I have been trying to educate myself about perimenopause ever since it hit me three years ago.
I find I am still learning things every day. It affects 100 per cent of women (who live long enough for their ovaries to start backfiring) and parts of the trans and non-binary community. Yet it’s like yelling into the wind.
Here are five things that shocked me.
- The lack of knowledge
I am furious that peri and menopause is not taught in schools. We are taught about the reproductive system. We’re taught about boys getting erections and girls getting periods. We’re taught about contraception, and childbirth and yet we’re not taught about this vital, incredibly overwhelming part of a woman’s life called perimenopause and menopause.
If they live long enough this stage takes up a third of women’s lives and yet it is completely ignored.
I think if we started talking about it in schools, it would normalise it for 50 per cent of the population who are going to go through this. Just like a teenage boy is not in charge of his erections, peri women are not in charge of their emotions or their body temperature.
It also hits women at the peak of their careers and yet it’s certainly not discussed in the office. It’s about time women were more honest with the symptoms and I believe men would like to be educated so they know what’s going on.
- Menopause only lasts 24 hours
Yep. Menopause only lasts one day. It marks exactly 12 months since your last period. That’s it. It’s the seven to ten years leading up to that day which is perimenopause and once your period stops you are post-menopausal.
If everyone was educated about the different stages, we would know that. Semantics matter to understand the different parts of this rollercoaster.
- The loneliness
This lack of education contributes to intense loneliness. When you are going through hot flushes and hormone surges that fly and drop like an untied balloon, you don’t feel like you are in charge of your own body. You feel out of control and question your sanity.
It’s very isolating.
In my case, most of my closest friends are ten years younger than me. That’s because I moved constantly for work. I didn’t stay in my hometown or my home state.
So, when I do meet someone else, who’s willing to talk about peri and menopause, I almost grab on to them like a life raft.
- Dry eyes
I expect most people associate menopause with low libido and a dry downstairs. Now of course there are creams that can help, and you must use them because if you don’t the vagina can atrophy to a point where it can’t be salvaged. Yay for being a woman, huh?
But what I didn’t realise is you dry out everywhere. So, you get dry prickly skin and some, like me, are lucky enough to also get dry eyes. I wake up and it feels like my eyeballs are scratching the insides of my eyelids. A bit like fingernails down a chalkboard. If you remember chalkboards at school, then you’re probably in peri or menopause right now.
Every time I speak to a professional, such as an optometrist, GP, pharmacist, they’re like, “Oh yes, dry eyes. That is a symptom of perimenopause and menopause.” I feel like a grape turning into a sultana. I’d rather turn into a fine wine.
- Not all hot flushes are the same
The other thing I really didn’t understand was I thought hot flushes were the same for everyone. I imagined you would get a rage of searing heat through you, that lasts a couple of minutes. You get hot and sweaty and then you’re over it. And some women would have them more often than others.
Now all of that is true but what I didn’t know, is perimenopause can cause some women (me!) to just generally sit at a hotter temperature than everyone else. I will barley need a jumper in winter. My body is so warm. I drive my husband crazy with the fact that I want to have the air conditioning on in winter.
So, education is key. We need to talk about it at work. We talk about it at home. Our partners need to know about it. Our family needs to know about it so that we are not just struggling in silence. Speak to your pharmacist or GP. The time for silence is over.