I must admit when I got up this morning I neither knew it was World Menopause Day nor that I would decide to write this piece, but sometimes it’s good to speak out to help others enduring the same as yourself.
I never really gave much thought to the Menopause, I don’t suppose you do until it affects you, but I do remember conversations my Mum had with her friends and realising that like your period not everybody’s Menopause was the same. My Mum for example went red, not pink but red, bright red, you could see it right across her chest, up her neck and her face, she commonly referred to herself as the wee Ribena lady trying to make light of a condition that must have been quite embarrassing to her at the time. It lasted almost twenty years.
Myself, well my story does not particularly start currently even though I am going through the Menopause, but I shall get to that later. My story starts when I was around twelve and took my first period, right from the start i knew my periods were not the same as everybody else’s, they got on with life, mine seemed to stop, literally; not every month but most months the pain crippled me so much so, that from the age of 16 or so I was put on a strong prescribed painkiller Surgam SA. Doctors told me things would change once I had children, it didn’t, you just learn to cope. Hot water bottles, hot tea and still more painkillers.
Both our girls were born by Cesarean section and by the time of my second wee one I already suspected I’d end up having to have a Hysterectomy as by this time we knew I had a Bicorunet Uterus and falling pregnant again could not be an option. Our two wee girls really were wee miracles, you see I should have lost them both around 25-28 weeks, luckily for all of us, they both went into Breech position lodging their wee heads under my rib cage and wedging there for dear life. In hindsight I wish my Hysterectomy had been done during my section but it wasn’t, so for a further five years I put up with the pain and just got on with things.
Eventually in 2004 I had my Hysterectomy; what a relief, no more periods and I could get on with my life, apart from one wee issue, I didn’t know if I still had my Fallopian Tubes, don’t laugh, I really didn’t know, when I asked at the hospital my response was “all harvested” jings, I’d become a field of corn.
Why am I telling you all this, well I’ve been told that there is a connection between your Periods and your Menopause; the worse your Periods, the worse your Menopause. This may be an old wives tale, but often they stem in fact, and, well mine……….Bam; I’m 53 now and have been in full Menopause for a few years and it’s dire. Not just hot flushes but full out sweats on the hour every hour at least. They seem to vary, some I can feel starting in my stomach and spreading up through my body, I flush and feel very hot they are bad but bearable; it’s the ones that start on the back of my hands I dread; it starts with a tingle like pin pricks and I know what is about to hit me is unbearable. If I’m lucky I’m at home where the family have gotten used to me striping off and quickly, trying to get ahead of what’s about to happen. My body becomes like a leaky spring, you can literally see the water, on my face, my neck, my arms and even the backs of my hands, my head pounds fit to burst, my heart races and I often feel faint, they really are quite atrocious, and please don’t even mention the ones that happen when in bed. You know when suddenly your 13.5 tog duvet becomes 100 togs and you can’t throw it off quickly enough. You lie there willing it to pass, knowing that any second now your sweat is going to turn to ice, and to get warm you need to pull your duvet back over you, but there’s a problem, your bed covers are damp, cold and damp and you are too exhausted to get up and change them, but what’s the point as you will only need to go through it all again in about an hour.
Then there are the ones that happen when you’re out and about, I try to ignore them or discretely wipe away the sweat but it’s not nice, in fact it’s downright mortifying having to strip off in the middle of a shop especially when your coat has quite literally stuck to your skin and you have to ask someone to help pull off the sleeves for you, but such is life and I know I am not alone even though I feel unique I know I’m not. I speak to other ladies who are going through similar experiences albeit to varying degrees. In fact I spoke to one lady a week or two ago that never was up nor down and can’t remember ever having a sweat, so I asked the inevitable, what like were your periods, were they bad, “not at all” was her reply; “I was never up nor down with them”. Perhaps there is some truth in the old wives tale after all.
As women we shall all go through the Menopause but it would definitely appear that some are worse than others.
Like with much of life, it seems to be an ill divide, but that is life. Thankfully we live in an era where many people are no longer embarrassed to speak out about their ailments, which in turn hopefully means a better awareness of conditions like the Menopause enabling employers etc being able to give women rest breaks in which they can change their clothes, dry off and generally get on with their day to day lives; that does happen doesn’t it?
A final wee tale of my Menopausal experience: I was at the Doctor’s recently and decided to ask about them, had things moved on since my Mum’s day, was there a better understanding etc and was there anything that could be done to help. The Doctor assured me that they were never as bad as we felt them to be, he said, nobody notices your flush and you certainly don’t sweat to the extent you have described. Well even in these times of Menopausal trials there can be moments of pleasure. Right on cue I felt the tingling on the backs of my hands, the beads of sweat breaking through, the palpitations and the blood rush, to say he was surprised may be an understatement as I drew my hands across my brow and flicked off the water residue from my fingers onto his carpet. Disgusting it may have been but my word I did feel better when he announced, “oh my those are bad”.
Don’t be afraid of speaking out, you are not alone and as a well know telephone operator used to say, it’s good to talk.
Onwards and upwards ladies, onwards and upwards.
By Helen Armet