If you’re facing menopause and are on the fence about hormone replacement therapy (HRT), my story may help you decide.
The other night, well after my 3-year-old daughter should have been asleep, she was wide awake. We were pretending that our master bed was a pool, and giggling as we swam and splashed water on each other. There was nothing remarkable about the scene, except that a week before, it wouldn’t have been possible.
I’ve written before about my struggles to deal with menopause symptoms while raising a young daughter. And yet despite my best intentions, I too often find myself short of patience and quick to raise my voice and lose my cool with both her and my husband. A week ago, her insistence on playing instead of sleeping would have driven me around the bend.
So why was I able to pretend splash with her instead of arguing with her to get her to sleep?
Because I started taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I did so quite reluctantly, after resisting for a long time. But between my general irritability, my shortness due to lack of sleep (insomnia being a symptom of menopause) and my too-frequent exasperation with my loved ones, something had to give—and that something was me.
I started to cave in after my husband, Paolo, confronted me one night, when I’d finally gotten our daughter down to sleep. I came to bed mopey, feeling neglected and unloved, and instead of comforting me as I thought he should, he essentially told me that I’ve been miserable to live with – impatient with him and our daughter, too quick to snap, and constantly wearing what he kindly described as a grimace on my face. Instead of blaming him for my discontent and irritability, I had to accept the possibility that I was the problem: I’m not the first woman in the world to work and raise a toddler at the same time, and sometimes my frustration with her and our home life seemed way out of proportion. In fact, I’d realized recently that as soon as my family got home—my daughter from preschool and my husband from work, I’d feel my tension rise. I was happier working alone all day at my desk than I was being around my beautiful family, and that just wasn’t right.
When my husband and I went to see our family doctor the next day, I still had my feet dug in. I knew and feared the risks of HRT, and I didn’t want to start the meds. When Paolo and the doctor both urged me to stop being so stubborn and give them a try, I felt ganged up upon and was nearly reduced to tears. “You took the (birth control) pill most of your adult life; that’s hormones!” our doctor insisted. “Why are you now against taking the same thing?”
I’d tried several alternatives to HRT, although I’m an advocate of holistic and natural remedies, nothing seemed to work. Nothing. I tried homeopathic drops, melatonin and herbal capsules with names that sound like sanitary products. I tried a new product, Relizen, which helped my hot flashes. But I needed to take it for at least 2 months in order to see longer-term results, and I felt like I couldn’t wait that long to get some relief, for myself and my family.
So my doctor gave me a low-dose HRT of levonorgestrel ethinyl-estradiol in patch form, the same thing he might have given me if I’d marched in and asked for birth control. Paolo was ready to plaster me with patches, and at the end of the day, I reluctantly stuck one on. And as much as I hate to admit it, the results were…virtually overnight.
By the next day, I found myself more relaxed, quicker to laugh at things and much less likely to have a temper flare-up. I was playing and goofing with my daughter—witness the swimming pool scene on our bed—and more playful and light-hearted with my husband, who in turn lightened up to match my improved mood. When I did get mad at him for not helping me clean up the kitchen after supper, I got to say to him, “The hormones won’t work if you’re a lazy ass!” Wow, was that ever satisfying!
The doctor said that I might be able to get by with just a few months of HRT, and I hope he’s correct. I’d rather not take any medicine, much less one that has serious, if relatively rare, health risks associated with it. But my relenting to take HRT has helped my family and me when nothing else did, and I can’t deny that. And just maybe I won’t need to consider Botox for those frown lines anymore.