is on the blog today, The Path to Menopause: My Story
My journey started fourteen years before I entered into my final year of periods and now it’s been over fourteen months since my last one. It’s August and I’m celebrating post-menopause. I was by all accounts late to menopause. Everyone I’ve known over the years was way past menopause by the age of 57. But, by no means is 57 something to be concerned with. I’ve been a late-bloomer my entire life. Before I get too far into my story, I would like to mention that as it is with all medical issues one should first talk to their trusted physician. If you do not have one, I would urge you to find one before you enter the realms of peri and post menopause. I could make this article all about the negatives, the scariness, the uncertainties, or yes, the sadness of the end of one’s child-bearing years… But, my final years heading toward menopause where everything but all of that. I was fully knowledgeable, well as far as I could be, what perimenopause was all about. The very first thing I did was learn about my body, nutrition, hormones, my reproductive organs, post menopause, and life at 50 something nearing 60. I was 42 when hot flashes started, although I did not know this at the time. They came and then seemed to leave for several more years. The internet in the early 2000’s was a fairly new place and there weren’t a lot of articles, or groups, or google searches that led me to answers. I had no female friends near my age, I was working from home, and as far as I knew at the time, I was just dealing with a house with temperature fluctuations.
I remembered that my mother had experienced a very difficult menopause. Even going so far as having to take hormone replacement therapy. In the last years we talked, I received several calls from her crying over one perimenopausal issue or another. I had also lived with my grandmother when I was 18 and remember her telling me that she had been put on several medications during her “change of life” due to various difficulties. All of this knowledge about my close female relatives was concerning as I prepared for perimenopause. So also was the fact that up until now, I did not have a regular physician that I trusted or felt could advise me or prepare me or even care for me should menopause be difficult. On top of this my cycles for over half my life had been almost non-existent due to eating disorders. My periods started at the age of 15 and until I was 35, though they were regular, they lasted at most 2 days and never amounted to much of anything. PMS was not something I had ever been known to have as I’d never up to this point ever had what most physicians would have agreed to be “normal” monthly cycles/periods. Another concern for me was the fact that I had been pregnant seven times with only one baby surviving– (premature baby at 5 months, 3- end of first trimester miscarriages, two ectopic pregnancies, and a full-term delivery.
My mother’s/grandmother’s history, my pregnancies, and my health were a very big concern to both myself and my physician. When I continued to get hot flashes, I decided to make a doctor’s appointment and start to get some baseline labs taken of hormones etc. Unfortunately, my then physician thought me to be crazy to think that at 45 I would be going through perimenopause. So, yes he took some labs, but unfortunately, some of the labs needed need to be taken over several days/weeks in order to get accurate levels. Knowing that going to him was going to be a total waste of time and money, I sought other assistance. I immediately started looking for another physician. Several things happened around this time that really shook my faith in doctors, so while I was looking for a new physician, I began making BIG changes in my lifestyle.
- I started changing our diet from conventional food to organic (I had actually started doing this in 2004 and it was very hard to find organic food and if you did it was expensive)
- I started to eliminate all the toxic cleaners from our home–furniture polish, glass cleaner, toilet cleaner, dish soap, laundry soap, fabric softener, candles (all gone). I learned how to make my own laundry soap, I bought my toxic free dish soap at a Coop I’m a member of, dryer balls for fabric softener, vinegar for cleaning, and microfiber cloths for dusting.
- I eliminated all feminine hygiene products from my life at 42 and for 14 years used Mama cloth pads. You can find them on Etsy. I never regretted that decision, in fact it was one of the best decisions I ever made in being proactive about my health.
- I stopped smoking in 2004 after twenty-five years of smoking. I stopped drinking in 2003 after 3 years of heavy drinking and a previous five years of heavy drinking several years before that.
- I stopped wearing make-up. Which by now you’re probably thinking I’m crazy. But at the time there wasn’t any toxic free make-up, to my knowledge, on the market.
- I stopped wearing cologne and lotions and using body washes/ painting fingernails. I’d been a life-long cologne wearer and loved, loved smelling good and shopping for scents. Chanel No. 5 was the last cologne I wore. This I did mainly because of allergens. Amazingly enough after suffering from allergies for almost twenty years at this point, once I quit smoking, and quit toxic cleaning ingredients, and quit cologne my allergies went POOF! Now- I use high quality essential oils. I’ve been an oily for almost 5 years and love my essential oils. I purchase most of my oils from RMO and Doterra. I don’t sell oils or make any money from mentioning this–but trust both these companies. In 2018 I finally took the leap for a second time and stopped using deodorants with aluminum. It took me a year to detox my stinky armpits (sorry for the TMI), but finally it worked. I used Tom’s of Maine prebiotic soap to detox my underarms and use Ivory deo–which works great!
The above were most of the real BIG things that I changed. You may ask why? Talk to your doctor, Google it, read a book on changes to a woman’s body during perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopausal years. There are some big, big hormonal changes. Read up on hormone disruptor’s and read everything you can about them. You’ll thank me, I promise you. I had a lot of things to give up–you may not. You may not give up anything that I gave up. Everyone is different. I have no regrets and know, as do my doctors, two health problems I later experienced and recovered from would have went so much different without changing a few things. A top priority of mine was above all things be healthy and stay active. My husband is 11 years younger than me and I need to be able to keep up. I do, despite fibromyalgia, back issues, and being older than him. In fact, I more than keep up—even he’s converting to some of my ways of thinking.
I worked on making the above changes and living with them from the time I was 40, 42, 45 and by the time I was 50, I had made the adjustments and had totally changed our lifestyle. We cleaned different, I slept better, I was more energetic, we started hiking, bike riding, exercising, eating better, losing weight, and all around the picture of health. Over the course of a decade I had changed many really big things about myself and done a complete 180.
Around the time I was 51, I started noticing mood changes around dinner time–5/6pm. I would feel angry, hot, irritated, and would start snapping at hubby. Within 30 minutes whatever it was would be done and I would be left feeling bad for being a _itch. This went on for quite a long time and I would say it usually occurred just before my period. So, in a sense as I’d gotten healthier over the years and finally started having a normal period (and when I say this I mean normal for or to me), I was likely experiencing PMS. I had found a great physician by this time and she agreed with me.
Eventually I got some baseline hormone levels taken and also went for a bone density baseline because osteoporosis runs in the maternal side of my family. I also got my cholesterol levels taken to make sure I don’t have too little of the good and too much of the bad as heart disease runs in my family on the paternal side. With these results we would know in the future just where I was at in my journey to menopause and post menopause.
There are a lot of changes you may experience in perimenopause, but to be honest the lists they give you are fairly broad. Most of the symptoms you would have experienced (likely) during your periods. The only way to change that cycle and possibly not continue to experience them is to make some changes. Ninety percent of what is on the lists can be history with a better diet. And by better I don’t mean fad diet. Start with any and all processed foods in your diet. You may not have to go any further than that to feel better results. Talk to a dietician, nutritionist, heck a home economics teacher and start looking into the benefits to your body of what you are currently eating. If it doesn’t benefit your body–why are you still eating or drinking it?
Exercise in any form is a good idea from now until for the rest of your life. If all you are able to do, due to certain limitations, is stand in place and move something. Do it. Help your body help itself. I rode a mountain bike until I was 53 and once I get my seat fixed, I shall again. But there have been times in my life, due to back issues, that I could do no more than walk in circles at home. So, you know, that’s exactly what I did.
So, you’re probably wondering how my journey went and how I’m doing now 14 months later? Well, surprisingly enough, and despite other health issues (eventually resolved), everything went just fine. Did I experience, over the course of 14 years, constipation or moodiness? Well, no more than I’d ever experienced before and if you’ve been here awhile you know that I’ve battled IBS-C all my life. Which by the way, I’ve got under control simply by changing my diet over the year. I take a collagen booster so I have experienced no skin issues–delicate, thinning etc. Maybe a tiny, tiny bit of hair loss, though I dye my hair and that is, after all, to be expected. My sex life is the same as it was at 29 and thus far I have experienced no issues there. I drink 3x the amount of water now to not only hydrate myself,but also to avoid UTI’s, which are more prevalent with age. Though knock on wood, even with IC (interstitial cystitis for the last 25 years), I’ve never had a UTI. I can’t afford to have memory issues/fog as a CPA working in corporate tax plus handling all of hubby’s and my financials/ other issues (hubby has an awful memory). The best thing I ever did for brain fog was to give up caffeine. Once I learned how to be “awake” without stimulants, brain fog was history. If that isn’t an option for you–try yoga, meditation, or brisk walking.
As far as depression or health issues–you should always seek out a medical professional for issues such as these. My article explains my journey–each woman and her experience is different. If I could mention one thing, besides a good support system that worked for me, I’d say change what you eat. Eat healthier.
In summary, my journey went fine. I honestly experienced no issues in perimenopause other than PMS for maybe four years, some night sweats, and a short period of insomnia. My hormone levels progressed to where I would be entering the last year of my cycles, and I began to eat more foods like yams etc. to deal with the estrogen loss. I ate and still eat a lot of foods that are beneficial to promoting natural hormones in the body. There was at times a feeling of the end of something that to me had always been very beneficial to me. I may have thought different had I always had normal periods, but I actually looked forward to them. I always felt renewed after a period and benefited greatly from having fairly balanced estrogren and progesterone. My mental state– as far as the end of child-bearing years. Well, at this point, I’d had many years to come to terms with that. So for a couple years I experienced a missed period here or two periods in one month –each time something like this happened, I knew my time was coming.
As I cruised into my last year, the year of 2020, each month ticked by and no period. Now, after 14 months of no period, I am post menopausal. After thinking that I would be the oldest living woman with her period still–that time is over for me. The end of one thing and the beginning of another. To which I very much look forward to. I hope this article provides a bit of relief and information to my female followers. I wish you luck and all things healthy and beautiful when you reach the time for your own personal journey to menopause.