the beginning of your next period. I know you won’t know when this seeing as yours are all to pot.’ says the doc with a smile, ‘but you’ll figure it out. Come back to see me in three months and we’ll see how it’s going.’
Taking a hit in the purse
Wandering through the dispensary, I hand over my prescription to the assistant. She reads it through, checks her stock and asks me if I’m aware of the charges.
‘Sorry love. Did you say “charge” or “charges”?’ I ask, wiggling a finger in my ear. I must have heard wrongly.
‘It’s charges Mrs Dean. Two of them. It’s because there are two different drugs in the prescription.’ she says apologetically.
‘You have to be kidding’ I say as I step up onto my soap-box, ‘It’s one pack per month. Blimey. This government knows how to extract money out of you for being a woman. It’s bad enough we have to pay VAT on sanitary products without this as well when we’re going through the change. It’s a bloody disgrace!’
‘I know. It’s rubbish, but we’re stuck with it.’ agrees the assistant as she hands over my package.
Grumbling all the way home about the injustice of it all, being stung in the purse department because HRT contains two hormones, therefore has two prescription charges, I catch sight of CC1, just back from the hairdressers. There she is in the full flush of feminine youth and beauty, and here am I with an empty purse and a box of HRT! This has got to be comedy timing by Mother Nature
Mother nature takes the mickey
As CC1 steps out to Prom in her gorgeous figure-hugging dress, hair and makeup immaculate, I see anbeautiful example of feminine beauty. I take a look at myself and all I can see is the old witch from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”!
This is what it has come to. I am turning into that wizened, dried up old crone! How cruel is mother nature with her timing?!
Both Mr D and I are so busy ferrying our kids here, there and everywhere for all the end of school year celebrations that our wedding anniversary goes past uncelebrated. How sad. After all these years together, we have demoted the celebration of our big day to just an ordinary day. I promise myself that this will be the last time we let it slip. I will not let this happen again. On the upside, (yes I can still find them if I look) I have been so busy and stressed that I’ve accidentally hit my target weight just before we go on holiday. Hooray, the scales are my friend again!
Trying on my bikinis before I pack them I feel a smug sense of satisfaction that I will not be towed out to sea, having been mistaken for a beached whale. With all the clothing packed, it’s just the toiletries to add and I realise my period still hasn’t appeared. I’d better pack the HRT just in case. Given Mother Nature’s classic timing, it’s almost guaranteed to appear on holiday.
I wasn’t wrong. Right in the middle of our holiday a period arrives. Thanks to the operation earlier this year, it’s not a major disaster, but it is time to take my very first HRT pill.
‘Right then, little pill. You’d better work. I’m expecting decent sleeping patterns, a good grip on my waistline, and I’m expecting you to find my libido, and haul its butt back here as soon as possible. It’s time it came out of hibernation.’ I tell it as I swallow it down. That’s a lot of expectation on one little pill, but I’m confident in its capabilities, having spent years in the women’s healthcare sector of the pharmaceutical industry.
Almost as soon as we arrive home, tanned and relaxed, it becomes apparent that the little pills listened to my pep talk. Well, mostly. I am actually sleeping through the night and much to Mr D’s delight, Libido has re-appeared, dusted itself off and is raring to go again. The poor man doesn’t know what’s hit him but he’s happy to assist!
My happiness bubble is short-lived. The scales burst it! There’s always a post-holiday gain, especially with all-inclusive packages. The temptation to eat and drink your way through what you’ve paid for is too much to resist. I’m not worried though – it will be maybe 4 or 5 pounds (please let it be only a few pounds).
With a sense of trepidation I prepare for the post-holiday weigh-in by stripping down to my birthday suit, emptying bowel and bladder, and even removing my watch. Well you never know, it could tip the scales one way or the other!
‘That can’t be right! Let me get my glasses.’ I wail, frantically resetting the scales. ‘Oh my God! Shit, shit, shit! Just how much can one person put on in two weeks?’ Evidently quite a bit. I am now the heaviest I’ve been in two years! I am so shocked I actually cry. I feel so disgusted with myself.
After a few days of moping, I come out of my corner ready to fight again and get Christmas ready. It seems to be a never ending cycle of getting beach- or Christmas-ready, enjoy, then punishment diets in between. I grit my teeth once more, determined to get a grip again.
Heading into uncharted territory, next stop Panic City!
Out of the blue, on a very ordinary morning commute, my life path takes a side turn and ends up in uncharted territory. As I’m sitting in a queue of traffic, slowly edging my way to work, I am suddenly aware of an odd sensation in my neck, jaw and side of my face. Taking a glance at myself in the rear view mirror, I don’t see anything unusual, but it feels as if my face is numb even though I can feel my fingers brushing my cheek!
‘Oh my God. What’s going on? Am I having a stroke?’ I wonder as I dive into the ladies loos at work. I do all the tests I can think of and everything seems fine. My speech is ok. I can shrug my shoulders, smile and stick my tongue out, but my face feels weird. In a blind panic I ring the doctor’s surgery but all I can get is an emergency appointment with the nurse practitioner. I take it anyway as it is better than nothing.
Racing to the surgery (in hindsight not the smartest thing) I ask the nurse if the HRT could be causing this but she says any issue would have appeared earlier if it was the cause. I leave the surgery none the wiser but slightly calmer as she rules out stroke. As the week progresses, things go from bad to worse and I end up at the emergency out-of-hours service. The doctor has no idea what’s going on but again rules out stroke. Instead he gives me a prescription for diazepam and advice to go back to my doc.
Great. I am now out of my mind with worry but tranquilised to the eyeballs. I am sick to the pit of my stomach with nerves. My heart has joined in the fun and added palpitations to the mix, making me feel even worse.
‘What the hell is going on? Am I dying or what? I need answers and I need treatment!’
Following the emergency doctor’s advice, I see my own doc the following morning and as luck would have it, he spots a behaviour I am unaware of. I am clenching my jaw tight, literally gritting my teeth for all I’m worth. I had no idea I was doing this, and so hard too. I could bite through steel!
‘Try to relax Mrs Dean. I know this is all very scary, but bruxism, the jaw clenching, is causing the muscles to nip your facial nerves, making them feel odd. I need you to make an appointment as soon as you can with your dentist. You’re going to need a dental guard. And while you’re at it, go see a chiroprator to get help to release the muscles.’
Breathing a massive sigh of relief, I thank the doc for his explanation and head off to make appointments.
The science bit
It’s a weird thing, this perimenopause. I’m bloomin’ sure I haven’t seen these symptoms in the literature on what to expect during the change. And I’m right. The list is all to do with sweats and flushes (flashes) and loss of libido. Nothing about this weird nonsense. I wish I’d known bruxism is a common occurence during perimenopause, but as you’re all aware, the patient education in this area is almost nonexistent. It’s high time this changed. In my case, I would not have experienced such major panic and anxiety.
Tune in to episode 5 where we catch up with Cath and her appointments with the dentist and the chiropractor. Will the mouth guard stop the bruxism? Can the chiropractor unstick Cath’s jaw muscles? All will be revealed next Friday.