Help! A Thirteen-Year-Old Has Taken Over My Forty-Year-Old Body!Sep 24, 2021
Help! A Thirteen-Year-Old Has Taken Over My Forty-Year-Old Body!
Some of you dear readers will know exactly what I am talking about. Like many women, I had no idea what was going on in my body when I landed in perimenopause, as many of the symptoms can seem attributable to other common issues in our very busy and demanding lives. I hope that in sharing my story, you will find validation, acceptance, and knowledge to face the amazing change your body is about to go through, is currently going through, or has gone through.
In my late thirties I began to have night sweats. I gave no thought to this possibly being related to menopause…after all, I was nowhere near the age that could happen! Right?!? Or “is it”?!? (Check out this hilarious perimenopause skit from the Baroness Von Sketch show on Canada’s national TV broadcaster, CBC… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t17sJAY1vro
I was working full-time in a fulfilling career, raising teenage daughters on my own, and did not take the time to investigate possible causes. I could just “sweat it out” (pun intended). At the same time, I began to feel like I was a teenager again myself with raging hormones, complicated by starting to date again after a very long hiatus. I mean, this ridiculous roller coaster ride of “do they like me or do they not” must just be part of getting back out there, right?!? The highs and lows were extreme and uncomfortable. I felt like I was not in control of my feelings like I was used to.
Life changed. I was in a stable relationship where expenses were being shared so the pressure was off. However, brain fog and memory issues started to accumulate. Then the hot flashes started. Different than night sweats, I would go from normal temperature to feeling like a star exploded inside of me. I began to recognize that this fast rush of heat lasting for up to ten minutes would be preceded by a sickening, panicky feeling. Stepping outside in shirtsleeves in -10 C felt amazing! (Thank you, Canadian winters.) Over the years, I could have a few months with a hot flash every few hours and months where they were much more frequent (one or two every hour, 24/7). There was no rhyme or reason to it. This was the most difficult symptom to manage. I finally accepted that I likely was in perimenopause and started to search for assistance.
I am not going to get into a lot of the technicalities of perimenopause, final menstrual cycle, menopause, etc. Every woman reading this is unique and can experience this change in life for differing lengths of time with differing symptoms. And it can start in a wide range of ages. This is what the Mayo Clinic’s site says:
“In the months or years leading up to menopause (perimenopause), you might experience these signs and symptoms:
· Irregular periods
· Vaginal dryness
· Hot flashes
· Night sweats
· Sleep problems
· Mood changes
· Weight gain and slowed metabolism
· Thinning hair and dry skin
· Loss of breast fullness
Signs and symptoms, including changes in menstruation can vary among women. Most likely, you'll experience some irregularity in your periods before they end.” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/symptoms-causes/syc-20353397)
I know. It sounds like a lot to deal with. But remember, you are resilient. And there is more knowledge and help out there than ever before. I will outline broadly some of the options to explore.
Family Doctor, Specialist, Naturopath?
First off, what type of assistance are you comfortable seeking? There are different approaches depending on your personal health philosophy:
· Family Doctor – more and more family physicians are becoming more literate with women’s issues. Talk to your family doctor and see if they have a comprehensive plan to assist you through this journey. If they don’t, that is okay. My family doctor proposed that I simply stay on the birth control pill to control my symptoms. For me, this was not what I was looking for. Interestingly, my identical twin sister did go this route and her symptoms were managed at least as well as mine as far as I could tell. I have maintained a good relationship with my family doctor, even though I sought help elsewhere.
· Specialist – there are medical doctors who specialize in women’s health. They have sought additional education and have strategies to assist you. They can test and prescribe just as your family doctor can. I found a doctor like this whose approach was much more involved than what my family doctor proposed. She tested my hormone levels regularly and I would see her every three months to adjust the hormone replacement that she prescribed for me. I appreciated this approach as I found it very personalized. I was heard and counselled. The visit was usually at least 45 minutes.
· Naturopath – There are varying standards around the world for natural health practitioners. When I say “naturopath” I am referring to someone with a very high level of education, similar in length to a medical doctor. They generally will attempt to treat your symptoms with natural remedies and supplements. I did explore this, but felt the natural remedies were not bringing me relief quickly enough. However, many women find this approach better suited to their health philosophy.
Do Your Own Research
Whether you seek out the advice of a health professional first or not, it is great to do your own research. There are so many articles and books about perimenopause and menopause. Reading a variety of authors with different approaches can help you to decide what route you would prefer to take. Do your due diligence as you read, putting more weight on articles written by well-educated health professionals and less weight on anecdotal accounts. This is your health! Make well-informed decisions.
Knowledge is Power
As they say, “Hindsight is 20/20.” If I had recognized that I was in perimenopause sooner, I likely would have had a better quality of life sooner. My teenage daughters likely would have had a mother who was more present and less overwhelmed at times. And my now life partner could have had a little more warning of what was to come in our first few years together (eg. blanket off, blanket on…all night long.)
Understanding the symptoms helped me to regain confidence at work too. Instead of anxiety building that I was headed for early Alzheimer’s, for example, I cut myself some slack. I was more diligent with my calendar to ensure that I did not miss important meetings and appointments. I gave myself permission to ask for someone’s name however many times it took for me to remember it. I took steps to implement more self-care.
Here are some strategies that I undertook, on the recommendation of my health professional team. Perhaps some of this will help you direct your search for what can assist you:
· Eating my greens – I added a lot of vegetables, especially greens. For example, my toast was replaced with sauteed spinach under my eggs for breakfast. I started to buy the big bins of organic greens to toss salads together more easily.
· Cutting way back on sugar and adding healthy fats
· Hormone replacement therapy – there is a lot of different approaches to this so again, do your research and find out what may work best for you
· Choose clothing that is comfortable and easy to layer off when having a hot flash
· Keeping a journal – track feelings, symptoms, treatment successes and failures
· Exercise – moderate exercise can help alleviate stress and other symptoms
· Deep breathing – activates the parasympathetic system to help control stress
Take Heart from Other’s Examples
I am still coping with many of the symptoms. And there is no deadline as to when this will be over. My specialist just looked at me with sad eyes at my last appointment and promised, “It really should be over soon, Jodie.”
There is a wise woman in my life, about ten years older than me. Her children insisted that she be assessed for Alzheimer’s when she was in the middle of all the brain fog. She did not have it. It was menopause. And she is back! She is vibrant. She is strong. She is sharp as a whip. She gives me hope!
My 80-year-old aunt still teaches many fitness classes (with members from their 20s to their 60s) every week and is going strong! She has been actively looking after her hormone health since she was 60 years old under the care of a specialist and has been active and eating healthy for as long as I can remember.
In this age of self-awareness, more and more of us are taking holistic steps to improve our health and improve our lives. There is more research and knowledge available than ever before for health professionals to draw on to assist us through “the change”. Mental health is no longer a taboo subject.
So, give that 13-year-old taking over your body a big hug and some love. She won’t be with you forever.