Catherine’s Story

This great piece appeared on Raise the Glass an excellent blog written by Catherine Crichton. Her other posts cover topics like middle aged crushes, why we should all go to Electric Picnic and her Big Secret.

A fainting lady

A fainting lady

All Change

“Oh for fuck’s sake, why can’t they design kitchen equipment that does what it’s supposed to do? This is FUCKING RIDICULOUS!”

Other family members looked on nervously as I flung things round the kitchen. The trigger event for this Gordon Ramsay style kitchen meltdown? While draining pasta, a few strands of spaghetti had slipped through the colander into the sink. I know, terrible isn’t it? I blame my hormones for the extreme reaction.

Until about two years ago I had only a vague notion of what the menopause entailed. I knew about the night sweats and hot flushes, but that was about it. Menopause is deemed to have happened when you have gone 12 months without a period. What I now know is that when you reach this milestone, all the drama is over. Perimenopause is where it’s really at. Perimenopause is the term for the fun-filled years leading up to the menopause, and it lasts on average for four or five years.  It’s been quite an adventure so far…….

It all started innocently enough with irregular but otherwise normal periods. This is grand, I thought to myself. Then last summer, the famous hot flushes and night sweats kicked in, but that stage didn’t last very long. Still grand. Though given the unpredictable nature of perimenopause, I suppose they might be back (great!). In the last 8 months or so I’ve experienced a range of other, more annoying symptoms.

Menopause brain

This my term for the brain fog, lack of concentration and mental confusion which can mark perimenopause and which at times has caused me to question my sanity. I’ve always been absent minded but this is on a whole new level. Stress exacerbates these symptoms hugely. During a recent family crisis I found myself making really stupid mistakes at work. I remember being horrified on seeing a cash reconciliation sheet which was clearly the work of an innumerate idiot, only to realise the idiot was me – I’d been handling payments that day.

Long hunts for the car in car parks are a regular occurrence, as I have no recollection whatsoever of parking the thing.  Worst of all was was a two month long ‘reader’s block’ where I found myself incapable of concentrating enough to read a book. Tragic. I made my excuses at the book club.

Menopause narcolepsy

In the last few months I’ve learned that if I want to achieve anything after about 4pm on any given day, I need to keep away from soft furniture. If my ass lands on a sofa or bed, however briefly, I WILL fall asleep. Instantly and deeply. The fatique is extreme and overwhelming. There are also occasional spells of dizziness and lightheadness where, like a posh Victorian lady, I’ve had an attack of the vapours necessitating a little sit down because I feel weak. Smelling salts please!

Rivers of blood (You have been warned)

The periods have got heavier. And heavier. And longer. And more painful. The last one carried on for over three weeks for pity’s sake. Industrial strength sanitary protection is deployed, but fails to hold back the tide. As emergency back-up, tampons and towels are worn simultaneously, sometimes even two tampons at once. White trousers are not my friend. Underwear has been destroyed. I’m fairly aghast at this latest development and find myself equating all this blood loss with the very essence of youth draining away. Will I be a shrivelled old prune by the time it stops?

Anyway, last week I finally copped that there’s probably a cause and effect connection between the rivers of blood, the tiredness and the brain fog. I dragged myself off to the GP. Sure enough, blood tests showed that I’m anaemic so a course of iron and B12 injections should sort that out. As for the periods from hell? “You can’t put up with that” declared the doctor, making me want to kiss her (I didn’t). She’s packing me off to a gynaecologist to see what can be done to resolve matters.

Every woman will experience perimenopause differently of course. My own mother says that her periods just stopped in her 50s and she had no symptoms in the lead-up (my mother is what’s known as a trooper). I decided to write this blog post to share my experience as I’ve found that it’s still a fairly taboo subject here in prudish Ireland. Although I’ve recently discovered a website called “My Second Spring” which is a good outlet for women going through *adopts Les Dawson mother-in-law expression* ‘The Change’.

Anyone care to comment? Ah go on.

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