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True Stories of Menopause: Heidi Houston, Director of ‘Hot Flash Havoc’

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 a short period of time, and then I gained another 20 pounds! I’ve always had low cholesterol and all of a sudden it shot upward.

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 suggested that I might be going through menopause. However, each of them wanted to treat my individual symptoms with prescriptions.

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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 get what they’re looking for through their doctors.

What is your life like now?

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. My life changed overnight and became a nightmare for three years.

When I finally found a doctor who understood better what was happening, she put me back into perimenopause, and I’m still balancing my life through hormones.

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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 10 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.

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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 don’t realize that perimenopause often begins at 35. We need to educate women so they’re not prescribed just another medication for each symptom they experience.

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, 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.”

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