This is Susie’s (not her real name) experience of her Menopause journey for us. Susie is now in her mid 60’s and I believe now enjoying life as a working woman minus the hot flushes!
When I was 49 I was having heavier and more frequent than usual periods. Several of my friends were using HRT and extolled its virtues. The GP suggested I give it a try. For 5 years or so life was bliss! HRT does all those things it promises. I had regular light periods, felt fit – honestly even my hair and skin seemed younger.
However I then started having bleeding at odd times and was referred for investigation. This revealed nothing of any concern and the consultant recommended I stopped the HRT. It was then the nightmare began. Hot flushes came in deluges rather than the odd nuisance, day and night. All of those other embarrassing problems nobody talks about arrived and worse, the flushes woke me at night and kept me awake. It’s a little known fact – and I have no idea why this could possibly have been useful in our evolution – a hot flush at night wakes you and makes you alert. The problem is not the hot flush, it’s the getting back to sleep.
Tiredness, affecting my work and my home life drove me back to the doctor. He was as helpful and kind and he could be and I then tried a succession of different preparations of HRT. Each one, of maybe 6 or 7, either caused bleeding – or even worse – black moods of misery and hopelessness. Fortunately I recognised this pretty quickly as I had experienced problems with the pill in the past and knew some hormone combinations caused these feelings.
I asked to be referred to the menopause clinic and went with renewed hope. Surely they would know more. Unfortunately 5 minutes in to the appointment I realised I knew so much more than the specialist nurse I saw. I had researched extensively, read every forum, tried every natural product recommended, (you can only each so much soya) So I gave up again and decided to get on with it, put up with the tiredness, get sleep when I could, and try not to be superwoman all the time.
Some months later, struggling with all of this I was invited for a ‘well woman’ appointment. Great I thought. Perhaps this will bring fresh ideas. I mentioned the menopause straight off and the nurse carrying out the appointment then talked for 10 minutes about how she had had the worst menopause ever. That left me at a particularly low point.
In the end the wakefulness at night drove me back to the doctor in a tearful state. I saw a triage nurse who was much better informed than most of the people I had spoken to before and she recommended amitriptyline. This drug in higher quantities is used for depression, but in a low dose it is a muscle relaxant, and encourages sleep. For reasons unknown it also reduced hot flushes. It worked – hooray! After a couple of years, however, since this drug affects brain chemistry I started to worry about long term effects (an unnecessary worry apparently, but it persisted). I stopped taking them and the flushes were back with a vengeance, miserable flushes (often 5 or 6 a night) and lack of sleep drove me back to the health centre.
Now one thing I should say – and this is my experience, it doesn’t matter what job you do, or how educated you are, menopausal women are not taken seriously. NOBODY seems to understand how awful the symptoms are for some women. I know most sail through it and I am the exception, but I was often treated as – frankly – a nuisance, a hypochondriac and a fuss pot. When I went to the doctor for other things I was frequently asked if I was stressed or depressed. My symptoms were not taken seriously. This led me to avoid going to the doctor until I was absolutely desperate. Fortunately I have had nothing particularly serious wrong, but had this been the case there might have been a poor outcome.
So – back to the GP. This time I waited for an appointment for the GP of my choice. In our surgery you’re likely to see a different person every time so it is not easy to build up any rapport with a doctor and you have to explain the long saga every time. This particular doctor had been recommended by my Pilates teacher (thanks Gillian), who said she was not only an expert in the gynae field, but was also understanding and patient. She was indeed!
After a long conversation (and I had also written everything down and brought it with me) she prescribed HRT patches which she thought might work for me. After a couple of tries we found the perfect one. They worked! No bleeding, no mood problems, no flushes. My whole life changed, literally. I felt fit and healthy and best of all – wonderful, blissful, sleep at nights. This was last October and I have been so happy to have found a solution – until a few weeks ago. On collecting a repeat prescription the pharmacist told me he didn’t have it as there were production problems with this HRT. He had asked the GP to suggest another type and I had to go back to get the new one. I went home and cried.
Well the new HRT patches are here and after a couple of weeks I have period pain and spotting. I know that’s a small nuisance but I am 64. Who wants periods when they are 64? I have booked to see the GP (when she has an appointment free in a few weeks’ time!) and I am planning to get through it without crying. Watch this space…..
I know I am lucky. I am fit, healthy, my children are all alive and well and my husband is the love of my life. I am blessed, as they say. But the misery of the menopause has been a problem to me for 15 years!! I cannot imagine the flushes will ever stop. I just hope I can find a permanent solution to cope with them.
If you are reading this and you have not had menopause problems be glad. If your story is like mine then you are not alone and let’s have a good old moan and a glass of wine some time. If you are young and haven’t got there yet I promise my journey is rare!
If you have read this and thought ‘it’s ME!’ and want more support we put together some charities below: