As if having to deal with periods for the past 40 years (yes, I was just 9 years old when they began; thank goodness I live in a country where it’s not ok to take a wife at such an age. No way on this earth should a 9 year old be able to get pregnant) for an extra kicker, Mother Nature (who, at times, is a real bitch) then throws at us the “menopause” - although technically it’s not officially named that until after you’ve gone a year without a period/bleed; the stage which we all know and believe to be menopause, is actually perimenopause (my doctor took great joy in pointing this “mistake” out to me - he’s lucky I was having a good day; he might not be here now if I hadn’t been).
Also, why is it called MENopause? Surely it should be WOMANopause because believe me I’ve certainly taken a pause from who I was due to it; at least I’m hoping it’s just a pause. I guess it was named by a man.
So, what is it and what does it mean to people (females - is there any part of a woman that doesn’t come from man? feMALE, MENopause, woMAN - jeez talk about making themselves important)? I believe that's a good question (the what is it one, not the manly one) to ask, but can't answer for anyone other than myself.
What it is (according to the “experts”) is something that women will go through when they reach a certain age (some will start younger than others; some will have hardly any symptoms, while others will have loads). The only thing I can tell you is that it is currently the bane of my life and I can't wait until it is all over (sadly it has only just begun - well, it started 3 years ago, but as I've been told it could last me 15 years (and more) then it really has only just begun).
As I have said above, I can't speak for any woman other than myself, but I'm amazed at how many different things about me and my body that have changed in the past 3 years. How many different things I now experience that I have never done before. It's like I am a completely different person (a person I really don't like some times).
I have also learned the everything I was told about the menopause, and what to expect when I reached that age, is completely different to what I am experiencing. I only ever heard about the hot flushes, occasional angry/tearful outbursts and irregular monthly cycles. This appears to not be the case; there are more than just these 3 symptoms.
Below I have listed all the things I am currently experiencing. I really hope no more get added to the mix. I've tried not to be too descriptive (I could be a lot more detailed) when explaining the symptoms but at the same time I don't want to skirt around them; if someone had explained to me a little bit more I might have been better prepared and known what to expect when the time came.
This is the oddest sensation I think I have ever experienced. It started back in the summer of 2016 when it was a lot warmer. At first I put it down to the heat, then I blamed my cat and dog saying they were obviously infested with fleas. A trip to the vets ensued, where I was told there wasn't a thing to be found on them (good job really or I would have wasted a fortune on flea treatments for them both).
Next I blamed washing powder and actually contacted the company whose product I use and have always used to see if they had changed any of the ingredients in their washing powders. They came back with a definite no.
An allergy test showed there was nothing wrong there either. This left just one thing. The Menopause. The itchy, crawling feeling I experience on a regular basis can apparently be associated with menopausal women. I had never heard about this sensation before. Whenever women I know that have been through all this were talking about their symptoms, not one of them ever mentioned the crawling.
It literally feels as though billions of tiny little insects are crawling all over, under and through the skin. The sensation is not just isolated to one part of my body either. It happens all over, from top to toe. The only thing that seems to help is by taking an antihistamine (although my doctor told me they probably only act as a placebo to my own mind, and aren't actually helping, as the sensation is not related to an allergy *point to note if you do take one, make sure it's non-drowsy if you're at work*. However; if taking one makes me think the issue is treated then so be it. Sod what some doctor says.
Flushes (Topical Moments)
Over the years I have worked with many women going through the menopause (what delightful working conditions I have dealt with at times). I have witnessed many of them having their hot flushes (or tropical moments as they are called these days). Oddly all these women appeared to experience them in the same way. They started by suddenly going very red in the face; next they would begin to fan themselves, before removing layers of clothing. This would be accompanied by them sweating quite badly (enough for it to run down their faces or for their clothes to get very wet at times).
I have not had this happen. While theirs seemed to work from the outside and top to bottom, mine come from within and start pretty much in the centre of my body. They start with the odd sensation of having wet myself (when I in fact haven't and am not damp in that area at all - sorry if that's too much info for some of you). I then feel my body warm from the inside, as if someone has lit a fire in the pit of my stomach, causing the blood in my veins to bubble slightly, before reaching boiling point. I end up feeling as though every part of my body is at this boiling point, except for the very outer layer of my skin which always feels icy. It's as if this icy layer is keeping the heat inside and not letting it escape. These moments can last anywhere from 5 minutes to several hours. I do get to the stage sometimes in bed where I suddenly have to rip off every item of clothing I may be wearing, before throwing the covers off; annoyingly though as soon as I do this (because of the icy feeling) I then need to pull everything back on and over. I don't seem to be able to find a happy balance between the 2 extremes of temperature. To feel boiling hot and freezing cold at exactly the same time is truly a very odd experience.
I have noticed that for several days each month, I have the tolerance level of a bear that has been woken from hibernation with a raging toothache, or a wasp that has had enough of being swatted away from the pot of jam.
I've always been the kind of person that gets irritated by things quite easily, but could normally do other things to stay tolerant. Not any more. The things that just irritated me before, now wind me up to the point where I could happily bitch slap people; I've even been tempted to wrap a keyboard around someone’s head (the other day I had the urge to stab a screwdriver in someone's eye; thankfully I am still rational enough to know not to do that, but it doesn't stop me wanting to). I think out of all the bits and pieces I'm experiencing this is the worst one. I have no control over any of them (they strike when they want to). There are pills, creams or people to talk to when the others symptoms make an appearance, but this anger just comes from nowhere.
Talking to people about how I am feeling when this irritability hits me, just pisses me off more because they tell me to ignore it (if I could ignore it I wouldn't be getting so angry in the first place). Other people have told me to get some HRT but I remember when I was on the pill what taking things to alter your natural body and hormones can do; if I was to feel anywhere near the way I did when I was taking the pill then there's no way in the world I would take anything (. I was evil back then, with a capital E. I actually managed to lift a 22 stone man (I weighed about 9 stone at the time) out of the arm chair he was sunken in to by the throat, before dragging him into the kitchen. I was just about to bring the blade of a bread knife across his throat when my friend walked in and stopped me. If the people telling me to play with my hormones had known me then they would beg me to stay away from any kind of HRT. Thankfully the doctor has backed me up and told me not to take HRT anyway).
I knew that one of the symptoms was that some women become more emotional. As someone already that can cry at a movie (and who will never watch certain films because I know I will cry) I had prepared myself for this, or so I thought. I can cry at things that haven't happened yet. How mad is that? Just thinking about something bad that might (or might not) happen and I'm a blubbering wreck. Sometimes just sitting doing a crossword can bring about tears. There is no rhyme or reason to it at all. I can understand if I am watching/reading something sad or if I am talking about someone that is no longer here. But doing a crossword? Whatever is there to cry about when doing a puzzle? Oh no look, I got 3 down right, oops, here come the tears. It's absolutely ridiculous. How do you explain to someone when they ask what's wrong, that there is nothing wrong? I'm amazed I've not been committed to a mental institution at times.
Dryness - then not.
I'd heard about how some women suffer from a form of vaginal dryness (sorry to any males that may be reading from this point onwards, although it may help you understand your woman if you are :o) ) . Now as someone that's not currently sleeping with anyone (let's face it starting a relationship when I'm blowing from hot and cold each day would not be a wise decision) I didn't think this would affect me (just shows how even at my age it is still possible to be ignorant of things). When I'd heard about it I thought it meant you got a little dry in the old canal down there, meaning that it can make it painful when having sex. I didn't actually understand/realise it meant the whole of my vaginal area (inside and out) would become dry. I also didn't know that along with that dryness comes the itching. So bad sometimes I want to get a hair brush to scratch (not good when out and about). It can be totally unbearable one minute, the next back to being normal and moist. So very odd. The worst thing is I have long nails and sometimes I just have to scratch. I have been known to take the layer of delicate skin just inside the area off, causing an awful lot of bright red blood to appear. Really not a nice experience. I did think at one point that maybe a friend had crabs or something, and I’d caught them by peeing at their house (I don’t use public lavatories). I even went so far as to get myself tested at the clinic. No, nothing like that; just my womanly body doing womanly things.
Then for 6 days a month it all gets a bit gloopy - again, I'm sorry to any men reading. By gloopy I don't mean (what do I not mean?). It's hard to explain really. It feels constantly as if you are wetting yourself (thank goodness for tena lady :) ) yet there's nothing wet at all. The Tena's stay dry; the only thing that lets you know things are a bit off is when you pee and wipe - that's when the gloopy feeling/experience happens.
Hair (top and bottom)
"Some women may experience thinning hair" it said in a leaflet I read that the doctor gave me about the menopause. What it didn't mention is how, yes the hair down below may thin out a little bit, but that it might also spread further than it did before. At one time I had a nice, neat little triangle. I now have a triangle with a semi-circle shape at the top, and an extra trail on it that pretty much stretches all the way round to my butt. WTF is that all about? I know that some blokes when they go for waxing have a back, sack and crack wax, but I never believed that as a woman I would have to ensure such a thing (minus the back and sack.. haha). I can no longer go to the salon to be waxed due to the embarrassment of it all, and as such have had to invest in a bikini line trimmer that has an epilator attachment (I am sure you can only imagine how much water that can bring to the eyes when you reach the no-man's land area between front and back?). For those of you that have never used an epilator, grab some tweezers and pull several pubic hairs out at the same time - that will give you some idea. Then continue for every single hair you have :)
Then there is the hair upon my head. Thankfully that's not thinning quite as quick (although there are way too many grey hairs appearing at an alarming rate) but no matter what shampoo I use, I just can't get it to look clean. I can wash it, blow dry it, get it looking luscious, then half an hour later I look like someone has emptied a chip pan over my head. My fringe hangs in clumpy odd shaped pieces, that often stick further up my forehead, when it should be falling like a lovely shimmery curtain, ending just above my eyebrows (those things now have a mind of their own too and over night 6 inch ones that grow at random angles can appear). The rest of my shoulder length brunette locks (ok, ok, greying locks), that only minutes before had bounce movement and body to them, now just hang like damp streamers caught in a rainstorm. Add to that the exceptionally itchy scalp which brings about delightful dandruff style flakes, and you really do have a contradiction in itself.
I also now have a mustache that needs to be waxed at the salon once-a-month. Not a full-on bushy mustache, but enough hairs (thankfully very fine and pale ones) at the top edges of my lips to be noticable if I don’t get them seen to.
From being someone that had a cracking memory (other people used to tell me what they were up to weeks in advance so I could remind them) I now find myself in the position of having to set reminders on my phone, computer, on notelets dotted about, and tell other people what I'm up to, just to remember even the most mundane thing. To begin with I joked it was because I had so many different things to remember, but I know that's not the reason. I know it all connects with my Inability and Stupidity, which all lead back to menopause (at least I hope it's all part of the same thing; not sure I'm quite ready to be losing my mind just yet). It's amazing how quickly I can forget what I am doing too. I can go to the kitchen to put the kettle on and think of something that needs doing (that's a memory so it doesn't always fail me) but after doing that I'll go on to do something else. An hour or 2 later I might suddenly remember I was making a drink. It gets frustrating at work though as I should always be at the top of my game then. Having a bad memory at work is not a good thing and I've made some real newbie errors recently because of this memory loss (and as someone that's been doing the same job for 30 years a Newbie error is something I should ''never''' make).
I've experienced hormonal headaches since I first became a woman (not that I was a woman when it all first kicked off; you can hardly call a 9 year old a woman) so I've learnt to live with and deal with them over the years. A minor one will go, a bad one will need a pill or 2 to get rid. A really bad one might require more than 2 pills, a bucket to be sick in and a dark room to lay down and hopefully sleep. The headaches I've had recently don't seem to fit in to any of these categories. They really are just an ache. A dull, thudding ache either at the back/top of the head, or behind the eyes but deeper inside the head. They don't require a pill as such because they don't cause any pain, but now and then a pill has been taken to see if it will remove it (it's more annoying than painful) however, so said pill has no effect whatsoever. It's all very odd; almost like the very first twinges of what could be an absolute corker of a head splitter, but it never gets any worse, yet doesn't get any better. It just comes at some point during the day, and leaves as quickly at another point during the day. It doesn't matter what I eat or drink. If one is going to appear it will, but I know it will leave equally as quickly as it arrives whenever it feels like it. Occasionally the beginnings of a migraine will start - those of you that have those will understand the kaleidoscope that goes on in your peripheral vision. If I catch them the second I get the first flashes I can avoid it being too bad, but let it go on longer than 3 minutes and I'll stick my head down the loo, pop a dozen pills and pray that the end comes quickly.
Sleep is something I don't experience much of (see the paragraph below) but when I do there are the nightmares; ones that can't be remembered upon waking, yet you know they were bad by the way it's hard to catch your breath. I can feel my heart not just pounding, it is literally beating against my chest with a sledge hammer to get out. The terror that opening my eyes or looking around the room is going to show something that I really don't want to see or couldn't cope with. Is there someone in the house about to axe me to death? or worse? All rationale goes out the window in those split seconds between waking and getting a grip back on reality; add to that any fears I normally have at the best of times, being heightened by 100 (or more) %. If you're afraid of the dark then begin sleeping with the lights on when menopause hits. If you have a fear of spiders (or any other creepy crawly, rodent, slithery thing) then get someone else to regularly check your house for these fears will be worse than they've ever been. Ghosts? do they exist? don't they? it doesn't matter. Any rhyme or reason will go out the window. I am a massive skeptic of anything paranormal, but during those waking moments after the nightmares I'd believe in anything. Thankfully the cold light of day puts everything back into perspective, however, at the time nothing will alter or take away those feelings.
I climb into bed tired; sometimes at the point of exhaustion as I've had a week of insomnia, nightmares when I have actually managed an hours sleep, tearful moments which add to the tiredness, and I am ready to close my eyes and not open them until the following morning.
My head hits my lovely soft pillows, my body sinks into my mattress. The room is pitch black. I close my eyes, I feel my body relax then my mind begins to drift. I'm falling asleep, then '''BOOM''' I'm wide awake. My eyes feel heavy so I close them again. I want to sleep. I know thinking about not sleeping will stop me, so I go through the relaxation techniques I have been taught. My feet relax, ankles, legs, my whole body is relaxed. My mind is silent, I'm about to drop. '''Wham''' it ain't gonna happen. Do I get up? Read a book maybe? Make a camomile tea? I've tried them all. Lavender (hate the smell but was willing to try anything). Geranium oil (in a red hot bath this helped relax me but again within an hour I was awake for the rest of the night). Calms, Sleep Aid, Doctor Prescribed sleeping pills. Nothing. It doesn't matter what I do, something inside refuses to let me sleep.
This lack of sleep at night then means at random points during the day I suddenly find myself almost at the point of nodding off; how is that ever a good thing? One minute bouncing around doing what needs to be done, the next my eyes tell me they're tired. Does that sound mad? My eyes tell me? They do though. It's a different kind of tired to the general *yawn, I'm tired*. Suddenly my eyes become heavy and ready to close; at these moments I could also cry very easily even when there is nothing to cry about it. It's as if my eyes are saying "If you won't let us shut for sleep then we'll just cry". It really is all very random.
I really won't go into details on the boil sized cysts that make an appearance now and then in a very delicate area. Showing one of these to your doctor, expecting them to make you walk away with a big sign round your neck saying '''unclean''' is just the pits.
Thankfully the doctor said "oh poor you, one of the downsides of raging hormones I'm afraid. Try not to scratch them so they don't get infected; other than that there is nothing you can do to rid yourself of them. Do change to an antibacterial wash though rather than a regular shower gel, oh and '''don't''' keep washing a dozen times a day. That won't help. It's nothing to do with being unclean, it's purely a hormonal imbalance". Yeah right.
They can also be quite painful as they raise up from the surface. Luckily they don't hang around too long but anything over an hour is too much.
Oddly I can cope with most of these symptoms if I put my mind to it, but the mushy head drives me crazy. I used to be one of those people that no matter what was going on in my life, could still function in my day to day life and at work. At home I'd be a complete mess, but nothing ever affected my ability to do my job. Now? Nightmare. I have to write things down (see memory loss above), have made some really silly mistakes that should never be made, mistakes that the usual me would never have made. That is beyond frustrating. Those moments have almost on many occasions bought me to tears. It's just basic functioning. I could do my job with my eyes closed while doing handstands sinking in quicksand, backwards. Now to suddenly find that at times I am not capable of doing the most basic thing does my head in so badly it's unbelievable. As for any kind of concentration skills I may have previously had, they've gone right out of the window. I have the attention span of a teenage hormonal lad that's just watched a perfect figured 20 something female walk by in a bikini. A big fat Zilch. I can't even tell you how my accounts package at work can reduce me to tears, and if one more person tells me it's not difficult I will batter them with a big stick. With the old ‘me’ head I might agree with them, but inside this mushy head it's bloody difficult. Again this is wildly frustrating for someone like me that used to pick things up easily.
What a great one that is. I have this very day had one of those such stupid moments. All morning my shoe had been really tight on my foot to the point where it felt like it was really pinching. I assumed it was because I am wearing thicker socks than I had on yesterday. Turns out it's because I had the laces tied too tightly. All morning. 7 hours I was in them, for 7 hours they pinched. At what point did I become a stupid person that doesn't think to check the tightness of the laces, before looking for another reason as to why they pinch? It's these kinds of things that are so not me, well the me that hadn't reached this point in my life.
It wasn't until I got home the other night I realised I had spent all day at work with my top on, not only back to front, but inside out (thanks to anyone that saw me that day and didn't bother to tell me). How did I not notice? It was a v-neck top, not a bloody polar neck. One day recently I managed to put every single item of clothing on either inside out or back to front, although thankfully that time I noticed this myself before I left for work.
I've put my freshly made cup of tea in the fridge, and left the milk on the side. Not so long ago I forgot to take the microwave meal out of the metal dish it was in. Have you ever seen what happens when you set a microwave to high for 12 minutes and hit the start button? I don't advise trying it I must admit.
Another embarrassing one is the amount of wind that pushes it's way from my body. I'll admit I've never been one not to pass it now and then, but '''never''' to the levels since this all kicked off. Pre this age I might have been able to hold it in or be a bit more discreet. Now there is no hope of that happening unless I literally want to blow up (which would then make a real mess with my body parts splashed all over the place). Mind you I'd rather it come out than have the feeling of needing to let it go but not being able to. The pain of holding it in I can tell you resembles a mild period pain kind of ache.
Not something I had ever suffered with in my old life (let's face it this is now the new me and my new life). Several times in recent weeks I've actually thought I was in the middle of heart attack (not helped by the bouts of paranoia that often take over me, which make me believe my time really is up even though I'm nowhere near ready for it to be right now). Thankfully a dose of one of those liquids that is meant to ease indigestion does help (as does a really good belch). At that point the pain goes and my head reminds me that I'm not in the midst of my untimely death. It can be quite frightening the first time it happens and I have a new sympathy for anyone that has ever suffered from indigestion.
Even more up and down than they were before - and they were bad enough. At least before I would get a period pain or 2 several days before it started. That could be every 9 days, or every 8 weeks. There was no pattern to them but the pain would give me the head's up. Now though, it just happens. Sometimes there are 15 days between one ending and the next beginning, other's there can be 40 days between the end and beginning, but they all just start with no warning. A couple last year lasted more than 50 days - FIFTY days and it was non-stop. No gradual buildup and slow down; just BOOM. For 50 days. The pain comes the day after now, by which time I have learned it's happening, because it's already happening. The ‘proper’ ones still last 9 days though - that much hasn't changed, and there is no build up or down, they start heavy, the continue heavy, and they remain heavy until they just stop. It costs me a fortune in sanitary products (which we have to pay VAT on because they're classed a 'Luxury' and not a necessity. How the FFFF can they be a luxury?). The non-proper ones can last weeks. I’m currently experiencing a ‘non-proper’ It started on Friday 3rd May (at the time of writing this it’s Tuesday 21st May). Every day since it started I’ve had to ‘be prepared’ which means using a sanitary napkin ‘just-in-case’ because one hour I may have a bleed, the next I won’t. One day I may have nothing at all (except when I wipe after peeing) the next I may have a full-on day (although this time I’ve not a full-on; yet). The non-proper’s usually last like this until what would have been my next due date when they will either stop, or produce a ‘proper’ period. Thankfully, I only get 2 or 3 of these a year, however, that’s 2 or 3 too many. No woman wants to be wasting money on having to wear a sanitary napkin every day just on the off-chance something may materialize.
Another joyful experience is the swollen feet and *kankles*. I'd say it's due to water retention but I can still pee for England with much regularity so it's nothing to do with that. Before I might have blamed it on the fact I am on my feet all day but now I have people working with me I tend to spend more time sitting with my feet up doing paperwork, and all the boring crap that goes with it, but for several days a month no matter what I do, my kankles swell up, and I look like an oldie that's not been taking her water pills enough.
Anything sweet (which for a savoury person is really quite concerning). Strawberry sour pencils are a particular fave (although I don't like how their outer sugary coating makes my teeth feel). Not just those though, I've discovered I also like mini caramel shortbread (never liked before) and rocky road bites are to die for. I could eat a dozen jam doughnuts in one go, and follow it up with sweets, and more sweets. I was always a savoury person before, only wanting anything sweet the day before the hormones kicked in. Now, I could eat sugary shit all day, every day, with the odd bag of savoury chips thrown into the mix. I was a fat bint before this all started; now I’m huge and yet still I eat. The constant feeling of being hungry never seems to go away. I’ve now cut out carbs though so all those sweet goodies are no more.
Another thing I have noticed is how a rash will suddenly appear for no reason. Nothing there one minute, the next there is a mini rash, or a couple of bite style looking spots that will itch like buggery. Half an hour later they will be gone again. Now to me if they were bites of any kind they would certainly hang around a bit longer than a few hours (and normally in my experience they need cream or an antihistamine to get rid of the things) but these just come and go. Anywhere and any when. On my arm, leg, back, I've even had them on my bum. Who would have thought such little things as hormones (what are hormones?) could cause so much chaos. These rashes are totally separate to the crawling skin.
This one worried me for a while (so much so I made a trip to the doctors - ooh look there's that paranoia again) but every now and then the old heart rate seems to race (or feels like it's racing) as if I've just run a mile in 4 minutes, when I could in fact just be sat watching TV. Once this racing starts, it's slightly scary, sets off the paranoia, which in turn then causes the heart to race a bit more with the fear and extra adrenalin. It turns out this is all perfectly normal and to be expected. Now when it happens, rather than panicking (thinking I'm having a heart attack) I just take some nice deep breaths, and normally within a matter of minutes things are all back beating as they should be. Again though this is something I never knew could happen.
A new symptom that started 4 months ago is dry eyes. This one scared me a bit at first as I have a friend who works tirelessly to raise money for brain tumour research and I got myself bang on that it was all to do with that, but it's another symptom - oddly it happens around the time the gloopyness happens. Basically I wake up in the morning and my right eye is so dry it feels as though someone's thrown sand in it. Occasionally it feels as though it has something in it, other times it's just the dryness. It lasts no more than half an hour, and if I rub it (stupid thing to do really with an eye) then it waters eventually and that sorts it again until the next morning. A couple of times I have woken in the middle of the night and experienced it (one day it even happened with the left eye) but it only lasts a couple of mornings a month and the rest of the time it's all normal.
As a teenager I was lucky enough not to have to worry about spots; a lot of my friends would get some quite nasty ones, but it was a very rare occurrence for me to suffer with such things. Not so much now. I keep finding (feeling to begin with) huge red angry looking things at the side of my nose and on my chin. They take days to do anything (other than look red and angry) and are not nice at all. They don't help the paranoia either as I feel like my customers are all staring at that awful red spot when I am serving them; how are they ever able to take me seriously when I am exploding like a recycled teenager?
As you can see, I've been having some odd and different experiences since this all kicked off. I didn't have to share them with you all, but I was sat here waiting for the crawling feeling to wear off after taking another pill, so thought I'd explain to those of you that have been putting up with me recently, why I might be acting more strange than normal.
To any ladies that haven't yet hit menopause I hope I may haven't made you dread the inevitable even more; for all it's faults and annoyances I do know that in a few years (possibly 13 more) it will all be over-and-done with and life can return to normal.
To all you males that took the time to read through this, when your ladies hit menopause don't go giving them a hard time. Remember this thread and know if she is threatening to rip your head off, it may not be because you've done something, it could be because you've done nothing :)
I forget to mention (see memory) that I also, at times, lose the ability to spell or will miss out words. I find this really hard as I was always an exceptional speller yet now find I just can't remember how to spell certain things - even the most basic of words.