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Mental health and the perimenopause

Updated: May 21

30 January 2023

The 'not-so-secret' diary of a perimenopausal woman - mental health and the perimenopause

Good morning Brighton! The sun is shining and I had a good night's sleep. Time to get on with the day. I've got a blog to write and some business development to get stuck into.

Screen shot a sleep app showing 8 hours 38 minutes sleep

Hang on though. Something doesn't feel right. 8hr 38min sleep is too much. That should probably have been a clue. I didn't spring out of bed and onto the yoga mat. I wasn't pulling on my walking boots for an early morning walk to the dew pond. As I slowly started my day I could feel a heaviness in my heart and a desire to crawl back under the duvet.

Right, come on, pull yourself together. Sit at your desk, turn on your laptop, open up a new blog page....

Nothing. Nada. I can't do this. Why on earth did I think I could do this?

OK, I'm going back to bed. No you're not. Come on. Sort yourself out. Just go for a walk, you know it will do you good. No, I can't face the world. I can't leave the house. Yes you can, just put your coat on and open the door.

A year ago I'd have gone back to bed. The black cloud hanging over me and the heaviness in my heart would have won out. Today, I put on my coat, opened the door and braced myself to face the world. Head down, I walked slowly up the hill, the voice in my head still trying to convince me that I should go back home and hide from the world. I crossed the road into the sun. Immediately, the sun's rays started to work their magic on that persistent black cloud that was matching me step for step. OK, not far to the sanctuary of the local woods. I can do it.

The miracle of nature

I did. I made it. It was a hard slog up the muddy steps into the wood, but the four raucous magpies snuffling around in the dead leaves distracted me enough to get me to the top. Once on the path, a robin greeted me with a flash of red as it darted past.

A robin sitting on a branch

It must have put word out because I was

serenaded for the rest of my walk by feisty robins telling me that everything was going to be ok. As I walked I felt a heaviness pulling at me, but the cacophony of bird song lightened my step and kept me moving forwards.

As I continued to walk, enticed further by the dappled sunlight and the spring bulbs just starting to bloom, I felt my mood start to lift. Today's not going to be so bad after all. I might not race through it full of energy, but the weight has lifted a little and there are gaps emerging in the dark cloud. By the time I left the woods I had the beginnings of this blog starting to form in my mind and an urge for coffee and a muffin from the local café.

Thank you nature. Thank you for looking after me and sharing your beauty.

Hormonal changes and depression

Looking back over my life, I realise that the 'ups and downs' I experienced with my mental health were most likely hormone related. The 'downs' were fleeting and manageable. Until a few years ago that is. I think one of the first things that made me think I might be perimenopausal was the onset of bouts of uncontrollable sobbing. They came out of the blue and normally there was no rational explanation for them. I couldn't help it. I couldn't stop it. I just had to ride it out. What did I need? A big hug and time to calm down.

Overtime the 'downs' got steadily worse and, as they were linked to the extreme hormone changes that are part of perimenopause, were completely unpredictable. Sometimes they stopped me from going out and from doing my job. Not all of the time, but enough for me to know that something had changed. I was overwhelmed by the hormone fluctuations and unable at the time to do anything about it. It was impacting significantly on my life, my work and my relationships.

So what has changed? How did I get myself out of the front door today?

When my mum experienced prolonged depression she went to see her GP. It is no surprise that she came away with antidepressants. Now that we look back, we are convinced that her depression was linked to the menopause. Fortunately, when I went to see a locum GP with a multitude of symptoms, including bouts of depression, I walked away with HRT. It took a good 18 months to get the HRT dose right. That was a painful process made more difficult by not seeing the same GP each time and each GP having differing knowledge and experience of the menopause. In most cases, not very much at all.

The HRT has helped me immensely. Again, I reiterate that HRT is not for everyone, and there are lots of other ways of managing perimenopause and post-menopause. My hormones are more regulated and I'm more able to see and think clearly. I've introduced regular yoga and meditation into my life and have a lifestyle that is more suited to this stage in my life. I spend a lot of time in nature. It has amazing therapeutic effects on me. All of this helps and reduced the frequency and depth of any bouts of depression.

I have no idea what happened this morning. Why did I wake up feeling blue? The positive thing is I was able to recognise it and to tap into the positive lifestyle habits that I know will make me feel better. In this case, the miracle of nature.

What about you?

I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments and to know if there's anything you'd like me to focus on. This function is only available to members so you'll need to sign up. That way you'll also get my blog delivered directly into your inbox each time.

Until next time...thanks for listening...and maybe take some time to get out into nature. Those robins are just waiting to cheer you on.

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