In Episode 4 Cath had a few brushes with the tough side of Mother Nature, particularly her sense of timing. The doctor has declared Cath perimenopausal on the same day that darling daughter went to her school prom, a vision of feminine youth and beauty. While getting to grips with all this, Cath has unexpectedly developed a new thing – bruxism. She can clench her jaw tight enough to bite through steel! And this produces some bizarre side-effects – a hot tongue and the feeling of numbness, heat and cold in the jaw, cheek and temple department. Let’s join her adventure to see how she copes with all this weirdness.
‘What in the heck is going on? Why has this started now? ‘ I sigh to myself. I’m trying to keep the mess that is my head away from my family… putting on a brave face (albeit a tad numb in places) and trying not to grit my teeth!
‘Is this what perimenopause is all about?’ I grumble as I step on the scales for the weekly torture.
‘OMG – would you look at that. I’ve hit my target and some…. I am Christmas-body ready!’
Introducing the “What If…?” Gremlin
Last year I’d have danced round the scales doing a victory dance. Instead I feel scared. Why? The What If gremlin has decided to take up residence in my head. This little bugger can really party hard with any existing anxiety. It keeps asking awkward questions like this:
- What if the doctor has missed something?
- What if I’m actually dying?
- What if I’m losing my marbles?
And so it goes on.
The doc has given me some beta blockers to help with the anxiety and palpitations but they come with odd side effects such as dizziness, tiredness and feeling spaced out. At least the new mouth guard from the dentist is giving me some relief but I need to wear it all the time. It makes me look like a boxer. In a rare moment of humour, I look at my reflection and start to shadow box… I tell you here and now, if Mother Nature had turned up on the spot, I would have punched her and her perimenopausal nonsense clean into the middle of next week!
As advised by the doc, I’ve engaged the services of a lovely Chiropractor. Carol believes in a holistic approach to any treatment she gives, and is the first person to plant a tiny little seed of a thought in my head – the symptoms just might have a psychological element to them. It’s a measure of how much I trust her ( and how desperate I am) that I take this on board instead dismissing her suggestion. I’ve always been more of a ‘there’ll be a pill for that‘ sort of a girl. Cold, hard scientific proof has been my rock for all of my adult life. I had absolutely no time for psychology – an airy-fairy discipline according to my younger self. Well she can shut up for now, because I need help!!
Time for a change of mind
Seeing her suggesting begin to take root, not being weeded out, Carol makes a bold suggestion
‘Cath?’ she says, massaging my neck and jaw muscles, ‘You know we have a lady psychologist working with us in the practice?’
‘No. Can’t say I’ve noticed, but go on.’
‘It’s just that I feel you would benefit from a visit with her. We’re at the stage where I’ve done all the manipulation and massage I can but you need something else to help you move forward.’
‘Well it’s not really my thing, but if you think it’s a good idea, I’ll give it a go.’ I say out loud. In my head I’m thinking ‘Oh God Cath. How desperate are you? You don’t do this nonsense!’ Good grief. I’m actually arguing with myself… the plot has been well and truly lost!
Trying to take an objective view of my symptoms, I note that I’m fine just after waking but it all goes steadily downhill from then on, so they are not there all the time. Incidentally, when it comes to Friday night and I’ve had a couple of drinkies, I almost feel normal again. This is all well and good but I can’t self-medicate with wine for the rest of my life!
And no wonder I’ve reached my Christmas-body target, I’m not eating enough. I have zero appetite, and when I do put a mouthful of food in my mouth I feel physically sick. Up pops the What-If Gremlin again. If I ever catch hold of it, I’m going to drop-kick it into low earth orbit!!
As luck would have it, there’s an opening in the psychologist’s diary and I’m having my first psychology appointment. I have no idea what to expect. Will there be a couch? Do I lie on it? Will she think I’m bonkers? Will it work? If I am not going mad or dying, and this is really perimenopause, then it totally sucks. As far as I was aware, it’s all sweats, flushes and a bit of insomnia while ones hormones party hard one last time.
As it happens, my first consultation is not as weird as I thought it might be. For a start, no lying on a couch (probably just as well, I might have fallen asleep). I’m in a pleasant small room with armchairs and the ubiquitous box of tissues. After an initial chat, Dr Siskin assures me I am not going mad at all nor am I dying, thank God. She recommends a book for me to read, which is part medical and part psychological. She promises it will be a new way for me to look at perimenopause.
So I trust in her (not an easy thing for me to do, but I do because Carol rates her) and decide to go with the flow. I buy the book, The Wisdom of the Menopause by Dr Christiane Northrup. Quite a catchy title. I wonder just how much wisdom there is in this awful stage in life. The following day it arrives. Ripping off the packaging excitedly, I take a deep breath and open in it. What I read is amazing and so reassuring. Some of what I am going through is hormonal and the rest is me being called to deal with all the stuff that’s happened to me that I’ve buried, gritted my teeth and said nothing, hitched the mask into place, always answered ‘fine’ when asked how I’m doing when I was far from fine.
Time for a change, and not just in the physical body, time for a change of belief, a complete u-turn!
In next week’s episode, we find out how Cath gets on, what treatment Dr Siskin suggests, and whether it works?