- Feeling like you can’t keep a thought in your head for more than a few moments before it wafts away out of reach.
- Feeling like you can’t cope with the smallest thing going wrong.
- Feeling like your head is going to explode with all the stuff that is going round in it, even though most of the time you can’t keep a thought in your head (see 1.)
- Not wanting to be seen but wondering why you seem invisible.
- Questioning your decisions when you used to be confident.
- Feeling anxious about things that you would have never been concerned about before.
- Wondering if people can see that you are anxious.
- Making mistakes because you can’t concentrate.
It sounds like I am describing some sort of mental health issue doesn’t it?
But, combine these feelings with: joint pain, hearing loss in one ear, tinnitus, sleeplessness, irritability, weight gain, tiredness at strange times and a whole host of other symptoms and you have in front of you a peri-menopausal woman who thinks she is falling physically apart and going mad.
Thankfully, I have a lovely doctor who assured me I wasn’t going mad, wasn’t depressed, but was entering a phase of my life which changes things irrevocably. I won’t feel like the old me any more: I will feel like another version of me.
This other version of me has been prescribed an oestrogen gel which I rub into my upper arms each morning and it helps to alleviate some of the symptoms. They are not all going to go away overnight – that would expecting miracles – but there are things I can do to help some of them. I have been reading up on this a lot and am astonished at the number of ailments that result from the peri-menopause. Why aren’t we told this? Why is no-one telling employers about this? Why is it still seen as something to joke about – hot flushes (I rarely have them) and Black Cohosh? It’s not funny and we certainly should not “just get on with it”. Yes, generations of women have “just got on with it” but they weren’t told it could be different. In times gone by, a lot of women would have been admitted to an asylum because they were sent “mad” from the symptoms.
Like every other stage of my life, I am going to try and make the best of it. I am going to take all the advice I can get. I can going to nourish my dry skin; treat my coarse dry hair to a nice conditioner; I am going to go for long walks every day (work and weather permitting) to help strengthen my bones: I am going to take better care of myself.
But mostly I am not going to berate myself for having a bad day – there have been plenty and there will be plenty more. I’ve talked to K, T and A about it, told my mum, spoken to my boss (who was incredibly supportive and understanding) and I am telling my friends as and when I see them. It hasn’t been easy – I am not very comfortable talking about things that are private, my feelings (weirdly, it’s much easier to put it all down on virtual paper), but I am not embarrassed and will not make excuses or apologise. If I want to weep because, well, just because I need to, then I will weep. If I am having a bad day and can’t face the world I will stay at home and not face the world*. Friends will understand, unless they are lucky enough not to experience any of this. I am going to allow my family to make me cups of tea and cook dinner from time to time. I am not going to feel bad about shoving something ready made in the oven when I can’t face making a meal from scratch. I don’t have to do it all, all the time. This other version of me is going to have to learn to let go of the reins sometimes and sit back and let others do it. And it’s not selfish or self-indulgent, it’s necessary.
So, another chapter begins. Here’s to the journey ahead.
* A lot of women are struggling to go to work and do the job they have done for years because of brain fog and anxiety. I know I am VERY fortunate to be able to work from home and I hugely appreciate it. Equally I am incredibly lucky to have a very understanding boss. Others are not so lucky.