Menopause and me. Emily’s story

It was during the pandemic that the symptoms started but I thought it was just the stress of it all. The night sweats were the worst, constant extreme itching on my arms, and the brain fog that would stop me in my tracks, then the hot flushes would start from my toes to the top of my head, every day at the most inconvenient times! I came out of covid with a low mood but that wasn't unusual, and I'd started to gain weight around my middle. I put it down to being less active in lockdown and eating more and tried to carry on as normal.

Eventually the hot flushes, night sweats and itching became unbearable and one day I started chatting to my mum. I discovered that she'd started her perimenopause in her late 30s and she suggested that might apply to me too. The more I spoke to others the more I realised my symptoms all fit and I definitely wasn't alone. I started to get insomnia, my mood stayed low and my anxiety levels high; I was also angry, so angry and would snap at the smallest things. I was just putting up with it but it was effecting daily life. My periods were becoming really irregular but again I dismissed it as stress and my previous eating disorder.

I booked an appointment with my GP but it didn't help, she dismissed my symptoms so I started to do my own research. The more I researched the more I could see a connection with the menopause. My joints started hurting especially my elbows, my hair was falling out in clumps and my battle with the doctors began.

They would say I was too young and I was offered antidepressants, I declined as I felt there was more going on and my mood wasn't the only issue. They sent me for blood tests which came back clear, my hormone levels were normal; I've since learnt blood tests aren't accurate or reliable for diagnosing perimenopause and guidelines do state that symptoms should be the major factor. The GP agreed my symptoms were indicating perimenopause however because my bloods were clear I wouldn't be offered HRT. I was feeling frustrated and defeated as I wasn't getting anywhere.

The weight gain around my middle was getting me down and my hot flushes were out of control. The brain fog made me feel drunk, I was over explaining everything just to function and work. I was still so angry and would fly off the handle at anything, although I've always had a temper on me, this was another level. After my third blood test I was hoping third time lucky! It came back inconclusive, I gave up and just decided to put up with it, I took Pirition for the itching which worked a bit but I knew it wasn't the answer long term.

The more people I spoke to the more I realised I would really have to fight for HRT so I decided to be strong and asked for a 2nd opinion with the GP. In the meantime I booked in for the Mirena coil, the Mirena coil releases progesterone and can be left in for 5 years so if it works its a great solution. After a few months of leaving it to settle down it helped, but not enough and it was clear I needed the Oestrogen aspect of HRT too . I'd started having periods very rarely and the coil brought them back, but they did eventually stop completely after about 6 months. I was still having unbearable night sweats, hot flushes and itching all over my arms. I would itch until my arms would bleed and scab, family life and work life was effected and I was full of self doubt and zero confidence. I went back to the GP who suggested another blood test but I refused and demanded HRT. The GP didn't have much choice and agreed to give it a go.

I started HRT, in the form of oestrogen gel. I decided patches wouldn't work with how active I am so the gel was the best option for me. You just administer your dose each day, rub it into your skin and let it dry.

A lot of my symptoms have gone now, the itching and night sweats have stopped. I'm less angry, although Steve would probably disagree! I feel more in control even if the hot flushes still appear now and again. I take multivitamins regularly and have been having vitamin B12 shots every few months. My mood still seems very up and down so i'm adjusting the dosage of oestrogen with the GPs guidance. It can take time to settle so we'll see if I can get it right. Having good sleep back is an absolute game changer, you can tackle most things with good sleep. I've also started daily ice baths and cold dips which have been a huge factor in lifting my mood. They're invigorating and set me up for the day.

I've been increasing my weights again recently, i've got the energy to do that and it feels good. It's so important to lift weights to keep bones healthy and strong especially in this phase of life. Myself and Sam have both now done a course on the menopause, we're learning constantly on how to help myself and help others. There is no magic wand, or pill, but there's so much out there to help, including us!

Emily xx

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