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The not-so-secret diary of a perimenopausal woman

How I used testosterone to kick my brain fog and anxiety out of the park

What do you mean menopause isn't just hot flushes?

A menopause reflection at the end of a busy week. I left my job in June last year. I left because the menopause related anxiety that came with trying to do my job was so great I was close to a breakdown. This all came to a head towards the end of 2022, although I had been struggling for a long time.

A person sitting on a window sill, head down, looking very sad and anxious

I first experienced the anxiety during a pretty standard work day for me. I was going to Devon with my boss for a work trip and was meeting him at St Pancras station in London. I've been travelling on the train my entire life. I love trips to London and have always been happy in bustling transit hubs. Not this time. I got to St Pancras and had a panic attack. My boss found me cowering in a corner, sitting on the floor, unable to move.

The next time the anxiety hit was when friends from Germany came over to visit. We were due to meet them at Brighton station for a trip to Arundel. All pretty tame and lovely to be seeing friends. I couldn't leave the house. I could feel a panic attack coming on and my partner had to spend a considerable amount of time calming me down enough so that I could leave the house.

How did you cope at work I hear you ask?

I didn't, well not very well anyway.

I was listened to and supported to a degree at work but it wasn't enough. A menopause policy and the offer of flexible working was all well and good but it didn't help me with the uninvited anxiety. I was courageous and determined to speak out. I told people what I was going through and in the main they were very supportive. It helped but it didn't make the anxiety go away.

An image of a person's feet in very muddy shoes standing on muddy ground

The anxiety was compounded by brain fog. If you've never experienced it you can't understand. Words and names fail you. You lose track half way through a sentence. Finding a thought or remembering what you were going to do or say is like wading through a soggy muddy ploughed up field. You begin to doubt your sanity and I even thought I might be experiencing early onset dementia - until that is I spoke to a few other people of similar age and the penny dropped. It is hormone related.

My role for years has revolved around community and partnership engagement. Meetings, workshops, events. Facilitation, presentation and representation. It got to a point where I couldn't face doing those things anymore. The brain fog fuelled the anxiety and the anxiety fuelled the brain fog. I empowered others to do those things in my place and took a back seat, hiding away behind my desk.

This takes me back to the end of 2022 where I found myself having a melt down at my desk one morning, unable to face the day, unable to organise my thoughts. I took a week off to recover as I wasn't well enough to work, re-evaluated my life and made some difficult decisions.

From despair to opportunity

I'd already gone from a 5-day week to a 4 -day week so that I could have some me time for myself, to slow things down and to rediscover me, my values and my purpose. I began to explore my passions again, one of those things being gardening. I took a course at the beautiful One Garden in Brighton, met some amazing people and studied in fabulous surroundings. I'll tell you about my journey to where I am now another day, but the important thing is, I gave myself space time for creativity and for reflection. That helped me find the strength to carry on.

Now back to testosterone!

Light at the end of the tunnel

A tunnel with a light at the end of it

Why am I writing this now? I've been doing some consultancy back in the world I used to work in. The last couple of weeks have been non stop and over the next two weeks I've got a mix of events workshops and meetings to present at. Oh no, how am I going to cope? Surely I won't be able to do it? Hang on though. Something feels very took me a while to work it out. There's no brain fog. I can think. I can remember. I'm keeping the anxiety at bay. It feels amazing. I feel like a supercharged version of my old self!

What's changed. Well, I made lots of lifestyle changes. That has helped. I'm taking HRT. That has definitely helped. BUT, the thing that really turned my life around was testosterone! That kicked the brain fog out of the park and seriously reduced my anxiety. It's not widely talked about and hard to get hold of. I went private initially as my GP wouldn't prescribe it although they can. Now I get it through a nurse practitioner at a new GP! She's recently had menopause training and is fab! My pharmacist - a woman of a similar age to me - told me which GP surgeries were prescribing testosterone locally and I seized my opportunity.

I'm on an expert, so you might find this leaflet on testosterone by Dr Louise Newson helpful.

None of this has been easy. I've been to some low places. BUT, it can and does get better if you take control of your menopause, do your research and reach out and talk to other people.

I'd love to hear from you. Reach out through the comments or directly through my website.

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