Weekly Blog: The (peri) menopausal symptoms you never hear about - and what you need to know about them
The thing about transitions is that we only know where we've been, and sometimes where we are, but seldom exactly where we're going.
I'm sometimes asked what has really been going on with me this past year. Truth is, I haven't always known. I've only known I was in transition. But the map didn't have a destination.
I've finally been able to step back and get a fuller perspective on it. I'll share with you today so that it hopefully helps you or someone you know.
Some of it might not be for the squeamish. Frankly, I'm a little squeamish to share something so personal, too. Here goes.
The "M" Word
Um, yea. Menopause.
Or more accurately, perimenopause. The time encompassing all the nasty side effects and changes before the whole period thing stops all-together.
The more usual conditions associated with it are widely known, and I've certainly experienced many of them. But big hairy scary lesser known symptoms also need to be more widely known, so fewer women - like me - freak out while seeking and not finding answers.
Two of the biggest hairy scary lesser known symptoms that can be associated with menopause are:
2. Extreme loss of muscle and strength
Flooding - Not the Kind Covered in the News
Flooding. You can pretty much imagine what this is, the description is so accurate.
It can cause women to be housebound because nothing stops this outrageously heavy menstrual flow. Nothing.
I personally dealt with it from June to November, almost every day. There were no beginnings or endings to my periods. It was one long, usually crazy heavy, period. My social life became nearly nonexistent.
I saw one GP, two OB/GYNs, and two PAs. I spent thousands of dollars in co-pays on diagnostic imaging tests.
About all I learned was that I had fibroids and some endometriosis.
It was suggested I go on birth control pills to hopefully curtail the bleeding. Seriously? At 51? I did that in my younger years, and wasn't interested at this point in life, for various health reasons.
So I started googling. That's where I found the term flooding. None of my medical providers knew it or shared it if they did know it.
I learned more from my Google searches than from any number of ten minute appointments with a variety of health care professionals.
I also learned after intensive digging online that several doctors prescribed one 325 milligram aspirin for patients experiencing flooding.
Blood-thinning aspirin seemed counter-intuitive. But hey, I had the possible panacea in my bathroom already. Easy enough. It was worth a try.
Within two hours, the flooding, and all bleeding, stopped.
It never started again.
If I could find the online articles again, I'd link them here. But I can't. I only know I didn't find them until I'd spent hours and hours researching last fall.
The Fibroid Fallout
A side note here, too, on another not-well-known happening. It can be unnecessarily terrifying because of the lack of knowledge around its existence.
While I was dealing with flooding one night last November, it got particularly worse. I couldn't leave the bathroom.
I texted a friend to ask her to check on me periodically. I realized I might need to go to the emergency room, if I continued to lose so much blood.
As it got worse. there came a moment when I realized something else was going on. I became even more terrified, not understanding what it was.
And then the evidence became visible. I realized I had passed a fibroid. Or that's what I assumed had happened. Again, googling pretty much confirmed my suspicions.
But really? This is a thing? This happens? And again, not one medical person had happened to mention it so as to avoid the freaking out process I was going through at the moment.
I called my doctor's office the next morning. I described what had happened and what I thought it was. The young woman answering the phone casually said, "Oh yea, it sounds like you just passed a fibroid. I went through that before, too."
How could I have spent five decades on this planet in female form and never heard about it? We're women. We share such stuff. When I shared it with a few close friends, none of them had heard of it, either.
Maybe sharing it here will help you or someone you know. It needs to be more widely known, like so much else of what we experience as women.
Goodbye, Muscles. Hello, Atrophy.
Ok, good. Finally, the whole bleeding thing was under control and no longer happening.
Flooding is often one of the latter stages of menopause.
So I thought, I must be getting nearer to being home-free on this whole menopausal adventure, yes?
Not so fast, you hormonal-induced change machine, you.
For the last year and a half, since about spring 2015, I had noticed vague feelings of weakness throughout my body. Some simple daily activities, like grasping the fuel pump lever when trying to put gas in my car, were becoming difficult, if not impossible. Walking was slowly becoming more challenging, too.
I chalked up the fuel thing to decades of arthritis deciding to take over fine motor skills. And I chalked up walking difficulties to the need for an upcoming knee replacement revision surgery.
I didn't connect the dots.
Fast forward to May 2016. Months after my knee surgery had been declared successful, I was finding every other body part being ridiculously challenged in the walking department.
When I couldn't make it from car to building one day in May, I was faced with admitting that something was really, really wrong.
Because of my misadventures within the medical industry last fall, I wasn't inclined to give them another chance so soon. (But of course, you should, just to rule out anything more serious, just as all of my tests did, too.)
I would again seek assistance from Google.
Google is Your Friend
I again found my answer. At least an answer that seems to make sense and is responding to the suggested non-medical modalities.
Most women lose some muscle strength during menopause. A small number of us lose massive amounts in a relatively short amount of time.
Apparently, I'd raised my hand on that one, too.
It's recoverable, but it takes concerted effort.
So my concerting self has been focused on just that all summer long. It's a painfully slow process, but I am seeing results.
I've been exercising in various capacities every day, multiple times a day. I've been receiving both myofascial release massage and acupuncture weekly.
Whereas every movement was an excurciating effort in May, I can now get through normal daily activities with some degree of normalness and not the supreme effort previously required. I'm still painfully slow and unstable on my feet, but I am leaps ahead of where I was in May.
I have learned more about my body from my massage therapists in these last few months than I have in my untold number of intensive encounters with healthcare people over five decades.
Why is that? And why can a massage therapist simply touch a muscle and know whether it's activating or not, and what to do about it, when no medical doctor nor physical therapist has ever isolated and touched any specific muscle on my body?
Something is wrong with our health care systems. But we knew that.
Our medical people are great at what is tangible or measurable, but not when it comes to much of anything else. And 'anything else' is largely the underlying something that makes our bodies functionable.
Plus, symptoms that aren't experienced by the majority, aren't going to be seen in a doctor's limited scope practice.
But millions of women and medical professionals can meet via the online world, where numbers are substantial enough to realize your specific situation has lots of company. And to find answers to your questions.
But Wait, There's More
Seriously? All of the above hasn't been enough?
My voice is also changing. Is there no part of me that is the same as it was? Whose body is this, anyway? I don't seem to know it at all anymore.
Googling also revealed that many women's voices change during menopause. It often lowers. During this process, it can feel like it's hoarse, or like a cold may be coming on. It can be raspy and not so smooth at times.
This symptom often happens right around age 51, which is when I started noticing it, amid every other fun and fascinating menopausal symptom.
Again, few of my women friends were aware of this possibility, either.
Sic 'Em, Fido
The usual symptoms have been with me for half a decade. The raging emotional hormonal issues have definitely played themselves out, including at most inopportune and embarassing times.
If you happened to be among the numerous people who experienced me at my raging nasty best, I'll apologize right here. It's not always been pretty or polite or professional.
The emotional rollercoaster is finally abating. The raging monster is only breathing wispy tendrils of smoke and fire, at last.
Search for the Upside
This whole last year and a half has been the third worst year of my life. My perimenopausal experience has been hellish. Its power dictated everything else in my world during this timeframe.
It's not that bad for everyone, and I'm glad. For some of us, it is, and we may not even understand what's driving some of our problems so that we can do something about it.
I'm finally on the downward slope of this season of life, and I'm beginning to see glimpses of normalcy again.
But I feel like I've been through the wringer. I guess I have.
Still, I have to say, it's been one heckuva learning experience for me personally. I knew the strong stuff I was made of before, but this cemented the deal.
So if you're dealing with any of this stuff, too, give yourself credit for the strength you have and the strength you've gained.
I learned a lot about myself. Time off from the rest of the world, including many relationships, gave me insights and the opportunity to reconfigure life as I'd like it to be. More on that in this week's video blog.
For every season - good, bad, or indifferent - there is something to relish about it. It may not be obvious at first.
While you're in transition, the destination may not be clear. It might be hidden in dense fog.
But keep looking and watching for it. It's there. Possibly cleverly disguised in things that make you go 'yuck.'
About Kris Harty: Kris Harty is founder and CEO of shortCHICK, llc, She brings perspective and wisdom to the table, and helps smart people like you move from overwhelm and obstacles, to over it and moving on, in life and work, Step by Step. She's a speaker, author, podcaster, and creative, giving voice to hope, joy, encouragement, and wisdom.
Comment! Did this post resonate with you? Do you have other viewpoints? Please share your comments below.
Subscribe! Don't miss one blog post! Subscribe to my weekly newsletter in the right hand column and receive each post - boom - in your inbox.
Share with Friends! Share on Twitter using the icon below. Or Like on Facebook using the icon below. To share on Facebook, click on the post title. Then in the new window, share from the vertical set of social media icons on that page. Thank you for helping other people, too!
Sign up for my newsletter
(c) 2014-2016 Kris Harty shortCHICK, llc All rights reserved.
TEXT / Call 970.445..GRIT (4748) | Colorado Springs, Colorado