True Stories: Heidi Houston

Before you realized you were going through menopause, what kinds of symptoms did you have?

The joint pain in my ankles and hips hurt so badly that it was hard to walk in the mornings. I also had headaches, dry eyes, depression and mood swings where I’d go from happy to angry. I gained 40 pounds in about 120 days, and then I gained another 20 pounds! I’ve always had low cholesterol and all of a sudden it shot upwards.

When did you realize you were going through menopause?

In three years I went to six doctors and one clinic, and not one of them told me I was going through menopause. However, each of them wanted to treat my symptoms with prescriptions.

One of my doctors asked me if I was planning on having more children. When I told him I wasn’t, he told me he wanted to stop my period, which is “forced” menopause. I thought because he was a doctor he would know what he was doing, so I went along with it. Stupid me—my life changed over night and became a nightmare for three years. When I finally found a doctor who knew what was happening, she put me back into perimenopause and I am still balancing my life through hormones. 

In fact, it was because of that last doctor that I made the documentary, “Hot Flash Havoc.”  I wanted to show ordinary women correct information about menopause if they can’t through their doctors. 

How long did you go through menopause and what is your life like now? 

I am still not through menopause completely; I still have a period every now and then.

The doctor told me all of the symptoms that I had were indicative of hormonal depletion and could be fixed. She put me on estrogen and progesterone and within three days I started to feel like the person I was three years before. Within ten days, all my joint pain, depression, mood swings and heart palpitations were gone. 

Within 60 days my cholesterol had lowered by 20 or 30 points. I had no more headaches, I was feeling good and my fatigue had disappeared. Today, I am still aging, but I feel good.

What were some of the positive aspects of going through menopause?

The most positive part was that I was able to make the film, “Hot Flash Havoc.”  We wanted to educate women, men and doctors about the real facts surrounding perimenopause and menopause. Most women do not realize that perimenopause begins at 35. We need to educate women so they’re not prescribed just another medication for each symptom they experience. You cannot believe the number of female doctors that did not even suggest examining my hormones.

Is there anything you miss about menstruating?

I would be happy if my menstruation stopped completely, but either way it’s okay. I think the media has sent the message to women that if they stop menstruating, they’re useless. Women need to realize that their Second Act is time for a change regarding children, family, creativity, realizing passions and improving relationships. 

Tell us about a significant moment in your journey through menopause. 

After finally seeing the doctor that I returned home to my 13 year-old son. Five days later he said to me, “Mom, I don’t know where you have been, but I am glad you are back.”