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'Menopause Was The Best Thing To Happen To Me'

Newsweek logo Newsweek 5/10/2022 Lisa Johnson

My periods were always fairly normal, apart from being quite close together. I'd get cramps and feel rubbish, but not to any massive extent. There were no big issues. When I was trying to get pregnant around the age of 32, doctors did think I might be going through an early menopause, because my hormone levels were quite high, but I wasn't, and I did get pregnant.

I knew that my mom and my grandmother had both had really bad hot flushes during menopause, but they didn't really talk about it. Their attitude was: "We're women, we go through it and we get on with it." I never really thought about it. I don't think you do in your 30s. It's something that's going to happen later.

I was very familiar with what menopause is—where periods stop and hot flushes and night sweats typically occur—,what I didn't know about was the huge range of symptoms that can happen in perimenopause, like sleep being disrupted, irritability and anxiety.

I was around 44 when I started experiencing those symptoms, but I didn't realize it was perimenopause. I did find it difficult, particularly sleeplessness. If you've had a bad night's sleep you just feel rubbish the next day; you can't concentrate, you forget things, you're irritable and you don't look your best. My line of work is creating my own organic, sustainable skin care so I wanted to look nice and fresh but I was looking really tired. The worst of it was irritability, though. I would be really snappy with my kids and husband, who are all really laid back people. Sometimes I would snap over the smallest thing.

When you're a busy working woman and mom, you just put these things down to life. I don't think I connected all those symptoms to perimenopause for probably a couple of years.

When I did, I decided to go down the natural route because I'm a clinical aromatherapist. My approach to healthcare up until then was naturally based and a good friend of mine is a naturopath so she advised me what herbal tinctures to take and I took natural supplements. I tweaked my diet and although I didn't have a lot of wine, I drank less. It just didn't really help.

Night sweats and hot flashes became the biggest issue. In the middle of the day I would become boiling hot in a split second, go red and be sweating and then I would feel disgusting. I was also more tired, so my work was affected because I couldn't concentrate during the day.

Eventually, I went to see my doctor, though I knew friends of mine of a similar age had been to the doctor with similar symptoms and had been given anti-depressants. I knew I wasn't depressed.

I saw a female doctor who was older than me and was so nice. Everything changed that day. I told her I had tried natural remedies and felt like I was failing because that's how I approach health and it hadn't worked. She listened to me and said that there was a solution in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that could make me feel better, sleep better and be able to focus during the day and not be irritable. She suggested I try it and see how I feel.

By the time I went to the doctor, I had actually had menopause and was post-menopause, because I hadn't had a period for about 18 months. I started HRT in summer 2019 and within two weeks I was sleeping through the night, not sweating, concentrating at work and feeling less anxious. I couldn't believe I had put up with feeling so bad for two years when the answer was right in front of me. I did have to tweak my dose about six months ago because I was getting what are called "menopause migraines" but before that, and now, I feel great.

But often when I go onto social media I seem to see women saying that they feel like death because of menopause and saying it is awful. I totally feel for those women and I absolutely agree that we need to talk about it but I just want to share that it's not awful for everyone and there are ways to manage it. If I was 30 and reading those comments I would think: I'm not looking forward to that.

Lisa Johnson wants to share the message that menopause doesn't have to be a bad experience for women. Lisa Johnson wants to share the message that menopause doesn't have to be a bad experience for women.

The massive positive of going through menopause is not having periods any more. It's so nice not having to think about whether I have period products with me, and not having the cramps, pain and discomfort. Also, women can be seen as old because they are not having periods anymore. We're not. Life is different now, we live a lot longer and we do more exciting things in our 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.

When you have been through Menopause you also don't have to worry about pregnancy, you can still feel great and you still have all these years ahead of you to be a valued member of society. I have a lot more to give with my business. My kids are 12 and 15 and we do lots with them. There is a lot more fun to be had.

The whole thing that frames my perspective is that one of my very best friends died from motor neurone disease when she was 38. Whenever I'm feeling a little bit sorry for myself for feeling achy when I get out of bed or that my hair is going gray, I just hear her voice in my head saying: "You're so lucky that you're still here."

And I am. Life is just so precious. It's a privilege that we shouldn't take for granted. If you've reached menopause; lucky you.

Lisa Johnson is a clinical aromatherapist and founder of natural, sustainable skincare brand, LJ Natural. You can follow her on Instagram @ljnatural.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.

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