Menopause. Hysterectomies. Does it get better?

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limping2victory
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09 Jul 2014, 7:58 am

I'm 46 with symptoms of peri-menopause (approaching menopause which means you haven't had your period for a year and will never have it again). I have hot flashes which usually last hours. I've always had anxiety but it's gotten much worse and even medication doesn't help much unless I want to sleep all day. I have next to no energy, am cranky, depressed.

My period is still every 28-32 days, and has been heavy but now seems to be getting lighter.

I assumed that the worst time in my life was my early to mid teen years. My 40's though have been so much worse.

Two years ago I had surgery to remove ovarian cysts. They found out they were related to endometriosis which I had a severe case of and they removed the ovary, a fallopian tube deformed by endometriosis.

Now I think the endometriosis is back (pain) and I'm contemplating a hysterectomy. How bad can it be I tell myself. I only have one ovary left anyway... and I've had surgery before so no big deal, right? And once the hysterectomy is done and I heal, no more pain from endometriosis. Only it's not that clear cut. I've heard that if they don't get all the endometriosis it will come back so even if I have a hysterectomy it may not solve the problem. Also, they often put women on hormone replacement therapy to make the transition to menopause smoother, but that encourages growth of endometriosis.

I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow which I dread but I have a kind of fatalistic, hopeless view of it all.

I've never had children, don't want them, but the idea that no more female organs means major changes in the body is incredibly depressing. I can't get past the idea that my skin will be dryer, like I'm an old woman withering away, past her prime no longer of any importance. I know this is partially the incresed anxiety etc. of peri-menopause.

It doesn't help that I was fired from my job of 13 years this past January, haven't found a new job, afraid I won't be able to find a full time job and fearful that I will and won't be able to handle the grind of a full work week.

And I put my beloved dog Bunny to sleep in April.

:cry: I feel like my best days are done, that it's all downhill from here and there is no hope for a worthwhile future. I live at home by the way, so I can't get another dog though eventually getting another dog would help immensely.



BirdInFlight
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09 Jul 2014, 8:28 am

I sympathize, that's all a lot to deal with. I found myself suddenly experiencing perimenopausal symptoms right in the middle of what turned out to be a disastrous international relocation that had Murphy's Law all over it, from what started out as a well planned and happy thing. Terrible timing, thanks a lot, Body.

I too was 46, and continued to have regular periods even while a blood test I got for simply a general, whole-body "well check" showed that my ovaries had basically shut down completely. My FSH count was rock bottom. It was a shock, as I still thought I had time. My mother went into menopause well into her fifties, and here I was only 46.

I was having hot flashes that were always preceded by an acute yet very brief panic attack. I'd only had one panic attack in my life before this. Now I was having "mini" ones about ten times a day. It was HORRENDOUS. They and the accompanying hot flash never lasted more than ten minutes, but they were like a living hell while they lasted, with me having to breath systematically, pace the room, find something to lean on, stick my arm in the freeezer.

I still get them five years later but not as numerous. Some days I get none at all. But on the days they still happen, I wonder if this is going to be for the rest of my life. I don't want HRT because of the proven risks it carries.

As for other symptoms, six year in, I'm actually not noticing any! My skin is still soft and moist, unless I literally haven't taken in enough fluids, but that goes for someone of any age. My face is still full and the complexion is peachy; I'm doing okay holding up so far, with nothing more than Olay. :lol:

Things "down below" are not changing yet either, as of right now. I still secrete and am moist there, if you see what I mean. I still find my sexual arousal has all the same factors as it always had, including getting wet enough. Not a lot is changing, except for the completely stopped periods (two years) and maybe a tendency not to shed extra weight as easily as I used to be able to.

But aside from that, my skin is great, and the hot flashes + panic attacks are decreasing. But yes, they were a NIGHTMARE for the first few years of peri- and then full menopause.

I'm only six years on from the start of the peri symptoms, so obviously the good skin and stuff could well change in the future, but so far everything's okay.

It's not fun to deal with though. I am particularly having a hard time with moving into this phase of my life because, as the witty Lichtenstein postcard goes -- "Oops, I forgot to have kids!"

I had actually never intended not to have children -- things just turned out that way (never the right relationship...) So when I found that I was speeding toward menopause, it was actually like a massive death to me. I went into deep grief. I had to cope with the physical symptoms as well as the grief that arrived on my doorstep, with all this. I felt I'd lost my chance. I had been in a relationship just then, and we had hoped to get lucky and maybe get pregnant even though the odds were so low, but still, I was still menstruating just then and thought I would be for years to come/ thought I had time.

Anyway, just to say, your skin etc won't fall apart overnight with a natural menopause. However, having said that, because you may have a hysterectomy, that's an unknown area for me -- I don't know how quickly the body changes after that, which is quite radical. With a natural menopause I believe the changes are gentler because your organs are still producing some of the hormones that still keep everything seeming the same until a gradual fade, I guess.

.



limping2victory
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09 Jul 2014, 11:25 am

BirdInFlight, than you so much for your thoughtful reply. Hearing about others experiences during the age of perimenopause and menopause is so interesting and extemely helpful.

Some comments, questions:

- What is FSH?

- For you, what is a panic attack? And how is a mini-panic attack different? I was told I have them but... they're not what I thought they'd be. I thought they last about 5 minutes and are just short of being hysterical.

- I think my hot "flashes" are not as bad as yours. I kind of took them in stride more or less because I am rarely cold and have been that way for a while. And resistant to cold weather, wearing shorts when others don't , going outside without a coat in the winter. When I have a hot flash, it's like I suddenly have a molten core, or that suddenly somehow someone has stoked the boiler way too high and I feel like I'm in an oven. I've taken to wearing this special cooling scarf that I wrap around my neck. It's not as effective or as cooling as I'd like but it does help.

- HRT. What are the proven risks you've heard of? They might be different than mine. I've heard they may increase the risk of breast cancer and can cause endometriosis. I already have endometriosis, again, and am tired of the pain so...

- I can understand when you say you had never decided not to have children. As I didn't up until my early 40's. My age kind of snuck up on me, suddenly I would be considered high risk if pregnant. Also, like you, I just had never found someone I trusted well enough as a friend let alone as a spouse to have a child with but by the time I did I had already kind of decided I didn't want to be a mom.

I also felt I was supposed to have children, that's a duty as a woman. But I'm autistic, I'm not normal and there's nothing wrong with not having a child though I still feel a bit of a failure, even more defective because I haven't. But I know now I would not make a good parent. I have a cousin who is likely autistic and she really should never have had kids, she was really a bad mother. Some people should not have kids, like me, but even if you're not like me, not having a child is becoming grudgingly more acceptable. Especially with so many having them that can't take care of them and/or shouldn't be parents. I kind of mourned... but over the course of a few years and not to your degree. I had begun to realize how many things I do, think of doing and how often I think of ways I'm supposed to think. But I'm not "normal" or typical and I have to do things for me, what works for me and to hell if anyone else likes it. Sometimes it's easier to feel that way than other times.



BirdInFlight
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09 Jul 2014, 5:21 pm

You're very welcome; I think it's important for women to share the stories of their experiences, so that these things are less of a mystery. Knowledge is power even when experiences vary from person to person.

limping2victory wrote:
Some comments, questions:

- What is FSH?


FSH stands for Follicle Stimulating Hormone, the hormone released by the pituitary gland which triggers the ovaries into releasing an egg. There was also one other related hormone that I can't remember the name of, which is also vital in the fertility process, and that too had counts in the rock bottom range. I was called into my doctor's office just for her to break the news to me, which was a weird experience given that all my other health check results were fine.

Quote:
- For you, what is a panic attack? And how is a mini-panic attack different? I was told I have them but... they're not what I thought they'd be. I thought they last about 5 minutes and are just short of being hysterical.

I'll describe the first one I ever had, which was the only "big" one, and then I'll describe the ones that seem to be coupled to my menopausal hot flashes.

The first one I ever had was a few years before I had any symptoms of per-imenopause, and was possibly unrelated, I will never know. I must have been maybe 44. I was experiencing some stressful life situations at the time, and I attributed it to those. One morning when I was getting ready for work, I suddenly had a racing heartbeat, started breathing rapidly, and felt acutely frightened, like a massive rush of adrenaline frightened. It was like the feeling you get when something has suddenly really scared or shocked you badly, but instead of the feeling fading, this one continued. I did indeed feel almost hysterical. I have never had paranoia or anything like that -- this wasn't any kind of illogical "fear" -- just a massively "adrenalized" sensation but not an exciting one like on a carnival ride, but a scary, bad feeling adrenaline. It was even more frightening for the fact that there wasn't a specific thing to be afraid of. Just the sensation in my body and emotions. It was a horrible feeling because I couldn't even calm down and control it. It truly was a feeling of panicking without knowing what I was panicking about. Moments before I had simply been getting my purse together for my usual drive to work.

Physically I could not stop breathing hard and rapidly, and my heart was just pounding and pounding. I realized it was a panic attack because I had in the past read or heard about descriptions of other people's. When I read those I couldn't even imagine what that felt like, and always thought I was glad that isn't me. But I knew what I was having when it happened to me.

I couldn't call in sick (I'm self employed and if I don't work I lose that pay) and so against my better judgment I got in my car and drove to work. I was fortunate because I knew I would be alone there to deal with this continuing attack. The worst part of the whole thing was the "panic" -- the sheer adrenaline just keeping on pouring around my body, and not in a good way. They talk about fun "adrenaline rushes" like bungee jumping or roller coaster riding, well this kind wasn't fun at all but terrifying, and all for nothing, no boogey man, no stalker -- just a completely illogical panic. As I was driving my heart had been beating so fast for so long that I started actually getting pains in my chest region, and I thought "Holy s**t, am I having a heart attack too??" That started to feel really scary for a real reason.

I have to say, also, I'm not given to hypochondria -- I don't make a habit of imagining bad health or crises, in fact I'm quite casual about my health and sort of take it for granted, as I've mostly always been healthy physically and never had to really think about it.

This panic attack wound up lasting about four hours!! !! It faded away gradually and I was finally myself again fully at about the four hour mark. It felt like a total ordeal. I've never had one like it before or since.

Now to the ones that started happening when I went into peri-menopause:

I started having hot flashes that I didn't realize even were hot flashes because at that time I was living in a hot climate -- I actually started thinking the AC in my car was beginning to fail! I remember feeling pissed off that I'd only had the car for a year and it already needed a freon top-up to the air conditioner, haha. I happened to relocate to a cooler climate, and the very day I stepped off the plane I realized I was still being overcome every so often by feeling hotter than normal.

I would say your description sounds very like what mine are like -- I suddenly feel like someone very instantly turned up the heat. Or like my body suddenly had a furnace inside it and I'm burning up. I break out in a sweat I'm so hot. I want to tear off clothing or stick a limb in the fridge or freezer just to cool down. It's indescribably unpleasant, and comes on very suddenly, for me. Oddly it also goes away as fast as it arrived. I would say I've had this burning-up feeling last as short as a couple of minutes, and no longer than ten. At its worst I was having about twenty per waking day, so about twenty in 16 hours. I sometimes was woken up in the night with one, but my nights were not as bad as the ones I've read other women describing in which they soaked the sheets in sweat. I never had it that bad at night.

What was worse about the worst time of my hot flashes were that they were heralded by a panic attack that felt exactly like "The Big One" that I'd had a few years ago, described in my above paragraph -- except that mercifully they didn't last for four hours, but only four minutes, more like. They feel every bit as nightmarish, because I'm suddenly plunged into this massive release of adrenaline out of the blue, for nothing, no reason, no trigger, no fear factor, just this horrible panicky sensation, heart pounding, breath panting, and I have to move around the room like a caged bear, trying to calm down. Then the hot flash comes in very quick succession, and I'm burning like furnace. While that's happening, the panic attack subsides and is simply taken over by the burning hot flash. It is very like having a molten core, yes. It really bothers me as a horrible feeling though, which I find very hard to take in stride, because I think it pokes very hard at my sensory issues -- I have sensory issues with temperature and although I'm not good with the cold, I also hate heat, and so even a few minutes of feeling that hot sends me crazy.

The high frequency of daily occurrences was in the first twelve months of symptoms beginning. Now the number of panic-plus-hot-flash occurrences has decreased from twenty or more per day to maybe only one a day, and sometimes I can even go days without experiencing either of them at all. I suppose my hormonal changes are smoothing out and settling down, but the first big loss of the usual fertile-state hormones seemed to have made that first year a tidal wave of flashes and surges.

Quote:
- HRT. What are the proven risks you've heard of?

The main one I heard of that always stuck in my mind was that of breast cancer. That loomed quite large as something I dreaded setting myself up for, so I've never felt interested in HRT for that reason. However, if someone is strongly advised that life will be easier taking them because of a surgical menopause such as hysterectomy, then that should be considered too. Personally I just feel scared of HRT and would rather put up with the natural symptoms even though they're unpleasant.

Quote:
- I can understand when you say you had never decided not to have children.

It's funny, people talk about the "pressure to have children" placed by society on woman -- but oddly I had never felt that pressure. I don't think anyone in my life had even asked me things like "When are you going to have children?" or any of the usual things families or friends put upon some women. We're always told that women get pressured to feel like they ought to be having families, but I never did feel like anybody expected that of me. I never felt like I was supposed to have children because that's the duty of a woman -- I had actually always felt the opposite, that I had the freedom of the 20th and 21st century to choose not to if I felt like it. I was always a very free spirit and unconventional, an artist and musician, and a weirdo what with the Aspie characteristics etc, so I don't think it surprised anyone around me that I wasn't doing conventional things by the book anyway. In the times when I once thought I didn't want kids, I felt very at peace with that and didn't care what anyone thought, because it never really came to the point where anyone gave me a hard time about it.

When I did start to want to have children, it felt like something that truly came from deep inside me and my own desires. Because that desire only really kicked in when the second of my parents died.

My mother died when I was still in my twenties, and then my father died two years after. I was newly married at the time, and when we married we had had the discussions and neither of us cared about having kids. But when my father died, I can't describe to you the sea-change that happened in me, at so many levels. I was still in my twenties, and being a very childlike young women anyway, the loss of both parents was deeply shocking and traumatizing to me. Add to that the fact that my siblings stabbed me in the back figuratively speaking and we became estranged, a situation that has lasted every since, I suddenly found myself without a family of origin. I had distant relatives but the extended family simply weren't close, so I really was alone then except for my husband. Something really primitive and profound inside me started changing, and I began to genuinely wish to pass along something of the people I'd lost by having my own child and creating a new family life of my own, since I'd just had a complete loss of the only family life I'd known.

Thus it was not any outside pressure or the feeling that "society" expected me to do the "normal" things and have a family. It was a deeply personal wish that slowly rose up inside me following the loss of the only people who really loved me most in the world. That's not especially a great reason to have a child, but people have kids for very similar reasons and create loving families -- it's not the worst reason either. Ifelt all the right reasons too -- I felt ready to love a child and create a happy home. It is far more complicated than that and would take another page of writing to really go into what made me conceive (pardon the pun) this change of heart - including a new tenderness I felt that I believe only the really upsetting deaths I experienced kicked-off within me. It's more than just "my parents died and now I want another family" - it's not even as simple or cold blooded. It was so many profound emotions that stripped me raw and tenderized me to where I had love in my heart for a child I'd previously never thought I wanted. It felt incredibly complicated and yet also very simple, when it happened to me, when this change of mind and heart came over me.

Despite my difficulties with spectrum issues lifelong, I still think I would have had a lot to offer as a mother, and evey so often if the subject came up for discussion, a few other varying individuals in my life along the way have said so too, for whatever that's worth, but there you go.

But that's neither here nor there -- I'll never know now. All I do know is that nobody made me feel like I should just pop out a kid or two because it's what everyone does. I actually felt always very free of those expectations and never had anyone bother me about that. Perhaps because for a very extended time I looked like I was still 15! Maybe nobody put pressure about "When are you going to have kids, hmm???" because unless they knew me very well and knew what age I really was, most people mistook me for a kid mysel,f for decades of my life.

I felt very strongly that when it started to happen that I felt those deep changes of mind about thinking about a child of my own, it was coming from a place so deep down inside that it truly was mine, a decision and an urge that was all mine and nobody else's. In fact when I discussed it with my husband, it was one of the factors that led to our divorce.

And that's part of where it started to be that I never did meet a man who would be right to start a family with. I was very responsible about not just getting knocked up for the sake of it. I wanted a family but I was also prepared to choose VERYYYYYYYY carefully. And so......it never happened. And suddenly I'm getting told my ovaries have gone bye-bye, game over.

Such is life.

.



Atom1966
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22 Aug 2014, 10:56 pm

I thought I was going through menopause. I even started a new thread about it, here on the womens section of Wrong Planet. However, after not having a period for three months or so it came back, much to my dismay I have to add. During those three months I didn't suffer from PMS symptoms, menstrual pains and disgusting blood loss. Many women feel sorry for themselves when menopause has set in but I didn't. I was actually relieved and it felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. Besides, I never planned to have children anyway eventhough I like babies and kids. But here I am again, suffering from pretty severe PMS, migraine and menstural cramps. What a drag and a disappointment! Life was so much better during the last three months. I did experience mood swings from time time but that was peanuts compared to my periods. I am probably peri menopausal but I hope it won't take too long before it's all over and having my period is a thing of the past. I really hate it! Always did.