I have contributed to the Menopause diaries before. But when I read that Rebel was going to focus on a monthly prompt I really wanted to get on board. I read the post for the first prompt and wrote my contribution and then… Life happened. So here it is. A little out of sequence but I am sure that Rebel will forgive me. Perhaps I should offer a sacrifice to the Goddess of blogging????
My reproductive system has been very compliant pretty much my whole life. Apart from starting my period at 11 years old everything worked well. I didn’t suffer from cramps or irregular periods when I was younger. As an adult I was able to fall pregnant when I wanted to. My pregnancies went by with a minimum of fuss.
I took the contraceptive pill for large chunks of my adult life. From age 18 until about two years after the birth of The Unicorn when Mr Jones had a vasectomy. When we opened our marriage, I started taking the pill again. Even though we used condoms and practised safe sex the possibility of me falling pregnant to another man was a deal breaker for Mr Jones. He refused to act as a father to another man’s child.
And so, I found myself taking the contraceptive pill well into my forties. Over the years some doctors tried to convince me that other devices would be better / more convenient. I had an encounter with an Implanon or as it is known in the vernacular “the rod”. It didn’t work for me and I continued with the tried-and-true method. I loved being on the pill, the predictability of it, the way it just worked.
Somewhere between the age of 40 and 45 I noticed that I began to sweat a lot. I live in a hot humid place. But on really warm days sweat would literally pour out of my face. During summer I had to carry around a cloth to wipe my face if I was not in an air-conditioned space. It was mainly my face that leaked profusely. The rest of my body seemed reasonably unaffected. At school I was reluctant to do this because I worried about looking odd in front of my students but there were times, if I was particularly stressed when I would be reaching for the tissue box. At the time I didn’t realise what was happening to me. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I have struggled with depression since my late 30’s. In all honesty I have probably always had it to an extent it just got worse as I got older. Or perhaps it was a perimenopause symptom. I don’t know. Whatever the case I started taking medication when I was around 40. I took the drug for several years. It had a negative effect on my libido and sexual function but at least I didn’t wake up at 3 am wanting to cut off my hair! Or other, more drastic things. Like the sweating I didn’t consider this as part of a bigger thing. I will never know all the answers to all the questions I have about depression. I do believe that the increase in the effects on my life are linked to the onset of menopause.
In 2018 when I was 45, I noticed my period change. I was still taking the pill. The artificial hormones make your uterus bleed every 28 days no matter what. But I noticed that the amount was less, and it seemed different somehow. At this point I began to put some things together. The profuse sweating on hot days had morphed into full on hot flushes by now. I was still taking depression medication, but I was ready to either ditch it or change because I was done with the impact it was having on my sex life. Plus, it didn’t seem to be helping much with mood swings or keeping at bay the days when I just wanted to cry for hours. I still wasn’t sure what was depression and what was menopause but I began to ask myself if they were one and the same.
In January 2019 I decided to conduct an experiment. I stopped taking the pill. I had read that the pill masks menopause symptoms, but I was a little naïve as to what that could exactly mean. My hypothesis was that if I had stopped ovulating and my uterus was heading to retirement that I would not have a period. My hypothesis was proven to be correct. I have not had a period since January 2019. At the time I was 46.
Around March of the same year I visited my GP and asked to change my depression medication. I also asked if there was a way to confirm my menopause status. He conducted a blood test and informed me that “my hormone profile was the same as a post-menopausal woman. I changed medication which was a long process of weaning off the first medication and then easing on to the second. It was harder than I expected. Were some of the things I was experiencing a result of menopause, or were they because of the stress I was under at the time? Later that year I visited a counsellor. He told me that he thought some of my issues were a result of being burnt out. Great! Another thing to add to the mix of things that could be causing my symptoms.
Reading through blog posts and talking to other women there is much chatter about menopause and peri-menopause. Many women seem to be in touch with what is happening and able to identify the central focus for their symptoms. I was not one of them. For me hindsight has been the only insight. I blindly went through the lead up to menopause dealing with each symptom individually not realising it was all part of a bigger thing.
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