Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Issues in your tissues!?

No! Not paper/cloth tissue issues. I mean weird stuff that happens in your body with no obvious physical cause. As ever, I will state the bloomin’ obvious here – anything you are worried about in your mind and body needs to be seen to by a healthcare professional. What follows is merely my own opinion based on experience, observation and reading a few great books.

At this point I can almost hear you thinking ‘Where the heck are you going with this, Cath?’

Let me explain. My local village hall has organised a series of talks across the winter months, the inaugural talk was ‘The body keeps the score’, given by my old psychologist. As she is no longer my mental healthcare specialist, I decided to go along to support her. Apart from occupying a seat, I could ask some cool questions to get people involved if needed.

The main point of the talk was how traumatic experiences end up stored in our bodies and what can happen if they take root. It appears that the reptile brain (the amygdala for all you biologists) stores trauma memories which can be triggered by a variety of things, sometimes producing physical sensations in our bodies.

We touched on some of the odd things that we women go through during menopause. Changing hormone levels can bring these stored traumas to the surface, demanding to be dealt with after years of being buried deep in our memories. Our bodies are quite clever at sending us messages and will go so some lengths to get your attention.

Ever felt tired and wired? This is your body waving a white flag because it has forgotten how to flip off the alarm function, stuck at red alert. The alarm is only supposed to come on in the event of actual danger e.g. coming face to face with a tiger. Your flight and fight response is most definitely needed to get you away from the tiger. But what if the tiger isn’t there? The relentless 24/7 culture of modern life joining hands with our un-processed issues means that the alarm remains on, even in the complete absence of tigers. It’s exhausting. Our bodies and minds function much better in a nice idling state.

Palpitations. Insomnia. Jaw clenching and associated muscle tightness. Upset guts. All of them were my body crying out for help. Just remember the advice at the top of this article!!  

So, what can we do about it if issues become troublesome? Take HRT? Take antidepressants? Grit your teeth and get on with it? Or try something completely different? In my case I did all the above. Faced with a clean bill of health but still in a mess, I reluctantly concluded that I was losing my marbles. There was most definitely a hole in the bag and each marble was escaping, one by one.

Aha! A lightbulb moment!

By good fortune, my chiropractor mentioned seeing a different specialist as she had done everything possible to release my jaw muscles. She’d get them to relax and release, but a few days later they’d go back into spasm. So off to the psychologist I went, unsure if this was a viable option, but so distressed I was prepared to try anything. After a few consultations we decided to use EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. To cut a long story short, the traumas of my earlier years (bullying – and keeping my mouth shut to avoid more problems at the hands of the bullies) were re-processed, re-remembered but without the physical symptoms.

It’s not an easy treatment, but the results are so worth it. I still have my down days, where I drive myself nuts with unfounded health anxiety, but now I recognise it for what it is and know how to switch off the alarm.

Aaaand breathe!

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.

Cath (finder and keeper of marbles)

Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Cath’s adventures in Perimenopauseland episode 10 –

In episode 9 we left Cath wondering if her marriage was heading onto the rocks. it certainly felt like it was in very stormy waters. As if that wasn’t enough, Cath and family were expected to spend Christmas at her childhood home. As her parents have a muted response to Christmas, and the Dean family tend to go nuts, this clash of style was sure to give Cath the heebeegeebees!

Hooray for Christmas … and Christmas part 2!

Bearing in mind, two key factors, my parents abstemious attitude to Christmas, and the fact that it’s physically impossible to load the car with all the presents and have room for passengers, I decide we will have two Christmases this year. If I take the bare minimum, I should avoid the worst of parental disapprocal.

Wrong again Cath! Even with a drastically trimmed present allocation, I was still on the receiving end of withering looks at the pile I brought with me, coupled with the muttering under the breath about expense and extravagance. Thank God the weather was dry, allowing us time out of the house, walking in the countryside, anything to get away from the worst of the parental bickering and food/alcohol monitoring. Honestly, the two of them are worse than toddlers. If my sister and I had behaved like that we would have been punished and sent to our beds without supper. Try as I might, my best laid plans are not good enough to avoid snide comments about my weight and clothing style… oh and those looks whenever I took a sip of wine. Great, make me feel like an alcoholic, why don’t you! Well that settles it. I’m not doing this again. Christmas is going to be chez Dean from now on!

Home sweet home again and we’ve managed to source an entire Christmas dinner at the local supermarket, all at half price. I do love a bargain! As Christmas mark two unfolds, there are unexpected presents for Mr D and I. Mr D, who’d been having a miserable time at work (possibly the main reason for deciding to live like a monk), was now the joyful recipient of a new job offer. And me? I got my love life back in order. It’s amazing what happens when stress is removed and Prosecco added! The remainder of the holiday is wonderful but tainted by the ever-present perimenopause symptoms. Due to vaginal dryness and a reactivated sex-life I now know more about intimate moisturisers than I thought possible. I am seriously contemplating trying HRT patches as I am fed up with aches and pains, tinnitus, mood swings, and generally not feeling settled at all. Maybe having transdermal HRT instead of pills, will avoid the worst of the side effects.

woman girl fitness

New Year. New me (again)

In spite of myself, I can’t help but join in the whole ‘New Year, new me’ thing. As we are all heading on a major holiday to Orlando, we need to kick-start our summer body campaigns.

‘Let’s do Dry January.’ Suggests Mr D.

“Sure. How hard can it be? We only drink at the weekends. It will be a doddle, and we’ll get fit for the big holiday.’ I reply, pleased to have company for a change on my get fit campaign. I could do with a big distraction right now as I’ve just heard the twang of another apron string, in the form of Cost Centre 1’s university applications being submitted. Goodness me. The first-born could be leaving home this year! To distract myself, I plunge into a major exercise program in the hope that it complements the dry January pledge.

I look forward to the first weigh-in and am crushed when the scales have not moved one ounce. What kind of torture is? What is the blithering point of no Friday night Gin and Tonic if the scales don’t move? I buy a waist cincher to help smooth out the lumps and bumps and also to help me fit into my current clothing. At this rate I’ll be in leggings and tent tops! It is so frustrating. A few years ago a no-alcohol month along with cycling and running would have seen me lose a couple of pounds a week. Nothing seems to work now.

Maybe it is time to see the doc again. I do, but this time I’m armed with a shopping list of HRT and leave the surgery as the proud owner of a box of patches and a box of progestogen tablets. I am supposed to start them at the beginning of my next period. Given that my cycles are all over the place I have no idea when I will be starting the box. As luck would have it, I don’t have too long to wait. The long-lost cycle turns up and I head to the bathroom armed with a tiny patch.

A sticky situation!

After reading the instructions I get ready to stick it on. I give it a good talking-to, encouraging it to do its thing but to not make me feel worse thank you very much. And with those encouraging words I stick it to my belly as instructed. The glue is very good. It sticks to skin, but it also sticks to anything else it come into contact with. Later in the day, on a trip to the loo, I find the tiny square loosely stuck to my knicker elastic. I manage to grab it just as it starts to fall into the pan! Little blighter! Undeterred, I text my sister who has been using patches for a couple of years. She tells me to stick it to my butt cheek and to alternate cheeks when I change it. She also gives me good advice on how to get rid of fluff marks from previous sites otherwise your butt ends up looking like a weird patchwork quilt.

A week later it becomes apparent that the pep talk to the patch fell on deaf ears. I feel ultra-anxious. Every bodily symptom is fatal. I have now lost count of the number of times I have developed a fatal disease, and yet here I am, still very much alive. On the other hand, sleep has improved which is just as well as I have professional exams to sit at the end of the month.

woman with red lipstick biting strawberry

Oh! I say…

Improved sleep is nicely accompanied by a rampant libido. I don’t waste an opportunity, much to Mr D’s delight.  If only everything else would settle. I am still having odd symptoms. Tingling and pin and needles in my left hand and occasionally my left leg. The doc assures me all is well but to check my mattress. Actually I can’t remember when we bought it but I think he could be right. I wonder why it’s always the left side of my body, rarely the right side? I do eventually find out the answer to this but not for some time.

As the year progresses, my birthday is just around the corner. Even though I am not looking forward to it, I actually have a fun day. My family has come up trumps with a beautiful charm bracelet and my sister has surpassed herself with Tolkien inspired gifts. I am one happy little bunny. At least I was, right up till my mother phoned. Given that it’s my birthday, you would have thought that the first words from her would have been ‘Happy birthday dear’, but, this is my mum, so they are not. Instead I get a full account of her day. How special and loved by her do I feel? Not one iota.

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The mind-body connection

So far, this year has been an interesting one, and we’re only in the first quarter. I now know just how powerful an effect my state of mind can have on how my body feels and behaves but I have yet to work out a good relationship with mine, let alone interpret her signals. I had no idea how past trauma can affect the body long after the event. How many weird and scary symptoms do women experience during the perimenopause?

Rant alert! Take cover!

How woefully inadequate the educational resources are for this important time of our lives. The lack of knowledge in family doctors is scandalous. Take my last visit. It was me who showed my doc how to mix and match the oestrogen patches with a different progestogen (thank you the Menopause Matters site) to the ready-made packs usually prescribed. Even key opinion leaders are divided in their opinions on many aspects of treatment, so I guess that explains the GP situation.

However, things are changing and our doctors better get ready for it. This generation of perimenopausal women is not going sit quietly with the status quo. Nor will we tollerate an over-medicalised approach to this natural process. It will take time and courage to make the changes, but filled with justifiable anger, we will get the job done.

Rant over. And now for random ramblings

It’s funny what pops into my head when I am lost in a running session. A butt muscle starts twitching when I am speed walking and I tell it to take a chill pill,

…and it does!

Even anxiety attacks cower at my wrath when I tell them where to go. So here’s my logic on this. What if all these odd symptoms are a product of my increasingly messy mind? What if the more inner turmoil I have, the more symptoms I get? I know from my sessions with Dr Siskin that the mind is a lot more powerful than I had ever given it credit for. What if perimenopause is a time to teach ourselves to place self-care front and centre, to deal with the times from earlier years when we did not get the care and attention we needed, either as a result of others actions or our own lack of self-care? I have a very strong feeling I am on to something, but am not sure exactly what I am on to.

I feel a research session coming on.

Tune in next week for episode 11 to see how Cath and the sticky little patches get on in fabulous Florida. Will they remain steadfastly stuck to her butt in hot and humid conditions? Will Cath’s symptoms reduce while chilling out in the Disney parks?