Kate Irvine is a 55 year old self-employed, married mother of two teenagers, with elderly parents, living near Banbury.
Kate started to experience perimenopausal symptoms aged 48 or 49. Out of the blue, Kate started to feel very anxious every month and started to experience many other symptoms too. Kate feels passionate about the need for women to be better educated about what to expect when the menopause hits.
Like many people, I’m someone who would occasionally worry about things, but was also used to being capable and able to cope when challenges arose. However, around five years ago I started to feel consumed by monthly feelings of anxiety, exhaustion and worsening PMT. My sleep also started to suffer as I experienced sweats at night.
There was no telling when the anxiety would creep up and get me, and for no obvious reason; once I was at a supermarket checkout and just wanted to run out. Bouts of inexplicable anxiety and panic attacks made me feel low and really knocked my self-esteem. I also experienced a series of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), which I had never had before and just generally didn’t feel like myself.
Seeking any kind of remedy for my symptoms – in particular to address my anxiety, I saw my doctor. We did speak about HRT and she said that it was there as an option if it was needed down the line. Although at the time I felt that HRT was in some way ‘wrong’, or ‘giving in’. She also suggested that I looked at a website where I read up on around 31 symptoms of the menopause.
To help manage my symptoms, I proactively changed my diet and used supplements, upped the levels of exercise and also drank less and things improved a little bit, but over time, my periods started to become more erratic, and I started to also feel more tired and experienced brain fog, which made it very hard to concentrate. As my PMT got worse I would snap at my kids for no reason, experienced bouts of intense rage at no-one in particular and my libido started to suffer. The final straw was when I started to get really bad aches and pains in my joints; particularly in my feet and big toes, which made it difficult to exercise.
Ever looking for answers, I first became aware of a GP and menopause specialist, Dr Louise Newson, thanks to a book by Allison Pearson. Having managed to get an appointment with Dr Newson, I started a mix of oestrogen gel and progestogen, coupled with a small amount of testosterone cream. Some friends looked horrified when I told them and brought up cancer risks, but I soon realized that the benefits to my health and wellbeing greatly outweighed the small risks (which are much smaller than women had been lead to believe in the past).
The testosterone has helped with my sense of wellbeing and also physical strength and in combination with the oestrogen gel has got rid of the ‘brain fog’. I have had no panic attacks since I started HRT, I rarely get headaches and most of my aches and pains have gone. I am also have much more energy and am nicer to live with (I hope!). I only wish I had started on HRT about 2 years earlier.
It’s now a year and a half since I started to use HRT, and my self-confidence really has been restored and I have a renewed sense of purpose, having previously been on a downward spiral. I am so focused on an array of new projects that I’d like to achieve. I literally feel like a new woman: or perhaps like the woman I was before the menopause!
I worry about how many other women might be experiencing similarly debilitating anxiety, being offered antidepressants rather than their GPs considering that it could actually be linked to a female hormone deficiency. Lots of women feel guilty about HRT and many still think it is linked to cancer, but I’m on a mission to talk about this openly, bust the myths and redress the balance. Furthermore, it’s important that our partners and children know what to expect – education is therefore key for everyone.