All women go through the change of life and each journey is different. You have to advocate for yourself to get the best care possible.
I woke up in a sweat. My pillow was soaked. The covers were thrown around all willy-nilly. My breathing erratic.
Had I been having a nightmare? If I had, it was the same one I had been having for the past several nights. Each time I woke up the same. Wet with my own sweat, heart beating wildly and the covers thrown off.
I described my symptoms to an older friend and she mentioned that maybe I was going through menopause.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Menopause is the time marking the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles. …Typically diagnosed after going 12 months with no menstrual period.” This time can also be marked by sleep disturbances, emotional issues, and low energy.
Most of my friends were having hot flashes. The main symptom of this stage of life. Almost like a right of passage. They were having their own personal summers that could happen at any time. Day or night and even in the dead of winter. This is a natural part of a woman’s life, but still.
A talk with my doctor revealed I was going through perimenopause. According to the Mayo Clinic, perimenopause is a time of transition when your body is preparing for full-blown menopause. Estrogen production decreases, which in turn causes your periods to become irregular. You suffer through mood swings, sleep issues, and vaginal dryness. All due to hormonal changes.
Perimenopause can last up to seven years. Maybe even longer. Maybe you have your monthly visitor. Maybe you don't.
This on-again-off-again rollercoaster ride has been going on to my knowledge for several years. Honestly, I have no idea how long because the symptoms just became bothersome as I have closed in on the time when most of the women in my family have entered menopause and post-menopause.
While most women go through the stages, perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause, some never ever feel a twinge. Or their symptoms do not become worrisome. They just go with the flow (pun intended).
I clearly am not one of those women.
Most women typically enter perimenopause as early as age 40 but some start as early as their mid to late 30s.
After suffering from prolonged bleeding several times over the next couple of years, I consulted my gynecologist and underwent a hysteroscopy to hopefully stop the bleeding.
My doctor inserted a thin, lighted tube to look at my cervix and the inside of my uterus. She performed a dilation and curettage (D & C) to remove any foreign matter that might be causing the abnormal bleeding.
This procedure wasn’t foolproof. In fact, my doctor tells me there is a chance that I will be closer to age 60 before I go through menopause into post-menopause. At least I knew there was no underlying cause of the abnormal bleeding.
This experience has offered me a few insights and I now share them with you:
1) One size does not fit all - Everyone goes through this change of life in their own time and their own way. This is a personal journey.
2) It’s your choice - While there are several treatments available to help with mood swings, vaginal dryness and the other symptoms, it is my choice whether to utilize any of them or not. Just as it is yours.
3) Advocate for Yourself (Along with #2) - You know when your body is telling you something isn’t right. If you think something is wrong then something may just be wrong. Use your voice.
4) Get a 2nd opinion – Should you end up with a diagnosis that is untenable, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. So many of our symptoms can point to other problems that have nothing to do with what you’re really going through. If you don’t believe one professional is taking you seriously, you have the right to seek out others and get your needs met. Do this within reason though. Your health could be at stake.
5) Accept the inevitable – Once you have had everything checked out and know for a fact there are no underlying issues causing any abnormal bleeding, then all you can do is sit back and let the aging process proceed. This will require a change in mindset.
As with many things we have to deal with as we age, menopausal symptoms can be distressing. If you aren’t sure what you’re dealing with, seek medical help. Make your voice heard. Menopause is a topic that isn’t discussed because we are made to feel as if we shouldn’t talk about the body’s natural processes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Share your story.