noun: the place everyone woman of menstruating age finds herself on a monthly basis. Generally, hormone hell becomes exceedingly excruciating as a woman progresses into her late thirties and early forties. Rarely talked about. Because, you know, women are crazy.
Related words: purgatory, abyss, deep rotten pit, place of emotional instability, cognitive circus act, underworld of pandemonium.
Hormone hell is real. And as a 36-year-old who seems to be dancing the line of early perimenopause, I thought it might be helpful to share my experiences over the last couple years.
Because this shit has been nuts.
And because I know there are a lot of other women out there suffering in silence. Women who, perhaps, have no idea the madness they’re experiencing (emotionally, physically, cognitively) is the result of unbalanced hormones that have gradually gotten worse and worse…
The beginning… warning shots from my ovaries…
I first started noticing some changes in my body and mood about four years ago. I was very lean and on such a strict diet that I didn’t have a period for over a year. I think that two decades of chronic dieting and overexercising finally started catching up to me around that time. When I backed off my diet just slightly, I quickly put on about 8 pounds, regained my period, started feeling happy, and my sex drive returned. Hooray!
But after that, my body seemed to enter this slump. I didn’t have the same drive in the gym. I felt somehow disconnected, like suddenly my body had other plans. At first, I relaxed into it. I was still fit. I was healthy.
But the last two years, in particular, have been downright batty. And everything came to a head last month when I decided to march my ass into the office of a doctor specializing in hormone replacement therapy.
That’s right. At 36.
But this hormonal spin-out did not, of course, happen over night. Over the last year, I started noticing some serious fuckery going on in body. It started with some night sweats, usually a couple days before my period would start. I’d wake up a little sweaty – no big deal. Then it turned into full-on drenching the sheets, waking up with puddles of sweat on my body. At first, this happened a few days before my period. Then it turned into a full week. Then it turned into something that would persist a couple days after my period started. For about a third of the month, I was having awful night sweats.
I also noticed I was slowly accumulating fat around my waist and hips – fat that, no matter what kind of insane measures I took, I could not get rid of. This has been a mindfuck, and frankly, it’s made me feel really out of control of my body. As an athlete and someone who’s always been very disciplined and active, this has been… frustrating.
Other signs that my hormones have been in a tailspin – my skin has been very dry, but also breaking out (which I now know has been from low progesterone). I’ve also had to tweeze an increasing number of stray hairs from my chin.
But maybe the worst part has been the constant mind fog. Look, I’ve long grown used to “period brain” – that phase that starts a few days before my period and lasts a couple days into it – when I literally struggle to form a thought. When I feel anxious and panicked about everything. When its a battle to refrain from snapping over stupid things or crying for no apparent reason. That’s period brain.
But this has been different.
This has been period brain, 24/7. Slowly, over the last two years, my PMS symptoms became the new, constant normal. Every day, I felt like I was either preparing for my period, or on it.
So last month, I decided to get to the bottom of this nonsense. After spending a few hours one morning feeling anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed, crying and panicking, with a good measure of hyperventilation thrown in, I started researching hormone specialists near me. The next day, I had some blood work done. The following week, I met with a doctor to discuss my results.
Here’s what we found: my estrogen was pretty normal. My progesterone was low. My testosterone was low. And my T3 (active thyroid hormone) was low.
After discussing my results with the doctor and going over the options (which I had already exhaustively researched before the appointment), I decided to get a testosterone pellet and begin a low dose of T3.
Next blog: Let’s talk about women and testosterone
So you may be wondering why I would opt to have a pellet of testosterone implanted in my body… what the experience has been like so far… and what kind of crazy side effects I’ve had with a “therapeutic testosterone level” (that’s clinical for an unnaturally elevated level in a woman).
Stay tuned… I have a lot to share… and I’m going to give you allllllll the details.
You’ve been warned.