THE BIG M…
This is me.
However, that is not what the M in the title stands for. The M stands for menopause. Yes, that’s right!
“But you are too young!”
“You are only in your early 40s!”
“No, it can’t be!”
I have heard those comments many times (and keep hearing them as I am talking to people about this).
It all started when I was in my early 40s. Life was as calm as it can be when you have two young children, lead a busy life and have very little time for yourself. I had weird things going on: memory loss, hair falling out, strange skin (like teenage skin), no libido and various other things.
Everyone told me I was stressed and needed to change my life. The thing is though, I wasn’t at all stressed. Not more than usual.
What made me think something was up though was waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. And this is a fact about me: I don’t sweat. Even when exercising I don’t really sweat and never have. And, I would wake up some nights literally dripping from sweat.
I Googled my various symptoms (as you do) and the results were the same: menopause. To say that I was in shock was an understatement.
So, I went to the GP and got blood tests done. I had some minor abnormal hormone levels and when I mentioned the menopause, my GP said there might well be something to that and she referred me to the UCLH menopause clinic.
A few months later, I saw a consultant, Mr Vikram Talaulikar, who asked about me, my symptoms etc. What I learned was this: what relief to hear him say “yes, what you are experiencing is normal and it is called the peri-menopause”. I remember thinking: the peri-what?!
He explained to me that the stage before hitting the actual menopause is this phase called the peri-menopause. He also told me that it could be 6 months, 2 years or 10 years (yes, you read that correctly!) until I would hit menopause itself which is when your periods stop and you can’t get pregnant (naturally).
Given my young age (young in terms of menopause), and that I most likely still have a long way to go before I reach that time, he suggested I try to cope without anything. As I have acupuncture regularly and don’t like hormonal treatments (I also can’t cope with them; they make me feel unwell), he suggested I continue with acupuncture and he also referred me to another part of their menopause clinic which uses alternative therapies where I have regular check-ups with a different consultant.
He also sent me off for more blood tests and also a bone density scan. Your bone density is an indicator as to where you are in that phase and it is very important to check it for osteoporosis as women are particularly affected by that (and in particular if they reach their menopause early) as their bodies change and stop producing eggs.
I use an app called Natural Cycles tracking my cycles and in the past few years I have started noticing (what to me seems like) a link between my daily temperature, night sweats and weird physical things like strange skin, raging moods and unusual (for me at least) periods etc.
It feels strange to be in this new and uncharted personal territory. It also brings up many thoughts about womanhood, fertility, pregnancy and babies. After our son was born in 2014, I knew I didn’t want to have another child, but now that I am aware of my body changing and that it may not be possible in x years, I find that I am asking myself: Are you sure you don’t want another one?! You know it may soon be too late.
What I am very aware of though as I have another lapse of complete loss of memory or fail to think of yet another word, and talk to women about this is that nobody talks about menopause and very few women understand it until it happens to them.
The fact that there is something called the peri-menopause and that that stage can last so long, seem to be things hardly anyone I talk to is aware of. And, I was one of those women too until not that long ago.
Let’s talk about menopause because it is very real and it will happen to all women!
Clinics & Doctors
I see Mr Vikram Talaulikar and he is excellent. He has really helped me and I am now on HRT – thankfully I tolerate them – after my symptoms became unbearable.
Dr Louise Newson has a clinic and also a wonderful website with so much information. She posts a lot on her Instagram page and it is incredibly informative.
Andrea McLean’s book helped me a lot and I highly recommend it.
Some more reading:
This book (which is hilarious and sad), there were many things I could relate to with regards to menopause: How Hard Can It Be? I can highly recommend it, and reading it made me feel less lonely in this brain fog just to mention one of many things I now find myself battling with.
As always, please be in touch if you would like to talk, share or vent.