With the benefit of hindsight, I think my menopause symptoms started in my late thirties with quite bad anxiety and night sweats just before my period. I didn't think too much of it, however throughout my 40s the symptoms got worse and I started to experience heavy bleeding, low mood, headaches and joint pain, especially in my fingers.
(This story includes mention of suicidal thought).
I ended up with B 12 deficiency because of my heavy bleeding, and things were getting pretty bad. Then, one morning in 2012 I sat up in bed and I said to my husband “I want to top myself”. With the encouragement of my husband, I went to see my GP, he is a lovely doctor – very kind and caring – but essentially, he didn’t recognise my menopause symptoms. When I told him of my suicidal thoughts, he instantly declared I was depressed and needed antidepressants. I tried to argue as I didn’t think I was, I’ve never been depressed before and felt certain it was hormonal and linked to my cycle. However, my GP insisted, so I left the surgery with a prescription for antidepressants. Two nights later we had to call paramedics because my heart was racing at 140 beats a minute. I could barely breathe or speak and was in a terrible state. So I stopped taking the antidepressants and hoped things would get better, I just thought to myself “I’ll just struggle on. It will work itself out and I’ll be fine…”. But it really didn’t.
During a follow up appointment with a gastroenterologist about my digestive problems, he suggested my symptoms were menopause related. They empowered me to return to my GP, where I saw a different doctor who agreed I was showing all the signs of perimenopause and prescribed HRT. I started on oral HRT, but they were making me feel so sick – it was like having morning sickness. I went back to my GP who suggested I try patches and little by little things started to improve. The first things that improved were my anxiety and the brain fog. I could think more clearly. I started to feel more confident about myself. I could stand up for myself, I could defend myself. Although my symptoms were improving, I was still struggling with heavy bleeding. Eventually, I ended up having a hysterectomy with my ovaries removed, which put me into full surgical menopause.
Since 2015, I’ve been on oestrogen only HRT, vaginal oestrogen and more recently testosterone and I feel great. I’m a different woman; I’m out walking, I’m learning new things, I’m strong and life is good! And that’s what I want for all women. I want all women who come after me to know what to expect and to have doctors who support them and who are knowledgeable and recognise the symptoms. It is not up to women to diagnose themselves, it’s up to doctors to make that diagnosis, and to be able to talk about the various options that are available.
Never, ever be afraid to talk about menopause. Talk about it with your family, talk about it with your friends, talk about it with strangers and colleagues. And of course, talk about it with your doctor.