Menopausal women – A force to be reckoned with!

For Timboon and District Healthcare Service (TDHS) Community Engagement Officer Sabine McKenzie (54) hormones have always been a big part of her life. “As a teen I had heavy irregular and painful periods.” Sabine said. “Then in my 30s I started getting hormonal migraines, which were quite debilitating.”

As she was going through the menopausal change at 51, she experienced some hot flushes during the night and thought she was breezing through it, until she was getting monthly headaches again and discovered mood swings.

Sabine shares the story of when one night before heading to bed she was attempting to close the blinds. “It was a Holland blind. Each time I pulled the automatic release cord, the blind kept going up instead of down! I was full of rage; I’ve never been this angry! I ended up getting the scissors out and cutting the cord to get the blinds down.” she giggled. Sabine can laugh about it now, but the sudden rage outburst got her worried.

As Sabine was talking and laughing about it at the copying machine with Adele, TDHS Community Care Supervisor, she discovered that Adele experienced terrible mood swings for a while herself. “I was relieved to hear that I wasn’t going crazy and thought that I wouldn’t be the only one thinking that way, so I got some of my lovely colleagues, Adele, Sharynn and Kathryn, together to have a chat about how we navigate our way through menopause and perimenopause symptoms and put it out there, hoping that our chat will help other women out there.”

Menopause and perimenopause are two stages that women go through as they age. Menopause refers to the end of a women’s reproductive cycle, while perimenopause is the traditional phase leading up to it. These stages can be challenging for many women, as they experience a range of physical and emotional symptoms.

Adele was 39 when she started perimenopause, almost 20 years ago. Initially, she thought she was suffering with depression as she was experiencing depressive thoughts including suicidal ideation. Adele would also suffer self-doubt. “Sometimes you would think “Nobody likes me” other times it was suicidal thoughts. “I would be thinking I have had my children, my life is over, I have done nothing, and been nowhere,” Adele said.

“Your whole personality changes,” Adele said. “Now I am outspoken, I never was before,” she added. Adele was prescribed antidepressants. Physical changes also occurred. For Adele, her periods had always been light, but then when perimenopause began, she started to experience extremely heavy flow. “I couldn’t go to work, it was difficult as I had male bosses who just didn’t understand,” Adele said.

It was about the time of her transition into perimenopause that Adele first started to experience lipedema – a painful build-up of fat in your arms and legs, as well as the onset of arthritic joint pain.

For Sharynn, TDHS Hotel Services Assistant, the worst symptom of menopause is anxiety. “I never really had anxiety before,” Sharynn said. “I used to socialise a lot more, now I get anxious even thinking about going out,” she added. Sharynn said the assistance of a naturopath was useful. Night sweats are another symptom Sharynn has experienced. “Waking up in a pool of sweat is another thing I have had to get used to,” she said.

Kathryn’s perimenopausal symptoms began when she was around 45. The first symptoms for her included brain fog and a lack of concentration including memory loss. “I couldn’t easily recall the names of people I know well, like my aunt,” Kathryn said. “My thoughts went straight to Alzheimer’s, but I now know that around two-thirds of women experience brain fog as a symptom of menopause,” Kathryn added.

One of the biggest challenges for Kathryn is her lack of motivation. “In the past, I would go walking a lot, but now I can’t really be bothered,” Kathryn said. “Sometimes I will watch TV, other times just sit quietly. My husband, Wayne, is very understanding,” she added. “The smallest irritations can set you off too, whether it’s stirring his morning coffee too loudly, or chewing too loudly, poor Wayne cops the brunt of it. “I don’t know how they live with it, they tolerate so much,” Kathryn added.

Sabine is so glad she started talking about it with her colleagues. “I didn’t think my mental health would be affected to this extent,” she said. “The important thing is to talk to others about it and don’t just struggle on your own,” she added. “Menopause is real and there is help out there. But also know that women go through different symptoms and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.”

The ladies all agreed that the most important thing is to know there are solutions, so be proactive, talk about it, seek medical help as needed, and take care of yourself during this transition.

“By the sound of it it’s also important to have understanding family and friends, as they cop the brunt of it,” Sabine said. “I’m happy to say that we’ve replaced the blinds and I’ve made an appointment with my GP at Timboon Clinic.”

Learn more about menopause, the symptoms, causes, management options and where you can get help at The Jean Hailes website or you can make an appointment with Amanda Nash, our Community Health Nurse, or one of our GPs at Timboon Clinic by calling 5558 6088.

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