Perimenopause is Not for Sissies
I recently gave a Q & A interview for a women’s health blogging site. The interviewer asked me what the top three pieces of advice are that I would give to a woman entering perimenopause.
You might think the best advice would revolve around whether one should consider hormone replacement therapy or not. Or what kind of natural herbal remedies might one take for hot flashes or night sweats? Should you see a gynecologist or an endocrinologist instead? What books should you read? What websites should you go to? Are bioidentical hormones really all they are cracked up to be? Certainly, these are important questions, and the answers are equally as important.
But, the answers for these types of questions rise nowhere near to the level of the top three pieces of advice I would offer a woman entering perimenopause. Finding answers to these types of questions is as easy as a five minute Google search.
But, what is not so easy to find is an assurance that you’re going to be okay. That you are not going crazy. That you’re going to come out on the other side and feel normal again; even though life as you had always known it will no longer be the same.
I believe that the psychological and emotional components of perimenopause are by far the most defining and life altering elements of the experience. I also believe they are the most overlooked by the medical community, who seems much more interested in addressing the physical symptoms.
I do agree that it would be so much easier to treat perimenopause if we could simply reduce the experience to a clearly defined set of physical symptoms. But, treating perimenopause as if it is nothing more than a collection of physical and biological changes, is like trying to experience a musical concert by breaking it down into the components of music theory. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.
When a woman enters perimenopause, a profound transformation takes place which is far beyond hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. She is transitioning into a time of life no longer defined by fertility, physical attractiveness, and sexuality. Her roles are changing, her place in society shifts, and questions she thought had long been answered about the meaning of her life are being examined once again. To call it an existential crisis would not be overstating it.
To date, the medical community is not doing a very good job addressing these issues. But, perhaps it is unfair of me to even suggest that they should. Maybe they feel they are issues better left to the mental health community instead. Certainly, given the fact that billions of dollars worth of prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication are written to women in perimenopause every year, that notion doesn’t seem to be too much of a stretch.
But I think we should be talking about, and frankly, we should keep talking about it. Change never comes about by way of apathy or complacency. My personal hope is that in talking about it, women will hear they are not alone, and their experience is common. Sometimes, simply knowing that others have walked a similar path is all the medicine and advice you need.