The other day my doctor told me I was in “perimenopause.” I, of course, protested and assured her it couldn’t be since I was only forty-three. She responded by telling me she was quite sure that was what was causing my symptoms and it was… well, only the beginning.
I went home, discouraged, upset, and feeling old. The word menopause stirs up all kinds of emotions for most women. In some ways it can be considered the golden age. I mean you no longer have to deal with that monthly visitor wreaking havoc on the best laid plans, right? But let’s be honest, most often the word brings thoughts of never-ending hot flashes moving us women into a new phase of life.
So, when the doctor brought up the word “perimenopause” – my mind immediately heard menopause and well… I paused. I wasn’t ready for that. It’s not like I wanted more children or anything like that. I’m comfortable being a forty-something woman. I like me. I’m comfortable in my skin – far more than I was in my twenties, and I’m only slightly bummed about my graying hair. I really wouldn’t trade being forty for any other age.
But…I wasn’t ready for the “M” word.
See, I went to the doctor for a lot of small reasons. I’d noticed my weight slowly inching up, despite daily workouts and good eating habits. I had also noticed that my mood wasn’t as good as it usually was, and I was waking up several nights a week drenched in sweat. My head felt foggy, and I was constantly forgetting things. My visit to the doctor was really to rule out any thyroid issues (which run in my family) and make sure I was healthy. I assumed I knew the reason for the symptoms, and in my head, it had nothing to do with menopause.
So, what does Perimenopause really mean? It means I’m in the first phase of heading toward menopause. It literally means “around the end of menstruation” — I still have a menstrual cycle, but that will begin to become more irregular. And it means that my cycle may change – be heavier one month and really light the next. It also means I will begin to experience some of these frustrating side effects that brought me to the doctor in the first place. Things like weight gain, foggy brain, fatigue, mood swings, and the dreaded night sweats and hot flashes. It means I’m a woman in my forties…and it’s normal as my body transitions into this new phase of life.
Is there anything I can do to ease these symptoms, knowing this could last for up to ten years? Yes!
- Get regular exercise
- Drink lots of water
- Try to get good sleep
- Eat a nutritious diet, full of fiber and calcium (lots of fruits and veggies)
- Limit sugar, high-fats, and alcohol
There are also several supplements and medicines on the market that are designed to help ease the symptoms of perimenopause (and menopause). Be sure to check with your doctor and discuss your options.
It took me a few weeks to come to terms with all this in my head. Am I getting older – yes! Is that a bad thing – no, it’s normal! I’m embracing this new age and phase of life, celebrating all that it brings – new confidence, new activities and hobbies, and a new comfort in my own skin. Do these symptoms stink sometimes – yes! But I’m finding ways to minimize the frustrations and symptoms through self-care and mindful thinking. Afterall, the first step to feeling better is admitting you have some issues and learning how to best deal with them.
So, my name is Christa and I’m in perimenopause – but I’m not only managing the change – I’m embracing it!