A reader’s experience. A few months ago, I was asked to write an article for this website based on my dark menopause experience. At the time, I wasn’t sure what I needed to write about, so I held back.
A Second Thought
Now, though, as we are all trying to work our way through the impact on our lives caused by the coronavirus, I have been considering how much harder my dark months would have been if they had happened during a time of isolation with limited interaction with others. I also realise that there may be women out there who are going through a similar experience now, who are going through a time that is so immensely painful, that it is nearly impossible to bear. In these times of social distancing and home confinement, it is even more of a lonely and terrifying thing to go through by yourself. It is truly horrible, but, believe me – IT PASSES.
Depression- My Symptom
Like many other women, I was remarkably poorly informed about what to expect from the menopause. All I’d heard was that it was just hot flushes and night sweats. I hadn’t even heard of the perimenopause and I had no idea about the many other symptoms. Certainly, I had no idea that for some women, one of the most disruptive and scary symptoms is a very dark depression, and for me, it WAS a terrifying depression that pushed me as close to the edge as it’s possible to be.
I won’t go into the finer details of the decline from noticing an increase in my anxiety levels (amongst other menopausal symptoms), then sliding into a dark depression, but it took about 3 months. I felt like my life was unravelling, and became more and more fearful. Concentration was lacking at work. My emotions started having their own personality. People, meaning well, told me what I needed to do, what I “should” do (now there’s an unhelpful word) – such as “try mindfulness”, “do CBT”, “do more exercise”, “read certain books” etc.
None of these helped me when the worst times hit. What I really hadn’t appreciated is that everyone’s menopause experience is unique. I made the huge mistake of comparing myself to other people who were somehow “managing” their symptoms with diet, exercise or supplements… Or at least seemed to be.
My emotions started having their own personality
I didn’t want to live.
I felt like a failure all the time. With hindsight and now I’m better informed, I realise how damaging that was. What your hormones are doing to you, the impact on your life and your own personal set of circumstances cannot be measured against anyone else.
The chemical impact of the drop-in oestrogen had driven me to the point where the emotional pain was so intense that I just wanted it to stop. So much so that I considered taking my own life. Not because I wanted to die but because I just didn’t want to live, which is very different.
This too shall pass!
I couldn’t imagine a time that the pain would go. I was very close to taking a permanent solution to what is a temporary problem. Thank God I didn’t, because as I’ve already said – IT PASSES. Even in the darkest moment, this is something you ALWAYS have to bear in mind.
This too shall pass.
And not because I am saying it, but because this is the reality.
So how did I get through it? In the short term, I called someone. For me, it was my dad, who didn’t know exactly what to say (no-one does, as no one is in your shoes), but I felt someone was listening to me. If he hadn’t been there, I’d have called someone else. If needs to be, I’d have called the Samaritans. I’ve learnt a lot through this experience, much of it positive, and I am heartened by the kindness of others and the kindness of strangers.
Women you don’t know will form a safety net for you if they have been through something similar. Do not be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s professional or otherwise. Do not be afraid to talk about it, this can start to help you feel better.
Even in these dreadful days of coronavirus, many people seem to be finding strength in supporting others, in calling others, in talking with others.
The longer-term answer for me was HRT. It took a couple of different types before I found the right format that suited me, and even once my current dose was prescribed, it took about three weeks before I felt better. But the difference was massive and beside a few little wobbles in the early days, I haven’t looked back.
As someone who has been to the edge looked over and somehow found the courage to cling on to hope, if you are suffering in a similar way, I can tell you that it passes. It really does. You will feel like it won’t, you may feel like you can’t bear another second, let alone minute or more. You feel alone. Maybe even feel like a burden (PLEASE be aware that you aren’t. No matter how it may seem right now). But it will go. It does not last forever even though it seems so, and it seems there is nothing else left during that time.
My advice is talk about it, seek professional help if necessary, use resources like this website, share your experience and most importantly remember that you are not alone.
This was how it was for me. I feel a million times better now. My life isn’t perfect, but whose is? I have good days, occasionally I have bad days. That’s fine. Everyone does! Normal service is resumed.
Helplines & Resources
Samaritans: 116 123
Other Resources and advice:
- CALM (open 17.00 – midnight): 0800 58 58 58
- Your employer may have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) with specialist counsellors available.
- Use credible sources online to help you get through this time –
- Understand your Menopause symptoms – https://megsmenopause.com/symptoms/
- How to have a conversation with your GP: https://henpicked.net/how-to-talk-to-your-gp-about-menopause/ (Knowing how to have the conversation is important. Ensure your doctor understands you may be peri-menopausal. Anti-depressants may not be the best approach)
- Menopause in the workplace: https://archive.acas.org.uk/menopause