Leigh Kite is the MD (Managing Director) of Team MenoMe.
She reflects on her perimenopause journey in this personal account.
Now that I’m post-menopause I look back at my younger self to try and remember what I was thinking about menopause some 20 years ago.
The answer is probably not much.
Nobody in my social circles, or indeed my family, talked about it so it simply wasn’t on my radar.
Having my children at age 38 and 41 I was totally focused on a very different life stage.
A History of DVT
I had a history of DVT in my mid 30’s and my specialist had told me that because of that I wouldn’t be able to use HRT during menopause. Thanks for the advice I thought, but that’s a long way off.
What Did I Expect – If Anything – Of Menopause?
What did I actually think menopause would be? I’m sure the only knowledge I had was that I would experience hot flushes. So in my mind, until they arrived, menopause wasn’t happening. And as far as I was concerned, they wouldn’t come until I was 50, maybe 60?
In My 40’s
During my 40’s I was busy raising my children and working full time. At age 50 my sons were still young so life continued to be busy. Very busy! On top of that I had a long commute to work and so there was little time to devote to myself – I gave up all types of exercise and started to gain weight.From 40 onwards is when you will enter perimenopause. Click To Tweet
At age 53 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was a total wake-up call that encouraged me to think more about my nutrition and stress levels and to get back into yoga. But I still wasn’t thinking about menopause. Why would I? I hadn’t had a hot flush yet.
Working In Natural Health
It shames me to say that during all of this time I was working in the natural health industry. My boys would laugh at me and my tendency to offer remedy advice whenever someone dared to share a health concern with me. They even gave me the nickname of Dr Leigh! How is it that I didn’t know more about menopause? How is it that I just didn’t care about it? Answer: because nobody would ever share their menopause woes with me (who ever talks about menopause?) and I was blissfully ignorant of being perimenopausal myself.
And perimenopausal I was. Not in my 40’s like many women because my body was still experiencing pregnancy and post-natal recovery. But by age 50 most definitely I was there, despite not experiencing my first hot flush until my mid 50’s.
Looking back, my weight gain should have been a simple red flag. It wasn’t.
Less obvious, but the onset of a skin allergy, bloating, digestive problems, sleep disturbances and (I admit with embarrassment) incontinence were also symptoms of menopause I would have recognized had I bothered to consult Dr Google. I didn’t!
The most damaging of all were the feelings of dread and anxiety. They came to the fore in the middle of the night, leaving me sleep deprived and energy depleted.
There were days when I truly wondered if I was going mad. It’s amazing just how many women empathise with this when I talk about it now.
The impact these psychological symptoms had on my life was in no way trivial. I took myself to a counsellor who fortunately put the menopause word in front of me.
How stupid I felt to be told that it was normal for a woman of my age to be experiencing change. She told me that as a first step, it was important to break the cycle of sleeplessness and to go to my GP to get some appropriate medication.
The Fall-Out Of Misdiagnosis
For some reason, my GP prescribed a drug that is also used for depression.
This single doctor’s visit was to haunt me some years later when reviewing my insurance policies. My life and income protection insurer declined to underwrite any condition related to depression because my medical records included the anti-depressant drug that had been given to me for sleep. I have never suffered from depression!
My anxiety turned out to have a huge impact on my professional career. Suffice to say, I made some dumb decisions that I would not have made had I been in a state of calm. The workplace can be a minefield for a woman dealing with perimenopause – male and young female colleagues alike are unaware and unsympathetic.
The result: you are left feeling like maybe you are actually the crazy woman you feel inside. And that at age 50, you are no longer relevant in the workplace – not cool enough, not sleek enough, frumpy…..
What would I like to tell my 40-year-old self?
Something like this:
1. Menopause is over before it begins. Really? Yes, really. Menopause is defined as going for 12 consecutive months without a period. So as soon as this happens menopause is over. You are then officially in post-menopause.
2. Pay attention to your body. From 40 onwards is when you will enter perimenopause. During this time your body will go through a lot of change. Even more than when you went through adolescence.From 40 onwards is when you will enter perimenopause. During this time your body will go through a lot of change. Even more than when you went through adolescence. Click To Tweet
3. There are 34 symptoms of menopause. Hot flushes are just one, and you may never get them. But you will experience others. Learn what they are now so that you can identify the signs early.
4. Once you start recognising the signs, up your self-care regime. Look for natural supplements that are tailored specifically for women in peri-menopause. You will need them.
5. Talk to other women – or whoever will listen – about menopause. The more you do this, the better prepared you will be and the better experience you will have in peri-menopause.
6. Exercise daily, eat well, get enough sleep and practice mindfulness. I know you are busy working and running a family but unless you commit to this, your health will suffer. And you will be more effective at work and at home if you take this time for yourself.
7. You are not going mad!!!!
8. As a post-menopausal woman, you will be older but definitely not frumpy. Actually, you will be more vibrant, more self-aware, more energetic and a better person than you are right now. But that’s another story….