Mental Health Personal Women's Health

How my tremendous mood swings taught me about perimenopause

Could it be perimenopause? I have been experiencing tremendous mood swings in the past months together with a feeling of overwhelm and physical fatigue. Not only that, but my sleep patterns changed. And during the day I would experience many episodes of poor concentration and brain fog.

This has affected not only my general perception and quality of life but also my work. After a very nice productive summer, my energy shifted tremendously and I could barely focus on what was really important to me. Not to say that I am still in process of actually clarifying things around my business direction and plans for the future, and how I really want to live my life.

But let’s talk a little about what made me write this article, as I feel my experience might be helpful for you too.

Let me give you a little context:

My menstrual cycle had always some fun personality. Since I first got my first period, I experienced extremely heavy bleeding that would simply not stop. I was put on hormonal medication since I was 11 – which helped me randomly. Later I was diagnosed with PCOS and at 16 I was put on the pill that gave me peace of mind and a huge relief for many years. I cannot praise enough how much the pill helped me. I took it until I turned 37, with a 5 years break when I was trying to conceive with my ex-husband – luckily this never happened – but this is a story for another time πŸ™‚

2 years ago I fell ill and after almost a year of suffering and life-saving surgery, I felt much better. My cycles became regular, not too heavy, not too painful. Just a mild reasonable experience as it should be. My latest scan in December 2019, however still showed the presence of polycystic ovaries, so nothing changes dramatically in my hormones.

I turned 41 in October and this year I experienced for the first time some physical and emotional changes.

Here are my perimenopausal signs that you might have too

Irregular menstrual cycles

This lasted until this year when I noticed my period calendar has changed. I could never predict my period again. Sometimes a full cycle would last 41 days, other times just 30. I did not pay much attention as knowing that as a teenager I suffered from irregular cycles, I only thought I returned to my ”normal” imbalanced hormonal state. ( Who on Earth would think about menopause?)

It didn’t bother me much until I started to experience other symptoms. Please keep reading as you might discover some of yours…

Heavy bleeding and long periods

If in the past 2 years after my surgery I experienced reasonable bleeding during periods, this year my periods became much heavier. Also, they tend to be much longer and do not seem to stop. It reminded me of my teenage years, however, I am not a teenager anymore…

I manage my heavy bleeding with herbal remedies that helped a lot – I’m going to write about what I take in a separate article.

Tremendous mood swings: from happy and peaceful to angry, irritated and tearful

If my physical symptoms made me think I was experiecing my ‘normal’ hormonal imbalances, my mental and emotional symptoms really made me aware that must be something else in books for me at this time.

My mood is normally positive and uplifting and I am generally an optimistic, peaceful, resilient person. For some inexplicable(?) reason I felt not like myself this year. And I am sure it wasn’t the global pandemic to blame as I felt it actually made me MORE resilient in my normal moments.

But Gosh, my moods will be all over the place. I would wake-up happy and optimistic, full of plans and ideas for the day to switch to feeling tearful, hopeless and extremely tired in just minutes. Sometimes I would feel angry without even knowing who am I angry at. Just like an intense tension in my body and psyche that controls me and confuses me. These can last minutes, or hours, them switch to fatigue and tiredness.

What made me realise something wasn’t quite right was this sudden change in my mood that was stable before, to move into experiencing this rollercoaster of changes during just one day.

Perimenopause – some other physical changes

The emotional changes were by far the most obvious, but I also experienced some physical changes that made me aware that something is now different:

  • weight-gain – this year I reached my highest weight and despite my body shape did not changes significantly, I put a lot of weight on my abdomen. A little more than expected to be honest. I have to confess I wasn’t the most careful with food at times, but I didn’t change much my eating and movement habits – however, I now weight some more pounds than last year
  • poorer sleep – I used to sleep like a baby the whole night, but now I wake-up during the night, sometimes I find it difficult to fall back asleep and then I would sleep late during the day to compensate
  • the skin around the eyes is less firm – I started to have some more visible wrinkles around my eyes – and when I apply my eye cream the skin feel less firm and elastic than before. Now the fine wrinkles appeared earlier, but just this year I noticed so clearly the difference in my skin elasticity

Is it really perimenopause?

To be honest with you this is what I asked as I thought menopause happens after 5o or so. I did lots of research and also asked around in my online community to find out that MANY women started to experience the transition symptoms in early 40’s.

I cannot answer for sure for myself just yet as I know I also suffer from PCOS too. I looked into the symptoms and I learned that hypothyroidism gives similar symptoms. I remember my blood tests showed years ago that I had a mild hypothyroidism but I never address it with medication. And since I moved in the UK I stopped consuming iodised salt as this is not the standard here – and this might affected my thyroid hormones.

So I do not have a 100% sure answer for myself, but I’ll continue my research. Some blood tests may help too πŸ™‚

What is perimenopause and how long it can last?

Perimenopause is a stage of transition from the reproductive years to the resting years in a woman’s life. This stage starts normally in your 40’s but some women can even experience changes in their late 30’s ( as an exception).

Perimenopause can last between 2 and 10 years until a women reaches menopause and comes with many physical and emotional changes. I explained in this article the changes I experienced myself, but there are many more ( well known are hot flashes, night sweats, changes in sex drive, pelvic infections)

Can you get pregnant during perimenopause?

YES – and it’s unpredictable! Everything you learned about your menstrual cycle and your ovulation doesn’t apply anymore.

Despite fertility decreasing during perimenopause, the ONE thing you HAVE to be aware is that you CAN get pregnant during perimenopause and everything you learned about your ovulation and your fertile days is no longer valid (because the hormones do not work in the same way they used to).

Due to hormonal changes in your body, you might have months when you don’t ovulate at all, or you might have months when you ovulate twice. This happens randomly, so there’s nothing to predict what is going to happen. So, if you do not want (more) children, be particularly careful during this time as the natural fertility method of birth control is no longer valid.

I hope you found this article helpful, I plan to write more like this with my own experiences and also what works for me and what doesn’t in managing this new stage of life.

What I would love to say is that despite being a little scared, I am also excited to embrace a new stage of life, of transitioning into the wise crone. I know, it’s a journey πŸ™‚

Many blessings and if you have any thoughts, questions or anything to share please do so in the comments below.

Amelia xx