Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Five years on…

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Where was I? (A common question for the hormonally-challenged)

Now that I am officially ‘on the other side’, one of the most frequent questions I get from my younger friends is do things calm down once you’re on the other side? Hence the subject of today’s blog.

It’s almost five years since I made the transition from Mother to Crone, aka hit menopause square in the face. That almost sounds like a one-time event. The reality is more like riding a rollercoaster you didn’t know you’d boarded! Highly unlikely in real life, but here we are nonetheless, having survived the ups, downs, stomach-churning inversions, steaming full ahead, free-falling backwards, and all the other possible directions in between.

It’s enough to make the most cast-iron stomach reel with nausea and disorientation. I’ll never know how humans can pilot fighter-planes and rocket ships. Whoever coined the old adage about it being all to do with the journey and not the destination, clearly hadn’t experienced gravity-defying transport or the menopause rollercoaster.

Back then, I was terrified of my body, the changes and perceived lack of future. What I mean by that is, the physical changes were so extreme I was convinced I was dying of some horrible disease, leach of which changed from one day to the next, one week to the next, one month to the next. The fact that I’m still here, wittering on in my blog, should tell you that I survived in spite of my worst predictions. No ghost-writers here!

Where am I now? (Another common question – similar to the ‘where did I leave my …’ question)

Fast-forward to today, I’m pleased to report that while health anxiety still creeps around, perches on my shoulder like a wee gremlin and whispers the occasional doom-laden word or two, I’m better prepared for it. Goodness knows it tried its hardest to derail me last year, what with COVID and my mother’s death. Yet here I am, in Lockdown 3.0 (England), coping well on most days, and learning to be kind to myself on the days when that blooming gremlin has delusions of grandeur.

I’m thankful that I decided to have EMDR during the worst of the perimenopause days, and that I followed up with cognitive analytic therapy. These two combined created some strong mental foundations to rely on when days are tough. On the physical front, I still get the occasional power-surge, handy on snow days, night-sweats (no electric blankets needed) and palpitations. But that’s just me. Some women continue to experience these things well into their later life. And some lucky ladies sail through without the slightest issue.

They are a minor inconvenience and can be breathed through with some clever yoga breathing techniques. So to answer the question about how things are on the other side, I’d say they’re definitely more calm, more manageable that pre-menopause. At least it seems that way to me. You may have to consult Mr D and the Cost Centres (aka kidults) for a more independent assessment.

Hopefully, post-COVID, the world will be my oyster
(other molluscs are available)

What’s next? (Nope – no smart comment here!)

In short, no idea. Hormone-wise, I guess more of the same. Some days will be fine and others may test my mettle. In the grander scheme, once we humans can mix freely without fear of catching COVID, I feel an adventure coming on… to discover somewhere completely new to Mr D and me. Oh, and I will change my employment status to foot-loose and fancy free. I’ve already started the countdown… 25 months to go!

Stay safe and well my friends.

Cath xx

Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Tales from the other side – To sleep, perchance to dream…

What is it about midlife and menopause than switches off our ability enjoy a decent night’s sleep? I can’t remember the last time I woke up to the alarm, feeling rested and recharged. Lord knows I need it. The circles under my eyes tell a sorry tale of disturbed sleep. I envy both Cost Centres (a.k.a  my kids). Their ability to fall asleep anywhere, not surfacing for a good ten hours is one I’d love to have back again.

It all began when my once-reliable hormones began to fluctuate. Up. Down. Up. Even more UP. Down to almost nothing. Back to normal. And so on. The accompanying hot flushes and night sweats are obvious culprits. I dare anyone to sleep through an inferno followed by generating puddles of sweat! Many a night I woke up to an impromptu puddle at the bottom of my rib cage! I used to keep a small towel by my bed to mop up before anything had the chance to dribble onto the bed sheets. Having mopped up and cooled off, this seemed to trigger my brain into action. It would jump onto the hamster wheel and think about all sorts of random, sometimes scary, crap. Fast-forward to today, and although I’m now post-menopausal, with supposedly level hormones, I still join the ‘sleepless at 3am brigade’ on a regular basis. Blooming annoying.

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It seems that our fluctuating oestrogen levels (or even permanently low levels) are joined by inefficient sleep hormone production. As if hot flushes and night sweats aren’t enough to contend with. This heady cocktail can make it harder to fall asleep, harder to stay asleep and more easily disturbed by noises, lights etc. In the Dean household, Cost centre 2 has a habit of gaming online with a headset on. He forgets how loud his voice is, particularly when he laughs. Once I’m shaken awake by his victory yells it’s almost impossible to fall asleep again with all that adrenaline running riot, not to mention the flushes that accompany such a rude awakening. I love him to bits but there are times when I’d cheerfully throw the broadband router out the window!!

Stress and/or anxiety are obvious causes for sleep disturbance (amongst other things). Given the above situation with noisy kids, plus my own parents’ health issues praying on my mind, coupled with added health anxiety, it’s a great recipe for ensuring I’m awake to appreciate our local population of owls hooting at each other!

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I’m certain our obsession with communications technology is unhealthy. We humans were never meant to be available 24/7. Not so long ago, winding down from the day involved a little tv, maybe a book (a real one) and then bed. Now humans seem incapable of staying off their gadgets, checking emails and social media from what used to be the quiet of the bedroom.

This is by no means a complete list. Nor does it constitute medical advice. It is simply a random list of things I’ve tried with varying success. If you are worried about your sleep, use your common sense and see a qualified healthcare professional.

Cath’s list of sleep aids.

  1. No caffeine after lunchtime – women take longer to break down caffeine than men.
  2. Limit food intake three hours before you go to bed to allow yours stomach time to digest its meal and empty itself. Late eating often leads to a spot of heartburn… that’s going to keep anyone wide awake.
  3. Get moving. Daily exercise of some form helps reduce stress levels. Just don’t have a cardio workout close to bedtime. Swap it for some chillout yoga session instead.
  4. Make sure you get the best mattress you can. After all, you spend a third of your life asleep so be as comfortable as possible
  5. Sleep in a dark room. If this isn’t possible, invest in a good sleep mask. And while we’re on the subject of light, or limiting it, no sneaky looks at your phone/tablet at least an hour before bed. Even with night mode enabled, those things are still stimulating your mind.
  6. Mindfulness – ten minutes of undisturbed calmness, focussing on just your breath, in and out, calms the brain. You can do this anywhere. I make it part of my get ready for bed routine
  7. Keep your bedroom uncluttered and tidy… a calm feeling in the bedroom goes a long way to helping you unwind
  8. Aromatherapy – lavender oil is a big favourite for invoking a calm atmosphere. Here’s my recipe for a room/bedding spray. You will need:
  9. A clean spray bottle (holds at least 30ml)
    • 30ml water
    • 5 drops clary sage
    • 5 drops frankincense
    • 5 drop geranium

Mix well and spray your room and bedding for a soothing aroma.

What do you do to ensure a decent night’s sleep? Share your top tips in the comments section.

Have a fab Friday my lovely readers xx