Perimenopause and Chronic Illness

This guest post comes to us from Cathy Kramer of The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo (who is pretty much the most adorable person ever!).

Photo courtesy of Health Central

For many of us, our diagnosis came way too soon. Before our time we felt old, worn out, and tied to medications. Our bodies experienced changes due to our disease that we weren’t emotionally ready to handle. And just when we feel our bodies have experienced the worst, along comes perimenopause. According to Dr. Christine Northrup, perimenopause is the five to ten years leading up to menopause. For some women, it may even last 13 years.  (Please, no!!!) For me, perimenipausal symptoms started at around 45 years old with a few hot flashes in the morning. Three years later, I’m adding to the list of never-ending symptoms.

Talking to a few women my age, it appears the symptoms vary depending on who you are. One friend is several years older than me and hasn’t experienced any symptoms whatsoever. Another friend sees me at school fanning myself at 9:00 in the morning in an air conditioned building, laughs, and says, “You are where I was several years back.” With her, I want to ask every question I can because, to be honest, perimenopause feels a little lonely. Apparently, a lot of women feel uncomfortable talking about it. Not me. I have always prided myself on knowing my body well and right now, I have no clue how to help it or what it plans to do next.

Before I complain too much about perimenopause or scare young women away, I do want to confirm that there are amazing benefits to this phase of your life. 

Often times your relationships are solid or you have realized it is time to move on and are making new relationships, you are aware of your individual strengths as a person, professionally you are established, you might have finally found that spiritual balance you have been searching for, and if you don’t look in the mirror or see photos of yourself, you feel pretty darn proud of your accomplishments. It’s those photos that really weigh me down. Combined with medications for rheumatoid arthritis, I’ve gained a lot of weight and despite trying to lose it, it’s not going anywhere. I had many years where I limped everywhere I went due to a swollen knee and I thought that was bad. The difference is when someone sees you limping with a swollen knee due to an autoimmune system, it’s accepted. Sympathy even comes with it. Being overweight due to hormonal issues often just leaves people thinking you have “given up” on yourself.  I haven’t!

Body image in the bedroom has definitely been worse for me than my worst rheumatoid arthritis days. I am not ashamed to admit that I like sex, so even on days with extreme joint pain, it was worth a little more pain to move stiff joints around for the thrill that comes with an orgasm. Perimenopause is so different. Despite wanting the lights off now, you can’t because you have to see where you have put the lube. (If you have hit perimenopause, you know what I am talking about.)

Besides body image and sex issues, when you are part of the chronic illness world you have to also consider whether or not the supplements you experiment with will interfere with the medications you are on. I remember telling my young female rheumatologist that I was taking chasteberry to help my symptoms. She had no clue what I was talking about.

Again, you feel like this is a journey you are taking alone.

I don’t want to feel alone on this journey. For many of us, perimenopause, just like our chronic illness, is not going to be easy. We need to know there is support out there.

So, I am curious, how do you handle body image and sexual issues mixed with chronic illness?

Let’s unite and share.  For many of us, we are now in a new phase of life that is very different from other women because we have already faced so many hurdles with our individual diseases and many times the needs we have overlap and/or conflict.

 

Make sure to check out Cathy’s blog, The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo!

2 Responses

  1. 27 May 2016 at 10:41 pm

    Thanks for this post, you're right, I don't have many people to talk to this about so at times it's a lonely journey. I'm 56, have RA and on the other side of perimenopause. It seemed endless. I went through all the hot flashes, sleepless nights, brain fog, weight gain, etc. But after menopause, I feel much better. Diet seemed to help. If I eat products w/soy, I get really bad hot flashes. My gynecologist said soy helps some people, others have reactions to it, including hot flashes. Who knew? Other than that, I took an over-the-counter supplement called Estroven. I don't know if it was the placebo effect, but it really helped w/the hot flashes. I also meditate and practice yoga. They helped me immensely, on several levels but mainly making me more appreciative/aware of my body and helping me be more gentle w/myself. As for sex, I went through some low libido times, but I feel like we're back on track. Definitely need the lube, though. I saw this article about sex w/chronic pain by a woman w/RA. I was so happy to see it, it made me feel like I wasn't the only one going through this. http://www.oprah.com/health_wellness/Sex-Life-With-Chronic-Pain

  2. 28 May 2016 at 11:16 am

    Thank you SO much for this information. Sometimes I wonder if things will get better after menopause and it sounds like it does. I am working on improving my diet, feel like I have the spiritual stuff under control, and have started taking several perimenopause type supplements. I've seen Estroven, but I will read more into it. Thanks! Checking out the link right now.

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