Last time I blogged I talked about how menopause makes me feel like I’m going through some sort of reverse puberty. Like I am morphing back into pre-pubescent years, only with less energy and more facial hair. I had spent a few months rarely un-impacted and had tried lots of ways to help with not only menopause but also the impact it had/has on mine and Ian’s relationship. One of those many things we tried was to take part in a TV show where we received some fairly robust counselling and a variety of tasks to do both on and off camera that would help us with our intimacy issues brought on by Lady M. This came just after my last bout of anxiety and time away from work so to say we had both had enough of the monstrous Lady M would be putting it mildly.
Anyway off we went with open heart and minds and took part in four days of intensive filming. It sounds weird but talking about our intimacy issues with complete strangers with a camera pointing at us at for 8 hours a day really helped. They had us in some pretty peculiar circumstances and positions; if you’ll pardon the pun. I cant go into much more detail about this just yet as the broadcast has been severely delayed due to COVID-19. But we had lots of fun, tried things in and outside the box and formed some really nice relationships. No, no threesomes. All in all a success. Why am I telling you this if I can’t spill the beans? Well at the time of filming you’ll see me (hopefully) when it airs with a constant companion; other than Ian that is. My face fan. You know the cheesy types that you buy from Spain for someone you really don’t like. My hot flushes had returned in abundance, which was puzzling as they had been under control for a good few years. I was getting them about 10 times a day at the point of filming. In February, in London. The only plus side to this was noone knew if I was embarrassed or menopausal. Anyway it was puzzling and worrying.
Back to normality for a few weeks and back to work, the dreaded flushes increased. Upped their anti to 20 a day. I couldn’t figure it out, I had not gained extra weight, I had not changed my diet, wasn’t drinking any more than normal and I was taking all of my one million supplements. Yet here I was like a furnace, and to make things worse they increased with intensity when I was under the slightest bit pressure, one difficult conversation had me dripping like a ten dollar whore in a busy brothel. Now I don’t mind walking about with the fan, I advertise my menopause, I am not ashamed of it. But I am embarrassed when I’m sat in a meeting with 5/10 colleagues, I get asked a perfectly normal question then I light up like a Belisha Beacon during rush hour. Or I feel I have to spend the day asking my friend Catherine, do I smell ? can you tell I was gonna cry? did I look un-comfortable? do I smell?(again) Now don’t get me wrong, at that particular time I wasn’t that anxious. My anxiety had been under control for a while. But walking around the office, soaked to the skin, feeling like you smell and perspiring every time you get looked at, makes you anxious. Made me anxious. There was only one thing for it. I would have to go and see Dr Feel Good. You remember her the drug pusher? The one who just loves giving me drugs, the one I’d wish I met in my twenties.
I made an appointment and with fan in one hand, list of questions in the other off I went. Now you may remember me and Dr Feel Good have been here before, we have went through a plethora of prescriptions, none of them worked for me. And as I have previously said I do not want to be on anti- depressants for the rest of my life. No disrespect to anyone they work for, it’s just not for me. Mostly due to the fact I am not depressed, I am Peri-Menopausal, or Menopausal. Who knows? I don’t and it would seem neither does Dr Feel Good. I went into that 10 minute consultation with a list of questions, updated aliments and changes. Why had the hot flushes suddenly returned with a vengeance, why was I feeling anxious due to this, why was I suddenly feeling more and more tired ? was I coming to the end of this journey? was that the light at the end of the tunnel? I honestly thought the sudden surge of hormones and hotness might have meant that the tide had turned. Did it mean after 8 long years (and it was long years) my metamorphosis was over. Remember the hungry caterpillar reference? I was to be more disappointed now than ever before. Was I Dr Feel Good; was I nearing the end?
“She didn’t know”, she said. “How could she, each individual menopause journey is different”. Did I need any blood tests, could she perhaps test my hormone levels. Was there anything else we could do? No she said, blood tests are not needed, I can clearly see you’re in menopause. The 15 hot flashes I had endured during the consultation might have been the give-away. But no testing was needed. What could she suggest? “Anti-depressants can help”. No. “Femiston?” NO. “Mirena Coil”. NO. NO! NO!! NO!!! (that is my head screaming not actually me). But I guess she could see I was internally screaming through my so-not-a-poker face. I am no Lady Ga Ga. Sensing my apprehension to all the things we had tried before and probably freezing cold from all of the Spanish fanning, Dr Feel Good said ‘‘We do have a brand new type of HRT. Made from natural products the Progesterone is made from SOYA.‘’ My ears pricked up like a bloodhound on an foxhunt hearing the bugle. Tell me more. A lot of women in a similar position to me who are very sensitive to Progesterone were having great results, she said. BUT. Here we go, I thought. I’m gonna grow a beard again. “No but you might get some bleeding back”. Okaayyyy….. For the record I had at the time had about four periods in a year granted some of them had lasted six weeks, but they had been very sporadic. And given that in the past I’d lost enough blood to start by own black pudding factory, I was less than impressed. How bad I said ? Difficult to tell. I am not sure about you, but when I ask a salesman will this high powered cake mixer mix cakes really fast, and their response is, “Difficult to tell”. then I probably won’t buy it. But with this, when you feel like you’re on your last lifeline, again, you’ll try anything once wont you ? Except maybe incest or line dancing.
What if it doesn’t work? How long do I need to take to for? Will it linger in my system? Let’s try for three months then if it is no good I’ll refer you to see the Menopause clinic, Dr Feel Good suggested. CUE god like music, I had pestered this women for best part of four years to be referred to this clinic. She was actually quite surprised I had found it. I imagine the GP’s training goes something like this. The first rule about Menopause clinic is that that you don’t talk about the Menopause clinic!!! It’s harder to get into than well, the fight club. I agreed. Take them every month. See what happens. I took them for two. Fight Club would’ve hurt me less. You get a log and a link to this medication, read it Dr Feel Good advised. I did. It suggested that a women in my circumstances did NOT need to take progesterone everyone month, certainly not the elephant tranquiliser amounts I was plugging into my body. I completed my tracker daily like a good girl. Week one. Minimal impact, the only positive being that the hot flashes reduced slightly.
By week three I was back on the phone to Dr Feel Good. Or as she is now known Dr Feel Shite. I advised her that this seemed to increase my anxiety, I was losing my flight or fight control by the day and although I was sleeping a little better the night terrors were awful. She assured me everything would be fine and it might take a while to settle down. But I had done my research. I read that Progesterone can actually increase anxiety, and also that most contraceptive pills are only made from this hormone. I had to stop taking the pill when I was 26 as I was depressed and suicidal. Dr Feel Good knew all this, but still prescribed the highest strength of progesterone available on this treatment. Research has discovered that progesterone can activate an almond part shape of the brain called the Amygdala. This is the brains chief alert system. It responds to cues in the environment and assesses if they represent a threat, triggering fear and anxiety if it thinks that they are. It works like a defence mechanism and it is the first part of the brain to respond. Progesterone enhances the amygdala and can have the same effect on the brain as depressive drugs like alcohol and sleeping pills. I knew this was what was happening to me, the first couple of weeks in when I was on only oestrogen I was like a fluffy kitten, care free and happy. Until the Progesterone got into my system. And boy does it. Our body breaks down most substances using metabolites, and they are then removed by the kidney and liver. This doesn’t happen with progesterone. When broken down progesterone becomes active in the brain. This then impacts a little receptor which is like the excitement police. Drugs that bind to it, stop any excitement. No wonder I was anxious, miserable and constantly full of panic. Dr Feel Good said I couldn’t rely on one paper in our phone call. I said no, but I could I rely on me and I knew that my mental health was being bashed by the fun police. I was not staying on these pills any longer. We struck a bargain and compromised and I said I would take them until I got a referral to the gynaecologist at the Menopause clinic as promised. She would refer me as soon as possible, she said. I got my referral through a few weeks later. The pills went in the bin that day. Once I had made my mind up that was it. No more Progesterone. I now know that those drugs don’t work. They just made me worse. And I’ll never see their face again.
Link to paper on what increased Progesterone can cause.