I wondered whether or not to write this blog. It isn’t like me to shy away from topics I feel are important or a bit taboo and yet I still wasn’t sure whether or not to write this one at all.
You see the menopause isn’t something I hear people talk about. It isn’t discussed. Women just don’t go around talking to everyone about periods, vaginas, montly cycles, and the big M. You don’t go and meet your mates for coffee and start comparing menstral cycles. You don’t sit over tea and talk to your husband about the painters and decorators coming in. You don’t announce aunt flo is visiting every month. You just don’t. I guess it’s all a bit personal even though every single woman goes through it all. Even when you start puberty you don’t talk about it because when you did the giggles started. It’s like saying ‘Macbeth’ in the theatre, it’s cursed and forbidden. It’s all part of being a woman so you just get on with it.
I am pretty sure that the reason I don’t hear people talk about the menopause is because most people I know are of a similar age to myself. They’re in their 30’s and 40’s and so aren’t menopausal or even Peri menopausal yet. They probably aren’t even thinking about the menopause, they’re far too young and it’s not on their radar. Why would they need to discuss it? I do very occasionally hear a casual comment from the odd person about hot flushes and ‘having a moment’ but that is pretty much as far as it goes.
And so I didn’t know if writing this blog was stepping in to the unknown or even an abyss of people who just won’t, can’t or don’t talk about the things us women go through.
Then I threw caution to the wind and decided that this stuff needed talking about and that I should share my story as I do with a lot of things in my blog.
I know some of you will be sat there thinking ‘what does Gemma know about the menopause, she’s only 36’ and you’d be right about the latter but I have recently come to know a little bit at least about the scary M word.
You see for the past couple of years I just haven’t felt right. I haven’t quite been myself. I haven’t been able to put my finger on why. Being a busy mum and the extra stuff that comes with having a child with additional needs I always put everything down to tiredness and stress.
‘Feeling emotional?’ ……. stressed/tired, ‘feeling fatigued?’…….. stressed/tired, ‘feeling out of sorts?’ …….. stressed/tired, ‘stubbed your toe’…….. stressed/tired, ‘poked yourself in the eye’…….. stressed/tired, ‘drank too much coffee’ …….. stressed/tired.
I literally put every little thing I ever feel down to being tired and stressed even though I knew last year and maybe even before then there was more than that going on.
A doctor however told me that there wasn’t and I was sent on my merry way to just crack on with having periods for months on end, hormones up and down like a rollercoaster, mood swings and looking like the walking dead.
I tried taking iron supplements, I tried changing my diet, I tried mindfulness, I tried walking, I even cut out caffeine for a while.
A year later things hadn’t really changed much but being a busy mum you put your own ‘stuff’ at the bottom of your to do list. You’re still alive afterall (even if you don’t look it), the kids are happy and well looked after and you’re husband is still smiling so it can’t be that bad, right? You know you’ll get around to sorting your stuff out eventually but it’s not a priority. Your kids are number one priority, the husband is priority, the dog is priority, the housework is a priority, you are last on your list of 52 priorities and a year ago a doctor told you that you were fine and so you reassure yourself that you are indeed fine, that nothing will have changed in those 365 days and you return to the pile of dirty washing you were just sorting.
Only you are not fine and you need to remember that you are a priority because when you’re not functioning at your best nor are the people who rely on you.
Nobody (not even me) can pour from an empty cup.
You can only pull up your big girl pants so high!
I knew that my family needed me and I needed to be healthy for them and so I sat, had a good think and did a bit of self diagnosis.
When I looked at what was going on the symptoms all pointed to the very few things I knew about the menopause.
But I am way too young, it can’t be that?
So I booked in to see my doctor in February. I told my doctor what I thought was going on and she told me what I knew she would – that I’m too young to be menopausal. That was until she looked at my family history. You see if your mum and your gran had an early or earlier than normal menopause the chances are you will too.
We talked about my hot flushes, we talked about how I’m normally always cold but now I felt like my thermostat was broken, how I can be cold one minute and boiling hot the next. We talked about my insomnia, how I wake up several times in the night and then can’t get back to sleep because 3am is a great time to ponder all the mysteries of the universe. We talked about night sweats and how I spend all night kicking my covers off and then ten minutes later pulling them back on. We talked about my mood and how one minute I’m as happy as a pig in poo and the next I’m sobbing over absolutely nothing. We discussed my lack of concentration and how my memory has gone from immense to shocking. I told her how sometimes I literally feel so tired that it’s like I’m walking around in a daze. I told her about my brain fog and how sometimes it’s like a switch has gone off and I’m no longer in the room. I told her I felt I was losing my marbles.
She agreed that I was showing some signs and that she would send me for a blood test to check my hormone levels but she told me my hormones would more than likely be at a normal level and even at that normal level I could still be starting the menopause.
She sent me away to think about HRT, the coil (because ever GP I’ve seen since having children wants me to have a coil fitted for some reason, I’m starting to wonder if they are on commission or just have a load they need to shift) and what I wanted to do.
It took a few weeks for me to even have a blood test (god bless waiting lists and poorly children) and two days later, the day after my 36th birthday my doctor phoned me.
She confirmed that I was indeed going through the menopause.
She told me that my tests had showed that my oestrogen levels are very low.
She told me I would be monitored and have blood tests each year because if you have finished your menopause before you turn 40 you’re at more risk of certain conditions such as oesteoporosis. At 4ft 10 I can’t afford to shrink so fingers crossed on that one!
She then asked me if me and John had finished having children and that’s when it hit me.
I knew deep down what was going on but because people NEVER talk about the menopause and therefore I didn’t know loads about it I’d sort of thought I was wrong.
I’d joked about it to my husband as I do when things are on my mind but suddenly it wasn’t funny.
I fully expected no phone call at all from my GP because I thought I couldn’t be right on this one.
But I was
and suddenly everything seemed so final. The doctor asking me if we had completed our family made me feel sad, so very sad. My biological clock was well and truly ticking and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I always wanted another baby. Despite that, I always knew we would never have another because it would be unfair on both of our children given how stretched our time is already. Children also cost money and we don’t have the room. We have been blessed with two beautiful children and I am lucky so very lucky. I had gotten over the fact that we weren’t having any more children. I no longer yearned for just one more until the moment the doctor said those words. When I felt that decision was being taken away from me it filled me with a sadness I can’t describe.
The menopause is indeed very final.
I wasn’t prepared for that.
Of course it will be nice when it’s all over, nobody wants the inconvenience of periods forever because they’re honestly god awful and nobody wants the menopause forever either because that’s god awful too, but hearing this news somehow made me feel I was ageing quicker than I should, I can’t explain why but I felt less of a woman for a while, my confidence took a knock, and despite wishing for many years that my periods would just disappear now that the big M was here I just wasn’t prepared or ready.
You see when people don’t talk about things they become unknown entities. Fear of the unknown is very real. I knew next to nothing about the menopause because it is one of those subjects people don’t openly discuss, especially early menospause and premature ovarian failure
and so I was a little scared and apprehensive.
I still am.
I don’t know anybody who is menopausal in their 30’s. I have friends who had children well in to their 40’s.
This is me in foreign territory, a completely unknown situation. This is me going through something I know so little about and that people don’t talk about.
So here I am laying it all out and trying to change that a little.
The menopause isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s not something to be hidden away. It’s not something that I should be embarrassed about.
I’m still me, I’m still young, I’m still happy, I’m still strong, I’m still healthy, nothing has changed.
If the discussion hasn’t been started it’s my duty to do just that:-
I am Gemma, aged 36 and I am going through the menopause.