About five months ago, my life was turned upside down. There was no sweet introduction, just a BIG BANG! Literally, I started to experience the symptoms of menopause within a few days. I should say, a few hours, but in order to keep this post believable, I’ll tell a little, white lie.
It was overnight that my thinking became unclear and foggy. I couldn’t remember things. It was so severe, that I forgot to write my posts for Facebook – and I wasn’t even aware I’d missed them. My calendar on my phone, became my new best friend. I would schedule EVERYTHING! It was so severe, that Matilda was concerned, and we only chat about twice a week. My memory loss panicked her somewhat.
Another terrible symptom was the vaginal dryness! Oh my word! It was painful to wear trousers that were just a teeny bit tight. I hope this isn’t TMI, but I guess if you’ve experienced this, you will understand my need to share it. And why should we feel shame for sharing something, that might just make another woman feel free?
Then there was the acne. I never even had acne as a teenager! What the heck? Seriously? As if period pains and giving birth weren’t enough punishment. Now don’t get me wrong. I was one of those women who thought I’m going to sail through menopause. I’m 52 in a week or so, so I thought it had somehow passed me by undetected, when… Wham! Night sweats! OMG! I couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted, but I’d be asleep for about an hour, and I’d wake up and have to throw all the blankets off. Thankfully, this started in our winter, so I quickly cooled down after opening up my body.
But, as if that wasn’t enough, I got the hot flushes (flashes) during the day too. This past winter, was a mild one for sure, but honestly, not once, and I kid you not, not once, did I wear a jacket or a coat. Oh, I styled them for Instagram, but they came right back off after the pic was taken. It has felt like winter didn’t even happen.
And then… Weight gain. I was the same weight in my 20’s. I had my son at 33, and after losing the baby weight, besides a short period where I gained weight (also related to hormonal issues, after which I had a hysterectomy), I was the same weight until 5 months ago. Within 3 weeks, I’d gained 3kgs (about 6.6 pounds)! For someone who is only 5′, this is instantly noticeable. When I eventually took myself off to my doctor, her first comment was how much weight I’d gained, and that was before she put me on the scale. How rude?
We tried a low dose of estrogen via a pessary, which she felt would give me the greatest relief for the vaginal dryness. It worked like a charm. Within just a few short weeks, I began to feel ‘normal’ again. The fogginess lifted and my mind started to function in a somewhat acceptable manner. My dryness disappeared (which really was my worst symptom, as it caused pain). I had some breast tenderness in the beginning, but after about 4 weeks, that dissipated. However, I developed such an appetite. Here I was, trying to watch my diet, and exercising everyday (walking 3-4kms per day), but I just wanted to eat everything in sight. And it wasn’t the healthy food I was drawn to. I was hungry all the time, and would try eat a banana, or an apple, or sometimes, I’d have a small bunch of grapes, but my appetite was never satisfied, until I’d had a sandwich or slice of toast.
I know bread is dangerous, but that was all that settled my hunger. I was never a big eater, and would regularly leave food on my plate at dinner time, but now, I could polish my plate within a few minutes. My daughter noticed this too. She’d remark on my increased appetite with a little bit of sarcasm. (How dare she?) But I knew it was the truth.
Then came all the side effects. Yes, my skin was looking better. Yes, my vagina wasn’t dry. Yes, my mind wasn’t foggy – But, I gained even more weight. Then I started to develop erythema nodosum (painful, raised nodules along my shin). I’d experienced this before twice in my life, so diagnosed myself even before going to the doctor AGAIN! (Did I ever mention I hate visiting the doctor?) My hair started falling out in handfuls. And finally, I lost sight, quite literally, of my ankles. I was retaining so much water.
So back to the doctor I went and again she remarked how much weight I had gained. Fortunately this time, it would seem that most of the weight was from the water retention, but we discussed all my side effects, and she felt that there were just way to many cons to me taking estrogen, that it was better if I went off it for a while.
So here I am now. I am working hard at losing the excess weight. I really do want a waist again. Did I mention that most of the weight is around my middle and my breasts? None of my bras fit anymore. I am going shopping to be fitted for a new size. I don’t even know what size I am anymore.
As I write this, I remind myself that I have always been healthy. What I am going through, is normal, and this too shall pass. My life has become all about drinking 2.5L of water per day, to naturally flush my system to assist with the water retention. I must say, it is helping. I do have ankles again, especially in the morning. I am doing some mat work for exercises in the mornings. I didn’t even mention that I have neuromas in both my feet, and am unable to walk for exercise. For that, which is totally unrelated to the menopause or estrogen intake, I see a surgeon in just over a month’s time. However, my life has become about water and salads. But I am determined to not let the lack of estrogen, get the benefit of me. I am determined to stay positive, to get to the other side of this, and to be healthy.
At weigh-in this morning, I am down 2kgs. I still have 2.5 to go to be at my pre-menopause weight, but I am committed to this journey. I am devoted to being the best version of me still. I don’t want to be harsh on myself for the change in my body. I want to celebrate this season in my life, as there is so much going on within my psyche that needs to find expression – but that is a post for another time. My body-positive attitude needed some readjustment, but in and through all of this, I can say, I will never ever minimize another’s experience with menopause. Not that I ever did, but although my symptoms were abrupt in their appearance, and intense in their severity, I feel that my 3 months on estrogen, gave me pause for thought. I feel more prepared to face this season now. I am grateful for the respite I had. It has helped me to reset my mindset.
If anyone reading this post, in any way relates to my experience, I would love to hear from you in the comment section. I do have a sense, I am not alone.