I Experienced Temporary Menopause, This Is What Happened

I really didn't need to be as afraid as I was.

I started my periods when I was nine years old and I’m now 34. This whole time, I’ve experienced debilitating pain on and around my periods.

Some months, the whole month is bad. I’m swollen, I’m nauseated and I can’t stop bleeding — even with medication that should stop bleeding all together.

This is because I have stage 4 endometriosis and fibroids. Both of these are chronic conditions that are incredibly difficult to manage and in the case of fibroids, for me, physically quite heavy.

Speaking to HuffPost UK earlier this year, Dr Deborah Lee, a sexual and reproductive healthcare doctor from Dr Fox Pharmacy, explained that fibroids are “benign tumours of small muscle which arise in the wall of the uterus (womb).

“Each fibroid grows from one individual muscle cell, which grows out of control. As the fibroid enlarges, it presses on any surrounding structures.

“Fibroids count for one third to one half of hysterectomies. Other treatments are increasing in popularity, such as embolisation, where the blood vessels feeding the fibroid are blocked and the fibroid dies, or myomectomy – surgical removal of the fibroid.”

At last measurement, my largest fibroid was 27 cm in diameter and sat atop my uterus. It hasn’t been fun.

I feel like I’ve tried everything

As anybody with a chronic illness will tell you, the most difficult thing is learning to manage the symptoms as they flare. For me, this has meant trying several diets, sleeping with a pregnancy pillow, and even taking medication that shrunk the fibroids – but was then recalled and eventually banned due to the damage it can cause to the liver.

One option that was presented to me more than once for both endometriosis and fibroids was, put simply, a ‘temporary menopause’.

I’ve been offered this many times over the past decade and while I will try almost anything, I was scared of that one.

This is because I struggle with my mental health, too. I have c-PTSD, anxiety, OCD and depression. I have worked so hard to get to a space of relative stability and one of the ways I have managed that is coming off hormonal contraception (which is fantastic for many people, but not me) and being on antidepressants.

The thought of plummeting my hormones terrified me. I don’t want to ever return to my most mentally unwell, terrified self. I can manage physical pain, I’m not so confident with mental anguish, especially as I’m already taking the mental toll of being chronically unwell.

Eventually, I had no choice

Finally, last September, I was given the option for surgical removal. This wasn’t an option that doctors were keen to take with me because I hope to have children one day but my largest fibroid being the size that it is, there’s nothing left to do, really.

My gynaecologist told me that there’s just one problem: I will still need to undergo a short temporary menopause treatment to shrink the fibroid a little and make the open surgery a little less risky. 10 weeks, he said, and it’ll be done, over.

The first time I went to a doctor about the pain that turned out to be fibroids was January 2016. The first time I felt completely pushed to the edge with them was in that moment when I had been left with no other option but to face my biggest fear.

I’d built it up so much at this point and had been through so much with fibroids over the past almost eight years that I just broke. But I did agree to it, mostly because there was no other option.

According to John Hopkins Medicine, this treatment which involves injecting Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRH agonists) “lowers your oestrogen level and triggers a temporary “medical menopause.” GnRH agonists are used to shrink the fibroid(s). They are also used to stop your period in preparation for surgery or to improve your blood count.”

This treatment actually typically lasts around a year and the effects are reversed once it leaves the system.

It... wasn’t all that bad, actually

I didn’t know this but I actually had to inject it myself. My lovely local pharmacist always drops off my medications to my front door because I struggle to walk at the moment and as he handed it over, I thought to myself, “do it right this second.”

it’s not that I can’t be trusted to take the medication that I’m asked to take but I knew that if I thought about it for too long, I’d keep putting it off. So, there I was, arse entirely out in my living room, injecting GnRH agonists directly into the cheek.

And that was it.

Injecting it actually came with a bit of relief because I figured, there’s nothing I can do now but ride it out, however that looks. After all these years, it was done, there was no changing it so whatever happens, happens.

As the weeks went on, I started to experience symptoms. My once oily skin was suddenly dry – so dry that my eyelids were itchy, my lips were permanently chapped and nothing felt comfortable on me.

I had hot flashes which were extremely alarming at first — nobody could have prepared me for the waves of heat that rushed through my body in those moments. Fortunately, in an impulsive moment, I’d bought a ‘cooling menopause blanket’ as recommended by Denise Welsh of Loose Women, with 5% off using her code. (The code was Denise5 and not Deni5e. I did lament that lost opportunity.)

This was bought during one of many nights of insomnia. That was another big one. If I wasn’t too tired to stay awake, I was too awake to go to sleep. It didn’t last long but it impacted everything for that short while.

Other than those, though, I was actually okay. After the first six weeks, I kind of kept forgetting it was even happening.

What I hadn’t considered during my flurries of fear was that, with endometriosis and fibroids, I’d experienced a lot worse than just some mood swings.

I’ve missed out on so many events, missed out on an old friend’s wedding, holidays, family gatherings. I’d lost all confidence and developed severe social anxiety from fear of being in pain when far from home. I’ve bled on dates, on chairs in the workplace, on my favourite clothes, in Ubers.

In the time that I’ve had this, I’ve lost three family members and in the years before they died, I missed out on seeing them because of the pain and discomfort I was in. I will never get that time back with them.

I have already battled so much worse than what this could ever throw at me.

And now, 10 weeks later, it’s done. I’ve done it. 10 weeks ago, I sobbed in my partner’s arms, telling him I couldn’t face this, I couldn’t keep fighting, I was so tired of all of this.

But it’s done. And tomorrow, I will be getting my fibroids and endometriosis removed. It’s almost all over for a while.

Yes, temporary menopause in my early 30s was scary but living with these conditions was much scarier.