Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

A light in dark places…

I feel a quote coming on… “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” And the reason? Last time I had a good menopausal mutter on here I had just taken delivery of a medical-grade lightbox in an effort to improve mood and motivation. The idea is to sit in front of this box for at least 30 minutes to an hour every morning to reduce melatonin production (the sleepy hormone) and increase serotonin (the cheery hormone).

If only I could remember to sit still for an hour in the morning. I think this would be easier in an office environment. At home it’s almost impossible. Someone needs cars moving so they can get to work. Morning chores of laundry, tidying up, dog feeding etc. all demand attention, paid work needs attending to and so on. Before I know it, it’s almost 11.30am. Do I give it a quick 30-minute blast then, or wrap up and head off out into natural light to walk the dog? Some days the natural light is more than enough. Other days it’s so dark outside that my home office lights are on all day. If I switch the box on in the afternoon, do I risk reducing the sleepy hormone and have a devil of a job getting to sleep that night?

The joy of sleeping through till alarm clock time!

These are real dilemmas. It’s a question of balance. If I’m too tired to function due to a rotten night’s sleep, I am the first to admit to being a little feisty and brain fogged. On the other hand, if I boost my cheery hormone levels, surely this will be good for everyone. So far, in this short trial, I think it actually might be helping. At least from my point of view I feel less down in the dumps, so that’s got to be a good thing. The family haven’t complained about Grumpy Mum for a while either. Mind you, it still has to get me through the marathon cooking session that is Christmas. If I’m still on an even keel by New Year’s Day, I’ll happily recommend it.

Meanwhile, I’m using other types of light as therapy – Christmas lights. Usually, we are first in our village to switch on the outdoor lights. Not this year. We weren’t pipped to the post. We were utterly beaten by 14 days! Now, I love the big switch-on but not just after Halloween and Bonfire Night (5thNov)! I’m not that wedded to wining this unofficial race so we will continue to do our switch-on on 1st December.

I may need to up my game! These are gorgeous.

This weekend seems to be the sweet spot for deploying outdoor decorations. Every other house in our village had someone up a ladder, with a partner looking on and handing up lights and fixings. It really cheers up the long dark nights when driving home. I love seeing the variety of styles and ingenuity needed to reach the tops of trees. I may need to borrow a cherry picker next year if I’m to keep up with our neighbours!

Our indoor lighting is looking magical (according to me). It took me hours to drape swags of greenery, woven with a gazillion twinkling lights, across the conservatory windows. Trying to get each swag to line up with its neighbour was a frustrating, but satisfying experience, even if the air turned blue at one point when some of it came undone. What’s pleased me the most is the wireless controller that switches on the power to the conservatory and the Christmas arrangement in the lounge. I feel like an extra from the Harry Potter movies, waving the controller at each room, and with a click of a button, powering up each arrangement. I can dream!

In the meantime, I hope each of you stay safe and well.

Cath xx

Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Signs of positive change at last!

This post is a full-on ‘menopausal mutter’. I’m giving you fair warning now. Feel free to close this post down now and browse through my other posts.

Are you sure you want to go on? Menopause alert!!

Still with me? Ok. Here we go. At the end of last month, the UK Government made a monumental decision which will affect menopause treatment costs for 51% of our population. Not only that, but a task force has been set up to address the appalling lack of support for menopause in the workplace. Medical schools are adding this neglected subject to their curricula and HR departments are being actively encouraged to develop policies to help everyone in the workplace, not only those of us going through these unavoidable changes.

Med school curricula will be upgraded to include menopause

My last brush with HRT was quite an expensive one – even though the product was one tablet, because it contained two substances I was charged per substance, not per prescription! The new charging scheme looks like we pay once for a years’ worth of repeat prescriptions, and those preparations with two substances will only incur one charge. This step is not as far as most of us wanted it to go, considering we have no choice in the matter. It’s not as if we can avoid menopause. But for now, it will do.

I’m five years postmenopausal and still having the odd flush and night sweat. In a cool yoga studio, I was the only one removing layers. The more mature ladies in the class noticed and said, ‘enjoy your trip to the tropics!’ Five minutes later the layers went back on as my thermostat went the other way and I felt like a flexible block of ice.

Most days these temperature fluctuations are more or less manageable, if a little embarrassing. What’s not so manageable are the other things menopause brings with it. Brain fog, loss of self-confidence, inability to focus. I could go on, but I’ve misplaced my list. An odd thing just happened as I typed the word ‘list’. As the letter ‘u’ is right next to the letter ‘I’ on my keyboard, I accidentally typed the word ‘lust’. Maybe this was my subconscious having a little laugh at my expense. She’s not wrong either, more’s the pity!

Did I say that out loud?

Five years ago, I would have simply accepted my lot. Back then HRT was demonized, held in reserve in case of persistent patients, and even then, only for a short time. Fast forward to today, and I’m delighted to report a complete overhaul of prescribing pathways and duration of treatments. Not only that, but it also turns out that there are more benefits than previously understood… the balance of risk versus benefit has swung back in favour of benefits. 

This information has yet to percolate all the way through to our local GPs. My grumpy/feisty self won’t let me be fobbed off easily, so I’ve decided to bypass the local doc in favour of seeing an actual menopause expert privately. I realise that’s not an option for everyone, but I can, and so I will. It’s a measure of how much we need more of these services when I’m on a waiting list to join the patient list!! While I wait, they’ve sent me a link to download one of the few NHS-approved apps for my phone. I’m now taking part in various observational projects looking into post-menopausal symptoms and treatments. What fun. My first experiment is looking at the use of medical-grade daylight lamps and improvements in sleep and mood over the dark months. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I wish you all a safe and healthy weekend.

Cath xx