Menopause – the dreaded M word! Or at least it is when you’re in the throws of it! However, it has to be said it’s refreshing that the menopause is now talked about and discussed these days – in my mothers time it was a totally taboo topic! Spoken about only in whispers as ‘The Change’
I’m going to talk about and share my worst symptoms with you. If you’re younger and not yet there don’t feel the menopause is not a subject you need to know about. I’m discussing these symptoms in the hope that you may recognise the suffering or changes in an older female relative, friend or colleague and develop an understanding of where they’re at!
This is the symptom that is most commonly recognised. I was always a cold person, needing the heating on in winter months before my husband did. Wearing thick jumpers and roll necks. My first symptoms came on gradually, I found I didn’t feel as cold and generally felt warmer all the time. Then the dreaded flushes struck. Moments when my body would go into total surge and a feeling that my body would explode with molten lava flowing through my veins. Sounds dramatic I know but it’s so true. Working as a nurse in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where the temperature was kept around 21oC, this was a challenge, particularly when I had to gown up to perform an aseptic procedure. Sweat would quite literally trickle down my back. If that wasn’t bad enough the night flushes are even worse. Waking up with my heart pounding accompanied by a feeling of panic and that overwhelming heat. I get a really strange feeling in my calves – the heat seems to emanate from the back of my legs – so bizarre. The bed clothes are flung off and my lags wafted around in the air in an attempt to cool them down. Thankfully they don’t disturb my husband too much, he’s grown used to this behaviour! A purchase of a large pedestal fan prior to the hottest part of this summers heatwave has been my saviour. After describing the effects in that last paragraph I’m sure you can see that it also impacts on my quality of sleep. As for clothing I rarely feel cold and when I do I layer up so that I can remove layers when my flushes rear their ugly head! As for thick jumpers, they are a thing of the past. I have to search to find a jumper that provides heat with ventilation, similar to this! Just the sight of a woman in a high roll neck sweater brings on a hot sweat. I hate to feel wrapped up around the neck and throat. The only time I wear something thick is on the coldest winter days when I go to watch my beloved Manchester City play.
Menopause weight gain around the middle
The hormonal changes of menopause might make you more likely to gain weight around your abdomen than around your hips and thighs. Well I can confirm that this is certainly the case with me! I’m only 4′ 10″ tall and have turned into a stumpy little apple! I reminisce about the days when I could wear a size 6, proving I haven’t always been overweight. Having always loved clothes and fashion its now difficult to find styles and clothes that look flattering. I’m not someone who wishes to wear snug fitting clothes that cling to ripples of tummy rolls. I hate it. I try to be careful and often when shopping for something specific will have to try on around 30 dresses to find 1 suitable. The way I wish to dress is not the way I have to. Opting for loose tents rather than the lovely figure hugging dresses I would love to wear. I don’t feel I over eat, I really limit treats to once a week, no McDonalds, cream cakes or fish and chip takeaways for me. Exercise and staying active is important to me but as I’m now retired and work from home mostly as a part time ebay reseller and now blogger I don’t burn the calories I did when I was a Neonatal Nurse on my feet for up to 13 hours per shift. But I don’t sit on my butt all day watching TV either. I do keep active moving around the house and now go to the gym 3-4 times a week. I find it so difficult to lose weight, a constant struggle, read my post on how I hate my shape
As an adult I’ve always been a positive happy go lucky upbeat person. Always cheery with a humorous quip to make people laugh in all situations. The menopause has brought on levels of anxiety that were previously unknown to me. As a Nurse you see distress and stressful situations all the time and are able to cope with more than your peers. In contrast, since I’ve been going through the menopause I suffer anxiety much more than before. I have always had a fear of flying and require medication when travelling on holiday, now I have anxiety even travelling in the car or visiting new places. I see danger everywhere. That does not mean I have stopped travelling or trying new experiences, I just have to plan a little bit more and I have taken to using Kalms tablets when needed. I have not yet gone down the road of having to visit my Doctor for HRT or other medication. On the whole I manage using my own strategies and I avoid watching in depth news coverage of distressing events. This does not mean I do not keep up with the news and World events I just scan the basic headlines – I’ve become a bit of an Ostrich!
Hair loss tends to be subtler in women than it is in men. Most women experience overall hair thinning rather than noticeable bald spots. The thinning can occur on the front, sides, or top of the head. Hair may also fall out in large clumps during brushing and showering. I have always had fine hair but lots of it. With the changes I’ve experienced during the menopause my hair has really thinned out and become even more fine and difficult to style. My wonderful hairdresser reassures me that it is normal for women of my age and that she does not think that my degree of hair loss is a great concern. However that does still mean that she has had to adapt my colour and styling to accommodate these changes. I’m now blond to cover my ever increasing grey hair and I have to adopt a simple bob. I used to be able to have volume and tease into shape using mousse and gels. Recently despite battling with styles it just falls and flops into a soft bob, so rather than continue to tease and use a lot of heat styling products I have conceded and gone with a style that nature is telling me I should wear.
Menopause brain Fog
Brain fog is the one symptom of the menopause that really influenced my decision to take early retirement. I was working in a very senior clinical role as an Advanced Neonatal Nurse Practitioner and needed to be at the top of my game. I was struggling with concentration and memory issues. This was quite worrying initially until I realised that these were symptoms of the menopause rather than anything else. There are times when this brain fog means you have to stop mid sentence to try and remember the next word you want to say. Remembering names and details were becoming more difficult, particularly when under pressure. My brain appeared to be in overload. Particularly as I had always been commended for my memory for detail. Younger colleagues I knew were looking at me and thinking – how the hell did she get this job! This is becoming something taken seriously in other professions particularly the Police Force who are having to consider strategies to support female officers, particularly as Pension changes mean they have to work longer through this very difficult time of their careers. I for one welcome these measures, if I did not have the ability to retire at 55 I would be struggling to continue, perhaps even having to resort to sick leave to take time out due to stress.
Now that I’ve told you these issues I appreciate they all sound negative and do not reflect this time of life in a positive light. It is worth addressing these issues as a woman today now spends approximately one third of their life menopausal. I want to end by saying that life is not all bad, in fact this third age of my life is possibly the best era of my life in many ways. I am now out of the daily slog of full time work, I’m in control of what I do with my time. My confidence levels are high, I know who I am and what I want from life. The menopause is an irritation to be dealt with but hey it’s not spoiling my retirement party!
So if you are reading this and are suffering like me let me know by email or commenting how you cope. Consequently, if you know a female relative, friend or colleague who is struggling I hope my words can help you relate to their struggles and have sympathy.
Thanks for reading