By Marjie Killeen, Contributor- Midlife Wisdom
Hot flashes. Night sweats. Sleeplessness. Mood swings. Anxiety. Memory loss. Low Libido. It’s enough to make a woman crazy!
Historically, menopausal women were considered that and worse. In the Middle Ages they were burned at the stake as witches; in the 1700′s they were institutionalized as lunatics. Even today, many women view the phase so negatively, they avoid even thinking about it until they have to – usually when they begin experiencing symptoms.
As a result many of us are woefully unprepared for “the change.” But we don’t have to be. We owe it to ourselves to get educated about this time of life, and the film, Hot Flash Havoc, is a great place to start.
Hot Flash Havoc, produced by Heidi Houston, made it’s way to The Succulent Wife via the More Magazine Reinvention Convention and, as a woman who’s definitely in the throes of periomenopause, watching it was a revelation for me. I know more about what’s going on with my body and I’ve made educated decisions about what I can do about it.
I’m 48, and early last year, I started experiencing some of the typical symptoms of periomenopause – hot flashes, night sweats, irregular periods – but they would come and go. My gynecologist asked me if I’d consider taking estrogen, but I wouldn’t even discuss it.
“My mother had breast cancer and I know estrogen causes breast cancer and there is no way I’m going to increase my risk of that, “ I said adamantly. I figured I could just tough it out.
But over the last year things got worse. I had hot flashes all the freaking time, my body perpetually in an uncomfortably clammy state. I couldn’t sleep, I was bitchy, and, most disturbing of all, my natural optimism deserted me. I began feeling anxious and despondent. It sucked, both for me, and my family.
Then, I watched Hot Flash Havoc, and eureka! Not only was I not alone, there were cures.
There’s a huge amount of information in the film, along with touching and funny personal accounts from real women. But the most relevant thing for me was that the 2002 government study linking estrogen to breast cancer, the Women’s Health Initiative, has been discredited. For women in their 40s and 50s, the increase in breast cancer associated with hormone replacement therapy (i.e. estrogen) is negligible. In fact, estrogen is actually proven to help women, not only cope with menopause, but avoid osteoporosis and heart disease too.
Last month I went to my gynecologist, teary and upset about my wildly unpredictable physical state, and when she suggested hormones, I said “Yes Ma’am!” I’ve been on estrogen and progesterone (which reduces risk of uterine cancer) for two weeks now and I feel…. Better. I’m not completely free of all my symptoms, but they’re better. And – I’m so relieved – I’ve begun to feel like me again.
I’m not recommending that you take the drugs I take – every woman must make her own decision. But I am recommending that women over age 35 wise up about menopause – and Hot Flash Havoc was a great resource for me.