I tossed and turned last night, again. This has been the story of my life for the past year or so. As someone who used to be a heavy sleeper — I could snooze on a shady sofa in college during a beer pong tournament like a champion if I needed some extra ZZZs — this is both unfamiliar and unpleasant.
I rely on a solid nine hours of sleep to get me through the day. Needless to say, my lack of rest doesn’t really fit into my lifestyle. Neither does my irritability, my anxiety, mood swings, or the fact I break out into a sweat and have the desire to walk around naked all damn day.
I always feel like I’m on the cusp of being PMS-y, too. I keep my diva cup and a bag of chocolate and salty nuts on me at all times.
It’s a real fucking treat. I’m 44 years old and peri-freaking-menopause is making its way through my body. This experience has nothing on pregnancy hormones — and I had three children in three years, so that’s really saying something. The cherry on top? My crimson wave comes whenever the hell it wants so there’s no use in tracking it anymore.
Apparently, perimenopause doesn’t care how old you are. It knocks on your door when it feels like it.
Lest you think your mid-40s is too young to experience the hell that is perimenopause and its wild mood swings, you are wrong.
The average woman goes through menopause at age 51, but there’s a lot of shit going on in your body as it prepares to shut those periods down. They don’t just stop overnight. There’s hell to pay first, which isn’t a new story for a person who has a vagina.
I recall my own mother’s experience with perimenopause. My first taste of it was one afternoon when the house needed vacuuming and I was being a “lazy teenager.” She went next level while pointing the vacuum hose at my temple telling me what an asshole I was. She’d just been to the doctor that day to get some things checked out and was informed she was starting menopause.
Well, guess what? She was a few years younger than I am now, and that shit lasted for at least five years. Probably longer, but I’ve blocked it out.
I swore I’d never act like that, I didn’t care where I was in life. But just the other day I lost in on my son over a few crumbs he left on the counter. I reached for the damn hose to suck them up and saw my reflection in the mirror as I almost blew a gasket.
Hello, Mom. Sigh…
Dr. Kate Kiloran of Your Doctors Online, explains perimenopause is when you “have all the symptoms of menopause, but still get your period.”
Well, aren’t we just a bunch of lucky fucks?
They aren’t just regular periods, either. Kiloran says, for many women, their cycles become irregular and heavy as they approach menopause. Other symptoms we can expect to be blessed with, according to Dr. Kiloran are “breast tenderness, increased PMS, reduced libido, vaginal dryness, fatigue, memory issues, hot flashes, and depression.”
Before our reproductive hormones — estrogen and progesterone — start to dry up, they like to keep us guessing. “During perimenopause, these values can fluctuate dramatically. Some months estrogen can be high and other months it is low,” says Dr. Kiloran. “Sometimes it may be the imbalance of the two, estrogen and progesterone, that causes symptoms.”
So, what can we do to ease this madness? Because believe you me, this is a shitshow and I’m looking for some relief.
According to Dr. Kiloran, you can soften the blow a bit. It’s important to address insomnia and depression if these symptoms become unbearable. I’ve started taking melatonin and it’s helped a bit, but it’s definitely time for something stronger. I have a friend who swears by Tylenol PM.
Another option is low dose hormonal contraception or hormone therapy. “Some women are symptomatic due to a hormonal imbalance between estrogen and progesterone and taking just progesterone during the second half of their cycle (which, in an ovulatory cycle, is the time progesterone is secreted naturally) is very helpful for easing symptoms,” says Kiloran. “Other women benefit from taking both estrogen and progesterone.”
This is not the time to let self-care go either. “It’s imperative to get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat a healthy diet as often as possible,” says Kiloran.
Listen, I know this isn’t fair. Not feeling like ourselves due to bouncing hormones feels like a dirty trick. I’ve been struggling hard and my kids and skinny jeans are suffering for it.
I’m not going to try and make it through years of this torture without seeing my OBGYN and getting some assistance. There’s help out there and zero reason to be violent with a vacuum cleaner as a way of coping. Life is hard enough without heavy bleeding between our thighs and waking up in a wash-on sweat every night.