Menopause Not Taboo
Written by Amy Crooks
I’m not sure why the topic of menopause is taboo. Once in a while, I will hear a friend say something about hot flashes, or watch them as they suddenly start sweating and peel off their clothes. But I really haven’t heard much from my friends or colleagues on this topic. No menopause stories, no trials and tribulations. Even friends who have reached the other side, barely mention what they went through.
Let’s start the conversation, shall we? I can tell you my story, my symptoms and my hope that it might help one woman realize that it’s not the end of the world.
Our bodies grow and change throughout our lifetime. They develop in ways we can feel and other ways we can see. If we are lucky enough to have children, our bodies change again. It’s amazing to me being a woman and the ability to grow another human being inside of me. Our hormones go nuts, we get moody and have cravings, not to mention the hemorrhoids, the heartburn, and the inability to shift to a comfortable position while hosting a baby. It’s a beautiful time to savor. All the not-so-great stuff becomes a dim memory when we hold our newborn in our arms.
Those were my thoughts as I headed into the unavoidable light of oncoming menopause. Don’t even get me started on my doctor telling me I’m in “peri-menopause.” For ten years it seemed like every symptom of something unexplainable happening to my body was chalked up to getting closer to the “M” word. Seriously, I was dreading it. If I was sweating at night and a bit more emotional during the day, then what would I be like in full blown menopause? It’s not like I thought about it day and night. But after the kids grow up and go about their own lives, I thought I could concentrate on my job more and less on my body.
I got a new job working from home. Slam dunk amazing job. After only six months, I got a promotion. More responsibility in a job I wasn’t sure I had a handle on yet, but hey, I’m a seasoned professional. I could do it. That’s what I thought until I began panicking throughout the day. I would log in to work in the morning and as each meeting grew closer, or a deadline neared, I would start to freak out. I had never been like this before. Maybe it’s the new job, I thought? Maybe I just need to give it more time.
But then one night the kids visited and I started crying at the dinner table. For no reason at all. Was I sad? Depressed? I wasn’t sure why I was crying. I had no appetite, I didn’t care about going out or seeing friends. I had an actual panic attack when I went to the grocery store. I was looking at the shelves of food, walking down every aisle and putting next to nothing in my cart. Panic stricken at something I couldn’t name. I even told my fairly new boss that I couldn’t handle my new position and she should give it to someone else. Thankfully she told me to give it more thought before she would accept this questionable act.
When my neighbor and friend dragged me out for a walk, I remember shaking my head and saying “this just isn’t like me.” What was happening to me? How does someone change so quickly? It seemed like overnight I became unhinged and unable to deal with the most basic things in life. Then I thought back to something my older cousin had mentioned to me when she was around my age. She had gone through an emotional period in her life where she thought she was losing her mind. She went to doctors and therapists and almost walked into a mental health inpatient facility on her own. She said she just wanted to stop feeling this way. Turns out, she was going through menopause. The hormonal changes had hit her hard, just like they were doing to me.
I was fortunate enough to realize my problem was probably not related to a sudden mental breakdown. I called my gynecologist and explained my symptoms over the phone to the kind nurse. Ok, so I cried my symptoms to her. But the point was well received and she immediately scheduled me for an appointment to see the doctor. I had to get my blood work before my appointment. He told me I was in full blown menopause and my estrogen level had hit rock bottom. No wonder I was feeling terrible. I cried for him too. He was going to help me live my life again. I was desperate to feel like my old self again.
He prescribed a low dose hormone patch, progesterone and a prescription for Lexapro. This cocktail of wonderful things worked for me. It took about a month until I started to lose the anxiety attacks, but I became myself again.
I never thought I would use any kind of hormone therapy or SSRI’s. But when I walked into my doctor’s office I was ready to do anything and take anything to stop the awful feeling I was living through each day. My doctor’s knowledge and emotional support made my decision very easy. My earlier fears about the treatment for menopause were far outweighed by getting better and back to functioning as a professional, a friend and most importantly, a mother.
Let’s go through this journey together and start sharing our stories.
I am a Speech Pathologist living in Wayne, Pa. I have raised two boys as a single parent who are now both grown and living on their own. They are my single greatest achievement in life. I have always wanted to try my hand at writing, maybe because my father was always writing when I was growing up. He has a Master's degree from UCLA and writing always came so easily for him. I value family and good friends. And I like stories. Whether I'm reading them or telling them.