Hormones, Anxiety and Menopause

Sex Bloggers for Mental Health is a meme run by Sassy Cat and May More that provides a supportive place for sex bloggers to discuss mental health and sex issues, which are matters that often meet head on. The website has this wonderful quote:

Knowledge is power. The more we share, discuss and listen the better we understand. Learning from each other, giving each other peace of mind. Supporting each other, letting them know they are not alone. 

The prompt for week 5 of the #sb4mh is Women and Hormones.

Anxiety has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As I’m writing this, I have realised that I don’t spend my life in a permanent anxious state, it’s more the occasional episode that occurs. A couple of major changes in my life have triggered depressive episodes, which needed the help of antidepressants. During the rest of my life, anxiety has flared up and ebbed away on a regular basis. As I’ve got older, I have realised that certain situations increase my anxiety levels, so I try and avoid them where possible. I have also learned a lot about being an introvert, which has helped me recognise what may trigger anxiety. I also believe there are some situations where anxiety may have caused problems previously, but no longer has an effect.

I have always been prone to being emotive, and have been known to react with fury, anger and tears to certain matters. S describes me as intolerant, which is certainly true in some situations.

The purpose of this post is to discuss mental health and hormones, and so far I’ve established that I an prone to being anxious and emotive, so that’s ‘normal’ for me.

I am 51, and as much as I hate to admit it I am probably on the brink of menopause, if not already in the middle of it. I hate the word menopause, as it makes me feel old and past it. I remember my gran going through the menopause, and I find it hard to believe that I am now at that point. I remember that my gran used to have severe hot flushes that saw her literally dripping with sweat. Looking back, I realise that most of my family weren’t very sympathetic and used to poke fun at her hot flushes.  Additionally, through my adult years, I have heard so many men making derogatory comments about women ‘going through the change’, and generally sneering at women and their changes in mood during the menopause. These factors have given me the belief that going through the menopause is something to be ashamed of.

Is the menopause is affecting my mental health? The simple answer is that I’m not sure… Let me list the symptoms that I have experienced.

  • Lack of periods: I have used the Mirena coil as contraception for 21 years. My periods stopped after the first Mirena was fitted, with just the occasional bit of spotting occurring thereafter. Therefore, I can’t gauge the frequency of periods as a measure for onset of the menopause.
  • An occasional hot flush: this usually happens when I have a hot drink – I get intense heat spreading throughout my chest and arms, although the skin is cool to touch.
  • More frequent physical fatigue.
  • Forgetfulness: I have always had a very sharp memory, but I am experiencing moments of forgetfulness and often suffer what can be described as brain fog!
  • Severe headaches: I have always suffered from a lot of headaches, but perhaps not to the degree that I do now.
  • Weight gain: I have always been prone to this, but am now finding it very hard to lose any weight. I was diagnosed with PCOS about 16 years ago.
  • Complete intolerance to alcohol.
  • Early morning anxiety: I often wake with my stomach churning and with a general ‘tormented’ feeling hanging over me; however, I have had stressful things going on in my life at the I same time that this occurs, so this could be linked.

On the plus side, I have an enthusiastic desire for sex! I have considered the use of HRT, but am nervous about the side effects and the possible danger of breast cancer. I don’t know anyone who has taken HRT, so I am interested in hearing of other women’s experiences.

I have felt more intense feelings of rage flare up over the last couple of years. An example of this is losing it with a delivery driver who didn’t knock the door or ring the bell when I was in and chose to just put a ‘sorry we missed you’ card through the letterbox. I dashed out and stood in the road so he couldn’t pass, and then tore a strip off him. The light-hearted response from a male friend on hearing the story was ‘ are you going through the change ?’!

Tasmanian Devil – copyright Looney Tunes

I do subscribe to the Headspace app, which promotes mindfulness and training the mind for a happier and healthier life. I don’t remember to do a session each day, which obviously affects the usefulness of it. I’m currently in the middle of the ‘Anxiety’ pack and do occasionally remember some of the techniques when I start to feel a bit wound up.

I do feel that hormones from the menopause may be exacerbating my anxiety levels and my ‘inner rage’/intolerance to some extent. But, altered hormone levels are part of being a woman, and we are all affected in different ways. It is wonderful to be able to share experiences in memes like Sex Bloggers for Mental Health and  Menopause Diaries and realise that you are not alone in being a crazy bitch…

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