Can perimenopause make you feel like you’re going crazy?
Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and then take a stab at answering it. Today we’re going to do something a little different, though, because this is a question I’ve wondered about myself–and I’d love some of your input! In a nutshell, it’s this: Can perimenopause make you crazy?
A reader writes:
It’s not just the physical stuff that perimenopause brings but also the emotional and mental stuff as well – sometimes extreme irritability, brain fog, at times depression or very negative thinking about life and loved ones. It’s those emotions that seem to fluctuate with my cycle that I have a hard time dealing with. As a Christian, I find a lot of my thoughts at those times very un-Christ like, and even downright lousy – but as as Christian, I feel like I must be doing something wrong to be having such a horrible mindset. Can’t really say that I am “Spirit-filled” when I’d like to thwack my husband with a frying pan because he asked me what’s for dinner and I’m thinking he’s implying that I’m not doing my job right! It’s not so much the physical (tons of information on that and trip to doctor in the future), but everything else that I’ve been struggling with lately. It’s sorting out what’s pushing me towards the “crazies” vs. what’s really coming from sinful nature instead of Christ in me.
Or, if I could paraphrase, what she’s really asking is this: Is the “hormones made me do it” a valid excuse for a Christian?
As someone who is rather hormone-ravaged myself I’d like to think this one through. So let me tell you a bit of my story, and give you my thoughts, and then invite you all, especially some of you older readers who have been through this, to chime in!
What is Perimenopause?
Basically it’s that transition between having your regular cycle and then menopause coming. It can start as early as 35, and you can be in perimenopause for up to a decade before you actually start full-blown menopause. Doesn’t that sound lovely?
What Are the Symptoms of Perimenopause?
Let’s talk physical first. You would think that if perimenopause is that in-between time separating fertility from menopause that it would be a gradual “slowing down”. But for many women it’s not. It’s like nature decides to have one last Hurrah! Periods which were every 30 days like clockwork can start coming every 25, every 22, even every 21. And instead of lasting 4 days they can last 7. And you can feel like you’re hemorrhaging every time. Your flow often gets heavier (that’s why Super Plus Plus tampons were invented, I’m sure.) You start getting paranoid about leaking at night. Let’s just say I’m a tad bitter.
By the way, if you start having these symptoms, you should see your doctor just to rule out blood clots or anything like that! And get your iron checked.
Or you could do the opposite, and have your periods slow down and get lighter. You can start to experience a lot of fatigue, almost like the first trimester of pregnancy (when it’s hormonal, too). You can get vaginal dryness and a decreased libido.
And what about the mental/emotional symptoms of Perimenopause?
It’s like PMS on steroids. You’re really moody and extremely easily irritated. You have frequent brain “farts” when you just can’t remember basic things. You can get really weepy.
So…Can I Blame it on the Hormones?
That’s a tough one, and I guess I’d say that if the symptoms are so bad that you really can’t control them, and you feel severely depressed or way too angry, you should talk to a doctor about it. I do know friends who have taken bioidentical hormones which have helped tremendously, especially with libido (and wanting to smack random family members). I don’t want to recommend anything specific, though, because I’m not a doctor, and I really think you should talk to someone who is before taking medication or supplements.
Stay Aware of Your Cycle
That being said, let me tell you about what I’ve noticed with me. I just find that I get really angry and irritable, and stress that I could normally handle gets blown way out of proportion on the days right before my period or the first few days of it. And that’s not fun for anyone in my family.
I think the best way to handle this is to start paying a lot of attention to your body and chart your cycle–which of course is hard since one of the symptoms of perimenopause is that it’s irregular. Go figure.
But at least TRY to chart it, so that you can start predicting when you’re going to be moody. My oldest daughter and her three roommates have all downloaded this app that tracks your cycle and sends you messages (“You’re going to get a little irritable today! Beware!”) That’s not a bad idea. If you know that there’s a reason, and if you’re prepared, then when you do start to feel upset you can at least tell yourself, “this is temporary.” Or try to tell yourself, “I know I’m likely to be irrational today, so I’m just not going to start any fights.”
Those may be good days to plan to cook the frozen pizza for dinner and give yourself a bit of a lighter day.
And if you do get irritated at your husband, remember that it’s probably just hormones (remember the post I wrote on the Trigger Points for Conflict?). Don’t try to win any argument or make a point. Why not agree to talk about the issue in two days when you’ll likely be a little more rational.
Another thing: Tell your family. I think if we warn people, they’re more likely to understand, and they may even be able to talk you down. “I know you’re stressed, Mom, but why don’t you try to figure out how to rearrange your schedule tomorrow, and right now we’ll just go to Dairy Queen and get a Blizzard?”
Now I’d like to hear from all of you: has perimenopause been bad for you? Or is PMS bad in general? How do you handle it so that you don’t take it out on your family?