When I entered menopause, I was prepared for the hot flashes, the loss of collagen and my size 12 figure. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the loss of my spark.
My mood flatlined. I was snappy and irritated by the smallest things, and although I won’t admit it – for obvious reasons - my husband had a point when he called me irrational.
As women’s bodies adjust to major hormone changes, mood swings are a common symptom of menopause along with poor sleep, brain fog, joint pain, night sweats, lower self-esteem - and in my experience, a profound sense of grief at the loss of my old life.
What I didn’t realise was that certain women are more predisposed to more serious symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
On this episode of Mamamia's daily news podcast The Quicky, we unpack the mysteries (and misunderstandings) of menopause. Post continues below.
Psychologist, Amanda A. Deeks, says: “There is the suggestion that changes in hormone levels may contribute a small percentage towards the variance in accounting for depressed mood. However, it appears that women are more likely to experience depression because of a range of factors, including biological, social and psychological causes.”
Factors such as prior episodes of depression, stress, dissatisfaction with relationships, poor self-esteem, trauma, poor lifestyle, and surgical menopause are in fact a stronger influence on mood changes than biological factors.
And as Jean Hailes for Women’s Health points out: “Sometimes, it is hard to know if the hormonal changes of menopause affect your life, or if your life influences how you experience menopause.”
Because “the change” comes at a stage in our lives when many of us are trying to redefine who we are, it makes the exact cause of our symptoms harder to pinpoint, and many of the symptoms we attribute to menopause may in fact be symptoms of ageing, e.g., the bloating I experienced from new intolerances to certain foods, the tendonitis and joint pain, and the minor incontinence issues caused by childbirth and the decrease in my oestrogen levels.
Even the cause of weight gain – commonly blamed on menopause and the slowing down of our metabolism – has recently been linked to a decrease in movement in middle age rather than a symptom of menopause.
My perimenopause correlated with a difficult period of my life, when I felt overwhelmed by the demands of two teenagers – one of whom had special needs – the weight of the emotional labour in our home, the demands of an unfulfilling job, and the emotional repercussions of childhood trauma.
Menopause was my tipping point.
And one of the most debilitating side effects has been its impact on my brain.
“Menofog” has affected my memory, organisational skills, and time management, and made me completely reliant on the notes app and calendar on my phone.