No one likes to talk about menopause. My dad still refers to it as “women’s problems.” But the reality is, when you are 34 and in the “early stages” it’s something that you have to talk about… a lot. Earlier this year, I was having trouble with hot flashes and night sweats, but they went away.
I pushed my “early stages of menopause” out of my mind. There weren’t any real symptoms to speak of, so it wasn’t an issue. But there were and I just didn’t know it.
I suffer from chronic fatigue. This is due, in large part, to the chronic migraines. It’s been a lot worse though since August. I can stay up late, but I can’t get the work done that I used. Napping is almost a daily ritual and when I don’t get it, I’m cranky… Like a two year old missing a nap. My headaches increased in both frequency and duration. They stopped responding to treatment. I chalked both up to an increase in migraine activity. Not something that would actually be a surprise.
Most days, my body hurts. Arms, legs, back, shoulders, and muscles I didn’t even know existed ache, stretching helps, but not like it used to. My arthritis seems to be worse this year as well.
My anxiety levels increased. Of course, I had a stressful year. Both my father and my SO’s father both faced serious illnesses. Several times, they talked about chopping off bits of my father for different reasons. Worse, he’s diabetic and once they start removing parts, they usually continue to remove parts. Twice we made arrangements for me to pick him up after the chopping incidents and were saved from the gruesome fate at the last minute. And I learned the truth about my dental problems, something that was rather unexpected… I didn’t expect they would have to remove bits of my jawbone just to pull a tooth or two. (Next oral surgery scheduled for 29 January… so much fun)
However, in November, I started dealing with a migraine like no other. It isn’t responsive to treatment. It makes my brain feel like it’s working at 1/4 normal capacity. It makes me tired. It seemed to have multiple causes; the muscle in my back, the Depo-Provera shot, sinuses, a few bad teeth, etc.
Friday, I had to have my annual exam done. They did a hormone panel, because I am in the “early stages of menopause.” Only, I’m not. I’m actually in menopause; full blown, bring on the suffering, menopause. All these symptoms that I’ve been experiencing and thought were other things is my estrogen level. I officially produce less estrogen than an eggplant. I didn’t even know that was possible!
I’ve been told that women with PCOS are more likely to experience premature menopause. But no where; not in health class, not in anatomy class, not in human biology, no doctors or gynecologists, not even a family friend has ever mentioned that estrogen production can rapidly drop to almost zero. Nor did they mention that symptoms for almost zero estrogen production would not be what we associate with normal menopausal symptoms. Why on earth didn’t someone say “hey, it could feel like you’ve been beaten up all the time, your head will feel like it is going to explode often, your brain will turn to mush, expect to want to sleep thirty hours a day, and your anxiety will skyrocket.” Or what about telling me that my toenails might become thick and brittle but not have a fungal infection…
Now for the hard decisions; do I switch to a different birth control? Depo provera inhibits estrogen production and obviously, I’m not producing nearly enough anyway. Birth control pills have stopped working. I keep reading about Mirena, but it says it can cause ovarian cysts and I have those without assistance from birth control. Do I do Hormone Replacement Therapy? I’m a good candidate for it, no history of breast cancer and I’m not genetically predisposed to it… But I smoke. I will definitely have to stop that if I’m going to do HRT and so far, my quitting has failed miserably.