The truth about living with Menopause

by Allie Goulden

Let’s rewind. To where it all started. Oh, I don’t know when it started. I think I was around
mid 40’s I’m going to say. I’m already showing signs of Menopause as memory loss at its
finest! It was the boiling hot sleeps and hot flashes that were the initial indicators. So bad,
that I would wake up in wet sheets and then be freezing. I thought at first that I had a bug,
a chill or something underlying. Bring on the googling of symptoms. I do that every time
with anything vaguely medical. Just me? If you do, then you will know it is not wise, yet we
go back for more! There is never a good outcome, there’s always a bit that says, ‘something
more sinister, please see you GP’. How do you know what is sinister and what is not? And
the worst bit is, that’s your algorithms to pot, as that’s all your news feed says now. Lots of
bloody pages and groups to join……..menopause this and that, menopause weight gain for
the over 50, how to fast for weight loss in menopause, no energy in menopause, Pilates in
menopause, energising joint herbal drinks for menopause, No groups or pages for ‘constant
rage and over it’ though. Absolutely swamped. It’s no wonder we don’t know if we are
coming or going. Constantly LIVID.
So, within all the googling it was clear that I ticked quite a few peri-menopausal symptoms.
Already? I didn’t see that coming. As time went on, I realised that I was experiencing most
of the following – poor sleep, fatigue, joint pain (how do I know if this is arthritis or
menopause, or is it all just crammed in together), anger (more on that later), mood swings,
memory loss, poor concentration, low libido (let’s talk about sex baby, you know how the
song goes!) and absolute crippling brain fog. Zero clear thinking. Who am I? Where am I?
What day is it? Endless. Whilst it gets banded about, no one warned me about all this.
Boom, it’s there! It became apparent that through discussion with friends usually with
alcohol involved, that we were all experiencing some similar crossover. Also, a total light
weight with alcohol now too. Saves money, silver lining. My friends were all googling too.
So, I took myself off to the GP. Not so much a lovely chat, more of an offload rant. Luckily,
she was very tuned in and must have seen so many other women just like me. She
suggested HRT patches. Right excellent, I’ll do it! Straight in with the Everol 50’s (my soon
to be best friend) If you know, you know.
I literally paced around waiting on the prescription. Then came the devastating news that
they were out of stock! They would be another 6 to 8 weeks. I can tell you now, the day I
got my hands on them, I ripped 2 patches out of the box and slapped them on. And waited.
Obviously expecting instant results. Thankfully, my husband interjected. “Did you read the
instructions?”. No. “Let me see the instructions”. Right. “You only need one patch, look,
you’ve to alternate and leave on for so many days and then switch, so let’s start again”.
Honest to God, the faff, but also thank God, for him and his reasoned brain.

After about 2 to 3 weeks, I felt a shift in many symptoms, no idea if it was the placebo effect
or not, but something was working. I didn’t care what it was, but it felt better. There were
a lot of people who were glad of this, not just me. I was also flinging myself into cold water
at every give opportunity as there is evidence to suggest that this also helps many of the
symptoms. Already the water baby, so in I went and with pals sometimes too, who were
experiencing similar things. It helped. You can try it, even if you hate the cold. I mean,
don’t knock it until you’ve given it a bash.
I’ve written a separate blog dedicated to Outdoor swimming and Cold-Water Therapy, so let
me get into this a little now, particularly for the sceptical amongst us. So, I’ve used HRT
patches and tablets, which were good for me. However, with all the swimming, the patches
would not stay on, so I switched to gel. I will say that you do need to experiment with what
works for your own body as we’re all different. Whether you want to take conventional
medication or lean heavily to a more holistic approach, let me talk you through the benefits
of Cold-Water Therapy.
As a rule, I use a mixture of medication and the great outdoors to help with Menopause
Symptoms. Mostly I’d be lost if I didn’t have outdoor swimming and cold water. Nothing
beats the thrill of driving up to a location, be it new or my old friendly favourites and
checking out if its choppy or sublime, if the trees are blowing in the wind or if there is sun
and stillness. It just never disappoints. And either way, I’ve never come out of the water
feeling that there were no benefits.

Seriously, water and nature have long lasting benefits for body and mind. I feel rubbish if a
few days go by, and I can’t get in. And the laughs! Oh, and the swearing, as you wade in.
Laughing is also the tonic so getting both and I’m almost sorted for a full 12 hours. You can
do this alone, and enjoy the solitude if you are seasoned, used to the cold and conditions
and safety aspects, and need the head space or go with someone. Both are equally lovely. I
enjoy the whole process, organising my gear and bag with everything I need, driving to the
location of choice with my ‘swimming playlist’ – mostly 80’s bangers, to the best parking
Where I swim the most requires climbing over a fence and flinging the bag over. Most times
I forget something (because I’m Menopausal!) and most times it doesn’t matter. I always
breathe in the surroundings and weather before I go in. I take the water temp and enjoy the
rituals of this routine. I am never bored of this. I wade in slowly, and as the water climbs up
my body, the feelings of anger, resentment, physical or mental pain, arthritis and joint pain,
float away with Freddie, my floating polar bear temp guide. This is where the breathing
regulations starts, methodical and measured, deeply and with no effort. There are usually
no thoughts and brain starts to slow down and banishes all stressful thoughts, with the body
following. You literally surrender to the cold water whilst breathing and focusing on and in
your natural surroundings. This happens because you concentrate on the breathing and
flowing cold water so other feelings disperse, without you pushing them away, it occurs

By the time the water is at just below the boobs I woosh in, submerging up to my ears.
There is that initial bite, the rush, the cold. I love it, it’s the serotonin I need. Serotonin is a
natural mood stabilizer and helps the body experience happiness, calm and regulates
anxiety, a common Menopause Symptom. And it’s for free! The same thing happens with
increased levels of exercise and plenty of science-based research to demonstrate all this.
When it’s very cold in December and January (yes, I swim on Christmas morning and on New
Year’s Day) I submerge, breathe in the surroundings and usually just submerge, sometime
just be still. Often my eyes are closed, and I only hear and feel things.
As the water warms up, I stay in longer and actively swim. When it’s very cold you get a
lovely pink tan and you can feel your bones cold but not in a horrible way, in a reset way
and it’s the reset I’m after. Reset for the day, or the night or whenever you need it.
Before I get in, stressors, pain or anxiety, my shoulders are at my ears, by the time I wade
out afterwards, my shoulders are back where they should be. You cannot argue with this
fix. When I’m submerged, I think of nothing. I feel the negative float away and sweep away
from me with such force I can hardly describe it. All your senses are intensified – I hear
more as I listen to birds, water, my breathing, the wind. I see more – appreciate the stones,
whether the water if clear or not, the views, the trees, the clouds. I feel more – the sun on
my face if there is any, the breeze, the rain – which is best enjoyed minus the wind, very
sensory and lovely. With a current shoulder issue from swimming training in the pool –
Damn you, rotary cuff impingement, I find the cold really helpful for injury recovery and
pain management – think Wim Hoff approach. Google this if this is new to you.
There are routines for everything and getting out of the water and getting changed is no
different. Lots of warm layers, and cups of tea. Lighting a fire is nice too if you have time to
stop and enjoy the aftermath. Yes, women can make fires too! Once your body comes back
to normal temperature, the calm envelopes me. I feel fantastic, reset, pain free, less
anxious and no stress. This as I said can last for hours.
On the days I can’t get to open water, I use my cold-water barrel to submerge, that sits on
my decking in the back garden. It often freezes in the water so I’m out on my decking,
smashing the ice with the mallet, so I can get in. Whilst it’s not quite as lovely as open water
and surroundings, it’s still fabulous and that warm shower or bath is so much handier and
closer. I’m lucky enough to live in the country in a small village in the borders so my outlook
is fields, trees and mountains. No one can see in and its private and peaceful. I really
recommend this. Mindfulness is also a word to describe this being outdoors on in the barrel
– breathing, meditation, listening, observing landscape, wildlife, birds, and how it feels to
walk on different surfaces outdoors. Appreciate nature and your surroundings – she’s there
all day and all night. Oh, and night swimming! Stars, blue darkness and the moon. Sublime.
If that hasn’t inspired you to give it a go, I don’t know what will. Enjoy nature and all that
she offers and its inexpensive. Soon I’ll be embarking a road trip in the campervan, with my
husband and 2 sausage dogs, so I’ll be documenting all my cold-water dips, locations, and
swims there. Honestly, if you are thinking of giving it a go, do it. Just get bloody in!
Anyway, these are helpful tools but back to other Menopause related other things……

Obviously, you can also experience some or many mental health issues in amongst all this
Menopause too and as you know, if you read my first blog, there was probably a lot of that
in the mix too. It can be a difficult and confusing time for many. Some women sail through
it (I’ve yet to meet any!) and for others there is nothing but misery and impending doom. Is
the brain fog and memory loss just part of the aging process or is it part of menopause, or,
even worse, both? Some women don’t know they are going through it and suffer in misery. I
hope you are not one of those women.
I’d like to inject a little humour if I may and share with you some things I experienced
personally and how I managed them (not well for the record). These are all things that have
happened in the last couple of years. So that must mean at my age, I’m in the full throws of
it all. Here are some rather irrational and a tad embarrassing examples……… they are,
in no particular order……
I started crying at work one morning, because someone put the butter dish in the fridge,
and I couldn’t spread it on my morning toast. Total nonsense and out of the blue rage. They
all thought I was mad. I could not comprehend my feelings of being overwhelmed at this. I
know, it’s a good one, isn’t it!
My sensitivity to sound has always been a thing. It’s intensified with the menopause. I
asked my husband if he could blink more quietly as I could hear him, and it was getting on
my last nerve. In fact, I didn’t ask him. More like “For god’s sake, could you blink any louder
FFS, do you hear yourself”. Not ideal. Lucky to still be married to the man.
I stormed out of Marks and Spencer’s, upon discovering lots of their bras didn’t have
matching pants to go with them. Literally sweeping out and muttering under my breath,
that I was never going back in. Then put a big rant about it on social media. Not my best
work. I’ve been back of course since and bought bras and pants. Sigh. My face is probably
on the company dart board in the tearoom.
I almost emailed Jacobs the biscuit company, due to the anger at every time I spread
ANYTHING on a cream cracker, it broke and crumbled. That was not a good day. Thankfully I
didn’t email them. Can you imagine? Probably be sectioned.
Shouting at everyone in the house, “For God’s sake, why are you having a shower now? I’ve
just cleaned it”. Then getting all paranoid that they were doing it deliberately to get a
reaction and overthought this to the max! It’s the same when I’ve made the bed. You can’t
sit on it; I’ve just made it. Get off. LOL. Is this menopause though or just mother stuff? Or
My mum and aunt visited recently. Mum had brought us lovely biscuits (M and S of course).
After they left, I asked my husband if he wanted some biscuits and coffee. He did. Turned
the house upside down trying the find the bloody things. Then called my daughter, asking if
she took them to her flat. No, she hadn’t. A whole night sleep lost, wondering where the
hell they went. Took my husband’s office apart thinking he had hidden them. He could only
shake his head and roll his eyes. Texted my mother asking if she had taken them back to
hers in her case by mistake. She replied, “what biscuits?”.

Excellent. Turns out there were no biscuits and I had imagined the whole thing. I mean
come on. Who even am I? There is a place for humour in everything, and Menopause is no
different for me.
Then there’s the snoring. That’s quite next level. Apparently, I sound like “The Predator”
(film) at times. What a lovely thought for all. My waist has all but disappeared too, but I
can’t blame all that on the menopause, that’s more likely to be my love of crisps, cheese,
wine, and mayonnaise. Middle age spread they call it. Doesn’t it have a lovely ring to it. Not
one for faddy diets, Blah Blah Blah.
Incidentally, I’ve read a book recently, the author is a doctor. It’s called “Fast like a girl”,
geared towards women of a certain age. Wonderful book, lots of science-based facts about
what time to stop eating at night and when to start eating the next day, so that your body
goes into starvation mode and what to eat when. And you’ll have flat tummy and the body
of a 20-year-old. I mean it was interesting and riveting. I couldn’t put it down. She knows
her stuff, the author. However, absolutely no intention of having my last bit of food at 5pm
in the evening and then not eating again until 10am the next day. Are you mad? Totally and
utterly intrigued of course, but no follow through I’m quite sure. I mean its cheese and
biscuits at 8pm. Might not be ready to break that habit even for the waistline. Also don’t
weigh yourselves when menopausal. The scales are liars. In fact, ditch them altogether, the
numbers don’t matter and don’t let them rule your life.
With all the bloody swimming you’d think I’d be slipping down the drain, but quite the
opposite. It’s makes you a bit beefy and big shouldered, so tops don’t fit now. Also need to
wolf down the carbs immediately after the workout, just to recover. Size doesn’t matter for
some things. Women in all shapes and sizes and bloody algorithms about diets if you even
think about reading an article on fasting. I do know one thing; I’ve no will power so at least I
know what I’m not good at. Most of the time I don’t care. I sometimes care on holiday
when it’s the squeezing into the swimwear at the beach, with all my wobbly bits. Sack it.
Life is short. Get your wobbly bits out I say. I’m an everything in moderation kind of girl.
You do you and I’ll do me. Just wanted to get that in, in an attempt to be ‘on trend’.
Then I got to thinking about the ‘down there’. The bit that NO ONE talks about. Let’s talk
about sex, or lack of it shall we. Come on, we all know it if we are there and if you’re not,
it’s coming for you. You can’t say you weren’t warned now. I’ve spared you all the ordeal of
the element of surprise. No one tells you everything dries up. Also, the brain and the
vagina no longer connect as it once did. It’s time for an open and understanding
conversation with your other halves people. I can tell you that it’s not all bad though but
we’re not getting any younger. One solution. Just order a tonne of lube and crack on. Your
sex life changes through the aging and menopause process and that’s ok, but don’t make it
a taboo subject or something to fear. Everyone deserves a fulfilling sex life. It’s your body
and you’re not dead yet. You’re on your life journey and you adapt. We’re not getting any
more flexible in our old age and that’s ok too. Keep the connection alive. Bet you’re glad
that bits done. Also, staggering amounts of reading to be done on that subject. Mind those

I’ll tell you something positive now. More humour. Menopause is your get out of jail ticket
for everything! Anger and incandescent rage – it’s the menopause. Moody for no reason –
it’s the menopause. Stomping around for no reason – it’s the menopause. Snappy and
babbling incoherently – it’s the menopause. Excessive wind – it’s the menopause. Constant
weeing – it’s the menopause. I even say to my kids and my husband, if anything goes
wrong, I ask them why…..they all say in unison “it’s the menopause”. Back of the net. Use it
people, to your absolute advantage. It covers literally everything so just blame the
menopause and no one can argue with that!
I should probably finish on a more serious note as it would be wrong not to mention and
acknowledge that some people suffer so acutely with it, that it can be crippling and
horrendous and life limiting almost. I read a story about a woman that was so depressed
and struggling so badly with the menopause that it affected all of her rational thinking,
functioning and actions. One day she snapped. She got so fed up with her husband not
making the bed properly that one day he drove home, and all the household bedding was in
the front garden. Other horror stories of women, harming themselves and others due to all
the symptoms mentioned. Horrible, black, bleak thoughts. So, look out for those people as
we could do with a bit more awareness of the issues and how badly some people are
affected. Workplaces apparently are becoming better at understanding and acknowledging
this as a medical condition that needs care, understanding, information and support.
I’d love to hear how you are all managing with your own experiences of this and what helps
and what doesn’t. Are you struggling or sailing through? How does you partner respond?
How are your workplaces? Are you experiencing any taboo areas? Who do you talk to
about all of it.
In the meantime, get in the bloody cold water, breathe in your natural surroundings, and
tell me you didn’t love it.
Until next time.

More of Allie’s writing can be found here.

For Nature immersion at any stage in life, check out WanderWomen experiences.

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