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My secret diaries

I have written a journal on and off since I was a teenager. Deep in a drawer are several tiny leather bound journals from the 1980s where, in the smallest writing, I wrote about my latest heartbreak. Diary entries from my partying twenties were more sporadic. While notebooks from my sleep deprived thirties are filled with feeding and napping schedules.

The latest, midlife iteration of my journal writing is mostly here on the blog. But since my perimenopausal brain fog and mood swings set in, I’ve taken to old fashioned pen and paper, just to have somewhere to vent, privately.

Menopause isn't something to be ashamed of. We need to talk openly about it, so that sharing our experiences becomes normal and we can support each other.

Perimenopause and me

I recognise that I’m at the beginning of perimenopause and so far have got off lightly. My periods have changed in frequency and length, and I’ve only had a handful of hot flushes. The main impact for me has been emotional, which I described at length in my earlier post here.

My journal entries from the beginning of the year reflect this. They are rambling rants about going mad, paranoia, self-hatred. It’s a deeply pitying read.

Check out this entry from January for example:

I started writing a blog about happiness this week and then realised how disingenuous it sounded. I’m not living my best life. I’m demotivated, procrastinating and I’m so bloody tired. Haven’t gone to exercise class this week, can’t be bothered. I just don’t feel like doing ANYTHING. I’m taking afternoon naps. I’m filled with self-hatred. I’m lost in my own head.

February:

On the way to school this morning I nearly cried. Everything felt so bleak.

This was before I realised peri-menopause could be the cause.

Regular readers of the blog will have seen my involvement in the Femal #ExpressYourFemal campaign, to normalise the conversation about menopause.

You can read all about it here and watch a video featuring my fellow Femal ambassadors.

Menopause isn't something to be ashamed of. We need to talk openly about it, so that sharing our experiences becomes normal and we can support each other.

If menopause was a topic that the media, and in turn friends and family, were more comfortable discussing, I might have known that the low mood, anxiety, lethargy and loss of confidence I experienced at the start of the year could have been related to menopause.

Instead, I just thought I was losing it.

The trial

As part of the Femal campaign I’ve been taking their food supplement for four months now.

Femal is a new to the UK, once-daily food supplement which contributes to wellbeing during the menopause. It’s hormone-free, gluten-free and lactose-free. Its active ingredient consists of PureCyTonin® complexes (purified pollen extract), sourced from natural origins, and Vitamin E.

Femal has been used by women in Europe for over 20 years. After 12 weeks of using Femal, 93% of women believed that it was ‘very effective’ or ‘effective’ during the menopause.

Does it work?

I’ve been writing regularly in my mood journal to chart my progress. Clearly I was starting from a low bar. Femal works gradually, with positive effects usually kicking in after six to eight weeks if taken continuously.

So how have things changed?

One month in:

One month into the trial, I was still having big ups and downs. Manic episodes, angry arguments and self-loathing followed by emotional highs.

It’s been an emotional rollercoaster over the last few days. On Tuesday I went from stable to furious within ten minutes, just because Sainsbury’s dared to deliver my shopping 15 minutes early, when I was cooking dinner. I couldn’t cope with the multitasking, so by the time [Mr Maven] got home I was inexplicably angry with him.

Then today I was almost euphoric, had such a positive day. Reached agreement on some fundamental issues with my business partners; took delivery of some trousers that actually fit, and found £50 in a jacket pocket!! Obviously we’re all going to hell in a handcart because of Brexit, but I’ve had such a good day.

After six weeks…

…humour starts to creep in:

What a shit day. Charlie couldn’t walk this morning due to an ankle injury and while I was seeing to him, the dog snuck into our room and shat on the carpet. Had lunch out with partners and salad was so horrible I just ate two pieces of halloumicost £14. Also, I think we have mice.

And this:

Have had some really surreal and vivid dreams this week, including: a family of small rodents living happily in my ears. Not painful. Parasite and host are living together in perfect harmony.

Four months in:

It’s July. I’ve been taking Femal for around four months and I feel, well, stable. Not numb. Just ‘normal’.

I’m not living in a controlled environment, where I can isolate causes and effects. Shit happens. Work gets frantic, or dries up. The kids behave badly or bring moments of pure joy. Jeez, sometimes it just rains and I don’t feel like taking the dog for a walk. You get the picture.

I have good days and bad days and react accordingly. But my reactions are in proportion to the stimuli. I’m coping better with all of this life stuff than I was four months ago.

I have trouble sleeping, sometimes I’m demotivated, but the regular afternoon naps have goneI don’t need them anymore, even after a fitful night.

Evidence of how far I’ve comewhich I’ve only come to realise since re-reading all those diary entriesis that I haven’t written in my journal for over a month. I don’t have any unusual moods to record there.

And finally, let me finish with a couple of things that have been bugging me.

Menopause isn't something to be ashamed of. We need to talk openly about it, so that sharing our experiences becomes normal and we can support each other.

I am not too young

During my many conversations over the last few months, I have been surprised at the number of people who think I’m too young to be going through perimenopause. As if I must be mistaken. It’s this sort of comment that makes women recoil, not see a doctor, and just revert to thinking that they’re going mad.

The average age of menopause if 51, but for many women the symptoms of perimenopause begin in their early forties. Some unfortunate women go through menopause in their twenties. So I’m not too young. I’m not going mad. I’m perimenopausal. Get over it!

Menopause isn’t something to be ashamed of

Menopause is not a dirty word. Nearly 31 million women of menopausal age are currently employed, and up to 80% of them will experience menopausal symptoms. And that’s just the employed ones. That’s a lot of women trying to hide their hot flushes at work! Many of them will be embarrassed, even ashamed of their symptoms, because as a society we’re uncomfortable talking about it.

By talking about our menopausal experiences we can help and support each other. We can share resources, recommend therapies, explain what’s going on to our employers and know what questions to ask our GPs.

So share away. Overshare if you must, but please let’s talk about menopause.

Much love, Vx

If you want to find out more about Femal and the #ExpressYourFemal campaign, visit www.femal.co.uk/expressyour

Disclosure: #AD this post was written in partnership with Femal. Femal costs £26.20 for a one-month supply and is available from femal.co.uk