I’ve read quite a bit about all the various mental and physical symptoms that come with menopause and my main takeaway is that nearly everything regarding this transitional period of life for women remains very very dark-magic mysterious to the medical community and that my generation probably isn’t going to reap any major research benefits/solutions.

At least menopause is somewhat acknowledged now, sort of. But who can make sense of how to find a doctor who gives a shit, how to decide whether hormone replacement therapy is going to help you or kill you, and how to determine whether symptoms such as, say, waves of crippling anxiety are related to menopausal transition or *gestures vaguely* modern life?

I have a LOT of anxiety these days. I guess I always have, but it feels more physical now. It often hits me early in the morning and drives me out of bed. A sort of clutch in the chest, a nonstop background thrum of oh dear, oh dear.

I read a book recently where the character described this feeling perfectly: “My heavy heart told me there was something to worry about before my mind caught up with exactly what that was.”

There’s certainly no shortage of things to worry about but I’m not sure if what I’m feeling is the result of my thoughts or my hormones or a big bummer combo plate. Maybe it’s the midterms maybe it’s parenting teenagers maybe it’s the still-happening pandemic maybe it’s Elon Musk maybe it’s my waistline maybe it’s rollercoastering estrogen levels maybe it’s—

Here’s a comprehensive list of what I’ve been doing to help myself feel better:

• Jack
• Shit

Okay. That’s not completely true. I see a counselor, I do yoga, I read self-help malarky of all kinds, I sometimes eat a cruciferous vegetable instead of a Toaster Strudel. I continue to stay away from the damaging substances I relied on for years.

But I still drink caffeine even though it sends me STRONG messages that our beautiful long-term relationship really has run its course, I consume way too much sugary/processed crap (often in the evening which for sure fucks up my already no-good sleep), and the scrolling. The SCROLLING. I really can’t seem to get a handle on my worst current habit of all, which is skimming “news” on the reg.

I have spent most of my life making choices that weren’t serving me or helping me be my best self, and I suppose if nothing else I am consistent, here at nearly 50. But I really hope that 1) I am lucky enough to live beyond this in-between-everything stage, and 2) I’ll be able to look back on my midlife years with empathy and love, the way I look back on my fretful early-parenthood years, knowing that things really did get better.

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cindy
cindy
1 month ago

Perimenopause has been one giant ball of suck. I had anxiety too but didn’t connect it to perimenopause until I read the book What Fresh Hell is This. Now I’m on a mission to tell other people how many physical symptoms are associated with the transition. Estrogen affects your serotonin and dopamine levels, so when it drops dramatically (like, say, after childbirth or during perimenopause) it can crater the shit out of your feel-good chemicals. Suicide rates rise dramatically or women in their 40s and 50s, and this is potentially why. It’s not taken nearly as seriously as it should be by the medical community. Most doctors get a whole fucking HOUR of menopause education during their years of doctor training. You do not need to suffer though. Hormone replacement therapy isn’t the Big Bad it used to be thought of as, and it has helped me SO MUCH. There is a window of safety in which you can use HRT – as long as you’re within 10 years past your last period or under the age of 60. If you don’t have a personal history of breast cancer, please ask your doctor about it. Speaking of doctors, if you’re in North America, you can find a menopause specialist here: https://portal.menopause.org/NAMS/NAMS/Directory/Menopause-Practitioner.aspx

Lisa
Lisa
1 month ago

How do you have my brain, when I still have my brain?? It’s uncanny!
I’m 50 and I don’t have a lot to offer, in the way of help, but the peri menopause (look how spellcheck did that!) is no joke. I started a very low dose of estrogen and progesterone six months ago and it’s helped some.

KDC
KDC
1 month ago

I always love your writing. Beautifully put!

Keri
Keri
1 month ago

I highly recommend Dr. Aviva Jill Romm. She has GREAT resources (and a book!) on women’s health. Please check her out on IG @dr.avivaromm and her website: https://avivaromm.com/.

Charlene
Charlene
30 days ago

Anxiety sucks. I have issues going on and chalked up to menopause. We lowered my thyroid dosage and cut the anxiety in half. Just a thought. Hopefully it eases up soon

angela
angela
29 days ago

Chiming in to say you are not alone with, well, all of these symptoms. The morning anxiety has been just fucking relentless for months now, making me think my anxiety/depression med has stopped working. I am going to take Cindy’s advice (thank you Cindy!) and reach out to our family medicine clinic to explore a lil bit of hormone therapy.

MCW
MCW
29 days ago

Waving from the Team Menopause side! I went through peri-menopause in my late 30s and my ovaries gave their last puff of smoke at age 41, a few years ago now. Dr. Jen Gunter has a book (Menopause Manifesto) I enjoyed and addresses the medical stuff with science-based information. She also is on IG and makes short videos about GYN stuff and menopause. Plus she was on Samantha Bee’s show so you know she has a feminist take and is pretty awesome.

Cara
Cara
29 days ago

Have you read the Menopause Manifesto? It’s a dense read, but filled with practical information that I found really helpful.

Barbara
Barbara
28 days ago

I love your bulleted list! All the same here. Except for me, it’s widening hips instead of the waist (solid pear shape, ha).

Shawna
Shawna
28 days ago

So here is my deal: I’ve been on birth control pill every single day for many years, and I’m on my last pack now before I have to have my prescription renewed but I turned 50 this month and have a “you’re 50 now – what sort of undignified tests do you have to start having” checkup appointment with my doctor tomorrow and I’m TERRIFIED she’s going to refuse to renew my pills because of my age. If that happens I can say goodbye to reduced hormonal migraines, even, predictable moods, no periods on vacations, and and clear skin, and possibly hello again to anemia (and accompanying hair loss).
Am I perimenopausal? Yes. I have chin hairs and body-shape changes even with the artificial hormones. But I want to keep taking my pills until I’m firmly on the other side of menopause, thank you very much.

Shawna
Shawna
25 days ago
Reply to  Shawna

She renewed my prescription! Says she’s okay with it for another 2 years!

Nine
Nine
26 days ago

I’m 48 and about 2 days away from Shark Week. Usually I’m starving and pissed off and weepy and anxious and pretty sure my impending-shark migraine is actually a brain tumor.
This month I’m…ok? But I recently watched a Taylor Tomilson bit about the drastic changes of going off hormonal birth control and it was SO RELATABLE. So this week I’ve decided we are all just bags of meat and blood and chemicals trying to logic our way out of our base monkey needs and it’s like the biggest cosmic joke. I’m not sure that’s an improvement over my usual PMS Fun Timez ™ but existential dread is on brand for me.
Linky: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/q0jQPfiLiWg

Sarah
Sarah
23 days ago

i’ve also been fully assimilated into a TikTok old lady; maybe search menopause there and see what comes up?

Pat Birnie
Pat Birnie
9 days ago

Just to put your mind at ease, perhaps. I am fortunate to have never suffered from anxiety or depression (All of my 3 siblings have been treated)- however… I started menopause at 40ish with hot flashes and night sweats, haven’t had a period since 2004 yet regularly am bolted awake with a deep anxiety in my chest. It’s the effing hormones. I’ve learned to throw off the blankets (it’s always accompanied by major heat) and deep breathe for several minutes until it passes. Good luck. It’s no fun