My work combining Psychology and Energy Healing means that I talk to many midlife women experiencing hormonal changes. The overwhelming feeling is that it sucks! And what if you’re under 45, or even 40? Maybe you don’t have hot flushes or you’re still having regular periods – then it can’t be menopause, right? Wrong…
My crazy hormones
I began having what I suspected were peri menopausal symptoms around 43. Like many women, I put off that first trip to my GP until two pretty disturbing things happened:
The first was when I was teaching an online class, really badly. It’s something I normally enjoy and feel confident doing, but it was torture getting through it with my brain buffering like a website that won’t load. I started sentences I couldn’t finish, forgot words and failed to articulate information I knew well - and people were paying me for this!
A few weeks later I found myself getting out the car at a supermarket with no idea why I was there. Even after my partner text me a list of a few items that I ‘may as well get’, but we hadn’t really needed, I still managed to forget two of them. I can laugh now but it is really hard to describe just how shaken, disconcerted and how ‘not myself’ I felt. I simply couldn’t get my brain to do what I was used to relying on it for. It had a distinctly different quality to the common brief memory lapses that we all experience from time to time, and it was scary.
For me this was my kick up the bum to make that appointment. I’d already had menopause on my radar, though - imagine the conclusions I might have drawn about what was going on in my brain if I hadn’t…
Two things have been most important in easing my journey. The first of these, and sadly one we have little control over, is access to good services. The second is that I educated myself so that I knew what was available and I was able to ask for it.
My amazing small village GP practice were happy for me to send emails with information that I had found online to support what I wanted. I am also lucky to live in an area that has a menopause clinic, which has been great for both my slightly complicated gynae history, which my GP didn’t feel 100% confident prescribing for, and later for accessing testosterone. (YES, this is also a key female hormone but most GPs currently aren’t allowed to prescribe it without a specialist).
Read the stuff
Sadly, women’s healthcare in the UK is still very affected by the postcode lottery but educating ourselves and asking for specialist referrals, or to see a different doctor or nurse, can help. This can be tough though, especially if you’re exhausted and your brain isn’t working properly.
There are oestrogen receptors everywhere in our bodies, which is why the list of possible menopause symptoms is so varied, and long. Many symptoms overlap with other illnesses and conditions, including stress, so it isn’t surprising that they can be easy to miss. Women also tend to be good at minimising and dismissing their own health concerns. There has been much less research and investment into areas of health that specifically affect female bodies. This culture of ‘putting up with it’ desperately needs to change. The good news is that things are improving with increasing access to quality information, GP practices upping their training and women’s health hubs on the horizon.
For me HRT has been a game-changer. It wasn’t a quick fix, taking some type and dosage changes to get the right balance, but I feel more myself than I have in a long time. So do persevere if you don’t immediately get results you hoped for and you can always stop if you don’t like it.
Of course, HRT isn’t something that everyone wants or is able to take and with or without it there are still lots of lifestyle things that are essential to care for our aging bodies. Travelling through my 40’s has turned out to be a really positive opportunity for me to review all aspects of how I look after myself. I want to stay as fit and mobile as possible and reduce my risks of future illness where I can. Good self-care is not a destination but the work of a lifetime.
And finally, you are never too young
If you think hormonal changes are happening to you, there’s a very good chance they are. Find an online symptom checker, talk to your friends, do some research and ask for help if you need it.
I'd definitely recommend the Balance Menopause website as it is such a great resource with a massive library of information that you can search: https://www.balance-menopause.com/
I'd also really recommend looking up the latte lounge and joining their mailing list for so many good resources https://www.instagram.com/loungethelatte/. They have a free Facebook group too.
And finally for so many useful things about women's health Dr Nighat Arif is definitely worth a follow on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drnighatarif/
Dr Karen Janes is a Psychologist and Energy Healer and has private practices in Wiltshire and Dorset.
© Dr Karen Janes, October 2023.