Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Cath’s adventures in Perimenopauseland Episode 8 – one step forward…

After a short break, Cath’s adventures resumed last week. In episode seven we joined Cath as she began EMDR treatment for past trauma experienced in childhood and adolescence. As we rejoin the story, Cath is starting to see the early signs of progress. Let’s hope the trend continues…

Making progress

Encouraged by my newfound sense of self, I try to be open with close family and friends about my treatment, resolving to tell my mother what is going on with me, that I am seeing a psychologist to help me sort through the bullying that went on at school. It didn’t go quite as I thought it might. Mother tells me she would have done something about it if only she’d known. With a tone of disapproval (I know that one so well), she tells me off for not telling her at the time. Well that’s weird. I could have sworn I’d said something. One incident resulted in a trip to A and E for concussion! That’s hard to hide. When I was discharged, my parents were told they had to waken me through the night to make sure I was only asleep and not unconscious. She must have known.

There’s only one other person I can talk to about this, my dear sister. We were both on the receiving end of mother’s sharp tongue on a regular basis.  I need to know that I haven’t made this up. What if I have? What would that say about my mental health? What if it happened as I remember? What would that say about my relationship with my mother? Only one way to find out, call my sister. To my horror, she confirms that everything happened as I remember it. Even worse, she confirms that mother most definitely knew! She remembers me getting into trouble for the state of my school uniform after various incidents. Well that’s going to give Dr Siskin a whole mother lode of information to mine.

How many symptoms of menopause? Lots!

Meanwhile, in Perimenopauseland, I am now an active member of the Menopause Matters Forum, regularly conversing with like-minded women from all over the globe. One post leaps out. It has a link to another site which lists more than 30 different symptoms of perimenopause. Thirty!

Clicking the link, I scan down the list, mentally placing a tick next to more than twenty of them! It’s not just me then? So where’s all the literature educating women about what to expect at this time in our lives? In our school years we have personal health education covering puberty and rudimentary stuff on procreation (do you remember the dreadful movie reels?!) For those of us lucky enough to fall pregnant and give birth, you get inundated with education to prepare for childbirth and parenting. In the UK, community-based Health Visitors look after you and baby for the early years.

Then nothing for perimenopause, the next biggest change facing our bodies and minds. I search for classes in my area and what did I find?

Zip.

Zilch.

I can feel myself stepping up onto my soapbox about this injustice. I mean, c’mon. Fifty percent of any population goes through this. Why are we not better at education on this area?

Hooray! It’s working!

Following some advice from the forum ladies, I have changed HRT to a much lower dose (but still two prescription charges!!) and I’m off the beta blockers. Within two weeks I feel like a fog has lifted, which is good timing all round; I have a naughty night away with Mr D planned. Without the smothering blanket of meds my libido has woken up, making a well-timed reappearance. The whole weekend is roaring success and I feel more feminine than I’ve done in months. Thank God for that. Actually, is it ok to thank God for ones libido coming back? I don’t know. Anyway, I’m grateful, and I think Mr D is too.

Clear-headedness means clearer thinking so I start to link my symptoms to what we are working on in my weekly sessions. Remember I how I hitched a poker face into place to show the bullies no emotion, and gritted my teeth to ignored my feelings? It’s no surprise that my most troubling symptoms relate to the mouth and throat, mirroring my inability to speak my truth and be heard. A re-read of the Wisdom of the Menopause book has me thinking about how Perimenopause is our opportunity to face the traumas of our pasts and to re-member (not a typo, but my way of writing about still having all my memories, but without the associated issues) them and learn from them. It should not be a surprise that my current issues revolve around having to put on that brave face and to literally clench my teeth just to get through a day at school, never mind the atmosphere at home.

The therapy sessions are working in that my facial symptoms are gradually receding. I don’t have to wear my mouth guard all the time (which I was, just to get some relief). I must have looked odd at work, ready for the front row of a rugby scrum! Now I’m only wearing it overnight. I’ve noticed the symptoms only flare up when I am very stressed or anxious. So that would be most of the time, especially when my parents announce that they are going to visit us for my birthday.

Emergency diet needed

I go into panic mode to try to get my weight down in time for the visit. The scrutiny only comes from mother. I absolutely don’t want any comments about my size or my choice of clothes. You’d be forgiven for thinking I was a super-curvy lady with all this worry, but I’m not. Far from it. I am 5ft 6ins and a size 10 (UK) from the waist down and 14 (UK) for tops. I am blessed with a great pair of boobs, but it does pose a problem for blouses and t-shirts! Not that I’m complaining. However, this is not good enough for mother. I don’t know what size she expects me to be. I do know this, she thinks I am huge. You should see the size of knickers she gave me at Christmas time. I could have fitted two of me in them. I know I’m a real disappointment in her eyes as she places so much emphasis on body size.

After a successful weigh-in (the emergency diet is working) I decide I am not hiding the fact that I am attending therapy. As one of my appointments coincides with their visit, I’m hoping it will prompt some conversation. Fat chance (ironic, I know!). As it happens, both parents completely ignore it. I wonder if they are embarrassed to have a daughter in therapy, or if they are avoiding talking about it so they don’t have to deal with those pesky feelings, those things I am not supposed to show.

For the first time ever I don’t care what anyone thinks. The lack of parental concern for my situation is actually their problem, not mine. What at liberating thought! And while I’m feeling liberated, I decide that this is my birthday and I will eat and drink what I want and refuse point-blank to feel guilty (or so I tell myself).

‘I am a grown woman, capable of making my own decisions!’ I declare to my reflection in the mirror. So why do I regress to a seven-year old when mother visits? I’ll ask the next time I see Dr Siskin.

Technology bites back

After an initial good start to the new HRT, things have gone bonkers again. The only positive thing in its favour is that I can plan when I need to carry tampons with me. My libido has retreated again, and even worse, it’s run off with my erogenous zones. Either that, or it’s disconnected the zones from the lady garden. Bye bye femininity. And to add to my sense of failure, I can’t seem to sew up a hand knitted cardigan without having to redo each seam twice.

What is wrong with me? I used to be able to manage these simple tasks without incident. Nowadays, doing things I used to do without much deliberation has me in a sweat-drenched, gut-churning, palpitating mess. Just to compound matters, I am at war with technology. As a gadget freak this is a terrible situation.

In one day I have managed to set fire to a microwave (I was only nuking a small bag of popcorn) and drop my phone into my soup. The microwave is beyond repair and the phone is in intensive care, in a bag of rice in the airing cupboard. What next?

I’ll tell you what next. I have lost so much self-confidence that the thought of going out to dinner with Mr D and our friends fills me with horror. I’d rather stay at home in my pjs. For Mr D’s sake, I slap on some make-up and a dress and drag myself out. At this point I feel I am not living life, just lurching from one day to the next, trying to survive. My symptoms agree. They are becoming more annoying and worrying in equal measure. Muscle tics, tinnitus, and unremitting anxiety just never let up. Add in sleep disturbances and it’s a wonder I make it out of bed at all. Most days I’d rather stay in it, hidden under the duvet.

Wired and tired

Out of curiosity I have my adrenal function tested. I have a feeling that they are suffering as I am tired and wired all the time. The results are not surprising and confirm my suspicions. The poor adrenals have been running on empty for years and have no resource left to make any sex hormones to see me through perimenopause. I am now on supplements along with a prescription to make time for myself to do something that I enjoy, just for the hell of it, something that makes me laugh. God knows I could do with a good laugh but I find precious little to raise even a feeble smile.

 

 

‘C’mon Cath! Dig deep girl. You can do it.’ I tell my reflection, but I don’t believe it.

 

So much for in sickness and in health!

Just when I think things can’t get much worse (why do I invite disaster by thinking this?) Mr D drops a bombshell on me. He has decided to give me physical space. I am shocked at what this might mean and ask outright what he means. It means that he will not touch me at all or attempt to initiate sex because to do otherwise leaves him feeling frustrated. Frustrated?! I’ll give him frustrated. He should try being inside my head for a day and see how frustrated he feels when his body refuses to cooperate with his mind; to want sex but not feel a thing happening at all. So this is it. No more cuddles, no spooning in bed before sleeping.

Nothing.

In our entire married life, I have never felt so alone, unloved, unwanted, undesirable. I am now more miserable than I thought possible. While going through the hell that is  Perimenopause, I thought I could rely on one person to walk with me and hold me together. Apparently not. I think of having a long chat with God but what do I say to Him. It seems wrong somehow to pray for the return of my libido. Maybe I need a change of mind-set. Get the mind in order and the rest usually follows.

Tune in to episode 9 to find out if Cath comes out of her corner ready to fight for what she wants and needs.

Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Cath’s adventures in Perimenopauseland Episode 4 – How cruel is Mother Nature?!

money medical tablets pharmacy
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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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?!

Pre-holiday preparation

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.

Hello stranger!

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).

blue tape measuring on clear glass square weighing scale
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Post-holiday blues

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.