Missing me in Perimenopause

I’m on the third ‘good day’ in a row, after a few weeks of progressively worse days. That’s basically been my life, my months, for over a year now. I’m in perimenopause, and for me, it’s worse than for others. Some ‘bad days’ aren’t that bad – but I’m always reminded that yeah, they really were bad each time I get a ‘good day’. The fog clears from around my brain, I’m not angry or annoyed by trivial things to the point of biting my tongue constantly and thus turning unusually quiet, my lower back pain is just gone – with no more physical reason for leaving than it had for coming. But highest on the list of changes for a ‘good day’ is that I feel like me, my thoughts sound like me, my emotions are comfortable and familiar, and I feel positive about the day, myself, and life in general. As good as having ‘good days’ are, they also sort of scare me – because I realize that the days before, that person in my body wasn’t the real me.

I’ve slowly not been able to tell sometimes which days are which, those in between days that are honestly the bulk of my days since the summer. And so I’ve also gotten quieter and quieter, I’ve not wanted to say something, or worse, to type something, while not really me – and regret it later. Mix in Covid and moving and I’ve just not had a lot of in-person time with many people for two years, so me pulling back from typed communication was a bigger deal than I realized. And I was also being extra careful with any communication; my emotions, my feelings were the farthest from my honest self and I just had no desire to spread any of that ‘bad day Rachel’ anywhere. I’m a relatively cheerful person. I’ve always lived up to my middle name, Joy. At first it was a few off days, worse PMS, but it came and went on relative schedule. But that slowly changed…

I turned 46 the September before last. It’s like that was my body’s internal clock, I’d used up my normal amounts of hormones and it was downhill fast. Things changed that October, in 2020, it was obvious and a terrible month. My period was two weeks late. That began the new fun my cycle would have, and still has – rarely on time, bouncing around. However, while the actual bleeding could come late, early, or not at all a couple months, the PMS seemed to grow, surrounding the ‘expected’ schedule plus the actual event to the point of two weeks’ worth some months. I began research that winter, and started taking special supplements in March. They helped a bit, my night sweats eased and I haven’t had another panic attack after my first ever in February 2021. I told myself, and Norbi, that I’d try just the supplements until summer, and if things weren’t better by then, I’d look into medication.

Background side story – I was diagnosed with Insulin Resistance in March 2019 and did a huge lifestyle change that spring, resulting in my IR symptoms going away within months, losing 60 lbs by August and reversing my IR by March 2020. I kept all the weight off for two years, until I began gaining a bit this past summer. Some of the symptoms I began feeling in 2021 were also reminiscent of my IR symptoms at its worst. And yes, life in a pandemic is hard – I think I waited so long to move on my perimenopause simply because I could never be sure what was IR maybe coming back, what was Covid-era induced depression, what was stress from a move and house renovation, and what was from the perimenopause…??? And yes, I remain angry at my own hormones messing with my hard-earned Insulin Resistance win, bringing weight back I worked super hard to lose.

This past summer I stopped one of the supplements, as one of the possible side effects was weight gain, and I’d gained weight for the first time since losing so much, with no other lifestyle changes. I worked super hard in June and July to get rid of those ten pounds, using methods I’d used just two years before with amazing results, except this time – nothing. No change what so ever, except a rise in my own stress and frustration. I knew the chance I’d given the supplements was over, and it was time to take more action – but I had no idea what that action should be, or much energy to really figure it out. We continued outside construction on our house this summer and we had Anna & Shiloh here with us until October, so I told myself once they leave in the fall, I’ll figure stuff out then.

In the summer I also joined some perimenopause groups, and began reading articles, blogs, books, etc…, just learning what I could about what others were going through and methods of helping. It was a huge boost to not feeling alone, though the opinions on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) were a bit overwhelming at first – in some ways it reminded me strongly of when I’d first begun learning about Insulin Resistance. In both worlds it’s a case of the people in the trenches pushing the medical world on and forcing changes because the official ‘help’ was just not really helping. We’re also seeing my fellow Gen-Xer’s entering perimenopause, and as a generation, we’re not very compliant to the status que. I say this to very briefly point out that today’s HRT is not your mother’s HRT and much of the scare of it raising cancer rates has been disproven. But this isn’t my soapbox on HRT. It is simply the method I’m pursuing now, with high hopes.

In September I finally jumped in and did real research on what my options would be here in Hungary, referring to a lot of British medical websites as I figured, correctly, I’d be able to get their products easier than American ones. Frustratingly, I quickly discovered that the HRT I’d learned about and wanted to try, the newer methods, were not all that readily available or known about here in Hungary. I finally found one medical center, in Budapest, that has a Menopause specialist program, and after directly asking, they do prescribe the sort of HRT I was looking for (topical or transdermal instead of pill form). I’m not a huge fan of doctor’s offices and all that go with them and admit to dragging my feet at this point – but did finally contact them again to make an appointment, initially in November. I’d hoped to fit it in before our trip to the US. Hadn’t counted on their appointments being rather full, and the soonest they could get me in was a month away, while we were in the US. Pushed it back to the week we returned, mid-December. And then our return from the US got all fouled up and we didn’t actually arrive until the day of my appointment, I’d contacted them during all the mess and rescheduled – but that pushed it back to early January. So… last week I finally had my first appointments, with all sorts of tests, it was very thorough, including my first bone density scan. The program is more for older women fully in menopause, so there is concern about osteoporosis, something me, in perimenopause, am not dealing with yet – but now we have a nice scan of what my dense bones look like for comparison down the road. Anyway, more appointments this week to look at those test results and got my first prescriptions filled yesterday for an estrogen spray, and go back in a few weeks to have a progesterone IUD inserted. Wasn’t super excited about the IUD, but the doctor’s explanation of the hormones being absorbed directly in the location they’re needed made a lot of sense.

Mostly I’m sharing all this because I’m finally having a good day where the words are just coming, and I’ve often wanted to share what I’ve been struggling through, but most often have been in that dark and low place and never trusted myself. It has been a very rough year, and while I’ve said that, and used those exact words, I’ve not really been able to explain why or what I meant exactly. I had to laugh as the doctor yesterday was all about my calcium intake and spent a lot of time going over this long questionnaire on what I eat, counting the calcium amounts – because of that possible osteoporosis later. And I’m thinking, lady – I need you to focus on the other half of the questions – the ones about anxiety, difficulty sleeping, depression, poor memory, etc… Sure, I can eat more yogurt, but first I’d like to feel like myself more than a few days a month. I’m also sharing because I’d never heard of the word ‘perimenopause’ until a few years ago. And all these steps I’m now taking will not be instant fixes, it can take weeks or sometimes months for the hormones to do their thing – I don’t expect to be this chatty about it for a while again, or chatty at all – and that’s just not like me, and I miss me, and hope some of you do too. Working to get back to me, and am hoping maybe I can encourage someone else to take those steps to get back to their ‘good’ version too!

PS – this took me a few days to decide to share, wrote it a few days ago. Today is not a good day. 😉