My symptoms

A lot of us ladies would not know what the symptoms of perimenopause are.  Everyone is different & will have different symptoms & experiences.  My symptoms happened overnight, I woke up one morning & had a headache, dizziness & anxiety.  This lasted for 2 weeks till I finally decided to go see my GP.  I will list all the symptoms I had during the beginning of this journey till the thick of it.  I can’t say I am at the end of it, but at least I feel optimistic that it will get easier.

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Palpitations
  • Vertigo
  • Lightheadedness
  • Numb Fingers
  • Feeling very weak during my period & faint
  • Hot flushes
  • Night Sweats
  • Very low tolerance to hot weather
  • Hair loss
  • Hypothyroid
  • Elevated Blood Sugar levels
  • PMS
  • Weight gain around mid section
  • Brain Fog
  • Poor memory
  • Insomnia/Poor quality sleep

What is Perimenopause?

Hi All,

I thought I would explain what “Perimenopause” is.  There is a lot of confusion as when I talk about it people will ask “what is it”?  Or they assume that I am in menopause which is not the case.

So what exactly is perimenopause?  Very simply put perimenopause is the years before menopause.  Menopause is when you have NOT had a period in 1 year.  That is menopause.  Perimenopause is the time before that.  You can be in perimenopause from 5 – 10 years before menopause.

As Nisha Jackson explains in her book ” The Hormone Survival Guide for Perimenopause”:

“Basically perimenopause is a matter of age.  Women between 35 – 50 could be experiencing perimenopausal symptoms.  As this 15 year stage begins, hormone levels fluctuate & periods begin to change.  Some women experience mild symptoms, while others are hanging on for dear life as they ride the hormonal roller coaster, plunging from the highest highs to the lowest lows in a matter of 24 hours.”

For me personally it was a hormonal roller coaster from hell!

Road to Recovery

I was reading a book on Perimenopause & it suggested having accurate tests done to determine your hormone levels.  Since I had done the blood tests with the GP & nothing abnormal came up, I wanted to explore the option of saliva hormone testing.  This book recommended it & said it was more accurate than blood tests.  I had nothing to loose & was not satisfied with the GP’s outcome.  I started to google saliva hormone testing & it lead me to a particular site.  Now I could have gone to a naturopath but felt I was beyond herbal tonics.  I needed more.

The site it lead me to was for a compounding pharmacy.  I rang them the next day & they sent me via email all the paperwork for a consultancy.  We did this via correspondence.  I filled out all the paperwork & left nothing out.  I put down all my symptoms & what I had been feeling & experiencing.  I emailed back my form & they mailed me back & advised that they wanted a blood test done for my thyroid.  They wanted the full thyroid panel checked, not just TSH which GP’s do.  This is at extra cost.  They suspected that I had something going on with my thyroid from all my symptoms mentioned.

So I mailed the blood & saliva to the lab to get tested & after a few weeks I got my results back.  I got my results & recommendations a few days before Christmas.  The blood test indicated I was hypothyroid, I had reverse T3 dominance.  I had never heard of this before.  The saliva tests confirmed I was estrogen dominant.  Then there were the recommendations.  I had to go to the GP & get a script filled out for the thyroid medication & for progesterone.  Well that visit was very interesting.

When I told the GP that I had done independent testing & what the results were he gave me a lecture.  He told me that he had never heard of Reverse T3 dominance & that there was nothing wrong with me.  I asked him to ring the pharmacist that gave me the results & he replied “I don’t have time for this, I have a waiting room full of patients”.  Well that was the last straw for me.  I lost all respect (what little was left) for this person.  In my opinion he was only fit to diagnose a cold or flu & he probably got that wrong too.  He reluctantly gave me the prescription but told me that I was playing with my hormones.  My last words to him were “I am sure I am doing the right thing & when I get better I will be helping lots of women so they don’t go through what I did”.  I left & never went back.

Now that I had a diagnosis I felt some what better but really I didn’t.  I had hit such a low & was loosing my will to go on.  Christmas had come & gone & I was not in the festive spirit at all.  In fact I had no spirit left.  In my mind I just wanted to lay in bed & wait for my life to end.  I know this sounds morbid but that is how I felt.  Not that I wanted to end my life or suicidal thoughts or tendancies, but I had no spirit for life left in me.  My anxiety was so great & anyone who has suffered anxiety will know it is all consuming.  I had lost myself & everyday life was a struggle.

Over the Christmas break I decided I could not do this on my own.  I needed a doctor that would support me.  I was still seeing the therapist & this was one of her recommendations.  She would support me till I needed it.  I was grateful to the pharmacist for all he did but I needed someone accessible & in my area not interstate.  I went back to his recommendations & read them carefully again.  In his notes he suggested to find an “intergrative GP”.  I thought what is that?  I googled it & read what is an intergrative GP.  I started to look for one near my area.  I found one.  I rang her during the Christmas break & by some miracle the office number connected to the mobile.  I “screened” her during our conversation.  I asked her if she had heard of Reverse T3 dominance & she said yes, then I asked her if she had experience with perimenopause.  She replied yes again.  I rang her office & made an appointment.  It normally took 6 weeks to get in to see her but again by a miracle there was a cancellation & I saw her in early January 2014.

I will go into detail about my first visit with the Integrative GP & the first few months following this visit & how I felt.

 

 

The dark period

When I stopped going to acupuncture, as the weeks went on I started feeling unwell again & seeing a pattern develop.  I went back to the GP & when I suggested perimenopause he would say no you are still getting your period regularly, even though they started becoming a bit irregular.  He was always quick to “give me something” for the anxiety but I declined again.

In September 2013, a few days before my period my anxiety & panic attacks became more pronounced.  This lasted a few days till my period came.  I remember going to see Cirque De Soleil & towards the end of the show I started getting a headache & on the way home I had a full blown panic attack & I started feeling dizzy.  I did not know what was happening to me & how a “Date night” was turning into a nightmare.

In October 2013 the panic & anxiety lasted even a few days after my period finished.  So this time I had it for more than a week, not just a few days as the previous month.  I went to see my gynaecologist for a pap smear & he asked me how I was doing.  I told him what I was experiencing & he agreed with me when I said I think it is perimenopause.  He told me if it got worse to go back & see him.  That month I started the descent into the dark period.  I was finding it hard to cope with what I was feeling so decided to go back to the GP.  This time I saw a different GP, a female.  I told her what I was experiencing & she sent me off for blood tests again.  One of the tests was a hormone test.  I thought finally, this will confirm what I have been suspecting.

A week later I went back to get my results & all was fine except for my blood sugar levels which were a bit higher than normal.  My hormone levels were all within normal range.  I was very disappointed.  I had no answers as to why I was feeling like this.  I felt defeated, that this was not going to end.  I would be having panic & anxiety for no reason.  I felt robbed.  I wasn’t being the mother my children deserved.  I did not enjoy my daughter & felt cheated.  She was my last child & instead of taking my kids out to play in a park, I could hardly go out.  The GP suggested CBT (Congnitive Behaviour Therapy).  I agreed.  I was feeling desperate & was willing to give anything a go.  I told her I wanted to go to my own therapist ( I had seen a therapist years ago after my second miscarriage & she was fantastic).

So late October 2013 I started seeing a therapist.  The first session was quite normal.  She sat back & asked a few questions & mostly listened to what I had to say.  It was pretty standard session where she sat back & listened to see if I was crazy.  A few weeks later I went for the second session & the therapist said to me “I am not going to psycho analyse you, there is nothing wrong with you mentally”.  “You just need support, what you are going through is obviously hormonal”.  I was so relieved to hear that.  Finally someone had confirmed what I had been suspecting all this time.  She was willing to support me & listen to me during this hard time.

I tried another acupuncturist since mine was still on maternity leave but I did not really like the treatment & decided not to go back.  It was now December & I was finding it very hard to function.  Driving to work was getting harder due to the panic attacks I was suffering.  Once I got to work I was clock watching every 5 minutes looking at the time to see if it was time to go home.  When I was not working I could not do normal, everyday things like go grocery shopping due to my anxiety attacks.  I could not clean or look after my children.  All I could do was lie on the couch & not do anything.  I just felt so unwell.  You may be wondering why didn’t I go back to my gynaecologist since he told me if I got worse to go back.  I could not be bothered with waiting 6 weeks to get an appointment & I didn’t see this as just a gynaecological issue.

I also started getting migraines the day before my period.  When I had these migraines I could not work or drive.  If I was at work I had to go home.  I could not tolerate them.  What ever I took had no effect.  The only thing that helped was to go to bed & sleep.  These lasted for 2 days.  Sometimes I had to take 2 days off work.  It made my anxiety worse as I thought I was having an aneurysm or I had something wrong with my brain.  I am also a hypochondriac, so my imagination was running wild!

At the end of December, I had finished work for the year as we shut down for Christmas, I had so much anxiety that day.  I was running on adrenaline!  It was just running through me that day.  I knew I had reached the end.  I could not go on anymore.  I could not cope, I was exhausted.  I wanted to go to the emergency room or the crazy hospital that day.  I could not tolerate my own children, I just wanted to be left alone to deal with it somehow.  I got through the day, I survived.  I had an average Christmas, I was there in body but not in mind or spirit.  I was off having a panic in my head.  Something had to be done.  I could not live like this anymore!  I took matters into my own hands & started looking for the answers.

How it all started

I started noticing some changes before I fell pregnant with my second child.  I was 39 & my period was 3 days early which was not normal for me but I shrugged it off.  The next month my period was 3 days late but I figured because I was early the previous month that it balanced out.  The next month after that I was late again but did not think much of it as I was late the previous month but I thought I better do a pregnancy test since I was trying to fall pregnant & it was Christmas & quite a few drinks were being had, I tested positive.  I was pregnant with child # 2.

I had my daughter & 4 months after her birth I noticed a lot of different things happening to me.  It all started when I was weaning her off the breast around February 2013.  Since she started solids I slowly began cutting her down on the breast & introducing the bottle, doing this over a course of a few months to get ready for work.  Within a few days of cutting 1 feed I stated having night sweats.  I thought how strange to be getting night sweats.  The only time I ever got night sweats was when I had given birth & the milk was coming in.  I didn’t think much of it.  I also did not like the heat.  If it was over 30c, I had to stay indoors with Air Conditioning.  The heat affected me.  I felt like I was 8 months pregnant.

A few days after that I woke up one morning with a headache in the front of my head just above my eyebrows & felt slightly off balance not totally dizzy.  I thought maybe it is my hormones re adjusting from reducing the 1 feed.  As the days went on I didn’t feel any better & along with the headache dizziness  & I started getting anxiety attacks.  I would take my son to swimming lessons with daughter in tow & would be sitting there having a panic attack while he was having his swimming lesson.  This went on for about 2 weeks till I decided to go see my GP.

I told my GP what I was experiencing & he said I am sure it is just stress.  I told him I don’t feel stressed!  I went & did a general blood test just to make sure I was not low in iron & see all was OK.  I went back a few days later to get the results & he told me all was OK & that my iron levels were better than ever.  He stuck to his diagnosis of “just stress” & offered to give me something.  I declined.  Again I thought to myself ” I don’t feel stressed”.  Sure I was home with 2 young kids but I was not stressed out.

The headache went away nearly a month later but I still felt dizzy & had anxiety.  My hair also started falling out.  I have quite long hair & I could not leave it out as I was shedding so much hair.  More than normal.  I had to tie it back every day.  This went on for quite a few months.  People were telling me this was normal as you loose hair after having a baby.  I did not think it was normal.  Not 5 months after having a baby.

In May 2013 my period returned, I also went back to work.  My daughter was nearly 9 months old.  I thought work would help me.  Good to get out of the house & maybe distract me from what I was feeling.  The anxiety was still plaguing me daily, but I was still coping with it all.  Back at work I noticed that my memory was not good.  I would forget simple things.  I could not remember a lot of my procedures at work.  Luckily I had written them down before I went on leave & was referring to my notes for the first few weeks.

In June 2013 I decided to go to see my acupuncturist.  I just needed something to realign me.  I felt so off balance with the anxiety & dizziness I was having.  She gave me some Chinese Herbs to take, along with Magnesium & B6.  I started seeing some improvement while seeing her regularly.   I went for about 2 months then she went on maternity leave.  After that I started seeing a pattern & began the descent to the dark period.

About

I started this blog so I can share my experience with other women regarding Perimenopause.  I hope this blog gives you some hope & shines a light in a dark time you may be going through & have no idea I was not myself.  I progressively felt worse with each passing month & went numerous times to my GP only to be told “there is nothing wrong with you”.

You are too young

I will share my story & maybe I will give someone some hope, shed some light, & you are not too young.  Maybe you are going through a dark time, feel very out of control & feel like you are going “MAD”.  Don’t loose hope!  I can’t stress that enough.  Even though you feel like there is no life left in you, & you are stuck in a dark tunnel, there is light!  You will get through this & be even stronger than before.

I first heard of Perimenopause from watching an episode of Oprah.  I was home one afternoon & Oprah came out yelling enthusiastically “I am not dying”.  I thought what is she talking about!!  She then went on to explain her symptoms, mainly heart palpitations & how she went to about 3 doctors & they all gave her a different diagnosis.

The last doctor she went to told her it was perimenopause.  In this episode of Oprah, she had Dr Christiane Northrup on the show.  Dr Northrup is a leading authority on women’s health & wellness.  On the show she talked about her latest book “The Wisdom of Menopause” & they covered perimenopause.

I thought to myself “Great, something else to look forward to in life”.  I knew about menopause & wasn’t really looking forward to it as my mother had a horrible time with it.  She was bedridden for 2 months from heavy bleeding.  I had never heard about perimenopause until that episode of Oprah.  I am glad I watched it.

I hope you enjoy my story as this is my journey.  I will start from the beginning & will update as I go along, as I have not completed my journey yet.  I feel like I still have a bit of a way to go but looking back I have come so far.

There is hope!

 Helen Papacostantinou