Perimenopause: buckle up girls! | HerCanberra

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Perimenopause: buckle up girls!

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I’m on a pilgrimage to my nirvana; Menopause.

Maybe, like me, you thought it was the journey not the destination, but Perimenopause is the expedition you undertake being (insert number) years of gradual hormone depletion during which time you experience (insert infinite list of ails).

When you haven’t had a period for an entire year, you can claim to have reached Menopause.

Not much of a prize I grant you given many symptoms persist, but some consolation to the decades of having to triage yourself monthly.

Mother Nature’s got a lot to answer for when you continue to wheel your trolley down the sanitary products aisle whilst you overheat like a reactor and sprout facial hair rivalling competitors in Movember.

So how did I know I was Perimenopausal? Amongst other things, it was when regular, extra and long were no longer words I associated with my coffee order.

For most of my menstrual life, I’ve relied on one product and a box of tissues, but in more recent years my intimate knowledge of the varying lengths, thicknesses, absorbability, wings, day and night offerings of sanitary products should have me profiled as a Johnson & Johnson influencer.

I console myself with the knowledge that turtles can breathe out of their butts, wisdom imparted from the trivia printed on the strip of an overnight maxi-pad.

I’ve also searched ‘Perimenopausal symptoms’ on Google finding an endless list.

One sisters’ journey can be vastly different to another. A flow of varying velocity and viscosity, for days or weeks, in a cycle that at times takes in the Full and New Moon. Like a TV shopping purchase, “if you’re one of the next 50 callers, you’ll get two periods this month for the price of one”.

Swollen boobs, lumpy boobs, deflated boobs. Sore finger joints, hip joints, knee joints, jaw joints. Brain fog, itchy skin. Fluid retention that may explain the demise of the Murray-Darling.

There’s an inverse relationship between eyesight and excess facial hair. Perhaps nature intended for this, as you can’t worry about what you can’t see. Oh, to be blissfully unaware that the long hair I keep tucking behind my ear, comes from my chin!

Sleep is somebody that I used to know. Bad enough I’ve spent every sleeping moment since having children waking to the sound of a leaf dropping, I now contend with a nightly wrestling match with the bed linen as my body combusts.

The disorienting midnight toilet visit that follows come with fears that I may be too late, praying my nightie is drenched from sweat. A big drink of water before trying again because with heat comes thirst, not because I love the reflux I get when I lie back down.

I do wonder what the experience would be like if the same hormonal imbalance happened when I was a carefree teenager, as I ponder if my homicidal thoughts can be blamed entirely on my endocrine system.

Firstly, consider the stresses that come at this age. Perimenopause has coincided with having elderly parents and teenagers. Those cuties who once worshipped me like a mummy-goddess, have now relegated me from fame to lame. Over four consecutive years, I lost my mum, sister, father-in-law and mother-in-law. It’s a tough age.

Secondly, is it multiple symptoms or just one that tips us over the edge?

Sleep deprivation has been used as an effective form of torture throughout history. It can cause hallucinations and psychotic rantings that in the 16th century, would be deemed a confession from poor women accused of witchcraft. We know that didn’t end well.

The symptoms of sleep deprivation and perimenopause largely align. It does make you question whether hormones cause these symptoms, or hormones cause sleep deprivation that cause these symptoms.

Not aware of any peer-reviewed study, but without question you are assured of an accurate confession as to exactly where you can go, and as to why dinner isn’t ready, from a sleep-deprived woman. Believe her too, when she tells you she has found her keys but seems to have misplaced the car.

Once on board this slow-moving train, I became curious as to where my fellow passengers were in their ‘journey’. Assumptions based on age, hair colour or batshit-craziness are a complete folly.

I’ve worked it out though. Want to know which of your girlfriends have reached Nirvana before you? They’re the ones wearing white pants. Why? Because they can!

Today’s women discuss many more intimate, taboo topics than their mothers ever did but Menopause isn’t one of them.

It’s a shame, as sharing our experiences brings reassurance that if nothing else, we are collectively bonkers. Talk ladies, talk.

Oh, and position that huge sanitary pad packet front and centre in your trolley as you strut down that aisle, and stand with your chest proud when they have to call for a price check.

I happened across the term ‘Estrogen Dominance’ which seems to answer a lot of my ails. My hormones are not only depleting, but at different rates giving estrogen an unfair advantage. Information is good, as it reminds me that I’m no different than the bi-zillion other women who have gone before me and stops me catastrophising things.

The physical stuff sucks, but I have learnt to be kinder to myself and more accepting of what is largely out of my control, forgiving my body for not doing the things it used to do with vigour.

Sleep is my number one priority, and I no longer apologise for my afternoon nap. I know once I sleep again and my ‘hors’ stop ‘moaning’ I will find my new normal; and wear white pants.

P.S. I’m thinking of pitching ‘Estrogen Dominance’ to Marvel as their next female superhero character. “Middle-Aged woman who is hot, leaky, and cries often but whose sleep deprivation will have her take the head off any foe”.

First movie title: ‘Estrogen Dominance – Escape to the In-Continent’.

Want to know more about menopause and perimenopause? Read this editorial by our HerCanberra ACTIVE Panel member and GP Dr Kelly Teagle, or visit her WellFemme website. 

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