IN THE HEAT OF THE MENOPAUSE

Five years ago some weird stuff started happening. A conveyer belt full of surprises was being thrown at me, the prequel, a taster session of things to come, a welcome party. ‘Come on in, try everything!’. I tried everything (well almost). New daily symptoms bombarded me. I had five weeks of hell!

Searing ovulation pain like never before. Lax, loose muscles culminating in weekly trips to the physio. I’m confused: how can my body feel like jelly but at the same time feel incredibly tight and restricted? Everything hurt. Heat was steaming out of me. My face was permanently red and perhaps to the untrained eye might give the appearance that I am a healthy long distance runner. This is misleading as I would never ever do such a thing.

I woke most nights, eventually drifting back to sleep only to be woken in the morning by intense heat whooshing through my entire body, a feeling that took my breath away. I took to draping myself in a sheet of pure Egyptian cotton. I might as well adorn my inner goddess even if she is hot and sweaty, I figured.

My skin got so dry my lips stuck together. There was indigestion and exhaustion. Intermittent hot flushes out of the blue and with no warning. I once went bright red after eating a chicken sand-wich. All of this would make for a very good comedy sketch if it weren’t so fucking awful. It’s a bit alarming and this was just the start!

“Most days I say ‘I can’t remember’ at least 20 times.”

I’ve moaned a lot during my menopause. In fact I have three journals full of symptoms, self-analysis and lists of stuff that I ‘should’ be doing to improve my life, my body and my sanity. It’s confusing. There’s advice, information, shoulds, coulds, woulds. It’s too much.

Occasionally I think ‘Right, I’m done, HRT it is then’. But as soon as I get the prescription every-thing stops and a tiny bit of the old me returns. In all honesty my symptoms come and go and it’s hard to keep track of what’s what.

I’m now a regular at the doctor’s. At first she prescribed anti-depressants – not because I’m de-pressed but apparently they help with unusual aches. Are you fucking kidding me? Every part of my body is aching – there’s nothing unusual about it. It’s constant! (I still don’t take the drugs).

I’ve had a lot of symptoms but by no means all of them, although the fogginess in my brain seems to have upped its game recently. I‘ve developed pain in my left shoulder and there’s a general vagueness about me. Most days I say ‘I can’t remember’ at least 20 times.

There are many many more symptoms that I have not yet had the pleasure of. Hopefully I won’t, but I hear tears are common and not the ones of joy. There’s frustration, exhaustion, confusion, and migraines. Hair growth – and not in the usual places, then just when you think your periods have gone for good you’re caught off guard. Not a sanitary towel to be found. You stopped buy-ing them months ago.

Excerpted from Menopause: A Hot Topic, by Sam Bunch, Parks Publications. Find out more at collecting conversations.com.