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Perimenopause is a Motherf*cker

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Perimenopause is a Motherf*cker

If you do any online research about perimenopause, premenopause, or menopause, you've likely found some infuriating generalizing articles that make this time in life seem like a minor inconvenience with a bit of sweat and maybe a chin hair. Since articles about perimenopause perform better on Google with graphics, there are a lot of equally infuriating images on the topic. I decided to share some of my “favorites” in this article.

Perimenopause is a Motherf*cker

I believe I started experiencing perimenopause back in 2016. Insomnia, night sweats, irritability, brain fog, and more. I changed what I ate, what I drank, took supplements, used progesterone cream, and things improved. Things also improved because I quit my job and decided to follow my dream and be a full-time writer and blogger. I also had a decrease in perimenopause symptoms when I started weightlifting on a regular basis, which also changed what I ate and drank. But with the pandemic and entering the later part of my 40th decade on this planet, perimenopause symptoms have returned and in a completely different manner.

When I quit my job, I was at a point in life where I felt numb. I described it as being inside a plexiglass box that was getting dulled and scratched up with time. I felt disconnected from the world around me. Quitting my job was bold and daring and a bit dangerous. I had to hustle hard to get this blog to the next level as I was the sole breadwinner for my family. It was a vibrant distraction and motivated me to work out more and be thoughtful with what I chose to eat and drink.

I continued weightlifting from December 2017 until March 2020, the Thursday before the world shut down. When we were confined to our homes, I continued working out each weekday morning, using jugs of Elmer's glue from my daughter's slime-making kit, and slowly investing in free weights and resistance bands. We also bought a Peloton bike, which I got super into and began riding it daily in addition to, and then in place of weight training in my living room.

Stages of Menopause

While on Lockdown, I went 100% plant-based and didn't consume a drop of alcohol. I felt great, strong yet light, but I started dealing with brain fog. I struggled to put words together to finish a sentence, I'd trip over my words, and I'd also trip over my feet. I began having night sweats again, something I hadn't dealt with in years. During the day I felt good, but at night and first thing in the morning I felt old and brittle and ached everywhere.

I figured it was part of cabin fever, being so restrained in our smallish row home. Even when the world started opening up, my life still stayed smallish like my house, working from home, my husband at home, and our daughter being homeschooled. Once life got back to normal, so would my brain and with it, my body.

But things didn't get better, if anything they got worse.

I began getting injuries from riding the Peloton. I tore my meniscus and was off the bike for several weeks. Once healed, I got back into spinning as well as walking and at-home weight training. But once I was in my fitness rhythm, I did something to my back where I struggled to bend and went to a chiropractor for months. Once that got resolved, my plantar fasciitis flared up. When that was under control, I then got Achilles tendonitis and could barely walk.

Menopause symptoms

I was getting so irritable. I remember one time my husband did something so insignificant I can't recall what it was. But I do recall being so incredibly angry and fired up, I went to the Peloton bike to work out the aggression instead of starting a fight. I spent over two hours on the bike, going from class to class but the feeling wouldn't go away. I kept telling myself, “Don't go there, Alison, because you may not be able to return.” I was thinking thoughts about my marriage that I had never thought in all our years together.

Thinking that working from home around my family 24/7 and not getting the same amount of social interaction as I was used to PrePan, I decided to rent some office space in town. I chose a more expensive space to ensure I had enough room for a couch, so I could take naps in there and escape from my family. It helped having a place to escape and calm down, but having a room of one's own wasn't enough to deal with how I was feeling.

Common Menopause symptoms

Along with these feelings, I was also again dealing with night sweats and insomnia.

I'd wake up at 3am with a start, as though an alarm went off, and I'd be in a pool of sweat. I would sweat so much, I'd have to take a middle of the night shower and cover my side of the bed with a towel.

Even the nights I didn't wake up or have sweats, I still didn't get good sleep. I got a WHOOP tracker in 2019 or so, it's a fitness tracker that measures strain, recovery, stress, and more along with activity, sleep, and quality of sleep. The WHOOP app will tell you if you're in the red (you need to chill and rest to recover), yellow (not so bad but don't push it hard), or green (optimal level of rest and recovery and a good day to deal with stress, strain, and activity).

It didn't matter if I went to bed at 8pm or 1am, if I took magnesium or melatonin or CBD, if I turned off screens, put my phone in another room, did a sleep meditation, taped my mouth, wore Cool Nights pajamas on bamboo sheets and linen sheets, read a book, had the lights low, ate earlier, ate less, ate carbs or protein or whatever. I could work out or chill, stress about work or go for a massage and take a nap, I'd hardly ever get into the green zone and I was exhausted.

About Perimenopause
My husband learned about Eight Sleep from a podcast and we decided to splurge on the Eight Sleep Pod mattress cover.

We could do interest-free payments through Affirm and those monthly charges were less than all the random gadgets and supplements I was trying to deal with insomnia, racing mind, and night sweats. It really helped, I know because any time I now sleep at a hotel or another's home I get the 3am sweaty wakeup. I also started “getting green” on WHOOP on the regular, and it showed I was getting more deep and REM sleep.

Sleep made a drastic improvement in my Peloton performance, my relationship with my middle school-aged kid, and my work performance. But I still had such an urge to leave my husband, drive to New Mexico, get a few tattoos and live in a Sprinter van. We fought about everything, and even in the middle of the fight when I knew I was in the wrong I just couldn't stop or admit fault.

Perimenopause in women

It wasn't all my fault, I mean he too is a middle-aged person realizing unfulfilled dreams and achy knees, new silver hairs, nose hairs, and wrinkles in his face. He was reacting to me and also reacting to his own over-40 reality and time locked up in the house living a smaller life.

We were high school sweethearts who met in 12th grade and outside a few months my senior year of college when we broke up to “sow our oats” we have been together ever since. This year it's 30 years we've been together, 18 married, and all of them happy. We've been together longer than we've been apart and every fucking step he took and breath he made these days I wanted to strangle him.

We went to Zoom couples therapy, sitting side by side, criss-cross applesauce on the bed with the the laptop propped up on a box from Nordstrom or J. Crew or Universal Standard full of items I bought in a moment of thinking a purchase will improve my life or at least my blog but realizing my mistake once it arrived on my doorstep. Our therapist on the screen, me trying to decide if what I am saying is what he wants to hear, what the therapist wants to hear, or if it's what I really think or feel. What did I think or feel?

what triggers hot flashes

I was also close to self-sabotaging Wardrobe Oxygen.

I had no desire to keep this up, and was exhausted by comments from readers, likely going through perimenopause like me, venting their life frustrations. Everyone seemed cynical, critical, miserable or else pretending everything was utterly grand. It all felt like a farce.

I decided to stop doing brand partnerships and focusing on Instagram, and focus on the blog to get it running faster, getting more traffic, and being more profitable. Add on a team, so the business could grow enough that I could either A) step back from the business while it still ran, or B) make it appealing enough to sell it for enough money that I wouldn't have to work for a few years so I could figure out my “second mountain.”

Yep, I was mainlining self-help books, inspirational stories from folks in their second half of life, and TikToks of women my age who left their lives behind to start anew. I didn't want to be on this train any longer.

Perimenopause symptom bingo

I was back in that plexiglass box from 2017, numb and peering through scratched plexiglass but this time my whole body hurt and my husband wasn't there cheering me on. I think he was in his own plexiglass box. We tried, we made effort, we pleased the therapist and ended after a few months, both knowing we resolved absolutely nothing.

Researching perimenopause, I realized everything I felt, including my murderous thoughts about my husband and the desire to blow up my life, were typical for women my age. We were all suffering through physical and emotional pain, and it was affecting our jobs and relationships.

Perimenopause symptoms graphic

My mom started hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in her early 50's.

I was in high school and a typical self-absorbed teenager but I remember my mom going to a therapist, cleaning out the den and turning it into a room for herself, fully equipped with a lock and “Do Not Enter” sign. At some point she started hormones and even though she was raising two teenage girls, dealing with mounting medical bills, and caring for my ill father, HRT seemed to help her feel more in control.

My mom was on HRT all the way until 2018 when she was in her late 70's and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a mastectomy, but didn't need chemotherapy or radiation. However, they did take her off all hormones claiming the HRT may have been the cause of her cancer. I saw how going off hormones affected her as much as they benefitted the past decades. I swore I'd never go on HRT.

Perimenopause symptoms in women

But Lockdown, and murderous thoughts, and brain fog. Everything hurt, I was so dry from my ears to my eyes to my lips (go ahead and make a dirty joke about both pairs, because it was true). I was so scatterbrained, and couldn't turn my mind off. I didn't feel like me, and I was tired of feeling tired and achy and uncomfortable.

I was so uncomfortable in my body, I was hardly working out. A 30-minute ride would leave me aching for days, and all my injuries made even walks around town difficult. I was falling deeper and deeper into a funk. I made an appointment with my gynecologist for my well-woman visit, and with it I was going to discuss perimenopause and HRT.

The appointment started off well. When I mentioned I was dealing with perimenopause symptoms, my doctor asked which ones. I was honest, sharing how I had aggressive thoughts, irritability, the occasional insomnia, joint pain, muscle aches, headaches, dryness, brain fog, a mind that wouldn't turn off or slow down, and a strong desire to leave my life, change my name, and start over new.

list of Perimenopause symptoms

The only symptoms she focused on were racing mind and insomnia, saying the others were likely circumstantial or emotional and not hormonal. But she admitted she wasn't a hormone expert and recommended I make an appointment with another doctor in the practice who was. It was Friday, we set one up for that coming Monday and to be prepared for it, took two vials of blood to test my hormones and for anything else that may be an issue.

That Monday, I met with this other doctor, who again asked me for the symptoms I was experiencing, and again I listed all of them out, great and small. This doctor also said all the other symptoms I was experiencing were either due to getting older, or due to my relationship with my husband. That my hormones were tested (though I was not told what was tested and what the results were), and everything looked normal. That though it had been three months since my last period, my periods weren't yet far enough apart to cause any dip in hormones.

list of Perimenopause symptoms

I was told to lose weight, exercise more often, and consider marriage counseling.

The doctor also suggested a self-help book that she read and found helpful at the same age, and gave me a three-month prescription for Wellbutrin XL, an antidepressant.

I was so blindsided I didn't have the capacity to be an advocate for myself. I cried, the doctor patted my knee and said the prescription would be waiting for me at my local pharmacy and sent me on my way. I went to my car, still crying, and bought the book the doctor recommended on Audible so I could listen to it on the drive home. It was a book about assertive speaking, and how to change your language to get what you want.

Are you in Perimenopause?

I was so upset, felt so misunderstood and dismissed. I came home and sobbed to my husband. He asked if I was crying because I thought HRT would be a magic pill that would fix all my ills. Possibly, but it also felt like I was more alone than ever, my experiences dismissed by two medical professionals, misunderstood by my partner, under researched by experts who since the beginning of modern medicine have focused on men, hidden by those before me who suffered in silence as admitting the effects of menopause unseemly, not ladylike, not appealing.

Wellbutrin was also one of the antidepressants my dad took.

He tried them all, at least those that existed in the late '80s and throughout the '90s. I remember Wellbutrin because he took himself off it cold turkey and ended up having a seizure on the kitchen floor. This gynecologist didn't explain why she prescribed that specific medication, why she choose the form and level, and didn't schedule a follow-up appointment to see how it was going so she surely didn't ask how I felt about taking it.

Menopause symptoms list

I let that prescription sit at the pharmacy for two weeks. But I wasn't feeling any better being angry about how I was treated by these doctors, or reliving bad memories with my dad. I was unhappy, so I started researching Wellbutrin. I found I got the version that was slower release so I only had to take it once a day, and was also prescribed the lowest dose.

I researched Wellbutrin XL and read that it helped with anxiety, depression, and some even said various perimenopause symptoms like irritability, brain fog, racing thoughts, and insomnia. And unlike many other antidepressants, Wellbutrin didn't reduce libido and sometimes controlled food thoughts which caused a reduction of weight for some individuals. I decided I may as well try it for three months, it was lower stakes than divorce.

hot flashes and night sweats
I have been taking Wellbutrin now for over two months.

I swore it kicked in after a week. I went away with my best friend to North Carolina, where she was taking care of the estate of a deceased loved one. For a week we cooked meals and watched Queen Charlotte, a Bridgerton Story and went to the gym and antique malls and sat in the sun between home improvements and trips to the dump. None of my injuries flared up, my joints didn't hurt, and I felt amazing. I even missed my husband.

It seemed the time away helped both of us gain some perspective, but the high faded and I started feeling really low again. But after a few weeks, I started noticing things weren't exactly the same. I didn't feel happy or whatever, but I was able to see things from an outside perspective.

I wasn't so in deep in my feelings and thoughts and sadness and anger the past years, that it seemed like the world against me and everything was a personal attack. I was able to see, to paraphrase Scarlett Envy, that maybe I was the drama. But also by being able to see the whole situation, I could tell that an antidepressant wasn't curing all that ailed me.

Stages of Menopause

So I talked to friends, joined Facebook groups, read books and websites and message boards, and found someone local that is a North American Menopause Society/NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner (NCMP). She is not covered by my insurance, but I feel that this is worth more than any dress or bag or shoes. I will be writing about that experience very soon.

I hesitated to write this because the last thing I wanted was advice from strangers.

I am not writing this to have you tell me what to do, or share your opinions on what I have done thus far. It is because I know some of you have noticed I've been “off” and I know that even more of you can relate hard to what I am experiencing.

Being in this job is a bit like being in high school. In high school if a boy calls you or a girl talks about you or a teacher is mean to you, you discuss it with your best friend, your second best friend, the friend in chemistry class, the kid seated next to you in driver's ed, the fellow cashiers at the store where you work on weekends, your sibling, your parents, your favorite teacher, and depending on your age, a bunch of strangers on the internet.

Each person has a different opinion on the situation and plenty of advice. At first it feels supportive, all these folks worried about you, offering advice in hopes you'll be happier. But it muddies the situation, all those opinions and you shoulds. You start to doubt yourself and your gut but don't know which voice is the right voice to follow.

As we get older, we usually end up speaking to fewer folks about our issues. We've learned from being burned, and now know the fewer opinions, the easier it is to stay true to yourself and protect your heart. Having a pubic platform like a blog, or a social media account means the opinions fly without you asking for them, and they aren't always with good intentions, good research, or from people who really know you or the whole story.

Phases of Menopause

The reason I write this is because the thing that has kept me sane through the past couple of years, and what keeps me fighting to find solutions are the stories of others who have honestly shared their similar experience. The symptoms, the products that helped and didn't help, the doctors that helped and didn't help, where they found information, where they found support.

We may speak to fewer folks to stay true to ourselves, but staying silent is why so many of our fellow folk in their 40's and 50's are blindsided by perimenopause and why so many medical professions dismiss our symptoms.

I may have started Wardrobe Oxygen dreaming of writing a fashion advice book, but I have stuck with it for 18 years because I have seen how this site and the community around it helps fellow grown-ass women. The longer I blog, the more careful I am with how much and what I share, but what I do share has far less of a varnish.

We grown-ass women don't need poreless skin and butterflies, we need real life, real talk, real support, and real people who really care. I care, and I hope by sharing this journey I can help another woman who is deep in it and feels alone and stuck. You're not alone, and we will get through this together.

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63 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this! I’ve been struggling for the last maybe 5 years as well, and it’s interesting how invisible any of this was to until I too started dealing with it. I feel like there’s greater awareness now, but I’m not sure how much of that is just me finding out vs. society generally becoming more aware. I personally haven’t pursued HRT (yet), I haven’t really researched it enough to have an informed opinion, but I’m continually horrified at how often women are dismissed when they bring these concerns to their doctors. On the one hand, I sometimes wonder if patients do bring unrealistic expectations about HRT to their doctors (not meaning to suggest that you did!) and that’s something that fuels the doctors’ reactions. On the other hand, it’s not like our medical system has a good track record of 1) prioritizing women’s health 2) researching women’s health as distinct from men’s, 3) listening to women and not dismissing their self-reported symptoms as “emotional” or “psychological,” 4) allowing doctors enough time actually to get to know and listen to their patients sufficiently, 5) not attributing all problems to weight, or 6) detangling concerns about health from concerns about cost and liability… so, yeah.

    It’s also so exhausting trying to distinguish actual helpful information from the usual snake oil that takes root, in large part because our medical system is so dissatisfactory. For instance, I’ve read that hormone levels aren’t especially helpful in determining/treating peri/menopause, because they’re so individual and fluctuate so dramatically even under normal circumstances, the actual levels have little objective meaning. But hormone levels have such a satisfyingly “objective” feel that people attribute meaning to them and some characters take advantage of that to sell things to people. I’m also very suspicious of some of the “functional” doctors out there because some of their approaches seem to lack much scientific basis (without lionizing traditional medicine), but they provide the attention/support that women don’t always get from conventional medicine, and who am I to say that’s not equally valuable? I don’t fault anyone for doing what works best for them, but it gets really hard to separate the wheat from the chaff in trying to find relief.

    Anyway, sorry to ramble. I look forward to hearing about your visit with the NAMS professional!

  2. Thank you for sharing this. As the comments indicate we are not alone. I’ve been suffering with most of this since age 43, that’s 7 years. My OBGYN shrugs it off saying it’s normal and can go on for 10 years like this. Said OBGYN is retiring and I’m looking for someone who can help me through this phase. Thank you for the resource link you provided.

  3. Honey, Please hang in there and keep on writing. You are at the tail-end of a GINORMOUS life transition. Morphing into a “Wise Elder Crone” is no easy task, (but you can look forward to migraines disappearing at least)
    Sadly, there is no magic bullet. There is no intervention that can aid those of us that suffer through a difficult “total rewiring” event. And that is exactly what is happening to you now.
    Work gently with yourself and rebuild, from scratch if you must, a new vision of day to day reality. Doc’s and husbands and family really can’t help much.
    You’ve just navigated the worse segment of a woman’s life during the worst time period in a hundred years!!! You’re a rockstar. We all love reading you and want to send hugs.
    No advice, no judgement, just hugs, smiles and many, many…”You GO Girl!”s
    xoxoxox

    1. This is such a supportive and kind comment, I had to think hard before posting. I just don’t want someone who suffers from chronic migraine to get their hopes up that their migraines will end with menopause and then be disappointed when they don’t stop. My 69 year old sister still has a migraine most days of the month. Some people are super lucky and see a reduction, but that’s not the case for everyone.

  4. BRAVO for your bravery. You say what so many of us are thinking but don’t say outloud. I’m 60 and I can say wholeheartedly life gets better. There will always be challenges with struggling adult children, sick parents, strained relationships, work stress BUT we come into our power, our peace and we find joy. We need our sisters for support and good wine (to go along with a good whine). Keep keepin’ it real. Your voice is vital.

  5. Alison, thank you. This is a brave and generous post to share.

    I am so sorry this is happening to you, and to so many of the other commenters.

    I am also infuriated to realize that the flooding periods I and my friends struggled with for years are a peri-menopause symptom. Why did no one mention this?!? At any point in the last FIFTY years?

    The maddening variability of menopause –of symptoms, of their occurrence, of what works to manage them between individuals and from day to day for a given person– calls for a wide range of responses. For me, an intense yet life-affirming training protocol (annual Ironman) keeps most symptoms at bay. I believe this is as much because it is something I love and want to do just for myself, as because of the physical realities of exercise. While the state of medical knowledge about mind-body interaction is almost as poorly developed as the study of menopause, what we do know supports the healing powers of agency, of enough, of joy. I don’t mean to suggest that a personal joy practice can replace HRT, only that it is worth considering as one of the many approaches that might help.

    YMMV, but some days it helps me to remember that menopause is how we transform into a biological superhero, a “grandmother.” Ending the reproductive cycle before the life cycle is rare in mammals. The few species that have menopause and therefore grandmothers have complex societies that rely on the accumulated expertise of their post-reproductive females. Elephants, orca and other whales, our primate cousins, are among these.

    Much love to you Alison and to the other commenters here. You are a daily inspiration.

  6. Thank you for sharing. I’m sorry for the hellacious time you are having. I’m hoping my transition is easier (continues to be easier). I’m still on the pill which per Jen Gunter can help ease the transition, but not HRT. Other than weight that seems to stay I’m doing okay but I’ve had insomnia for decades anyway and always slept hot. I do think my gym habit is generally helpful also… with rage as well as anxiety. It seems like society, when they talk about menopause, want to sell you a bunch of medicalized products, but it sounds like from you and the comments that getting actual effective solutions is hard.

  7. Thanks so much for your candor – this post exemplifies why I read Wardrobe Oxygen. I hope things improve for you soon. I’m 46 and not experiencing many symptoms yet, but it could be because I have a hormonal IUD. However, I’ve also had a severe escalation of migraine symptoms over the last 18 months, and none of my doctors can point to any cause, other than perhaps perimenopause. It’s such a frustrating time of life to be in. It feels like no one knows anything, and it’s hard to believe this happens to half the population yet somehow there’s been so little attention paid…

    One resource that I wanted to mention is Planned Parenthood – yes, they provide care for perimenopause. And I’ve heard good things about the experience at our local affiliate here in the DC area. PP provides care on a sliding scale so it may be more accessible if folks are worried about how to see a specialist.

    Good luck, my fellow warriors – we shall persist!

  8. Thank you for sharing your journey. I cn imagine that is hard to write about. I have no advice, but I hope you find a path through this to happiness and peace.

  9. How rude of me. Of course I want you to feel good and be healthy and happy. You are one of my favorite people even though we have never met.

  10. My Mom was a grouchy, combative grizzly bear when she went through menopause when she usually was such a kind, easy going person. I was hoping I wouldn’t have the experience she had.

    I feel almost guilty in saying menopause for me was a piece of cake. There was no perimenopause or at least was so minor that I didn’t notice anything. My periods slowed down and then stopped. There was nothing difficult about it. But then I never had any problems with my periods either: no cramps, no heavy flow, very little mood changes. With menopause, I had no night sweats, no hot flashed, or any of the other symptoms other women have.

    I was on HRT for awhile and no doubt that helped. However, when I stopped HRT I had no symptoms.

    I have plenty of other health issues but female hormone related ones were never a problem. I had a good friend in high school who would be doubled over in pain, actually rolling on the floor in agony every month. I think she had more serious issues than period pain, but for some reason her Mom wasn’t taking her to the doctor. Again, I felt guilty for having pain free periods while my friend was tortured every month. Her Mom was on the mean side and we had a falling out. So I don’t know what happened to my friend in the long run. I hope she got medical treatment she deserved.

  11. This is such an excellent description of what it’s like! The symptoms, the self dialog, the impact to relationships. I am immediately forwarding this post to both of my sisters. And bringing a highlighted copy to my next MD appointment.

    My murderous rage + anxiety at an 11 started [seemingly] overnight at 45. My gyno prescribed Lo loestrin, which was the same birth control I had taken until 30. It was a miracle drug. In <2 weeks, I felt safe around other people. The change in my head was dramatic. And, bonus, my periods stopped for almost 5 years.

    Now, I'm 50 with periods again (flooding periods is how I've heard them described) that last for 3 weeks out of every month. I like your plexiglass analogy; I totally have that deadened affect, too. Also, my bag of f*cks is empty. I don't want to murder anyone, but I'm also not stepping off the sidewalk to make way for anyone's double-wide baby stroller. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIOXtz0WWtw

    Thank you, thank you for putting this out there and making the rest of us feel seen!

  12. Your post took me back to a dark season in my life. I will be 62 on Friday and I began having perimenopause symptoms in my mid-30’s and “diagnosed” perimenopausal at 38. None of my friends ever experienced the anger, rage and bipolar type mood swings I had. I couldn’t explain my need to ESCAPE my perfect life. I dreamed of running away from my husband and three small children. Luckily I was able to be open and honest with my therapist and my endo. I started taking Prozac (early 90’s) and that helped for awhile. Our family moved from Texas to CA and I felt better in the non-humid climate and having my Mom and sisters close by. However, as the night sweats got worse and the brain fog thickened, I began to have panic attacks. I could get my kids up and off to school and I would collapse in a chair and not move for hours. I was working part-time and some days I couldn’t open the front door to leave. It got so bad that my husband had to physically go into the shower with me and help me wash my hair and then hold me like a baby while I sobbed. And just as crazy it was when it all was happening, it stopped just as abruptly! Hallalujiah, menopause changed everything. Well except that I still have occaisional hot flashes and more age related brain fog. I love my life, my husband, ,my adult children and teenaged grandchildern. I have always had a close relationship with God and have cried out in prayer for help throughout all of life’s ups and way downs. It’s a relief to be on the other side of menopause! I finally accept myself for who I am and have much less criticism of others. Hold on to your friends and family, reach out when you need help and escape for short spurts when you need to.

  13. Thank you so much for posting this–I could have written it, and I’m truly sorry for all the suffering we have all gone through. I’m 53, 3 years post menopausal, and am on HRT. You need a better doctor, stat. It doesn’t sound like either doctor you saw knows what they’re doing. I wasn’t planning on using HRT because my previous experience with hormones via birth control was less than positive (wild mood swings), but then I read a book I’m going to recommend to everyone here: Estrogen Matters by Carol Tavris and Avrum Bluming. After reading it, my concerns about HRT were put to rest.

    I can say that the hormones helped a lot and I definitely don’t feel the same as when I took birth control. Plus, the hormones helped immediately with my worst symptom which was terrible brain fog. My second worst symptom was vaginal dryness and for that I use estrogen cream prescribed by my doctor. The HRT may not help with that. I have also had success with Good Clean Love’s aloe gel and Carlson’s Vitamin E inserts, both available on Amazon.

    Two more things: Slumber Cloud’s Performance Mattress Pad, available on their website, really works to cool you down while sleeping. I was skeptical, but both my husband and I found it to drop the temp by at least a few degrees (to his chagrin–he’s always cold). Also, I didn’t find Soma’s Cool Nights to be as helpful as bamboo sleepwear from a brand called Latuza that I purchase on Amazon.

    Three years in, I feel like I’m starting to come out the other side of the worst symptoms. I also had the anger, irritibility, desire to run away and never come back, crying, heart palpitations, night sweats, etc. I have been in my house with my husband and daughter for three years now (working from home, daughter still in school and then looking for work), and there were some sketchy times but we’re all still alive and speaking to one another :-). So there is an end to all of–take heart!

    I hope something in here helps someone. I’m a researcher and have always had a problem solving focus so I seek out solutions and try everything. Many hugs to all of you who are on this road.

    1. HRT has been amazing for me. I was dealing with the night sweats and hot flashes, but I started losing muscle tone and that was a huge NO from me. I have an old dog that needs to be carried up and down stairs, and I’d be damned before I lowered his standard of living. My psychiatrist suggested it – emphatically suggested I try it. The little pellets work and I do feel a lot more like myself. And yes, carrying the dog up and down stairs is much easier now.

  14. Fucking doctors, man. It sucks to have to work to find a medical provider who isn’t a tactless bonehead. I also look forward to your update from the NAMS provider.

    Anyway, thank you for this post. I am sorry that this has been so hard for you and and so many others in the comments. I’m 48, and I just started skipping periods this year. I have the weight gain, the brain fog, and the achy joints. It’s getting me down. I was already on citalopram, so I imagine that blunted a lot of the other symptoms, and yet I can’t help but wait for it all to get worse. I’ve been following the advice in Jen Gunter’s book (I think I bought it on your recommendation) and trying to communicate the weirdness of the experience to my husband, so he’s not surprised by what might happen and wonder where his wife went.

    Best wishes to you and to all in the comments. I am grateful not to be alone.

  15. Thank you for sharing your experience! I went off the pill at 50 due to increased migraines – I will be 54 in a few months – I still get my period like clock work and with a vengeance – I become anemic every 12 months or so and need iron transfusions as I have stopped absorbing it in recent years. I started an SSRI last winter and it has been a game changer for my moods. But my Gyno is so UNhelpful otherwise with all the other crazy symptoms I an encountering over the last few years that she says are not perimenopause related. I had hormone panels done – which told me I was not in menopause – no shit.

    I look forward to your info on the NAMS consult. I have considered that myself, though it seems there are no medical answers regardless. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I am careful with my diet, I try to walk at least an hour 5 days a week and do some yoga/Pilates – but like you, so many recent injuries have made getting the kind of exercise I know I really need almost impossible. HELP!

    1. I am so sorry to hear this. If it is at all possible please, please get a new gynecologist right away, and tell the old one why you are leaving.

      Doctors take an oath to help people. You deserve that.

  16. Thank you so so much! This is so timely and relatable for me. I’m 43 and just last week decided to do an online Doctor thing to get HRT. I need relief! I begin next month and while I don’t think it will be a magic pill (or in his case a cream and pill) I feel hopeful. Also, I’ve been on anxiety meds for 2+ years and that has made a huge difference in my marriage and parenting, but it doesn’t address all the peri symptoms. I also have Heather Corrine’s book What Fresh Hell IS This sitting on my night stand. I’ve been dragging my feet, but I need to finish it.

  17. Thank you for your authenticity. I really needed this post today. I am 43, and just starting to notice some changes that I attributed solely to the pandemic and entering a caregiver role, but perhaps it’s perimenopause…grateful for the support and insight for those who are/have been there.

  18. I’m turning 54 here in a few months and I relate to this hard! Thank you x 1000 for being the voice of what I am thinking and feeling. Were all in this together. Please don’t stop the dialogue. Many hugs.

  19. All. Of. This. I have an appointment scheduled to discuss HRT with my doctor in a couple of weeks. (I’m already on celexa and Wellbutrin, d/t baseline depression/anxiety plus critical care nursing plus aging parents.) I so hope it will help. Reading about your experiences, plus the responses, makes me feel less alone and less like I’m losing my mind. I feel guilty about how awful I sometimes feel about my actually very nice life and how disengaged I’ve become.

  20. Let me just join everyone else in thanking you for trusting us with this story — your honesty is a gift that will help so many other people.

    I know we live in the same part of the country, and I have my fingers crossed that you are seeing the same menopause practitioner that I visited when I was experiencing some of the same symptoms you have been living with. (She’s in TkPk). It was one of the best medical visits I’ve had in my life — I felt so incredibly heard. That doesn’t make the symptoms go away but knowing that you aren’t going crazy, that something really is happening with your body that can be treated, is enormously empowering.

  21. Alison, this is the REALEST post I have ever read – and I read a lot of blogs. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I’m sorry it’s been so hard.
    I always say that going through menopause is like going through puberty, only in reverse and with NO ONE telling you anything ahead of time. I am post menopause and everything I learned about it came from things friends/friends of friends went through – like that you might need antidepressants, or that your periods get super heavy and irregular. There were days I couldn’t leave the house because of the heavy flow.
    “The Madwoman in the Volvo” by Sandra Tsing Loh is a funny but also educational book about menopause. One thing that stuck with me from it: The hormones that cause your period also generate a “caregiving” mental state so you are always trying to take care of others/worrying about what others think more than yourself. Basically, the hormones prepare you to “mother” everyone. When the hormones stop in perimenopause, you lose that caregiving drive and become less patient/more self-centered/don’t suffer fools. (I jokingly say we become men, no dis to men intended).
    Good luck with this process (at the end of it all, the joy of wearing white pants without worry) and I look forward to reading about the NAMS doctor experience. Sending hugs to you.

    1. Yes! Yes! Yes!
      I loved the Madwoman in the Volvo. It’s the fabulous ravings of a stand up comic but it rings true.
      There’s a moment in the book when Loh looks up from the sandwiches she has been lovingly making and cutting the rusts off all of her life and suddenly realizes that everyone but babies can make their own damn sandwiches. She’s furious and uncomfortable and weeping and having a breakdown but she’s also suddenly free. Free!

      Allison—thank you for being so honest and real. You will find your way through this.

  22. Wow. I obviously follow and appreciate your blog posts, but this might be the first one that made me cry! I’m maybe 10 yrs older than you are, and every symptom you’re talking about – I have been there. I could write an entire novel about this experience, I swear to God. Thank God I was already taking Wellbutrin XL before this all started, I don’t think I would be able to think “this will get better” without it. Life isn’t perfect, but it helps to know how many women are struggling like this. Thank you!

  23. This strikes a deep chord. All the things. The lack of understanding and support in the medical industry, and the dismissiveness. When I read what that Dr. said to you my blood boiled!!!

    We are left to figure out much if this journey through hell on our own and it is mind blowing, when we are not in a deep brain fog.

    My friends and I always say if men were dealing with this we would have answers, better education, medications and support!

    I have spent thousand of dollars and countless hours working out a better way for myself. Probably much of it wasted on placebos. HRT saved my life. It does not solve 100% of the symptoms and I have had to adjust the doses a few times, but without it, I would be a husk of myself. I am also curious about Wellbutrin after reading your description. It will be interesting to see how it works longer term.

    Thank you for sharing your truth. You are not alone!

  24. Ali, your generosity of spirit never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for being so open and brave to share all this with us.

  25. Thanks for keeping it real. I’m about 12-ish years older than you and can still remember the perimenopause years. I found more help from forums than I ever did from doctors. I still remember being 43, having some symptoms, and being told I was too young to be perimenopausal. And my doctor was a woman at the time, probably right around my age. I also remember the rage (it went past anger for me). I was walking one day and just seething over things I would have just put past me, but not that day. I swore if someone tried to jump me that day I could have killed them with my bare hands I was so enraged. It was scary and so not my nature. But anyhow, I can tell you that it’s been a little over 5 years since my last period and things have gotten much better. Those wiser women on the forum I used to visit assured me that it would and they’re right. No more seething anger but my tolerance for fools is pretty non existent. Yes, I still get hot flashes and have accepted that I will never be able to do the physical things I used to like moving heavy furniture, lifting heavy boxes, etc. The aches and pains I get from this take days and many Advils to go away. But my outlook has gotten better and I’m just reveling in being able to wear white shorts and pants as much as I want, lol. (All the faucet flow women out there will relate to that one!)

  26. Whew! All I can say is thank you for seeing me. I look forward to your write up on your experience with the NAMS gynecologist.

  27. Thank you for trusting us with your journey. Your continued openness, vulnerability, and bad ass-ness are why so many of us consider you a critical member in our BFF circle, even though we’ve never met. Thank you. We are here for you.

  28. I had terrible night sweats while undergoing chemotherapy for estrogen caused breast cancer. I tried every recommended nightgown and the best hands down is Tri-blend. I slept in a simple Tri-blend v-neck t-shirt with a spare nearby for the worst nights. They do not retain moisture and dry quickly.

  29. So grateful for this post. I am in perimenopause (holy shit – 4 years of this bs??) and am so glad to know that I’m not alone in experiencing emotions and physical transitions. I don’t understand why this seems like such a taboo subject and why our health professionals are seemingly dismissing women when we come to them looking for help. I know that’s not the case for all medical professionals, but it certainly feels that way for me personally, anyway. So, I have just been dealing with it. Really appreciate the honesty and realness in this post. I also have been feeling unrelenting and unreasonable anger and even suicidal thoughts. I KNOW that I would never commit suicide, but it’s really scary to have those thoughts regardless. Who knew that it was a symptom of perimenopause?? Thanks for all you do, Allie. Keep keeping it real. We love it.

  30. Alison – This is an amazing post and I am sure a difficult one to share in some ways. I do want to say that you helped me in my perimenopause/menopause journey by sharing Jen Gunter’s book, The Menopause Manifesto either on your blog or Instagram (or both).

    It came at a time when I already had several symptoms but hadn’t totally put it together yet – nor realized other issues I was having were also likely related as well. I found her book easy to read and gave me advice that was medically sound. I also had recently lost my regular gynecologist and her advice to find a NAMS practioner was helpful in my search for a replacement. I was lucky and found a doctor who was on the NAMS list who in fact specialized in this care for her practice. It was such a breath of fresh air from the clueless young NPA I recently saw after my gynecologist left! I wish there were more practices like hers for all of us experiencing this season of life. (The last thing I want to do is be surrounded by young, possibly pregnant women in the sitting room while I am cranky, hot and irritable…).

    She was able to review my records, discuss my symptoms and could recommend several options depending on what I was open to, though HRT was her recommendation. She didn’t have to check my hormones, though she did review my last blood work just to eliminate other possible causes. If you read the book, you realize that checking hormone levels is not reliable or recommended since they are so variable – which make sense when you think about it.

    After reading The Menopause Manifesto (and likely more things online), especially on HRT, I was more open to it than I had been initially. I think people our age (GenX) recall when HRT was highly discouraged after a study in the past that may have been reported out incorrectly or flawed. I know I was certainly hesitant!]

    She scheduled a 3 month follow up to make sure it was working and make adjustments as needed. One of the last things she said at my follow up was that HRT is not for everyone but if it works for me, I can be on it for a while (until your early 60s or so). They do recommend going off them by then to offset the cancer risk and I think she implied ramping down (unless there was a reason for a sudden stop.)

    IT WAS LIFE-CHANGING (for me at least). After about 3 days, I was able to sleep better. After about 2 weeks the hot flashes and night sweats really started to subside. After more time my mental state, irritability, etc. improved – likely because I was sleeping better but also I felt calmer, more *me* again. After a year, I am still happy to be on HRT and plan to continue for now until or unless something changes.

    PS One thing I worried about is if HRT would cause me to start having periods again (since I had stopped already). They did not! YMMV but I would talk to your doctor if you do, especially if you have already stopped. I tell you – not having a period is the best *symptom* of menopause!

  31. Thank you for sharing all this. It really helped me. My doctor tested my hormone levels and told me I was in perimenopause and, like some of your other readers, didn’t offer any solutions. I feel like I’m on my own with this and it is just something else I’m supposed to just deal with, so frustrating. It doesn’t help that my husband seems to be thriving now at 49 and I feel like I’m just getting old.

  32. Your honesty and forthrightness about your life and how you’re feeling – both physically and emotionally – is so refreshing. I know it took a lot of courage to write this post. You are one badass woman! The Covid years, as I call them, were hard. Whatever we were dealing with prior suddenly had all this extra bullshit layered on it – the isolation, the family togetherness, the worry…..I spent a lot of time in my head (and still do). My way forward is to eliminate as much of the bullshit in my life as possible, to strive to be a good person, therapy, exercise and lots of deep breaths! You are not alone in this, sister!

  33. So honest and such an important post! I had a complete hysterectomy at 35 and have been on estradiol patches for years. I found a wonderful NCMP practitioner who has been a godsend. She just announced in our annual visit that she’s retiring. GAH. That said, she recommended a low dose SSRI for my anxiety and 3AM mind spin, which I have avoided for years after watching my dad go on and off them. In an amazing twist, it IS helping! Not sure what I will do for her replacement. But I also started a yoga class a few months ago, and (again) it is helping. I still have aches and pains and random days of joints rebelling, but overall it’s good for my physical and mental health.

  34. This just goes to show, we really know nothing about people we meet online. From afar, your life seems so perfect — I remember applauding your decision to rent the office, furnish it with beautiful items, go there on your workdays, etc. — your Peloton dedication during the pandemic made wonder why I was so lazy — and your ideal marriage with zero problems, unlike the rest of us, made me so envious. Thanks for providing a peek behind the curtain — I think I can safely say, we are all with you!

    1. Wow, I was so stressed out reading this—can only imagine what it was like for you to be living through it. Thank you for sharing this with us; that could not have been easy, but you’ve always been good about being honest with your readers. It’s greatly appreciated. In the blog, you manage to straddle that fine line between sharing important & real life experiences with us without over sharing, if that makes sense?

      It’s beyond maddening & frustrating to me that so little information is actually known about this topic & that so little information is shared with us! If men went through it, no doubt there’d be countless research studies done with good information about how to best deal with it all. Heck, if men could have children, you know there’d be much better birth control options, much better prenatal care, much better policies on childcare leave, etc. Ugh! Women are often an afterthought & have to depend on one another to find help.

  35. I so appreciate your honesty, Allison. Not to be a debbie downer, but I’m probably six years past menopause, and I’m still having occasional hot flashes. My doc said they could go on for years.

  36. Thank you. Thanks to a cancer diagnosis I went straight from postpartum to menopause 10 years ago. Although I skipped peri, I have all of the same symptoms and have felt at a loss. I too wondered if I had the start of dementia. I have been meaning to reach out to a NAMS doctor, I just kept putting it off. I have to do something because a household with teen/preteen boys and a menopausal woman does not make for calm. I feel I am failing them by not being able to control my own emotions, much less teach them how to manage their own. I hope you are successful in finding relief and know that even just sharing your challenges helps us feel a little less alone.

  37. You are so amazing and after more than a decade of reading you, I’ve never valued you more than in this post. I want to send it to my partner (male, who has generally been very supportive). FWIW, after failed fertility treatments I swore up down and sideways that I would never take hormones again. HAH! Perimenopause took care of that. I’m on a tiny dose of lexapro, a small dose of progesterone, and mid-level topical estrogen — all to abate hot flashes help me sleep, with kinda okay results (I never get 8 hours, usually wake up after 5 or 6 hours and go in & out till wake up time) and vaginal estrogen which is the best thing ever.

  38. Checkout the menopause doctor on instagram. Based in uk but a mine of information. She is doctor who specialises in the menopause. There is an app with a load of info and a way of tracking symptoms. She also knows everything to know about hrt.

  39. Love this frank and real talk so much! I was blindsided by perimenopause two years ago. Hot flashes from hell and brain fog that made me think I was getting dementia. It was nuts. When I called my gyn. about the hot flashes and asked what I should do, I was advised to wear cotton clothing. I expected medical advice and got fashion tips instead. My PCP actually suggested Efexor to help with the hot flashes–and they have helped dramatically, as well as taken the edge off my moods–an edge I wasn’t aware I had developed. Now I’m struggling with a weight gain I cannot get rid of. Sigh. It’s so hard to deal with all of this and no one ever talks about it. Thank you for talking about it. You are making a difference.

  40. I read your post on the day that marks my official transition from perimenopause to menopause – I am without a period for one year, after 5 years of pretty distressing perimenopause. So much of what you described resonated with me – the insomnia, the anxiety, the churning thoughts and the sweats, even the relationship issues that put my happy marriage in a very precarious place for a while. I literally even transformed a room in my house into a “room of my own” and ironically, we have the same emerald green velvet couch!

    I tried every tool: therapy, self-help, exercise, supplements, CBD, yoga & meditation. They all helped in some ways and remain part of my toolbox but ultimately, two things helped: HRT (I’m on the combi patch) and Zoloft, and medical marijuana. The HRT allowed my body to simmer down; the Zoloft calmed my super-jacked up nervous system. I feel better on a cellular level, like I didn’t know it was possible to feel this way in my body.

    We have lived through a distressing period of time, and to have experienced all of the things we have experienced as a country and culture while going through perimenopause was really difficult. I thank you so much for your candor and content and truly wish you all the best.

  41. Wow! I saw my gyn last week and asked for my hormone levels to be checked because of my symptoms…night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, weight gain, etc. I felt like I got a bit of a lecture, but she agreed to lab work. I was able to get the lab work between my gyn and mammogram appointments (seemed like a good idea to have all that on the same day but it wasn’t). A few days later I got a call from my gyn letting me know that I was in perimenopause, “…ok, take care, bye-bye”. Literally no discussion on what I can do or take to help with any of the symptoms I’m dealing with. Reading your blog today makes me realize that it’s possible a lot of other things I’m dealing with could be related to perimenopause. Thank you for sharing your real life with us! So glad I’m not alone, but what a bunch of bullshit that we have to go through so much of this without real support and help from medical professionals.

  42. Right there with you. I think perimenopause is helping my migraines but good god, the other shit is exhausting.

  43. I relate so much to your struggles, although I am older and past menopause. I went through much of what you are going through in perimenopause. Now, postmenopausal, some things have gotten better (I don’t miss the irritability), but there are new challenges (osteoporosis). Hang in there, Alison.
    I enjoy Wardrobe Oxygen so much. Thank you for persevering with it. Your honesty and thoughtfulness have meant so much.

  44. Holy balls, the REALNESS. This is what I’m here for, Allie! THANK YOU for so vulnerably sharing all of this—your example inspires me to be more aware and honest with myself and others about the daily fresh hell that is perimenopause. All the best, internet friend.

    (It’s “blindsided”, BTW. )

    1. ALLIE. I’m sorry for adding a grammar correction. What an asshole. It came from a place of love but I should read the room, y’know? Gah.

      1. No, don’t apologize I really appreciate updates like that. I type so fast and rely on autocorrect and Grammarly and they don’t always catch things and often times change words in a way I didn’t want. Thank you!

  45. Thank you for sharing! That was a really clear description of what it was been like, and I’m sure I’ll remember it when my time comes. Sending you high-fives for not doing some of the more dramatic things that your brain told you to do – because prison wouldn’t help – and for every little daily win. Big hugs!

  46. Alison,
    The contrast between your honesty in this post and the constant flow of the “best life” superficiality and dribble that is overwhelmingly displayed on blogs and social media has helped to restore my faith in humans actually using technology to communicate, connect, and help each other survive and thrive in the midst of stressful times. I am ahead of you in menopause transitions. I cannot assure you that everything in your life will work out the way you want it to, nobody can promise that. However, I would like to reassure you that your being honest with yourself is very important to working things out. So is reaching out for support as needed and not settling for advice that is low-quality or not tailored to your individual needs. I have been a long-time reader not so much for fashion advice, but because I enjoy your writing skills and find your perspectives on life and issues of social justice to be interesting and informative. I wish you success in this challenging aspect of life that has definitely been been neglected, under-researched and under-treated. Your contribution here will help others. Please take care of yourself because you deserve the best of care.

  47. In menopause and needed a new doctor (mine moved) and picked a woman about my age thinking she would be relatable. Wrong. She dismissed my complaints as not being related to menopause.
    Several months later I tried a new doctor, this time selected one from NAMS. I felt she listened and I now feel more like “me”. Still have things I would like to improve but this is so much better.
    I don’t think we talk about this enough maybe because every woman will go through it as a part of aging. Even so, we shouldn’t have to be miserable.

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