What it feels like to go through perimenopause early

by | The Third Act, Women's Health

When Caroline started experiencing hot flushes in her mid 30s, she suffered in silence. Now, she hopes sharing her story will inspire other women to get help sooner.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this, but I had very little idea of what perimenopause was. Perimenopause I hadn’t heard of at all.  I’d heard the word menopause, um, but it was something that was so far removed from me at that stage of my life. What I knew about menopause was nil, haha.

My mother said that she never went through menopause, so we didn’t discuss it. I thought, ‘okay, good. That’s done for me!’ And that was it. That’s all I knew.

It started to become real for me subconsciously when I was about 35. But at the time I didn’t think anything of it because I had no idea that younger women could go through perimenopause or menopause at such a young age and in a healthy body.

How can this happen to a healthy person?

I’ve been a dancer all my life, so I’ve always been a sweaty mess, but that was one of the big symptoms that really exploded. There was a lot of confusion. The feelings were quite strange, and I didn’t have an understanding why I was feeling so cranky when I was normally such a jovial character.

Caroline who was a professional dancer (pictured above in a performance around the time she began experiencing symptoms), had no idea perimenopause could happen without pre-existing health conditons

I felt like I was a bit of a fraud because I was trying to cover up sweating all the time, and I was trying to be nice, but I guess trying to be nice just made it worse! There was just a real sense of anxiety that it created. I felt like I just didn’t know what was going on.

I didn’t have an understanding why I was feeling
so cranky when I was normally such a jovial
character…I felt like a fraud…I was trying to be ‘nice’
but trying to be nice just made it worse

I went to a doctor when I was 35. It was my local GP and I explained to her what I thought was going on and she laughed and said, “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re too young!” It was a five-minute conversation. There was no information, no, “Perhaps you’d like to read something more?” I felt like I was totally shutdown.I wasn’t happy about the way I was dismissed, I lived in the mess for probably a couple of years, and I kind of just put up with it.

Seeking a second opinion

I went to a health and wellbeing expo and there was a booth where you could get free blood tests for bone density. I had my blood test taken and they just looked at me and said, “I think you need to go to a doctor. Your blood, your bone density is very, very low.” I couldn’t believe it, I thought being a dancer, that’s impossible. I’m quite clumsy, so I used to fall over all the time and I wasn’t hurting myself, how could I have low bone density?” The test results really propelled me to go to seek a second opinion. It was only then that that a whole new world opened up for me.

That second opinion validated my feelings that something more was going on. There was no attitude or dismissal from the professional. She was very welcoming, and we sat in front of a computer together and read about what might be going on with my body. She was empowering me to become more knowledgeable about what was happening.

Clarity at last

Once, once the ball was rolling, she initiated all sorts of things for me. Checking in on my mental health, doing all the bloods and getting me on a path to manage my symptoms. I needed to use compounded medication and that took a while – maybe about eight months – to get it right. But she was right by me all the way. And it enabled me to go home and say to my family, “Hey, this is me,”. I was able work through it a little better, which makes the whole world around you seem a little bit brighter.

Moving forward it changed so much. My family weren’t treading on eggshells. We talked about it in a way that my son, who was very young at the time,  could understand. His dad was like, “Oh, good! Maybe something really positive can come out of all of this”.

This too shall pass

It can be very lonely because you feel so isolated, you can’t communicate with people exactly how you feel because you’re putting up a shield to try and be the way you think you were. You’re still you, but there’s lots of unexplained emotions going on. So being able to wake up and say, “Okay, whatever the day brings today, I know I’m being supported, and we’ll work through this.” There’s no miracle cure, but this is all part of the next phase, and the next phase has to be promising because you’ve got that support.

Being able to communicate, especially with the guys in your life, is very important. I believe that men go through it as well. And, and I think that’s also another, conversation that we have to have. So, to have the male counterpart in your family, really rooting for you, I think, and they’ve got something concrete to hold onto as well. And if the support’s there and I guess, isn’t that what it’s all about? Whatever is going on in your life, if you’ve got support and love, you’re halfway there.

Don’t suffer in silence

What advice would I give to someone feeling isolated and confused? If you’re feeling that something is off and you’re not 45 or 50 yet but you’re younger as was my experience, find a GP where they are open to having a conversation about it and, and not to panic about it.

Search for those sources, which I hope have opened up a lot more since I was 35. I think it’s important to not ignore it. If, if people around you are noticing that things are, are a bit askew, I think it’s important to talk about it. That’s always the first step rather than hiding, hiding only makes things worse and creates more anxiety.