How familiar is this scenario to you? You’re cleaning the house and you find your partner’s socks under the couch. Rather than think, ‘Oh, some socks, hope they’re clean!’ before picking them up and moving on, you suddenly find yourself filled with incredible anger, you can almost feel it bubbling up like a volcano – how DARE someone leave their grubby stuff around the house? Who do they think they ARE? That’s it, I’ve had ENOUGH…. In fact, I’m going to throw these socks into the bin… then throw that bin at the wall and scream.’
If any of that resonates with you, welcome to the gang.
Here we are in perimenopausal rage – a delightful destination filled with tears, anger, broken crockery and confused family members. Right? And it’s very, very real.
Since I began going through my own perimenopause I’ve struggled to contain my emotions on numerous occasions. Indeed, just this morning I was thinking I could be up for an Oscar if I changed careers – I really could cry on cue if I were an actress these days, so close to the surface are my emotions.
Cats, dogs, baby birds, old men and a missed phone call all got me weeping this week, while toothpaste being left on the sink, crumbs on the bench, too much cat hair on the couch and always having to empty the overflowing washing basket saw me absolutely boiling over with anger at my husband, letting loose with an onslaught of swear words even I was surprised by.
It’s a torrent of emotion that just hits me, then recedes, leaving me apologising in its wake.
And I know I’m not alone.
One study found that for 70% of women of women, irritability is the “primary mood complaint” during the perimenopause. And for a lot of us, there is no warning.
It seems hormonal changes in combo with the stresses of getting older and sleeping badly (thank you, hot flushes and night sweats) are the winning combo indeed.
Yep, as our ovaries function less efficiently, that leads to imbalances in hormones, given that we’re producing less oestrogen. The less oestrogen we’re producing, the less serotonin we have – that’s the neurotransmitter in the nervous system which assists feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Those low levels of serotonin contribute to distress and high emotions, sleeplessness, anger, panic attacks, headaches, anxiety and even certain cravings. Add to the mix depletion in progesterone and testosterone and — woah! — you may feel symptoms of anxiety, lethargy, irritability and moodiness. I feel seen – anyone else?
Some experts also suggest that having strong premenstrual symptoms throughout your life may mean you’re more likely to experience drastic perimenopause mood swings. Those door-slamming teenage years are suddenly making sense.
Happy days, right?
On top of that, issues with our identity, femininity and relationships crop up as we go through this change in our lives – honestly it’s a mystery how any of us get through the often 10-year period of peri pain.
So what are the solutions? Well, fear not, there are some.
- Reducing stress may help in the first instance – practise self-care, take time out to breathe and relax, listen to some music, get some good sleep (if those night sweats allow!), walk in the park with a friend…
- Eating a diet filled with protein and omega 3 fatty acids can assist with mood swings.
- Regular exercise can help promote mental, emotional and physical health, as can avoiding smoking and alcohol.
- Trying some meditation and relaxation exercises can work – a spot of mindfulness can be very helpful in those times of immense rage.
- Talk to someone about your feelings – in one 2017 study, researchers found that women with both diabetes and menopausal symptoms benefitted from group counselling, while Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help you to develop practical ways of managing problems and offer new coping skills and strategies.
- Talk to your doctor about medication. Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) can reduce symptoms, and may also be combined with antidepressants for a short period to help you through.
Whatever your choice, remember – while we can’t control the fact that we are going through perimenopause, we can actually control how we feel about it.
And this too shall pass — just try not to throw anything valuable, OK?