Peri-menopause (or, WTF is happening?)

This is a piece I wrote some years back – I came across it and thought it may make you smile.

The perimenopause.

Sounds like a high-class drink doesn’t it? Something sparkly, light and refreshing?

“What’s your tipple?”

“Oh! A bottle of Peri-menopause, please. On ice.”


If only.

It started innocuously enough with what I thought was a touch of flu. I woke up in the small hours having apparently decided to go for a swim in my sleep without bothering to change out of my jim-jams. I was freezing cold yet simultaneously, boiling hot. Flu. Obviously. I went for a quick shower, changed the bedsheets and went back to sleep after tossing and turning until, oh, roughly ten minutes before I was due to get up when I dropped into a coma that was only broken by my daughter’s screeching that I’d slept through the alarm and she was late for school.

For flu, I felt surprisingly chipper during the next day. Life carried on as usual. Apart, that is, from the overwhelming desire to either commit homicide if someone looked at me the wrong way or to burst into tears for the same reason. I put it down to the lack of sleep and promised myself an early night.

Dinner over with, five-year-old daughter in bed snoring sweetly, I had a bath and, book in hand, toddled off to get some much-needed sleep. I was exhausted. But sleep was not my friend that night. As soon as my head hit the pillow and my eyelids closed everything that had ever gone wrong in my life (and, like most people’s lives, that’s quite a lot) put in an appearance and said, ‘hello, bitch!’. Memories danced around my head like evil fairies and became, in those wee small hours, devastating indictments of me. I was a horrible person! I sobbed myself to sleep feeling utterly worthless. And I woke about an hour and a half later having been swimming again.

After a week of this, I knew it wasn’t the flu. As I stood in the shower (my neighbours must have wondered what the hell I was doing every night) rinsing the salt from my body, I knew there was more to it. All sorts of things went through my head, ranging from cancer to HIV (nothing simple, obviously, never mind the fact that I’d not had sex with anyone since my divorce – and I’d been with my ex for fourteen years and this was two years later – so that was not the likeliest of scenarios).

I went to see my GP who listened to me intently, laughed at my self-diagnosis, and announced that I was depressed. Considering that my ex had moved our family from one end of the country to the other (where we knew nobody) and then walked out to go and live back with his mother less than a year later, leaving me to deal with the people he owed money to turning up on my doorstep with regular monotony, and the very real threat of losing my home, I thought she may have a point. Not knowing any better, I presumed that depression came with night sweats and feeling like shit. She prescribed me Paroxetine.

Three weeks later I was back to see her again. Although I appreciate that it probably works well for the vast majority of others, Paroxetine made me feel seriously suicidal – by this time, what with the nightly swimming sessions and lack of sleep, I was ready to jump off a bridge. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to check out the side-effects and realised what was happening. I stopped taking them. The (alarmed) doctor agreed and suggested yoga as exercise helps with depression.

The only classes I could find were held at night and, as a single parent living in the arse-end of nowhere with a five-year-old and no babysitter, were never going to happen. I started exercising on my own after I’d put my daughter to bed. I got fitter, but the night sweats got worse. They started to happen twice or three times a night. Every night. I’d fall asleep, wake up dripping, eventually go off again and reawaken an hour or so later, wet again.

It made me scared to go to bed. So, late one night, with sleep apparently having become my worst enemy, Google became my new best friend. I typed in my symptoms and hit return. It was narrowed down to three things: TB, cancer or the menopause.

I went back to my GP and she said, “Of course! You’re in the perimenopause!”

I was only in my mid-forties. Surely that didn’t happen to women until they got to their fifties or sixties? “Oh,” she said, “it’ll probably be over within the next couple of years; unless you’re one of the unlucky ones – it can hang around for decades for some people.”

Fuck me sideways! Decades?!? Decades of changing the bed every day? Decades of absolutely no control over the horrifying thoughts plaguing me daily? I’d always wondered why my mum said she was coming back as a man. If I could have grown fruit and two veg, at that point I’d have happily changed sex.

I thought about the word ‘perimenopause’. I compared it to that sparkly, light, refreshing bottle of something chilled. And I laughed.

Sparkly? I suppose the rivers of sweat that trickle down my sodden neck could sparkle in the right light.

Light? I felt so dull and dim-witted it was like my brain had taken a vacation.

Refreshing? Well, having become surgically attached to the shower every night was quite refreshing at the time, I suppose.

Thank God it only happened at night…

Fast forward a decade:

It didn’t only happen at night – but more on that at a later date…

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