I started going through menopause at age 46.
I have many symptoms, including low libido, joint pain, insomnia and sweating a lot.
I started with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to help me cope.
It seems unreal when I think about how perimenopause quietly creeped in without much ado into my late 30s and early 40s. It wasn’t too bad – I had mild symptoms – but it was tolerable.
Then suddenly, in 2018, after my menstrual cycle abruptly ended at 46, menopause became my living nightmare. It crawled up and consumed me. I slowly slid into an abyss of unexplained joint pain, hot flashes, brain fog, exhaustion, a nonexistent libido, and depression.
I lived in a body I didn’t recognize
If I could advise young women anything it would be to avoid menopause. But unfortunately that is not reality. Fatigue, night sweats, osteoporosis, hot flashes, sweats, insomnia, dryness, anxiety, irritability, low libido, moodiness and vaginal dryness – that’s my daily reality with menopause.
All these symptoms coming together at once meant that my daily life changed a lot. I was either in too much pain or too exhausted to work, socialize, or do much of anything. My world got smaller when I withdrew from activities and things I once enjoyed.
I was behind on work, missed deadlines, and went days without doing anything, as I usually used all the energy reserves I could muster to solve family-related problems. I tried to make my husband and children feel supported, even though I was getting worse every day.
I hardly slept more than two or three hours a night, increasing my brain fog and fatigue. I battled migraines daily and stared at a reflection in the mirror that I didn’t recognize. My body had turned against me and I wondered if I should face death or institutionalization first.
I was afraid to become a stat
My husband is nine years younger than me and still has a high libido. That was a huge plus during the peri phase as my libido was also in overdrive. The decline started when I entered menopause; my libido was almost non-existent.
Painful intercourse can be a deal breaker for many women, and vaginal dryness is a real problem. But I was determined it wouldn’t break me.
I didn’t want to be the thrown-away middle-aged woman whose younger man decided that working through menopause was too much trouble.
We still had regular sex, as I intended to keep the dream alive despite my lack of excitement. I was willing and able, so I did. I still found my husband attractive and wanted to continue our robust sex life, so I used what little I had left in the tank to make sure we kept that connection going.
Come in, lube; all types of lubricant. We’ve tried them all with varying degrees of success. It took a lot of trial and error to find one that we both liked. Adding lube made it easier for me to transition to this new version of our sex life.
I decided it was time to take care of myself
In May 2022 I reached my breaking point. I realized that using an ounce of common sense or energy I had on others could not continue. It became untenable for me, my husband, our family or our company.
I made an appointment with my doctor and my therapist to explore the options. After a lot of tears, testing, and blood work, I started bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, or BHRT, in late June.
To say the change has been life-giving is an understatement. It’s now been a month and my symptoms are almost gone. The most bothersome – such as hot flashes and daily migraines – left immediately. The other symptoms — dryness, brain fog, lack of sleep, joint pain, and low energy — have steadily improved each day.
I don’t know if BHRT is for everyone, but it was the right choice for me. The turmoil that menopause can bring to a woman’s life is scary. The fear of becoming a stat is gone, and I have my life back and don’t worry about disappointing my family and friends.
Cindy Rodriguez Constable is a communications strategist, freelance journalist and professional speaker. You can follow her here.
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