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This is my brain on perimenopause


Saturday there was a light dusting of snow on the ground, which is not what you want to see in April. The day was gray and cold. The hopes that spring had sprung were somewhat dashed.

And yet, I felt great–optimistic, even chipper. I had slept well. I was able to focus on my tasks, enjoy my food. Appreciate the comic stylings of Crazy Rich Asians (the film, available from your local library).

What struck me in particular was how long it had been since I’d felt that good. And yet, in terms of what’s going on in my life, there’s no real reason not to feel generally content.

The good feeling must have sensed it was in a foreign host, for it fled in the night. I took a while to fall asleep, than awoke with various worries, at 3:00, 4:00, 5:00. Once up for good, I met a day that was still cool but quite nice and sunny, so I pushed to do things I thought might help. Take a walk in the sun. Play the piano. Listen to my “Get Happy” playlist.

It was in the middle of the song “Happy” (by Pharrel Williams) that I became weepy, overcome by the thought that some injury or illness 10 years hence would interfere with my retirement plans.

For freak’s sake. It’s ridiculous.

I bought a book about menopause. It’s most definitely not happening yet (though I’m pretty excited to have made it all the way to day 29 without a period). But there is this “perimenopausal” stage? And I’m in that.

One of my emotional issues is that I can get fixated on worries about my health. I thought that if I could read about what symptoms I could attribute to a perfectly normal process of aging, that would help. Only then I got worried: what if some of my symptoms can’t be ascribed to that?

So I actually made an appointment with my doctor to discuss any physical changes that I had noticed, just to make sure they didn’t sound like anything bad. (Like endometrial cancer.) Which they didn’t. So, thanks Canadian healthcare system, now I can read my book. (And hey, the itchiness is a symptom of pending menopause! Who knew?)

From the “Moods and you” chapter:

The mood swings associated with menopause often aren’t predictable. One day, you’re laughing with your partner as you make plans for the future. The next day, you’re crying over a greeting card commercial and snapping at your partner over, literally, spilled milk.

Stephanie S. Faubion, MD: The Menopause Solution

(Jean still has a bit of post traumatic stress over my (over)reaction to his crime of eating the last banana. Maybe someday he’ll be able to tell you about it.)

Now, it’s not exactly unknown to me to gets fixated on strange worries–I recall once that a series of stressors led me to somehow get into an emotional spiral whenever the Canadian dollar fell in value. Admittedly, we were about to go to Italy, but it wasn’t exactly a Venezuela (hyper deflation) situation. Plus, we were about to go to Italy! That’s a good thing!

But that was actually a long time ago, and this whole moodiness thing has been happening for months, though sometimes more acutely than others. And it’s not always related to some logical event. Like, McSteamy’s death obviously made me very sad, but that was a normal response, and I didn’t get to wallowing in depression afterward. Instead I’m raging about bananas, worrying about what I’ll do if I have a stroke or something when I’m 72 (and to top it off, my math was all wrong on that worry), and feeling anxious about Jean going away on business for a few days (something I’m pretty used to? And he calls me daily!).

In fact, research suggests that some anxiety symptoms, such as nervousness and worry, occur more frequently during perimopause than at any time before it.

Stephanie S. Faubion, MD: The Menopause Solution

Huh. This is my brain on perimenopause.

And that could go on for years, I guess (seguing into whatever wonders menopause itself brings), so what do I do?

Back to the book.

Which tells me that I’m exhibiting all the symptoms of stress, at least to some degree: Eating less. Lacking focus. Short fuse. Sleep problems. Control issues. Aches and pains. Motivation issues. And those overlap with some depression symptoms. I don’t think I’m full-out depressed yet, but it’s threatening.

The book reminds that exercising regularly is important, something I haven’t been quite as good about as late. And that mindfulness can help, while I haven’t meditated in ages. “Practicing gratitude” is another concept I struggle with. Not that I don’t realize I have many things in my life to be thankful for, but thinking about them doesn’t seem to bring me comfort. Maybe because I don’t think I’ve done much to earn them. Maybe because I then become worried about losing them.

Then there’s the whole “talk to someone” idea. Which I also generally suck at. (They’re my problems. Sharing them with you will make me look weak.) But here I am telling you, anonymous (and not-so-anonymous) blog-reading people. (If you actually scrolled down this far, congratulations!)

But, maybe I should find a group. Maybe I should tell a friend (like, in person). Maybe I should explore cognitive behavioral therapy.

Cause it may be perimenopausal, but it’s the only brain I got.

8 thoughts on “This is my brain on perimenopause

  1. How odd. I don’t think I experienced any mood-related changes, but then again, because I’m (not diagnosed but pretty sure anyway) somewhat aspergic, I kind of suck at recognizing moods/emotions in myself. The two questions I hate most are “What do you do” because no one understands my job, and “How do you feel / what are you feeling / how does X make you feel” because I don’t know. I rarely can explain how I feel when someone asks. My symptoms were (still are) mostly all physical — at least those things I can understand. There are anti-depressants that work on physical symptoms of menopause (e.g. hot flashes/the sweats), and have the side benefit (I guess) of being anti-depressants — but they do make you foggy — sort of like watching things with a thin veil over your eyes. Something to keep in mind if the physical symptoms get to be a bit much.

    • Well, The Book says every woman has a different set of symptoms. Some never or rarely get hot flashes, other have a severe problem with them. Some have big mood swings, and others feel just fine.
      I have the occasional night sweats but don’t think I’ve experienced an actual hot flash yet. They sound like something I would notice.
      I’m really hoping to avoid anti-depressants, since i hate things that make me feel brain foggy. (Like insomnia. Also, allergy medication.) Another option for physical symptoms, I think, are hormones. They were avoiding prescribing those for a while, but now they’re finding that the cancer risk was probably overblown, so are in the mix again.

  2. My wife’s perimenopause was OK, especially her depression. The mood swings were inconsistent and hard to predict. But her menopause was/is utter hell and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But it differs for everyone and I wish you the best.

  3. That should have been one of the things we talked about when you visited! I can totally relate. Especially with not sleeping and anxiety. Not sure if it helps, but you’re not alone.

  4. I’m also at the stage of wondering if I’m perimenopausal. Unfortunately (fortunately) I had a procedure 5 years ago for lengthy periods (which is one of the signs of perimenopause but that was never suggested at the time) and it resulted in my periods stopping. Yay. Apart from the fact that I cannot see if my periods are now ‘dying out’ and be able to tell when I’m approaching the menopause. It’s frustrating.

    However, my point was that I have been struggling with stress/anxiety/depression but not to the extent that they could be diagnosed as the actual conditions. And that’s why I think it’s the perimenopause. I’m currently taking Ashwagandha – there appear to be some encouraging results with regards to menopausal symptoms. So just thought I’d mention it.

    • Might be worth a try! And does seem tricky having some idea what’s going on with your hormones without a period (or lack thereof) to give that indication. Thanks for commenting!

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