Gentleman beware, this is probably way more information than you want to know.
Last year I wrote an article titled “My Over 40 Body” because so much had changed in my body since my 40th birthday. Well, the saga continues and it’s time to share more of the journey.
I have officially entered perimenopause and SO much more has changed, especially over the past year. In talking to some of my close girlfriends, I realized that I am not alone and, if your hormones are as whacked out as mine, I think it’s important for you to know that neither are you.
We have all heard about the dreaded “menopause” and everything that comes with it. From hot flashes to weight issues to non-existent sex drive, this is a common conversation. Why is it though, that no one seems to really talk a lot about what happens in the months and YEARS leading up to that change?
One of my friends made a good point saying that our generation of mothers didn’t really talk as openly about such private matters. So, while they surely experienced everything we are going through, they just suffered privately with it … or maybe, like me, they kind of thought that they may just be going nuts.
First, the basics.
A woman has not officially reached menopause until she has gone without a period for 12 consecutive months. Perimenopause usually begins in your 40s but can start in
the mid 30s (which is what I experienced). Menopause doesn’t usually happen until our 50s, so us ladies get to ride the peri-menopause rollercoaster for quite some time.
I didn’t know a whole lot about what happens to a woman’s body as her hormones start to change so I did some research of my own. I logically knew things were happening to my body that were not something I was “doing wrong” but every SINGLE MONTH it messed with my mind, mostly because major water retention led me to question if I had screwed up my eating and started gaining weight. I finally decided enough was enough and looked into it.
My research revealed what logic was telling me.
Everyone is different in their experience but for me, my current symptoms indicate a major influx of estrogen each month. Apparently this is normal but when we are younger, the estrogen is offset by the hormone progesterone. When we enter perimenopause, progesterone levels decline, sometimes drastically, and it creates a scenario of “estrogen dominance.” Again … yay.
The result of this for me meant my periods changed dramatically. They are more consistent than they were a few years ago but the first few days have gotten ridiculously heavy … to the point that I had to buy pads for the first time since I was a teenager because tampons weren’t cutting it.
But that is just the beginning.
About 7 days prior to my period starting, the PMS (that I have never had much problem with before) begins. The first thing I notice is my breasts growing … and when I say growing, I mean to a full cup size more than normal. It’s obvious enough that my best friend noticed and my husband is stunned when it happens.
Next comes the “fluffiness” as I like to call it. The extreme water retention all around my torso and my butt to go along with the oversized chest. I can even see it in my arms. Basically, I feel like a walking water balloon and, when my clothes look different from one day to the next, this contributes greatly to the mental screw that occurs.
After walking around in a state of fluff for about a week, the day before I start my period, I often experience a weird low back pain and major fatigue … so much so that driving home at the end of the day proves difficult in keeping my eyes open.
This past month was a whole new experience of major bitchiness the day prior.
I honestly wanted to punch my husband square in the teeth for no particular reason other than he was near me, and it didn’t stop with him … everyone was subject to my mental violence. My typical cheer was no where to be found. I guess the good thing was that I was highly aware that this was not emotionally driven. There was nothing logical about it.
I spoke with my gynecologist a few months ago about all of the changes my body was going through when I went for my annual checkup. I walked out of there stunned because she offered me antidepressant medications for the fluctuations in hormones. WHAT?
She explained that research shows the SSRI class of antidepressants is effective in regulating hormones because of the effects on serotonin in the brain. Honestly, I have decided I am not sure if this is really the case or if you just don’t care near as much about the rollercoaster ride when you are on the anti depressants.
As for me, I am choosing more natural alternatives and plan to tough it out … at least at this stage. I believe the human body is amazing and that often times we just need to let it do what it’s meant to do. I think the biggest obstacle for many of us is our mindset: what we are and are not willing to tolerate. At this point, I am willing to tolerate everything, but rest assured, my doctor has that prescription on standby if that changes.
It’s challenging to see your body change and it can be frustrating not to feel great all of the time but, for me at least, just knowing that a change in hormones is what is causing these things and that I am not crazy or doing something wrong, arms me with a healthy perspective to navigate my way through it.
So my hope is that, if you are experiencing the rollercoaster hormones too, you now know it’s not just you.
Maybe by knowing my experience you will be able to just sit back, take a breath, and laugh at the crazy, wicked middle aged hormone ride too. In the meantime, try not to punch your loved ones and I will do the same!