Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Cath’s adventures in Perimenopauseland – episode 6 The mind-body connection

In episode 5  Cath experienced some really weird and scary symptoms, none of which she connected with hormonal changes. Perimenopause was wreaking relentless havoc on a daily basis. She was now on HRT and beta-blockers, and had taken the unusual (for her) step of visiting a psychologist in an effort to get rid of her symptoms.

woman sitting under tree
Having a good old sulk!

In the huff with God!

I’ve not been on speaking terms with God lately during all this scary stuff,  but I get a strong urge to do some random reading so I reach for a book I received a few years ago, “I Am With You” by Fr John Woolley.  It’s  not the sort of book you read cover to cover. I usually ask the question I need some spiritual guidance on, and just open it up at random. More often than not, the reading is appropriate.

‘Should I give this psychology thingy a go? Is it the right thing for me to do?’

Opening up the book, I flip the pages until I feel it’s time to stop, and then read the passage.
‘How cool is this! That passage is absolutely spot on!’ I smile to myself. In fact it’s so spot on it almost gives me goose bumps.

‘Okeydokey! I must be on the right path. Look at it this way Cath, Dr Siskin has been sent to you as a gift, a guide to help you.’

All I need to do is keep faith and have courage. Easier said than done for me. I don’t open up to new people easily and as for trust, well that’s a big ask. In spite of my niggling doubts, but armed with new-found courage, I dare to think that menopause might actually be an opportunity for growth instead of transforming into Snow White’s wicked old shrivelled-up witch. Indeed I dare to hope this might be an amazing thing instead of the death of my fertility. I really hope so because the HRT is not helping and neither is the beta-blocker.

‘What use is taking all these medications if I’m still having palpitations and anxiety attacks and I don’t feel any better in myself? Maybe I should come off everything? They’re costing me a blooming fortune every month and not earning their keep. I might as well flush them down the loo (please don’t do this!!) for all the good they’re doing me!’ – I do love a good rant!

Deciding not to throw my toys out of the pram!

Before I throw away my pills (not a good idea without consulting your doc. Please take unwanted meds to your pharmacist for safe disposal), I decide to book weekly sessions with Dr Siskin to work through whatever is behind all my distressing symptoms. And with that, I hereby declare that I am now officially in therapy. Who’d have thought it? Little Miss Science Nerd heading off into unknown territory. Secretly I am actually glad. For the first time, ever, I’m going to have regular dedicate sessions just for me, where I am allowed to feel each and every feeling without fear of judgement, a new freedom for me.

Pill or potion
Pill versus wine?

‘Well that’s intriguing!’ I comment to Mr D while we are enjoying a Friday Night glass of wine. ‘All those weird scary symptoms are not there when I wake up first thing in the morning.’

‘Oh, that is odd. More wine dear?’ he asks while pouring. He knows the answer is always going to be yes!

‘Yes please. And on the subject of wine, I feel almost normal after the second one! Do you think it’s possible that all this is a product of my own state of mind? I’m starting to think they might well be.’

‘I agree.’ says Mr D. He continues – ‘You look wired and tired most of the time, but still gorgeous as ever!’ giving me a big hug. Gotta love a supportive and positive hubby.

As Christmas approaches, more symptoms appear. I can now add a lump in my throat sensation to the ever-growing list. So far I have:

  • periods that are not following any discernible pattern
  • palpitations
  • irritability and mood swings
  • libido playing hide and seek
  • rampaging anxiety over the smallest of things
  • weight gain
  • insomnia

Out of interest, I google anxiety symptoms and discover that I have many of them, lump in the throat included. That helps me make up my mind. After Christmas I am going back to the doctor to see about coming off the beta-blockers. I had enough of them!

Christmas is stressful enough at the best of times but when your head is in a mess most of the time, it can be a recipe for disaster. However, things do have a way of sorting themselves out if you need it. We are not hosting this year, my in-laws are. I can breathe a sigh of relief as I am not sure what culinary disasters would have appeared from my kitchen given that the only way I can stop feeling awful is to have wine. As far as I know, perimenopause can go on for years and much as I love a glass of wine, I feel that becoming a wino in an effort to cope with the symptoms, is a bit too drastic, even for me.

‘That is it! I’ve had it with being scared.’ I shout to nobody in particular.

‘I’m going to steer the changes happening in my body instead of being a terrified passenger!’ There. I’ve said it, and stamped my foot too!

Throwing caution to the wind, I engage fully in my weekly sessions with Dr Siskin, the psychologist. I am going to be a brave wee soul and face my long-suppressed feelings, tears and all.  I’m also going to schedule regular ‘me breaks’ during the working day. After all, if smokers can take smoking breaks then I can take fresh air and daylight breaks.

Introducing a holistic approach

Now that I’ve taken the first few steps down a more holistic approach to perimenopause treatment, I take some further advice from my chiropractor and Dr Siskin, and book in with an acupuncturist, also called Catherine. It must be a sign. This time I am not googling anything (makes a change,Cath!). I actually do not want to, or need to, know how it works. I want to experience treatments that date back centuries. It turns out that Traditional Chinese Medicine developed specific acupuncture treatments for perimenopause and post-menopause centuries ago.

I love the name for menopause – Second Spring. It sounds much more exciting than our Western view. The diet, lifestyle and belief systems are very different to ours, and so is the experience of menopause. Age is respected and valued instead of being something to avoided. We Western women have to try to remain forever youthful looking or face rejection and invisibility. Wouldn’t it be great to have hair and skin products that featured “Pro” in the name, instead of “Anti”?

In episode 7 we will see the importance of the state of mind in relation to the experience of menopause symptoms and their severity.