Everyone knows that hot flushes are a symptom of the menopause and that HRT is a good way of dealing with them, but when I started the menopause I was completely unprepared for it. I tried various ways of dealing with it and found that worrying about hot flushes made them much worse, whereas positive thinking and meditation were the best way for me to deal with them. I needed to find a more positive approach to dealing with menopausal symptoms.
When I was 37 my boyfriend finished with me saying I should have a baby but not with him. I was stunned. I stopped taking the pill and immediately started having hot flushes. Everyone told me I was too young for it which didn’t help. When I was worried about it the hot flushes were worse.
My experience is that most younger women don’t want to discuss the menopause, and that includes doctors. However, men, who don’t want to talk about periods, are very interested in it.
When I was 41 I started another relationship. Until then I had still been having periods every month but the new man was a shock to the system and I started missing periods. I still had them but not regularly. However I still had PMT every month. I would get all the signs I was going to start a period but then didn’t always have a period. The body was slowing down and getting older but the mind was still thinking in terms of once a month. It took me several years to accept that I wasn’t going to have a period every month any more.
At first I thought I was unique in experiencing PMT every month but not a period but it turned out friends went through this too and I also discovered websites devoted to the subject so it’s quite common. When I realised it was normal I found it easier to accept.
I then discovered that the more I thought about when I was going to start a period the worse my PMT was. If I didn’t know when I would get a period I didn’t think about it as much and I realised a lot of it was all in the mind. I could control PMT to a certain extent by being relaxed and not thinking about when my next period would happen but I didn’t learn this until my 40s.
I went to see 2 different female doctors both of whom told me it wasn’t the menopause and that there was nothing wrong with me. One of them said to me ‘Oh dear. You haven’t had a baby yet.’ I didn’t bother with her again and went to see a male doctor who was more professional and accepted what I said. He asked the right questions, answered mine, arranged a blood test and prescribed HRT.
I took HRT for a couple of years mainly because my periods had stopped and I have a family history of early menopause and osteoporosis later on. By taking it I managed to delay the menopause by a couple of years and finally stopped having periods at the age of 46, so I was beyond the age of an early menopause.
However, I was still having hot flushes. There were all sorts of things that made me have them – stress, being hungry, needing the toilet, hot drinks, hot food, alcohol, being in a crowded room with no window open and wearing pullovers, tights, hats, gloves and scarves. I gradually learned how to reduce the hot flushes by eating before I got hungry, drinking more water, cutting out alcohol, turning the heating down, opening windows and avoiding sitting next to radiators. I also started wearing thin layers of clothing which I could remove easily and stopped wearing tights and warm clothes.
Then I read in one of the health magazines that meditation is good for hot flushes, so I went to evening classes in it and learnt how to concentrate on my breathing. We were told to breathe in and imagine breathing in good things like energy and then breathe out and imagine breathing out all the negativity. This was a simple technique but very effective in calming me down and reducing hot flushes.
While at meditation classes I also learned about the power of positive thinking and visualisation. When I got a hot flush I would tell myself it meant I wouldn’t be having periods forever. Or I would open a window and if I couldn’t do that I would imagine opening a window, or having a cold shower, or sitting in a cold bath, or walking in the snow. Just thinking about something cold cooled me down. If it didn’t work I would have to go outside for a few minutes.
I also started telling myself how lucky I was to be having this experience and I was learning a lot about it and about myself. Some women die young and don’t go through it. Other women have a disability. Imagine needing to using a wheelchair and having the extra problem of hot flushes and not being able to pop outside for a few minutes.
Everyone knows that when you reach a year without a period then you’ve had the menopause. I was still carrying tampons around with me 11 months after my last period but then decided to stop thinking about it and not take them with me when I went out. However, I immediately got caught out and had a period when I didn’t have any Tampax with me. It was like being a teenager again. Then a month later I had another. It was so annoying. It meant I had to wait another year. This also happened to several friends. Again I realised it was all in the mind and I could control it by not thinking about it.
Other people’s attitudes can make it difficult. When I told people I was going through the menopause they would tell me I was too young or say it was a shame I hadn’t had a baby, like that female doctor. The easiest way to deal with it was to make a joke about it which made everyone, including me, feel more relaxed.
Having stopped having periods altogether instead of feeling happy about it I felt depressed. It felt like a bereavement, like part of me had died, and it was about 5 years before I learned to accept it. I met a new man and ended the relationship that had started when I was 41 and felt happy again and was able to move. I’m now in my 50’s and the future looks good.
Catherine Hodson is a writer and author and is currently writing a novel about her ancestors, a blog of book reviews and places to go for a day out. You can find her on her personal blog at: catherinemhodson.wordpress.com.
(Image courtesy: https://pixabay.com/en/users/silviarita-3142410/)