There's a reason for what you're feeling.
Warning: straight talk about cycles, if you're not into it, skip this comment.
A few years ago I started to have crappy sleep. I chalked it up to the pandemic and trying to teach over zoom that year. But when I look back, I'm guessing I was peri without realizing it. Then over two years ago my cycle became inconsistent and for nearly a year, non existent. It was then when I figured I was deep in the throes of menopause. Suddenly my period came back, it was heavy, it was more on than off. Then it became constant, four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks went by non stop, and got to the point that it was uncontrollably heavy, I was changing every hour, leaking, and I was getting very weak. I went to see a doctor and by then, I could barely walk. She took a look at me and sent me straight away to ER. Turns out I developed fibroids, two the size of golfballs, another the size of a grapefruit and some vessels just wouldn't stop bleeding. There is nothing like facing your own mortality while you're laying in a pool of your own blood that your body can't stop squirting out (yes, I could feel each pump) for no good reason, waiting for the doctors to do something about it. I had three units of blood transfused, a unit of plasma, and an emergency hysterectomy in which everything but my ovaries were taken out. The sudden change and harsh reality was more brutal than the recovery it seemed. No one told me that fibroids could develop and be such assholes, and that is a hidden part of becoming menopausal. Ladies, if the sh!t doesn't add up down there, go see someone sooner than later and save yourself some bother.
As a side note, I had to take prednisone for two years when I developed lupus in my late 20s. Prednisone was a necessary evil to control (and help right) the lupus symptoms that were debilitating me, and I completely commiserate with you about the symptoms it causes. The mood swings were crappy, the hunger cravings: ravenous, and I utterly hated that my mind was revving so high and my body lagging behind. It made me feel like a mad person.
I wanted to just comment about the point you made re: how NO ONE PREPARES US FOR THIS SHIT!! Not even the gynecologist, am I right? It baffles the hell out of me that this is so. It reminds me of how unprepared most of us (all of us) are for parenting. Any ding-dong can get pregnant and it’s just like ‘good luck!’
I don’t know how any of us survive.
I am hoping that as women become more represented politically and in the working world, we will get the medical research and equality that we deserve.
Thanks for sharing your experience! Stories like this are so helpful! Peri IS a weird time. I knew the gist of what to expect. I’m a pharmacist so I had basic knowledge about that — way more than my mom had. I also think part of it is simply aging. I felt the first signs of aging in my mid-40s, but so did my husband and other men I know. But I wasn’t prepared for the weirdness of how I’d feel in peri. Or how inconsistent the strange feelings would be. Or how much my brain would change. Even my desires or priorities.
Hormones affect behavior, and fertile hormonal levels are guaranteed to end. So I guess I should’ve been less surprised. But, I think I got tricked into thinking at 40 I was done changing. My kids were the ones changing. It definitely would've helped if I had heard more discussion on this topic BEFORE I entered this phase. And this phase can last a LONG time. I just turned 49.
I always worked part-time when my kids were young. Peri hit when my youngest became school age. It was definitely part of the reason I decided to stay part-time and find freelance work, rather than go full-time. I know it’s a privilege to have the option, but it shouldn’t be. We need more support structures and flexibility built in for people who are working age.
A friend of mine searched high and low for a gynecologist who specialized on menopause to ask specific questions because of her other health problems. She finally found one at Johns Hopkins, and the gyn. told my friend that nobody (among the doctors) are interested at all in menopause. She said even her obgyn colleagues were “sending their wives to her”. It is mind boggling, really. Half of the population goes through this!
On a related note, entry (puberty) is studied extensively, but exit (menopause) is not. It just doesn’t make sense. We’re not dead.
THANK YOU FOR THIS!!!
I have developed a terrible relationship with doctors and the lack of support they provide. This made me feel seen.
How is this not discussed more openly?
All of this that you wrote about, yes! Also experienced that horrible itchiness. I also experience sudden depression about 24 hours before I get a migraine, and I know the two are connected and that the depression is just physical, though I experience it as an emotion. I know it’s not a “real” one, if that makes any sense.
A cynical but possibly helpful note: there was a big scientific breakthrough in the last decade which led to a new class of migraine drugs. In the past, investors didn’t put much stock in companies that were working on migraine bc they didn’t think it would make any money, and because it had been so long (the early 90s) since the last advance in migraine treatment, but now everyone and their brother has a migraine drug because guess what? LOTS of us get migraines, and they are far more under treated and under researched than any similarly debilitating condition. All of that is to say, the market is starting to realize that there is money to be made here, and eventually that will lead to more research, which could be helpful, even if it’s primarily aimed at developing expensive pharmaceuticals. 😬
Omg, I just found your post and it echoes with the rollercoaster of a week I have just had. Thank you for sharing; I'm glad I found you today :)
Check out the incredible documentaries on this by Davina McCall an investigative journalist in the UK, the Cornell study on perimenopause and biodentical HRT (bHRT) which also has preventive effects against bone, heart and dementia issues if started pre menopause.
This is such an important conversation...thank you for sharing your journey Jenna! I'm 43 and have absolutely started my "peri period" - UGH. My mother in no way prepared me for this - I knew she hit menopause early but there was zero discussion about perimenopause. I refuse to allow my daughter to go through life without an understanding of all things hormonal, so I am being careful to share as much as I can with her as we both traverse this tightrope of triggers.