Recent Liveline episodes on the subject made Niamh Ennis realise that either a producer has been covertly listening to her recent complaints about aches and ailments or maybe, just maybe, she’s perimenopausal.
I consider myself a smart woman. I keep myself informed and am a dedicated consumer of all things current affairs. I’m media savvy and like to think of myself as having my finger firmly on the pulse. This is not a humble brag but a way of contextualising why the last few weeks have opened my eyes up to a whole new world. The menopause!
Like many reading this, I’ve listened back to the recent episodes of RTÉ Radio 1’s Liveline, where the women of Ireland stepped out from behind the shadows to share their experiences of menopause. Whatever you think of this talk radio format, there can be little dispute that presenter Joe Duffy and the Liveline team have done the country a service with the national exposure on an otherwise overlooked topic.
I listened, pen and pad in hand, as I resolved to gather as much information as possible for when I enter this ‘tricky’ time in my life. Forewarned is being forearmed and all of that!
My mum had experienced her menopause in her fifties so I didn’t to worry about anything until then. (I know reader, I know!)
I began writing down the more common symptoms that were being shared such as hot flushes, hormonal imbalance, missed or delayed periods, painful periods. No big surprises there, so far.
I was forced to recognise that the symptoms I had personally lived through and accepted as part of getting older were more likely because I was, and am, perimenopausal.
I continued on with the list which now included joint aches and pains, sleep problems, zero energy and extreme fatigue, lack of motivation, irritability, a desire to retreat, low mood, weight gain, brain fog, and it was then I started to feel a twinge of a “hang on a moment, here”. This was starting to feel a little too familiar.
This was turning into how I would describe the various aches and ailments I had experienced for the last 5 or 6 years. Listening to woman after woman speaking on the programme, I found myself nodding agreement with an awful lot of what I was hearing.
Conditioned into silence
After giving myself a few days to process all I had heard I was forced to recognise that the symptoms I had personally lived through and accepted as part of getting older were more likely because I was, and am, perimenopausal.
And this is the hands held up in a surrender-like motion, I hadn’t ever really understood what perimenopausal meant. I hadn’t for a moment considered that any of this was relevant to me.
I was too young for all of this. Far too young.
However dear reader.
I am 53.
Now, that’s not very bright of me, is it?
What on earth was I at these past few years? What was I thinking? Why didn’t I push it with my doctor?
So how did a smart, intelligent, articulate well-read woman get to this stage of her life and remain in such ignorance? Here’s why I can pin to down to
My friends and I discuss a lot, as a lot of women do, there really are no topics off-limits. We share what we need to and we know we won’t be judged for any of it either. But we have NEVER discussed menopause or perimenopause. I’m not altogether sure just why we didn’t, but I suspect it might be linked to this next point.
For as long as I can remember, an element of mystery and shame exists around this topic. It is something every woman knows they will experience but have repeatedly operated on the basis of “ignorance is bliss”. There are certain conversations that we are conditioned, since childhood, not to have and we seem to have chosen to be especially obedient about this when it comes to menopause.
For the last decade, I have blamed every ache, pain and discomfort on some minor health issues. I didn’t question my low mood, I thought it might be grief, which likely contributed. I didn’t challenge my fatigue, I thought that was Rheumatoid Arthritis I was diagnosed with in 2009. I had a response and a reason for every pain I felt.
I know this might sound daft but I had really become attached to the belief that I was never going to be healthy again and I just needed to accept that this was my lot. And so I did.
Changing my lot
In the summer of 2020 with the threat of Covid hanging over us all I knew I needed to ensure I gave myself the best to fight it, should I contract it, and so with the incredible professional help of a hypnotherapist, Dr Niamh, I succeeded in losing a considerable amount of weight which I am still feeling all the health benefits from now.
Listening to the radio these past few weeks felt timely, as I started to ask myself was it possible that all along, it might not have been just because of rheumatoid arthritis, but that I might instead be perimenopausal? And the evidence was stacking up. Not least the fact that I was 53! (I feel incredibly stupid even writing that here!)
What on earth was I at these past few years? What was I thinking? Why didn’t I push it with my doctor? Why didn’t I ask what did they think was causing my fatigue, low moods and pains? Why didn’t I Google it, or talk to my friends, or read up on it? Why do I hate having unanswered questions about the most inane topics but something so important I totally let slide?
Apart from the apparent embarrassment of having arrived at that stage of my life, did I really feel it warranted me to suffer in silence? Clearly, I did. But not any longer.
Instead, I now feel enormously relieved and more than a little empowered that I am finally now getting some answers. I feel an incredible sense of gratitude to the women who started this conversation in our national airwaves. Their courage and bravery in sharing their personal stories, I firmly believe will now go on to change the lives of future generations to come. That might sound like a very grandiose statement but in this case I would be willing to bet everything this is the case.
Thank you doesn’t seem enough.
But it’s a start.
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Founder of The RESET for Change 3 Month 1:1 Private Coaching Programme and host of The TOUGH LOVE ENERGY™ Podcast. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need.