Fucking menopause. Help.
December 21, 2018 9:32 AM   Subscribe

So I believe I've gone full menopausal and I am struggling so much. I'm looking for advice in coping with both physical and mental symptoms. What are your symptoms? Can you relate them to specific things that you can recommend as having helped? Have you been able to find information and resources that don't feel either condescending or full of GOOP nonsense? (Also, it would be great if they don't cost the earth. Ha.)

In the last thread, someone spoke about not smelling like themselves and I nearly wept that it's not just me. But I don't know what will help, and the hardest part is that I'm fighting some real internalized body shame that makes it hard to seek help. (Knowing this isn't shameful isn't translating into not feeling tremendous shame, alas.)

I'm interested in products/treatments that have helped dry, itchy skin, fungal/thrush issues, exhaustion, mood swings, weight changes, insomnia, hair loss, my goddamned neck, and coping emotionally with feeling like my body is completely betraying me. I've always had difficulty regulating temperature, so that's not a particularly pressing issue.

Also I haven't had consistent medical care in years but hopefully that will change in the upcoming year. Yay, USA.

Thanks in advance for your support. *clicks post before chickening out*
posted by Space Kitty to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
By not smelling like yourself, I assume you mean vaginally. This could definitely be due to dryness. I have found that Vagifem suppositories (little tiny estrogen tablets that you pop up there with an applicator) are a complete cure for this. The general recommendation is that you should use them once a week but my obgyn lets me use them three times a week and says it's perfectly safe as it's not absorbed into your system. It also was a complete cure for the tiny bit of involuntary peeing, if you have that.
posted by HotToddy at 9:44 AM on December 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


I am not quite there yet, but in preparation I spend some time listening to Dr. Fiona Lovely's Not Your Mother's Menopause podcast. I don't feel like it's too GOOPy but I am a little scared to look at her too closely. But basically she is like get your sleep and water and try to cut down the stress as much a possible.
posted by Duffington at 9:59 AM on December 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


Two things that really help for me: hormonal birth control, if you can, really lessens a lot of symptoms. Flax seed oil supplement for all you dry and shriveling parts helps a lot!!!

Sorry you are having such a rough time. Try to remember that most of this bullshit is temporary.
posted by supermedusa at 10:08 AM on December 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


HRT is a 100% game changer. Get a GP/PCP and discuss it with him or her, not with the Internet (which tends to get the shrieking horrors whenever HRT is mentioned.) There are tradeoffs in risk profiles but studies show that there is no overall increase in mortality for women who take HRT for 5 - 7 years.

The fact that it's a natural, normal change doesn't mean you have to accept the natural, normal symptoms. WHICH SUCK BALLS. Choose better living through chemistry!
posted by DarlingBri at 10:20 AM on December 21, 2018 [12 favorites]


It sounds woo at first but dry brushing* is incredibly soothing and you won't actually tear your skin off. I can't recommend it enough for dry itchy skin.

A product I found surprisingly effective for hot flashes is a Frogg Toggs cooling towel. I have the mini-neck one and that's all I need.

For thrush, cut sugar out of your diet and increase the plain yogurt - inside and out. If I sense a yeast infection coming on I freeze a few globs of Greek yogurt and put them where they'll do the most good. Monistat 1-day works a treat too.

As for the mood swings, I went ahead and got on an antidepressant for a number of months. It is what it is, and just because it's caused by menopause doesn't mean it isn't legit. Cutting sugar will help with that too.

It sucks now but you are on your way to the IDGAF years. I've just recently arrived and it's a great place to end up!

*Random amazon link, I've had mine for a dozen years and my only recommendation is to get natural bristles and a long enough arm that you can reach inside your shoulder blades.
posted by headnsouth at 10:25 AM on December 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


bless you all

also interested in how to maintain a healthy sexual relationship when cycling between

dryness/thrush/bv/otc medication/don't touch me/come back/repeat

thanks in advance, memail open
posted by Space Kitty at 10:43 AM on December 21, 2018


Aside from generally taking care of yourself (sleep, hydration, healthy foods), most "alternative" treatments - especially the ones that appear in medicine format - are bullshit. And while it IS the body doing what the body's designed to do, medical mitigation of symptoms is available and you should take advantage to the extent they help you. You get no bonus points for suffering unnecessarily.

I have become so frustrated with gynecologists that I have gone to Planned Parenthood, where the actual mission is to help people with their reproductive health rather than...whatever it is gyns do now.

The worst of my symptoms right now (I'm 46, having one or two random events a year that are vaguely periodlike) are what I assume to be hormone-related brain fog/inability to concentrate (or is it just the state of the world? hard to tell), random bad insomnia plus nights where I could sleep if I wasn't so busy pulling up/pushing down the covers. I've not opted for medical mitigation yet, but I'm about three bad nights' sleep away (or one more frightening rage episode like I had a couple weeks ago) at this point. I know it's verging on GOOPy possible bullshit/imaginary correlation, but my husband and I went keto for several other health reasons and I am having fewer of the annoying symptoms. But I absolutely believe "annoying" is reason enough to seek some relief, as is "distressing" or "uncomfortable". We don't have to slam headfirst into menopause anymore, there is value in mitigating the process in order to be more comfortable and functional.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:47 AM on December 21, 2018 [8 favorites]


As a wee, sleekit, timorous beastie who is terrified of conflict, I am a big fan of the frightening rage episodes that I occasionally had during the week of my period and now occasionally have, presumably, as a result of The Change. This is because of my bad raising, where I got listened to only when throwing a rage-fit. That plus too much Stephen King when I was young and impressionable (Firestarter and Carrie--those girls were my role models). But I don't exactly hate the fact that I'm less afraid to be angry, now. I spoke in very audible, short declarative sentences to my neighbor's lawnservice guy last week after the umpteenth time he blew all the neighbor's leaves into my yard, and it was exhilarating.

As for the rest of it, I'm so far okay. I get up at four routinely, and I putter, with good effects (except for when Trump does something distracting, so about fifty percent of the 4 a.m. risings are productive, fifty percent a tragic wasteland--but even there, I get the trumpshit out of the way early, and before anything is really real). So far I'm thinking of it like a second puberty, except that puberty happened when I was an innocent, terrified child. I got through insane flux then when I was ill-equipped, clueless, and powerless; now it will happen on my terms to the extent that's possible, and it will be to my benefit whenever and however I can make it that way.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:10 AM on December 21, 2018 [14 favorites]


If you are in the DC area, I've gotten help from Dr. James Simon (not inexpensive though worth it for me). Check out their web page that I linked, because they have some helpful articles and resource links.

Also, HotToddy mentions Vagifem, which works well for a lot of people. It is worth noting that there is now a generic for this that works, and is a cheaper option.
posted by gudrun at 11:25 AM on December 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


Right, I’m actually on the generic and it’s fine. I was on the brand before and there’s no difference.
posted by HotToddy at 11:35 AM on December 21, 2018


Not that all of these things can't in some degree also be menopause, but because both of these things run in my family and tend to hit around the same age as menopause and you mention not having had consistent medical care, make sure you're not discounting everything instantly as that and get your thyroid and blood sugar checked.
posted by Sequence at 11:36 AM on December 21, 2018 [8 favorites]


Perimenopausal, and things which have helped me with symptoms:

- Changing up bed linens to address temperature fluctuations. I use a summer-weight comforter year-round, with blankets nearby to layer when necessary, and cooler, cotton percale sheets. The thermostat's in the mid-60s at night right now. For me, it's easier, cozier, and more conducive to falling back to sleep to add layers to warm up, rather than to take showers at 2 am trying to cool off. The fan sits on the floor and runs all night for its white-noise effects, but I'll re-position it to blow directly at the bed as needed.

- Chlorophyll supplements for the odor issue, and using a 'non-morphing' perfume oil very sparingly after morning showers. Examples: BPAL's Embalming Fluid smells like pink grapefruit soap; Nemat's Amber Musk smells like vanilla soap; neither offer much 'throw' at all (at least from the way I'm applying), but I smell consistently good to myself all day, and there are compliments after hugs.

- For the dry, itchy skin issue, I put a filter on the showerhead, and I dry-brush before showering or exfoliate with a Salux nylon cloth while in the shower. Before stepping out of the tub, while my skin's still damp but not dripping, I put on jojoba oil. (Avoid dripping the oil in the tub/stall; step out, and rinse the surface with a few squirts of dishwashing liquid and water if it happens.)

Omega-3 supplementation helps with dryness overall (skin, eyes, vaginal canal), and I think it helps my mood, too. Agree on cutting sugar for the thrush issue. For maintaining healthy sexual relations, maybe try getting your motor started on your own, right before a session with a partner?

Also, you mention body shame, so I'll be direct: use lubricant. Try out several different kinds (by yourself, with toys, with your partner, with your partner and toys), to figure out which work for you (meaning, which feel best, without aggravating thrush or causing dryness/itchiness later). If you use condoms, you'll want a lube that's compatible with your brand. And since your body is changing - if you've used lubricated condoms previously, or ones with spermicide, maybe switch to ones without to see if that helps with the current issues. Then use these with a compatible, stand-alone lubricant, so you can add more during the proceedings.

Jeez, this got long, but I wish you well. On preview - yep, get a thorough screening when you see the doctor. I have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and so does an aunt; I found out about mine in my thirties, but hers was diagnosed when she was in menopause and having terrible, overblown symptoms.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:41 AM on December 21, 2018 [7 favorites]


Put the skin oil of your choice in a travel spray bottle (like from the drugstore travel container section) and spray your hand and apply to self. That way you can keep it in the shower without getting/dripping it on the walls/floor, and you don't waste any and it lasts forever. I am particularly fond of the scent of Neutrogena's shower oil (and most drugstores with a good travel-size section will have it in 1oz bottles that last months, rather than buying the giant bottle) but also use jojoba scented with various BPAL fragrances or other perfume oils as my whims move me.

Dittoing the lubricant. Sliquid is my go-to, and you may want several formulae for use under various circumstances.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:16 PM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Couple of other things:

Soma has a line of sleepwear called Cool Nights. It's just rayon (or similar) but they do indeed feel cool. And the pajama pants come in different inseams!

I find that using a thinner blanket but having a heated mattress pad on somehow helps with my ability to regulate my temperature. Some other MeFite made the same observation once. So maybe check that out.

I'm just starting to get hot flashes and feel that it's a misnomer. They should be called FUCKING INCINERATION flashes. And they make me feel so angry! Heat = anger according to my body. So weird.
posted by HotToddy at 12:27 PM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Way on the other side of the rapids now, but remember it clearly, so clearly. I tend to have non-normal reaction to drugs, so I tried to stay away from immediately turning to medical solutions for the symptoms. Also, I was wary of continuing to medicate when I was sure that the symptoms would be random, and would be temporary.

What bothered me the most were the extreme, unexpected mood swings, foggy brain, hot flashes and heavy sweating - they weren't constant, of course, but they were very disturbing. Especially the extreme mood swings. They bothered the people around me, too.

What really counts is your attitude towards what you're going through. Young men go on vision quests when they're young to learn about themselves and the world, and to test themselves against adversity and fear. Old women can do the same thing when they go through menopause. For myself, I found myself sturdier and more sure of myself after the storm finally passed. I've always been fond of guys, but now I find old women are definitely more interesting than old men.

Ursula Le Guin wrote: "It requires fanatical determination now to become a Crone. Old women are the only people to have experienced, accepted, and enacted the entire human condition."

It will pass. And no more periods! Good luck.
posted by kestralwing at 1:40 PM on December 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


A dear friend recommended the How to Survive Menopause episode of the Unladylike podcast and it's a gem.

https://castbox.fm/ve/42863
posted by Space Kitty at 1:45 PM on December 21, 2018 [8 favorites]


Lube, experiment with different deodorant/antipersperant - I've found the clinical strength stuff works well but some of them have really vile scents. I keep little re-usable icepacks in freezer for the power surges when I'm not in bed.

Light weight bedding that gets thrown and and off all damn night. wicking nightgowns, layers for clothing. weed can help with the not sleeping or at least the getting back to sleep with insomnia. extra vitamin d3 helps with exhaustion and clarity for me. Def do get your thryoid levels checked. I like Weleda skin food for my face and Aveeno lotion for my hands and legs. I no longer drink red wine because it seems to make the hot flashes far worse. Fewer carbs in general seem to help with that and weight. I have been a staunch gym user for years and this has been incentive to push harder on that front but my waist is ever more elusive. Chopped my hair off because I was just tying it up all the time to stay cool. Someday it will settle down...
posted by leslies at 2:55 PM on December 21, 2018


If you can get to the point where you're up to talking to a doctor about HRT in the coming year, I highly recommend it. I'm in surgical menopause and under 40 so it was required for me, and we're fiddling with my dose still, but even so, I feel miles better than I did in the weeks between my surgery and starting HRT. It also stopped my hair loss and that was a huge deal for me.

Eye drops! Having never experienced dry eyes before, I thought my allergies were acting up until the mister told me that my eyes were leaking because they were dry. I actually suck at applying eye drops, so I bought the stuff that you spray on your eye lashes when your eyes are closed and then blink the stuff in.

Lube, and lots of it. The kind that worked before may not work now. Mine didn't and I wish I knew that beforehand.
posted by Ruki at 5:19 PM on December 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


Also going through perimenopause here. I tried keto for other reasons and, to my great surprise, found that it helped immensely with perimenopausal symptoms. Night sweats disappeared, periods returned on a normal schedule (not sure that that's a positive development), and overwhelming rage only appears the week before my period again. I think the increased fat consumption helps my body manufacture the hormones it needs to carry on. Eating higher fat also helps me eat lower sugar, which can't hurt. I know it sounds borderline GOOP-y, but I had no inkling that eating this way would help these symptoms before I started it.
posted by Barnifer at 7:18 PM on December 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


I perspired so much more than normal for a few months! I ended up using Certain-Dri for a while. Also agree that you should check thyroid levels. Many of my friends have had low numbers and benefitted by (very inexpensive) prescription.
Good luck. It sucks, but the worst parts generally die down in a few months if you're lucky.
posted by mmf at 7:20 PM on December 21, 2018


Seconding a restricted carb diet as a way to reduce mood swings drastically. I gave up caffeine too and feel much, much better overall. In perimenopause, I really couldn't handle large doses of carbs or caffeine as it turned out.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 8:56 PM on December 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


I’ve always had a sweating issue (I don’t sweat *a lot* but I always pitted my shirts no matter what nuclear option of antiperspirant I used) and the combination that I’ve found really does work is the Secret Clinical at night (whadayaknow, it works a lot better when used as directed) and regular Old Spice deodorant during the day (not antiperspirant). I hardly sweat at all, and my white shirts don’t get pit stains anymore.

Nth-ing Vagifem (twice a week here), lubricating eye drops (I use the Blink brand), and personally I’d try a visit with an endocrinologist, if there are any good ones you can tap. It’s a good idea to deal with menopause and hormone supplementation (however you decide to do that) and overall endocrine health if you have a gyn and an endo involved.

I personally get night sweats when I’m COLD. For me, the answer is actually more blankets and, also, pajamas, at least a long-sleeved top and frequently pants too. Why would I sweat buckets when I’m cold? No idea! But once I twigged to that, it became a lot easier to prevent. I also find that it’s easier to control my sleeping temperature when I use multiple thin blankets instead of one big comforter or duvet. I have a top sheet, a plush throw, a thin comforter with synthetic filling, another plush throw, and in the winter, a heavy cableknit/Sherpa throw. The benefit here is that it’s easy to fine-tune my blanket needs by adding or removing one, and each blanket fits in the washing machine, so if I *do* get sweaty, then laundry is easy.

For the hair, get a blood panel and check your thyroid, ferritin, hemoglobin, B12 and D. Ferritin should be at least 60, D should be between 20 and 80, etc. I went to see a dermatologist who focused on hair loss (she suffers from it herself) and here’s what their starting regimen is: Jarrosil liquid silica drops ($12 on Amazon, also makes your skin and nails really nice), Rogaine daily, iron if you’re low, and I just started taking spironolactone, which helps reduce androgen levels. They also suggest biotin but only if someone finds it to be effective. I’ve been treating this for two years and while it is an extremely slow, gradual process, I feel really fortunate that I’ve had excellent results. I definitely had/have a combination of contributing factors (genetics, hormone levels, stress levels, very low ferritin) and treating those things has been highly effective. And you can get most of that stuff over the counter, which is convenient. Even the spiro is quite inexpensive. I think my prescription cost about $6.

#agingisbullshit but the game ain’t over yet.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:00 PM on December 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


Perimenopause here, too.
I was utterly exhausted and often very emotional to the point I started to question my competence at work.
After a blood test turned out my insanely heavy periods were the source ans Iron supplements and vitamin b have helped in my case.
And being absolutely rigid about not missing my regular exercise ( in my case this is fencing, weight training, swimming) is the only way I manage to cope.
Finally id say I have to give myself permission to relax and make demands on my own behalf, and that has been tough, but valuable.
posted by chapps at 10:05 PM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Fucking menopause. As if everything from the onset of puberty wasn't enough, now we have to put up with this ridiculous shit at the end of our fertility.

You may suffer the horror of hot sweats which is not in the least bit funny, regardless of what menopausal women in the past may have said. Your periods will be unpredictable. You may possibly get rather tetchy. You will still be you, but you might be a bit crankier for less cause than last week/day/hour.

I'm in the midst of it myself (can you tell?) and all I keep thinking is that this too shall pass and I'll be myself again soon but less sweaty.
posted by h00py at 4:16 AM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Hey, leslies mentions red wine as a hot-flash trigger, and Sheydem-tants gave up caffeine - you may want to keep a food and drink diary for a few weeks, to see if any pattern emerges for you.

For me, tannins, found in red wine and in a lot of caffeinated stuff, cause flushing and sweating. (Hot weather is a reliable trigger now, too; heat waves can be downright disorienting.) As a super-keen bonus, tannins also irritate my bladder and spur multiple trips to the bathroom over the course of 2-3 hours. Nowadays I drink caffeinated, but allegedly low-tannin, guayusa tea almost every day. Similarly, I've had no issues taking the occasional 100-200mg caffeine tablet.

Triggers are individual. So far, mine are as above, but yours might be caffeine, or certain spicy food, or stressful situations. If the tracking diary does point to a beloved substance (hot cocoa, how could you do me like this), don't despair. This is a period of transition. Anything you eliminate in this phase will be re-introduced when the coast is clear. Remember, the glory of headnsouth's IDGAF-dom years await!

Above all, please be kind to yourself.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:55 AM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


My mother suffered hot flashes until she was 90. I am on HRT, have been for 15 years, can't go off without bursting into flames at night (I've tried). I also take synthroid. Don't take it for granted that you must suffer. Get proper care.
It absolutely boggles my mind that people take better care of their pets than of themselves.
posted by Enid Lareg at 11:21 AM on December 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


As a breast cancer nurse, I work with a lot of women who are being put into menopause as we artificially suppress their estrogen levels for cancer treatment. Here's a great resource from our local progressive sex shop, about lube options for people with low estrogen. It's 10 pages of well-researched info in a fun format:

https://badvibesdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/lube-guide-low-estrogen-edition.pdf

One key takeaway is to avoid any lubes with sugar (glucose, honey, maltodextrin, glycerin) in the ingredients list, because they actually dry the tissues out, and they also increase the risk for yeast infections. This means most of the options at your local drugstore are not so great, but there are tons of options you can order online or get at a nicer sex-toy store if you have one locally.
posted by vytae at 1:36 PM on December 24, 2018


Quote: "By not smelling like yourself, I assume you mean vaginally."

Not the OP but here's my experience. That's definitely part of it, but I noticed that even my normal armpit smell was different. Also that I sweat a LOT more in other places (under the boobs, on my scalp, and on my butt especially). I started using a non-antiperspirant deodorant, which seemed to help (I don't understand why, but ok) and I also use a natural lavender spray-on deodorant on other non-armpit parts of my body that are giving me trouble.

I have been dealing with menopausal symptoms for almost 10 years now. I went into perimenopause quite early (early 40s) and finally stopped getting my period completely before I was even 50. I have suffered!

Things that have not been a problem for me:
Surprisingly, vaginal dryness. No issue at all. Shocked.
Reduced sex drive. Quite the opposite, really. May be related to the above.
Problems, and how I've dealt with them:
Hot flashes: sleeping in very little (no more flannel nightgowns), lighter weight bedding (e.g. blankets), dressing in layers when possible, keeping a little USB fan on my desk next to my PC to turn on as needed, prescription for Effexor (also helps with anxiety etc.).
Acne and weird chin hairs: prescription for Spironolactone, very low dose. This is an off-label use for a blood pressure medication and it works really well.
Dry skin: skin brushing, frequent moisturizing, sticking with known body washes that won't cause irritation.

I'd say that out of everything, hot flashes are my worst problem, and for me, they've gotten worse since I entered actual menopause, which disappointed me. I wish I could do HRT, but about 8 years ago, I had to go off the BCP because of pulmonary embolism. After recovering and once I was done taking blood thinners, I was tested by a specialist who determined that I don't have any clotting disorders, and the only thing that caused my blood clots was the hormones in the pill. So, no HRT for me. :(

It's certainly challenging, but I try to see the positive sides of it too. Like not having to worry about when I'm going to get my period anymore, being able to have sex whenever we want without worrying about birth control, no more cramps, and no more hormonal migraines.

I firmly believe if men had to go through menopause, there would be lots more treatments for the symptoms. Oh well.
posted by Groovymomma at 7:23 PM on December 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Please, can someone tell me, what the hell is GOOPy?! (Sorry, should I not ask that here?)
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:04 PM on December 26, 2018


goop, Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle brand that dishes out whitelady Wellness bullshit like vagina steaming and meditation to deal with the stress of your Balinese vacation.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:28 AM on December 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


It's one of those secret coven of middle age things you don't find out until you get there but nightsweats don't smell like normal sweat. I legit REEK. Like, I offend myself, it's that bad.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:57 PM on December 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


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