For World Menopause Day 2019
Quite a long time ago, I was pretty unwell. Then I got my act together and for a long time I was a lot better.
Suddenly about 7 years ago, I felt as if I was going backwards. I went to the GP with inexplicable mood swings and irrational rage. She mentioned “peri menopause”, changed my coil and gave me some HRT gel.
I didn’t really take the peri-menopause thing seriously.
Then, in 2016, I started to get increasingly anxious, sad and obsessive. I decided that this was something I needed to do something about and I began some really intensive work and therapy. I wrote a book and decided to be open about my struggles.
But in spite of it all, I have had a really tough couple of years.
Here’s a few observations:
Hormones and physical changes that go with the peri menopause are bad at the best of times. If you have had previous mental illness and specifically issues with eating and body image, then I believe that the menopause can be a really difficult thing and carries a risk of relapse. But it is a risk that I think we can mitigate against, if we take time and space to reflect.
A menopause pause.
I have only twice in my life been anything but slim. The first was when I was eighteen and after I left home. I gained weight and then became anorexic.
When I had my two children I gained weight but quickly returned to slim through breast feeding.
I did not get post natal depression.
With recent years, I have gained weight and, in spite of eating healthily (and sometimes obsessively) and exercising regularly, I have not been able to control it in the way that I used to.
That has been really hard. My thoughts and feelings about my body have been immature, selfish, indulgent…and really hard to handle.
I have also had extremes of low mood and anxiety in the last couple of years that, now that I reflect on it, are not simply a result of me being incapable of true recovery but are rather a direct result of my age.
When you catch a bad cold, you feel really poorly but then you recover and you feel better again. Because you ARE better again. If you get another cold a while later, you don’t think “oh that bloody cold is back again and it must be my fault because I am so hopeless and weak”. You may feel the same way as you did with the last cold but you don’t assume that it is the same cold back again…
Why then, when we have a bout of poor mental health, do we assume that we are re-lapsing, or a failure or a life-long screw-up?
I think for me, the peri-menopause has brought a new set of mental health cold symptoms with it. But they will pass, the mental snot, fever and aches and pains will pass and I will be better again.
The mental cold cures, for me, have been the following:
My husband and children
Yoga, morning and night
Work where I feel valued
Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off on the TV.
These are all my menopausal honey, lemon and whisky for the soul.
If you find yourself in a similar phase, make sure you know what yours are.