I electrocuted my four-year-old daughter.
The beginning of my perimenopause journey was as dramatic as that, and to be honest, characterizes the whole experience to date. For weeks, I gave her little electric shocks when I touched her. I’d kiss her, and we’d both recoil with pain. We’d hold hands and sparks would fly. Did I instantly know what was happening? No! I was 37 and had never, ever heard the word perimenopause before.
Morning nausea started around the same time, along with sore boobs, rapid weight gain, palpitations, and migraines. By then, I was sure I had heart disease, a brain tumor, and phantom pregnancy. There was no other explanation.
My body betrayed me. My mind wasn’t much better.
Then, one day it happened. During one of the lockdowns, I sat at our dining room table, on a team Zoom call, while googling my symptoms on the side. I conducted an internet deep dive of my, by then, mountain of symptoms and ended up on a list of perimenopause traits. When I got to static electricity, I gasped out loud in the middle of the meeting! Forget my rudeness, I had found answers! It felt like all of the out-of-control pieces of my life suddenly fit perfectly into place. I’d ticked 24 symptoms. Two years later, I probably tick them all. I wasn’t dying!
That same week, the Davina McCall documentary came out and I cried. I couldn’t believe this thing I had never heard of was not only real, but also explained all of the mess of the previous few months. I was 37 and no one had ever told me about perimenopause. How was that even possible? I started talking about it, assuming other people saw this new media sensation and were going through it, too. But no. While TV validated my experience, it ended there. People weren’t willing to discuss menopause in real life.
I tried to talk to friends my age, but they all had more “normal” bodies and hadn’t had this madness thrust on them as early as I had! I tried to talk to friends in their 50s, but they refused to entertain the idea that they could be old enough for perimenopause. A couple of people I knew had similar symptoms, but their doctors said it wasn’t possible; those people ruled perimenopause out and started anti-depressants or diets. So, I shied away from going to the general practitioner or talking to women about anything menopause related.
After 18 months of studying perimenopause, or at least coming to terms with my own symptoms, I had more knowledge but was still on an island…all alone. Anxiety attacks persisted, one of which lasted for 48 hours. I hadn’t, and still haven’t, started hormone replacement therapy (HRT) because my symptoms were, and still are so hard to map. I have months with minimal symptoms, then a really bad month or two. Sometimes, I have a headache for a month, and other times, I’m shaky for days. Sometimes my hair falls out, and sometimes I forget where the car is, but nothing is consistent enough to feel that I need a consistent dose of anything. Or maybe deep down I want to save the HRT card for worse days.
The sea helped. Around the same time as the Davina doc, the cold-water swimming craze began. I read about the benefits: improved circulation, boosted immune system, and reduced stress, so I gave it a go, and I was hooked from day one. I have lived near the sea my whole life and never bothered to swim in it outside of hot summer days. Words cannot express the solace I find in the water. It’s saved me more than once. It washed away the toughest days, and it’s the one place where I find peace. I can’t recommend it to everyone because there’s no one size fits all relief from perimenopause, just like no two perimenopause journeys are alike, but when you find relief and joy, hold on to them!
Then there’s Instagram, the opposite of the sea! The hustling, screaming, opinionated world of social media is a whole different animal, but it’s the other side of my perimenopause coin. Seven months ago, on my menopause island of one, I decided to go looking for my people. I didn’t have to look for long! I started an Instagram account to reach out to people going through the same thing, and within days I found all of these people, around the world, doing the same thing!
There was an entire world in my phone experiencing perimenopause and talking about it. What’s more is there was a community! Podcast links, books, and strategies for managing anxiety attacks appeared at my fingertips. People reached out to me and DM’d me offering their support. A lady in Australia offered me a natural lube she makes! Social media is a lot of things, but the opportunity to commune with people or to find ‘our people’ is precious. I am grateful for the last few months of being able to share this journey, judgement free, and to be able to support others on their journeys.
It is only through talking about our experiences, whether online or in real life, that we can help each other. If it wasn’t for websites and a TV show I would still be wandering in the dark, convinced that I was dying of multiple horrific ailments! A recent study said that only 9% of women have talked about menopause with their mothers. But I’m changing that. My now seven-year-old daughter already knows what periods are and how babies are born. We will not have another generation wandering in the dark because women’s health is a taboo subject. We will speak up and normalize it so that future women can have the freedom and support that we had to search for. The future is brighter because we are switching the light on for each other.
Takeover Tuesday is a new series comprised of people who either don’t identify as middle-age or woman, yet want to raise their voice about women’s issues.
Today’s Takeover Tuesday is hosted by Rachel Browne, an Irish social media content creator, brand manager, and graphic designer, working mostly with non-profits. She has a husband and two small children and is a published children’s author. Follow Rachel on Instagram @My.Messy.Menopause, where she documents her perimenopause experience.
Wow, what an empowering story. Static electricity! I knew other symptoms, but not that one.
Wow menopause gets trickier by the minute. This one is new to me, thanks for sharing!
Brilliant writing, electrifying! Hugs, C
Glad you found answers and a supportive community. I have static electricity, too, but never knew it was a symptom of menopause. Good luck on your journey. 🙂