I started my menopause journey when I was in my early 40s (I'm nearly 55 now). Like many women, I didn't realise what was happening to me.
I didn’t have any of the classic symptoms, such as hot flushes and night sweats. However, my periods were erratic and I suffered frequent and often embarrassing haemorrhaging along with bouts of tearfulness. My GP prescribed antidepressants which I stopped after a few months as I knew it was not depression.
A few years passed and the symptoms started to get worse. The hot flushes and night sweats began, my nails became ridged, my hair started thinning and I gained weight that was impossible to lose. The crying became more frequent, coupled with extraordinary outbursts of uncontrollable rage. Add this to my ever-decreasing libido and vaginal dryness, I just felt like my life was a raft drifting away with the “old me” on it and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
As time went on, I encountered more and more symptom. My newly acquired intolerance to alcohol became apparent, and along with low libido and the frequent rages my partner was unable to see me as he once had, and our relationship ended. I just wasn’t “fun” anymore!
I was also experiencing unexplained heart palpitations and was sent to a cardiologist for tests which showed a perfectly healthy heart. Not once did my GP suggest any of my symptoms could be menopause-related.
Later when doing some research into the menopause, I learnt that there are 34 main symptoms of the menopause – I realised I had experienced almost all of them. Eventually I was able to see a gynaecologist who listened to my concerns and prescribed me estrogen and progesterone. The change was absolutely huge. No more hot flushes, no more night sweats. My energy levels were up, I had clarity of mind and my sex drive improved.
I began listening to podcasts about the menopause to see what I could learn. Knowledge is power, and I got so many tips and ideas about things I could do to help ease my symptoms. I started to take control of my body and my health. I absorbed every bit of information I could to assist me. I wanted to be completely in control of keeping my body functioning so made sure I exercised, ate healthily, took plenty of rest and included some adventure (I took a solo backpacking trip and island-hopped my way through Greece at age 54!)
Through the podcasts, I heard about the benefits of testosterone so asked my GP if he would prescribe it to me. He laughed at me and said no on the basis that testosterone was a ‘male’ hormone. Even when I showed him the stories from Australia about how it was being prescribed there, he just said ‘are you Australian? No, you’re not’.
I wasn’t happy with this so made an appointment at the menopause clinic. The doctor there was brilliant. She listened to me, conducted some blood tests and then when my results showed that I was low on testosterone, she prescribed a cream and carefully talked me through what was involved. We made decisions together.
The testosterone has been brilliant. The effects were even more recognisable than with estrogen, my energy levels increased even further, and there has been a significant change in my ability to gain muscle through exercise. Brain fog has reduced, and my memory is virtually back to how it used to be – long gone are the days where I would forget names of people I had known for years or staring blankly at my computer screen just waiting for my brain to tell me what I was looking at! Testosterone was the missing piece in the puzzle.
I feel very strongly about getting the message out to both women and men (men suffer too – we mustn’t ignore that), it really is all about knowledge and taking control. I knew so little, my journey has been a long one and it’s not over yet. I hope the next generation benefit from our determination to bring about change.