Why does everyone around me have an attitude problem? How hormone fluxes in perimenopause cause moodiness and irritability.
So I am at the grocery store early Saturday morning with my partner, Gardiner Smith, with whom I live and work. We share a love of flowers. We have flowers in the house all the time; whether picked by him from our garden, bought at a store, or sometimes when we are out, he will pluck a flower from a hotel arrangement or window box in a cafe. Once he even pulled over to a median in Niagara-on-the-Lake and grabbed a few from the city’s beautiful tourist arrangement.
At the supermarket, Gardiner puts a bouquet in our shopping cart. I look at it with disgust, pick it up and drop it back in the bucket. He looks at me and says, “Is there something wrong with it?” I say, “I just don’t like it.” Gardiner gives me an appraising glance and says, “Your progesterone is low.” I start laughing because he hit the nail on the head. At that particular moment in time, nothing could make me happy and everyone around me had an attitude problem. But I was the one with the attitude problem, because my period was about to start and my progesterone was extremely low.
It’s probably one of the hardest things we have to deal with in perimenopause. Our hormones are likely the most erratic we will ever experience in our lives, giving us the most common perimenopause symptoms women experience, moodiness and irritability. The ebb and flow can cause daily changes in mood. Sometimes, the rise of our estrogen (the executive and happy hormone) makes us feel on top of the world and primed to take anything on. Other times, we feel really fatigued, depressed or downright irritable, as I did in the supermarket, because our progesterone is low and it’s the hormone responsible for nurturing as well as information processing. So when our progesterone is low, we feel like we have pre-menstrual symptoms all month long. We just want to snuggle up under the covers with a book and chocolate and let everyone fend for themselves. That’s okay – we absolutely need to withdraw and isolate ourselves at times, as long as it’s not all the time.
The reason our progesterone is low is that, in perimenopause, we lose our “eggs” and stop ovulating every month, and the ovary no longer produces estrogen and progesterone. To begin with, this is manifested as irregularity in periods, then eventually loss of the period. After 12 months without a period, a woman is clinically in menopause. However, despite the medical definitions, there are no hard and fast rules about how a woman will experience perimenopause and menopause.
Perimenopause is an important time for adjustment. The scary thought that I have all the time is that, as a scientist-turned-women’s-health-expert, I am aware that in menopause, the low progesterone state does not go away. We stay in that low female hormone situation for 30 years. So we need to get used to that irritable feeling and self-correct so that we don’t become the attitude problem. We also need to get our family members involved to help them understand what we’re going through.
Gardiner is in the business of menopause so he understands my moods and irritability in a much more intimate way than most partners would, or could. It begins with our own understanding and then actions to ensure that we – and everyone else – are dealing with the situation. We are at a very unique time in the history of womanhood. In 1935, the life expectancy was 62, so reaching menopause meant that we only had about 10 years left. Now, 90 years later, we have about 30 years remaining after menopause. It means that we can deal with the huge drop in hormones by attenuating this drop and then craft the vision for the remainder of our lives. It’s this possibility that gets me very excited about what we do at Damiva and also my life after 50.
I hope that this information helps you better understand the perimenopause symptoms you may be facing due to hormonal fluctuations. Remember to not be too hard on yourself as this is one of the biggest changes your body will grow through, reach out to people and explain to them what’s going on. The rest of our lives can be exciting and is within our own means to make the most out of it and that starts with understanding the journey we go through in perimenopause and knowing how to manage its symptoms.