I have now been on HRT for around 7 weeks and things keep improving for me on the whole. I am constantly amazed at how many parts of my body were effected by the fluctuation of hormones. I am so grateful that I didn’t have to battle my doctor to be put on HRT. I can honestly say the last three years have been utterly miserable with all the symptoms I have been suffering that just went crazy once I stopped taking the contraceptive pill back in December 2019.
My main reason for starting HRT was to see if it would stop or reduce the migraines that had increased from one a month when on the pill to 3 a week when I was no longer taking it. The difference has been remarkable. I have had a couple of “migraines” without aura’s but they haven’t been as intense as my pre HRT ones and the Sumatriptan do knock them on the head ( pardon the pun ) really quickly. Migraines now are something I can live with and not something I need to be ruled by, I couldn’t make plans without having to bring my migraine grab bag with me. Even if I was post migraine I was suffering from the after effects, so that it meant I only had one day a week where I felt like I was fully functional or at least functioning at my normal pre coming off the pill level.
The anxiety I suffer with has massively reduced, I still have the odd panic but it is nowhere near the totally paralysing fear I was dealing with since 2017. I have noticed a massive improvement in my overall mood as well. I hadn’t listened to music, either on the radio or by putting a CD on since Frankie passed away on 29th December 2018. I was listening to a vinyl record when he had his neurological even that let to us making that awful decision that every pet owner knows and wishes would never happen. It wasn’t a conscious decision not to play music, I would sing along to music whenever Mr Myasthenia Kid played music videos on the TV but to actually go and put music on or listen to it, just the once or twice when I found some music I really loved. But then after a while the desire to listen went away again.
A massive indicator of my mood has always been my desire to listen to music, I am not a one band or one genre only kind of person. I love pop music so you will hear me singing my heart out to anything by Katie Perry or Brittany Spears. I love the bands U2, Travis, Cold Play, Radio Head, Snow Patrol and James. I like some of the metal and rap that Jay plays, I also like opera and classical music. So to not sing or bop along to music is quite odd for me and I didn’t realise what a long time it had been since I really listened to music by choice not just because I happened to be in the room when it came on. Music was a huge part of my teenage years, again I had very eclectic tastes but I seemed to have lost that in the last few years. Now everyday I have music on, I tend to listen to Absolute 80’s . I really love the music from my youth and will sing along to my hearts content. I am quite shocked by the difference HRT has made to my mental state and that I have got some joy back and that things don’t seem so bleak and overwhelming as they did previously.
I just wish when I had been to the doctors in 2017,2018, 2019 about my anxiety and mood they hadn’t just increased my antidepressants, yes I had been through some pretty awful trauma but the anxiety and low moods were so much more than that. I had no clue that depression and anxiety could be linked to the menopause. I don’t think many women do, so how many of us are being given antidepressants which are an absolute ballache to come off, when it is in fact our hormones that are causing the issue. It is also sad that on all those occasions I saw female doctors and whilst they were sympathetic and understanding whilst I spent the majority of the appointment in tears none of them thought that maybe what I needed was HRT. Now at some point in the future I will be looking to reduce my antidepressant, which is also probably behind my weight gain. Deep Joy as I have been through the experience of reducing antidepressants before and it is an utterly horrific experience. No one is told how awful coming off these meds are when they are prescribed them. Yet HRT comes with a warnings list as long as your arm.
Another symptom that I had no clue could be caused by the menopause was dry skin. My skin has been terribly dry for several years and no moisturiser would work as it would sink in and disappear. My physiotherapist used to say whenever I had an appointment she couldn’t get over how dry my skin was, making me feel a little self conscious because it wasn’t anything that I could do about it as nothing worked. I didn’t realise until very recently that this could be another symptom. But then again I didn’t know acne could also be a symptom, for the last few years I have had bouts of cystic acne, pimples all on my chin. Having not really suffered with acne as a teenager I have found the bad skin really difficult to deal with. I would end up whenever I left the house having to at the very least cover my spots with concealer and powder, even if I knew I wasn’t seeing anyone I knew. If I was seeing people I did know that meant a full face of makeup and praying that the livid purple cystic acne lumps would break free of their concealer prison whilst I was out. I am not massively vain, you kind of lose your dignity and your vanity when you are chronically sick but acne in my 40’s really did a number on my self confidence. It wasn’t just the fact it was painful it was also the fact that nothing I did seemed to help. I took vitamin B5 for a year….nope, I changed skincare regimes to Tropic Skincare and whilst that did reduce the number of outbreaks and redness it didn’t get rid of the acne completely. I feel awful for having my self confidence destroyed by having a max of 4 spots on my chin at any one time but it did and I won’t apologise for it.
Before I started HRT I had noticed I was losing a lot of hair, when it was being brushed or dried. Whilst I realise losing hair everyday is pretty normal, this was beyond normal, my legs would be covered in hair when I finished sorting my hair out for the day ( I tend to lean forward whilst sat on the bed when my hair is being done) . It was also obvious when Jay had hoovered by bedroom when it was becoming a close contest between Dembe and I whose hair he had picked up the most of! I practised cognitive dissonance with the hair loss, I knew it was happening but I told no one. I came up with excuses like I hadn’t conditioned it enough, my hair was over processed due to straightening irons. All of which I knew was untrue. It was only when my hairdresser mentioned that my hair line around my face had become considerably thinner that I had to say that I had noticed that my hair had been falling out. For my hairdresser to notice when she see’s me so irregularly it was a shock that I had lost that much hair. I am very lucky I have fine hair but an awful lot of it. After the first week or so of HRT I noticed that I wasn’t shedding as much hair, I was back to normal amounts now rather than handfuls. I have suffered hair loss previously when I was put on the medication Lamotrigine by my neurologist back in 2009-2010. I was putting my hand through my hair and handfuls were coming away. It is a rare side effect of the medication which made me come off it, plus I didn’t believe the diagnosis he had given me to put me on the medication.
On the whole HRT has been a positive experience, the only thing that came as a bit of a shock was getting a period two weeks ago out of the blue with no warning. Now just to remind people if you have not had a period for a year ( and you are in the menopause ) and you suddenly have a bleed or what you think is a period please get it checked out. Bleeding can be a sign of cancer so it is important you are properly checked over. I hadn’t gone a year without a period, I would have officially in the menopause on 7th December but that surprise visitor has thrown a spanner in the works. Thankfully due to the Facebook group I was in I knew that HRT could trigger the return of periods…deep joy. I just wasn’t expecting it as I hadn’t had my usual symptoms other than a 7lb weight gain overnight which was my usual water retention ( always has been between 5-7lbs) and a massive craving fro chocolate that I couldn’t work out why.
Pain wise it wasn’t too bad, it was uncomfortable but not enough to stop me getting on with pottering about. It was incredibly weird just because I hadn’t actually had a period for nearly 5 years!
I was told by my doctor when she prescribed HRT that it would take up to 12 weeks for it to reach it’s full effect so I am more than half way in and the improvements in mood, skin, hair loss have been mind blowing. I get maybe one hot flush a day now and I don’t have to change my clothes when it happens. I certainly don’t have to stand outside in the cold for five minutes waiting for the heat to subside – no fun at all during the heat wave as there was nowhere for me to go that was cool. I am also sleeping better as my sleep isn’t being interrupted by hourly hot flushes where I am drenched in sweat. However the thing I am most grateful for is the reduction in frequency and severity of my migraines. I didn’t realise how low they had made me feel and how I just felt like I was existing rather than living.
I am fully aware that menopause is an individual experience and whilst some people have positive experiences of HRT others can have negative experiences. I know I have been very lucky to have so many improvements with the first dosing level I have been given. To take HRT or not is an individuals choice and I am not pushing it on anyone just sharing my experience of menopause and HRT.