‘Welcome to the forties they said…it’ll be great they said!’
Being in your forties has a lot of advantages – let’s get that clear. Ageing gives you that self-confidence you may have lacked in your twenties. You’re more self-assured, you’ve gained a plethora of life experience that no one can take away from you, plus insightfulness that younger people could only wish for. But ageing in particular for women also comes with a whole host of health problems that you may not have been aware of especially in those younger carefree years.
Say hello to peri-menopause – a phrase I might add, I wasn’t even aware of, until about seven months ago. I never knew there was a period that us women had to go through before the actual menopause. As if we haven’t enough to go through!
Growing up in my late teens, twenties and thirties…I may have heard whispers of women going through ‘the change’! It was like this secret society or secret ritual that women went through but it was all hush-hush, a stigma that nobody was meant to utter a word about it and women were most probably encouraged to suffer on in silence. I think at one stage I understood menopause as – one day your periods just stop and you experience hot flushes for about six months – little did I know (or any of us for that matter) it is way more complex.
The reality is, I’m 45 years old and I’ve now entered the peri-menopause period of my life. Has it been a total shock – yes it has. Do I feel extremely old and ‘past-it’ – yes I do. Am I still trying to get my head around it all – yes I am. A couple of months ago, I was advised by my GP to get my hormones checked. I had a routine full body health-check so the next stage was my hormones. I really didn’t foresee any issues in relation to my hormones because my periods have always been like clockwork, I’ve never skipped one and in general I felt pretty healthy. So it came as a big surprise to learn that I basically have zero testosterone and zero oestrogen in my body. My hormones are in decline and I cannot do anything about it. I didn’t fully comprehend this at the time and I didn’t fully understand it. I just remember turning into a blubbering mess when I found out because – I was scared and I didn’t know what it all means.
After taking ‘the news’ all in, talking to my doctor and frantically researching everything I could find on peri-menopause including that wonderful and insightful documentary on Channel 4 with Davina McCall: ‘Sex, Myths and the Menopause’ – putting a well-deserved spotlight on menopause and all the symptoms incurred – I literally had a light-bulb moment and joined-the-dots. For months now (possibly years) I had symptoms that I thought were just ‘normal’ and it was just part of life, getting older and just generally feeling tired. I’ll admit, I’m someone who just plod’s along and puts up with things without thinking there may be a bigger picture involved.
Symptom wise, the main ones that impact me are brain fog and not being able to focus. It feels like your brain has been taken out of your body, like a disconnect. I seem to lose track regularly, I’m forgetful and very irritable. The slightest thing annoys me. Mood swings are frequent and don’t even get me started on anxiety! I’ve never suffered in the past from anxiety thankfully, but in the last year or so, a weird feeling would just come over me and suddenly I do not want to leave the house. If plans are made, I want to cancel. This feeling engulfs me and I cannot explain where it comes from. One of the most upsetting symptoms for me has been cystic acne – related to hormonal fluctuation. The good news is, I finally have this under control now with medication but that has been quite debilitating and depressing – to suffer from acne in your forties. If this wasn’t enough – throw in fatigue, insomnia, lack of energy and night-sweats and it pretty much sums up a miserable existence for quite a while now. Recently and for the first time ever, I missed a period and I definitely did not think I was pregnant. Did I forget to mention low-libido as another symptom!
So what now? How do I manage this new phase of my life and not have to deal with the other 48 symptoms associated with menopause? Research shows you can be peri-menopausal for roughly 10 years before you enter menopause. Thankfully and in the last couple of years in particular, the conversation has started. Education on peri-menopause and menopause is everywhere. Awareness campaigns on TV and social media are prevalent. It’s not a taboo subject anymore and awareness and support is starting to improve especially for women in the workplace.
What I do know is that I’m willing to help alleviate my symptoms and start to look at HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) plus up my fitness level. Studies show that having a regular fitness routine incorporating cardio and resistance training can be a useful tool in helping to reduce peri-menopausal symptoms. If there’s one piece of advice I can give to anyone experiencing the same, is to get your husbands and partners on board. Having that understanding and support is crucial. Watch educational documentaries together, even bring them to your doctor with you if that helps but having them on side to gain an understanding of what you are going through is key. My own wonderful doctor at Genesis Health Clinic in Dubai – Dr. Fiona Rennie has been amazing at getting me on the right road for my needs and helping me to get back to feeling my best. Her ethos about managing peri-menopause aligns with mine and I trust her judgement 100%. I am looking forward to hopefully feeling better in myself and embracing this new change in myself because let's face it, ladies, we all have to go through it whether we like it or not.