Tag Archives: menopause

The Menopause Diaries: Insomnia and Hot Flushes

I have never been a brilliant sleeper. Well, that’s not entirely true, I do love a good, old fashioned nap. That I can do. But sleeping at night has never been perfect mainly because I am quite a light sleeper. When I became a Mum 10 years ago, a good night’s sleep quickly evaporated. I think probably the last truly good night’s sleep has to have been before I fell pregnant in 2007. That’s not to say that I don’t get sleep. I certainly do but I also wake frequently. Most of these wakeful episodes have generally been just stirring enough to look at the clock, note what ridiculous o’clock time it is and going back to sleep. Motherhood ushered in considerably more wakeful moments due to my overly sensitive ears hearing things like cries or sighs or a snuffle. Now that Ella and Sam are older, thankfully they aren’t generally the cause of my multiple awakenings. More recently the dogs were more to blame for that!

However, in the last year, the amount of times that I wake up during the night has steadily increased and now it’s not just “Oh, it’s 2:37am, I have 5 more hours to sleep, zzzzzz!” but rather “Oh, it’s 2:37am, I have 5 more hours to sleep, WHY CAN’T I GET BACK TO SLEEP?, Oh, it’s now 4:13am, I wish I could get back to sleep!, (5:21am) Zzzzz”. I wake up between 3-7 times a night and often struggle to get back to sleep at least once or twice every night. The real problem with not being able to get back to sleep is that I lay there, not wanting to disturb my husband or the dogs and begin to ruminate about anything and everything for a few hours. Sometimes I get up and go downstairs to watch some telly or read but more often than not I will resort to my phone to suitably wear out my eyes enough to send me back to sleep.

The other night I prepared for a nighttime wakeup by bringing my iPhone headphones and a book up to bed with me. My plan was that if I woke and couldn’t get back to sleep immediately, I would pop my headphones in, go to one of my meditation apps and find a 10-15 minute sleepy meditation to listen to. Failing that I would read my book by the light of my phone torch. True to form, I woke up at 3:34am and couldn’t get back to sleep. The effort of getting my headphones seemed quite great at the time and I didn’t fancy shoving anything into my ears at that moment. Instead I reverted back to the blue light of my social media channels on my phone and scrolled myself back to sleep about 40 minutes later. Best laid plans, right?

I have pretty much accepted that I am destined for numerous waking moments each night and will frequently struggle to get back to sleep but I don’t like it. Lack of quality sleep ends up making me a bit groggy and slow in the mornings and I end up needing a power nap mid-afternoon to get me through the rest of the day. I do feel that the increase in nighttime waking and insomnia is one of the glorious symptoms of peri-menopause. I have also been experiencing more frequent episodes of hot flushes and night sweats which just adds to the wakeful times and mental stress. Would you like to know more about hot flushes? I shall educate you!

I remember my maternal grandmother talking about “hot flashes” when I was young. In America it’s a hot flash vs the UK where it is a hot flush. Either way, it’s hot and it engulfs you in a flash and makes you feel flush with warmth so call it whatever you like. Mind you, that flush of warmth is not a comforting hug that one feels from a Slanket or some hand-knitted, Hygge-inspired lounge wear. That flush is a sudden and rather intense internal whoosh that makes you instantly too hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. I have experienced the odd minor hot flush during the day but for the most part, they pop up during the night. The other night I woke up for some reason and began to feel that growing wave of heat take over my body. I pushed the duvet off and laid there marvelling that somehow I wasn’t actually glowing as I felt so hot! I was sure that if someone put a marshmallow on a stick near my body I would have provided the perfect roasting area for a classic Smore.

I now find myself wearing t-shirts while everyone else happily transitions to their Autumn wardrobe, never needing a jacket, having the air conditioning on in the car at all times with all vents pointed at me and both legs constantly out of the duvet throughout the night. I am tempted to buy one of those glorious, old fashioned handheld fans that Southern Belles in America would have used to flutter and flirt with their suitors. Perhaps I should come out with my own line of handheld fans? Glitter, rainbows, sunshine?? Gap in the market!

As frustrating as the nighttime waking, the difficulty in getting back to sleep and the joy of feeling like a human radiator is, it’s certainly not the worst thing that could be happening to me. I know that this is kind of a rite of passage that most women will have to go through. I know that women who are dealing with cancer treatment have far worse to deal with. I know that people with life-changing conditions like Type 2 Diabetes, Crohn’s Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis are challenged by a plethora of horrible symptoms and misery each and every day. I know that one day in the, hopefully, not too distant future, I will officially be Menopausal and most of these symptoms will stop. It’s not pleasant at all but it’s certainly not the worst thing I could be dealing with.

I do, however, find the dismissal of these symptoms by medical professionals as an “inevitable phase of life” that just has to be weathered, incredibly frustrating. If a man had to face 4-14 years of rather crappy symptoms as an “inevitable phase of life”, I have a feeling that suddenly a miraculous treatment for Menopausal symptoms would become widely available on the NHS. Instead, male GP’s poo-poo the symptoms, reluctantly discuss the possibility of Hormone Replacement Therapy but generally advise women to pursue some research on their own to find ways to cope. I feel that this is often due to a lack of training or education about women’s health. In the UK, women don’t regularly see a Gynaecologist unless there is a serious women’s health issue that needs pursuing. GP’s, generally, don’t have the necessary training to be able to offer proper diagnosis, treatment or solutions for the Menopause. Often, the only way to get proper support and assistance is to pursue private health care for a Menopause specialist or Gynaecologist.

It looks like I am in for several more years of interrupted sleep, radiating heat and insomnia so I will see what I can come up with to make the most of it! That handheld fan idea is sounding better and better! Let me know if you’d like one too!

The Menopause Diaries- The Beginning

I’m 47-years old (soon to be 48) and while the “medical professionals” have yet to confirm it, I believe I have entered that phase of life that every woman will experience…THE MENOPAUSE. Now, technically it is peri-menopause as the term Menopause literally is the ending of your menstruation and child-bearing years. Peri-menopause can begin at a variety of times but generally between the ages of 45-50 you will start experiencing different symptoms that are associated with The Menopause. I’m going to share my personal journey with you in this mini-series, The Menopause Diaries and hopefully you will find some resonance!

According to the NHS, these are some of the symptoms of The Menopause:

Most women will experience some symptoms around the menopause. The duration and severity of these symptoms varies from woman to woman.

Symptoms usually start a few months or years before your periods stop, known as the perimenopause, and can persist for some time afterwards.

On average, most symptoms last around 4 years from your last period. However, around 1 in every 10 women experience them for up to 12 years.

Common symptoms include:

 

I know. Where can you sign up, right?? What fun! I can confirm that from this list of 11 symptoms, I currently experience 6-7 of these on a regular basis. I have been to the GP three times now to discuss this stage of my life with very little support at the end. The first GP I spoke with (a man) told me that I am technically within the average ages of peri-menopausal women and it is possible that I have the symptoms (gee, thank you). He ordered a few blood tests and gave me a sound-byte speech about Hormone Replacement Therapy and then added “But ultimately HRT only prolongs the inevitable anyway.” Essentially I was told by a male GP to suck it up and get on with life. Helpful.

The 2nd GP I saw, about 3 months later, was a female which I requested. I thought there might be solidarity in a “sister” but I was sorely mistaken. She acknowledged that I could be peri-menopausal, that the first GP had not ordered the correct tests and that I could try an over-the-counter herbal supplement called Menopace which is helpful for some women. She told me she would ring me if the test results returned anything untoward. I never heard back from her.

The 3rd GP I saw, about a month ago, was technically my assigned GP. I have seen him a handful of times over the last few years but he wouldn’t know me from the next person so it didn’t really matter that he was my assigned GP. And he’s a man. I listed off my variety of symptoms including extra mention about my low mood and emotional distress over the previous couple of months. He looked at my blood tests and told me that nothing indicates that I am entering the menopause. But none of those blood tests were ordered specifically to measure my hormone levels and none were repeated month after month to establish a base line hormone level to determine if and when the hormone levels begin to drop. The GP said that according to the official guidelines I am not peri-menopausal however he did acknowledge that I was experiencing symptoms that were not pleasant. The one glimmer of hope that he offered me was the option of going on Fluoxetine (aka Prozac) which is an anti-anxiety (anti-depressant essentially) that has been known to help with night sweats and hot flushes as well as low mood and emotional ups and downs. I took that as a lifeline and scuttled out of the surgery, prescription in hand.

I can report, after a month of taking Fluoxetine, that I feel infinitely better! My days of rage have been dialled down, my mood swings are far less dramatic and I feel brighter and lighter. In some ways, I feel ever so slightly hyper at times, since starting the Fluoxetine. I do find that my normally very busy brain is often in overdrive but not in a negative way. While there is a general societal shaming of antidepressants, I have found that when I have needed to take them, they have helped me immensely and I see nothing shameful about taking help when we need it. If you were struggling in open water would you push away a buoy thrown by a lifeguard because you wouldn’t want to appear weak? No, of course not! Drowning in your own thoughts and emotions is exactly like drowning in water. Help is necessary. No one should be ashamed of asking for help and taking that help in whatever form is required. It does not mean you are a failure or weak. It simply is a chemical imbalance in your body that needs levelling. We take medication to help us with high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, birth control and more…what’s so wrong about taking a tablet to help you to clear the fog and look at the world with open eyes?

In addition to taking Fluoxetine for the last month, I have begun to prioritise myself, my self-care and Me Time. I am specifically putting myself on the calendar and appreciating that my needs and desires are just as important as the other members of my family. I am taking daily, guilt-free me time for a mental escape. I am using affirmations and brain breaks to keep myself from listening too much to my inner critic. I am journalling daily about the 3 good things that made my day special and worth celebrating and am also writing about my feelings, frustrations and worries. I am continually working to declutter and organise my house and life to keep myself free of “stuff” that blocks my progress. And I am giving myself a break. It’s okay to be human, to be imperfectly happy. And all of that is helping me to truly embrace happy.

I will continue to share my peri-menopausal journey with you in this mini series and hope that my issues, experiences, struggles and solutions might help someone else as they begin their next “stage of life”. So much is changing for me at the moment. My hormones, my body, my mind but also my identity. My children, at age 10 and 6, don’t need me in the same way any longer. I have become more of a taxi service at the moment. My husband reminds me often that he loves me and finds me desirable which I continue to struggle to accept, partly because I am only slowly beginning to accept myself. We need to find our own path as a couple and rediscover ourselves as man and woman, not just Mum and Dad. And I have such a desire to make a difference in the world and help others as much as I can but I am not sure how I will accomplish that! I will be 48 on 14 November…I might have a better idea of what the next year will hold for me by then?

So, what about you? Where are you in your journey as a woman??

 

imperfectly me

As I have been doing a lot of work this Summer in finding myself thanks to some amazing coaching from Gabrielle Treanor, I thought I would take some time to introduce myself and share the beginning of my self-discovery journey. I’m imperfectly me and am learning to love that!

I’m 47-years old. I didn’t find the love of my life until I was 34 years old and I had to cross an ocean to do it. It was definitely worth it as I have an imperfectly happy life, a supportive husband, two amazing children and two energetic rescue dogs. I have spent the last 10 years working as a blogger and social media manager which fits perfectly around the lives of our family members. My children are now 10 and 6 and in some ways need me more now that when they were little. It’s a different need though and one that generally involves me driving them to their activities and waiting for them to finish.

I’ve had a plethora of health challenges since becoming a mother: 2 Caesarian sections, Post Natal Depression, abdominal surgery, two knee replacement surgeries and asthma and Coeliac disease to name a few. I’m also at that amazing stage in every woman’s life that we try not to speak of…THE MENOPAUSE. According to various blood tests, the medical experts say that I am not pre-menopausal but I know I am. And what a wealth of new challenges that presents! Following a recent appointment with the rather disinterested (and male) GP, I am now the recipient of a Fluoxetine prescription (aka Prozac) which he prescribed partially to help my pre-menopausal symptoms.

Through my coaching sessions with Gabrielle, I have been taking a really good look at me and who I have become. I have realised that a lot of my happiness often comes from outside sources. I love acknowledgement from others yet I find it difficult to champion myself from the inside out. I spend a lot of time trying to please everyone else in the world and often forget about myself. I am learning that my needs are equally as important as the other members of my family and that making and more importantly TAKING time for myself is crucial to my wellbeing.

I feel quite sparkly inside and generally gravitate to glittery and colourful things (stationary, magazines, decorative items) yet I find myself forever dressed in dark colours. I have said before that if I could cut out my torso I would feel much more confident about my physical self. Since having children my body has changed dramatically and although I should be proud of what my body has accomplished I still tend to hide myself as much as possible. Yet, I love speaking to people, presenting in front of crowds, teaching and talking in general so I am not afraid to put myself out there. I have had a pretty prolific social media presence for the last 6 years and regularly share the snapshots of our life but I don’t always feature in those snaps. If I am in them, it’s usually from the neck up!

What I mainly want to communicate through this post is that in spite of physical and mental challenges, I am happy. Imperfectly happy but happy nonetheless. What I want to share is that perfection should never be the goal. Talking about our issues, sharing our concerns, not being okay and telling someone that you aren’t is the key. Struggling with the changes of the female body and fighting to have your voice heard by medical professionals is important. Allowing yourself to have a down day, to retreat to a safe place, to reach out for help and love is crucial to imperfect happiness. I find it refreshing when people tell the truth. In this age of “influencers” and Insta-everything I would rather see an imperfect photo and an honest recount of a difficult day than perfectly crafted and staged nonsense that’s bought and paid for. And that’s what I am trying to get back to. Reality isn’t always pretty. While I am most definitely embracing happy, I can’t be happy all of the time. No one can. Even Oprah has bad days occasionally!

My goal now is to continue to work on me, to share my journey honestly and do my best to help others to find their own versions of imperfect happiness. I hope you will stay with me on the journey!