Managing your Mental Health during the Menopause & Peri Menopause
The impact of peri menopause and menopause on a woman’s mental health cannot be underestimated. Right now, more than 17 million women are experiencing this stage of life. Yet, many feel alone and unsupported.
Recent stats showed that around 40% of menopausal women felt totally unprepared for the significant and sometimes life-changing impact peri menopause and menopause has had on their mental health. Now, it seems, women everywhere are hungry for change.
The good news is that high profile women are starting to shine some much-needed light on this subject. A recent documentary, “Sex, Myths & the Menopause” presented by Davina McCall, racked up millions of views as she shared her own struggles with her mental and emotional health. And Mariella Frostrup recently published a menopause guide, highlighting remedies she used to help counter her extreme mood swings including yoga, running and magnesium spray.
Here, we wanted to share one woman’s story about her experience of entering peri-menopause. It is powerful, emotive and even harrowing… and yet, represents the untold stories of thousands if not millions of other women who felt they did not receive the care they needed.
“At aged 46, I started to experience extreme anxiety. I had always felt a sense of mild social anxiety but I was able to manage it. As my anxiety began to increase, I started to feel overwhelmed and eventually decided to visit my GP. We discussed what I was experiencing and without any further discussion, he prescribed me with anti-depressants.
What I didn’t know then is that I had actually entered the phase of peri-menopause, where extreme anxiety, among other things, is a common symptom.
I had started to withdraw from the world around me and I began taking the anti-depressants in the hope that it would help me feel calmer and more confident. In fact it had the opposite effect. Instead, I started to experience panic attacks – one which was so severe, I spent two days in hospital on a drip. These panic attacks would happen every 2-3 days and I felt completely out of control of my body and mind. I thought I was losing my mind.
Desperate to feel better, I started to delve into the world of wellness and it was at this point that I learned about the power of breathwork, which I started to practice daily. When I look back, I realise this was a turning point. Slowly, the panic attacks started to decrease.
As I continued with my research, it began to dawn on me that my symptoms may be a sign I was perimenopausal. I was still bleeding so it hadn’t occurred to me that this may be the case. I also researched the anti-depressants I was taking and learned that one of the side effects was actually panic attacks. I stopped taking them immediately.
On my journey of research, I learned that in a recent survey of 3000 women, 2/3 were offered anti-depressants for menopausal symptoms by their GP despite NHS guidelines saying anti-depressants should not be a first line response. They say HRT should rather be offered instead.
Further research showed me that many women who were peri menopausal were also experiencing extreme anxiety, mood swings, forgetfulness, insomnia, anger, depression and just an inability to cope mentally. Yet only around 40% said they aware of and prepared for the mental health / emotional impact being perimenopausal would have.
I now realise that like me, many women are not getting the help they need from their GP or society in general and are left to suffer alone.
My message to other women is IF and WHEN you start to experience more extreme forms of anxiety, low mood that feels uncharacteristic, ask your GP to test your hormone levels so you know what you can do to address it.
While my journey has at times been horrific and left me feeling as though I am literally losing my mind, I have learned so much about myself and what I can do to feel better, happier and more balanced.
Every woman’s experience is unique to her so my advice is to do your research, find local support and look at all options. Now, after my experience, I am too nervous to take medication such as HRT and wish to go a more natural route. I was lucky to find a local women’s health practitioner, Adele Wimsett, who continues to help me transition this phase with a sense of control rather than fear. Just knowing what to expect and how to navigate the challenges it throws up is hugely empowering.
Now it’s time to open up the conversation about this stage of life. The most important thing we as women can do is to be informed on what to expect when we enter this new cyclical stage of life so we are better equipped to manage it.”
If you are struggling with your mental health – during the menopause – or at any stage in life, please reach out for the support that can help you.
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