I’ve been feeling dreadful for ages. And I mean ages! Putting it down to being overworked and underpaid, intolerances to gogi berries, the lack of Tuscan sunshine, but mainly just my age (well that part is kind of true). As I sat in front of a kindly doctor, after discussing my intimate health and women’s problems, he gently told me it was typical midlife health issues. Being only 48, I found myself gasping back, ‘Perimenopause, Me?!’ It came as a bit of a bomb shell.
For those of you who haven’t come across perimenopause before, it’s quite new to me too. If you have a woman in your life, a mum, sister, wife or you are of planet Venus yourself, you will. I’ll try to explain in a non NHS kind of way…
Imagine you’ve learnt how to drive, manoeuvring through life with relative ease, your tyres are fully plumped up, the paintwork is as pretty as can be and MOT’s are fairly straightforward. As things go on you avoid most of the pot holes, slow steadier at lights. But despite the greater care, things start to go wrong. The pressure in those tyres are decreasing, the brakes a little too aggressive and that leaky water tank… There seems to be no reason for so much going wrong at once. It is often only when something fundamental happens that we head to the mechanic.
That, my friends was when I was told I was in my perimenopause. Things can, and usually do, get fixed, but it’s temporary. At some stage you will be different, but then much of the drama is over. At that point, you’ll be in your menopause and hopefully you’ll just have to tart up those darn rusty bits with a bit of paint.
Here’s Eileen’s great video A.Vogal Talks Menopause: the 3 stages of menopause where she explains beautifully and simply what you can expect.
Looking back I had my first hot flush a couple of years ago. My husband and I were invited into a kitchen of a famous chef and I instantly became my own personal steamer. My hair literally rose and sweat beads surrounded my hairline. I need not tell you, this was not an attractive look. My husband teased me that I was blushing like never before. But I knew I didn’t fancy the chef, having eyes only for my Andy and the medium rare ‘cote de beouf’, so I had no explanation at all.
Later, I found out that Karma really IS a bitch. As I had spent many a happy moment chuckling at the Whoops! adverts, where woman piss themselves with delighted abandonment. I mean, come on, really!? Even with the most colossal nappy on I still couldn’t see myself giggling at the moment of uncontrolled knicker wetting. Let alone saddling sexily up to some (younger and assumably unaware) guy in a lift, or bizarrely wiggling my (damp?!) arse as I squeeze along narrow seats in a cinema, an inch away from folks popcorn. These adverts make light of a desperately difficult situation.
So, then I found myself sitting glum faced in a clean, orderly consulting room, with white slats at the window politely preventing the sun from blinding me, facing a kind, intelligent face whilst mortifyingly trying not to piss myself. I didn’t, by the way (just to keep you in the loop).
I took a great deal of pride that my bladder was like my nan’s. I could control it with a single thought. I mean, I’ve still never had an ‘incident’ but it’s taken a great deal of thought and a bit of crossing of legs.
Then, the blow came. ‘Your bladder is sensitive because you are in your perimenopause‘.
Is he crazy? Doesn’t all that kick off in your 50’s? I gave myself a mental slap in attempt to reassure my pounding heart that all is fine. All very natural. I was just expecting to be wearing a bit more tweed, that’s all.
Bizarrely, for him as much as for me, the first person I told was my daughter’s boyfriend Matthew, who took one look at my pale face and stepped forward with smiley eyes, “Ahhhh”, he said and hugged me sweetly. Relief. This was a good start, maybe this isn’t something to be ashamed of at all.
Telling my husband, tho’ was harder. Would he see me differently? Put his head to one side and think, ‘Yer, she’s deffo lost something…’. No shit Sherlock, I’ve lost oestrogen and a ton of it. Testosterone too! Taking a breath and letting my defences down I hark at the thought of ‘Calender Girls’. Remembering that darling husband who writes a romantic ditty about women, his wife in particular…
‘Every stage of their growth has its own beauty,
But the last phase is always the most glorious.
Then very quickly they all go to seed.
Which makes it ironic my favourite flower…’
In reality my hubby was also a darling and was super pleased for me, that finally I was getting some help with this group of unwelcome and debilitating ailments. He was also a little bit (too) fascinated that a plaster on my arse was the solution. I reassured him that it wasn’t a Mr Tickle one. I think he was a bit disappointed at that. But that’s his sense of humour and I take great joy in it. Laughter over tears any day.
So, if you have a sister, wife, mum or friend going through this, talk it out. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, like some horrible secret in this age where youth is paramount. Show her this post so she feels a little less alone.
It’s perfectly normal for hormone levels to drop from the age of 39, but can happen earlier, so come on ladies (and you gents) let’s stop being so quiet about it, at some point you too will be saying ‘Perimenopause, me?! It’s as natural as puberty, so let’s ditch the shame and except it’s not the end, just a new beginning.
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