The menopause - HRT or a lifestyle change?
Should we medicate our menopause symptoms or should we lean into them and use them as a reason to radically change our lives?
A positive take on the menopause
I've written about the menopause before here, about the benefits of this part of our life as older women. When I saw a couple of friends who had read the article they said 'who are you trying to kid?' or words to that effect. They couldn't see the positives as they were too wearied by all the signs and symptoms they were experiencing.
I felt slightly smug and polyanna-ish that my herbal tincture and yoga seemed to be allowing me to glide through the perimenopause.
I'd like to think I've always been quite a 'nice' person who gets on with most people and rarely takes a strong dislike to anything. In fact, people have accused me of not being discerning enough in some of my relationship choices. This seems to be changing, there are seem to be some people who I intensely dislike, people I don't even want to make eye contact with.
Then there's sleep. I've always thought that sleep ought to be on my CV as a skill I have as I can sleep anywhere (including on the floor of a railway station in India and sitting up in lotus position in a coach through Thailand), at any time. I fall to sleep easily even in the most stressful of situations and stay asleep. Sleep has been a safe, unproblematic place for me, a place to retire to from the rest of the world.
That's changed. I wake up several times in the night, not completely but enough to know that I am awake. I get back to sleep but it feels broken. I'm also playing the 'covers on, covers off' game that so many women talk about; one minute roasting the next cold.
This has a knock on effect that the usual high amount of energy I have, has depleted. I get tired more quickly and don't feel so motivated to do all the many things I usually do.
Then there's a restlessness which has no good reason to be present. I like my work, my partner, my house, my village, my life and yet I feel restless. I want a change, not just a little tinker-round-the-edge change but a massive life style change. I'm dreaming about new houses with acres of land, of being in mountains, in the Himalayas by water. The dreams are so vivid and accurate (in one I pointed out where we were on a map and named the place and when I woke up and checked a map I'd been spot on in my dream) that I can still remember them as I write.
How much of all this is the peri-menopause and how much is it me? Is it that I'm getting more discerning as I age? Is it the dark nights which are making me tired? Is this restlessness a sign that we need to pack up and travel the globe with the kids or is it hormonal?
In other words, do I need to take action and make changes as a result of what I'm feeling or do I need to see the doctor about HRT? Is this all a sign that a change in lifestyle is due or will it pass on a wave of hormones? It's hard to know.
So here are some of the signs and symptoms of the menopause:
- Weight gain
- Vaginal dryness
- Night sweats
- lack of sex drive
- broken sleep
- hair loss
- memory failure
- changes to your periods
- hot flushes
- reduced muscle mass
- bladder weakness
I can only tick less than a handful of them.
To medicate or change?
The thing is; do we take HRT or other medication so that we can continue to function as we are used to functioning and the way that the world, our jobs and our families need us to function? Or do we accept that there is a change needed in our lives.
When I ask myself what the change would look like for me, some of it is possible and I'm putting it into action: I don't see the people who irritate me, I'm going to bed earlier and napping when I can during the day, I've cut back on some of the things I do. This is helping.
However the restlessness would have me leave my jobs and head off to the sun, with the kids and partner and the dogs, some good books to read, my computer to write on and packs of cards to play with. Then I could sleep when I wanted, dip in the sea when I was too hot, keep fit and active, eat healthy foods to avoid weight gain and promote muscle mass and have as much sex as we wanted (the best way to avoid vaginal atrophy and dryness i believe!).
This restlessness has had enough of being time controlled, of having to fit in the things I love around the things I don't love. This restlessness has had enough of having to dress a certain way and behave a certain way. This restlessness is saying 'now is your time to break out and live a different life, a life you want rather than the life society thinks you should have'.
What have you done? What will I do? I'm watching myself with curiosity... and would love to hear from you if you took the leap and made a change.