The menopause: the time of your life, said no-one ever.
I hadn’t planned on giving the menopause any thought until my 50s. But last month I was forced to, as into it I plunged, head-first, aged 25.
For a long time, I’ve suffered with endometriosis. It’s not life-threatening, for which I am grateful, but it’s no walk in the park either – Endometriosis is recognised as a major cause of infertility worldwide.
I was diagnosed in January 2015 after years of painful symptoms. Surgery swiftly followed to remove cysts and adhesions and I was told I had stage 4, the most advanced.
I was so grateful that it wasn’t all in my head that the diagnosis almost came as a relief. After more visits than I could count to the GP, finally someone recognised that the pain I was feeling was not normal.
I’ve come to understand this is a typical scenario for endometriosis sufferers. Women can expect to wait seven years on average before receiving a diagnosis.
The mild existential crises that followed the surgery I saw as somewhat inevitable. My fertility was being called into question – at 25 – when I really didn’t want to be thinking about babies. If that’s not worth an existential crisis, then I truly don’t know what is.
Within months, I was in for a second surgery and this time, more extreme treatment intervention was recommended. To keep the endometriosis at bay for as long as possible, my doctor induced the menopause.
I had the first of my monthly injections the day of the surgery. Within a week I was suffering from insomnia, for the most part caused by the hot flushes that feel like you’re being incinerated from the inside out.
The treatment coincided with me going back to university, so I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my classmates probably think of me as the girl with permanent upper lip sweat. Eurgh…
The mood swings feel like I’m losing my marbles. Disproportionate rage about stupid things will wash over me for a while, then leave as quickly as it’s come. Anxiety creeps up on you and tells you every ailment you have is cancer, and on top of that, vacillating between depressive and hyper-active is draining.
The experience has really opened my eyes to the realities of going through the menopause. So few people know what it’s truly like, apart from the women who have faced it.
Unlike me, those women will largely do so under the radar. You probably won’t notice a thing, but it’s given me a heightened appreciation for my mum, my aunties, my grandma and for all the women in my life.
It’s a massive change and it comes at an age where many women will be at the heights of their career with children still at home. To those women, you have my eternal admiration.
I think we all need to find a little compassion for those who are winging it. Those that aren’t necessarily talking about it but are going through what is a really weird time, navigating through a major reboot of their bodies and minds while still keeping their shit together.
Soon, this surreal experience will be over for me, but I won’t be quick to forget the menopause. More importantly, I’ll never forget the resilience women need to transverse The Change.