My Story: Recognizing My Symptoms of Perimenopause on My Own

By Amy Agigian —

JF shares how difficult it has been for her to understand her bodily changes during perimenopause. She mentions feeling angry because of how little is known about perimenopause in the medical field even though half of the population experiences this condition.


OBOS Today: How did you realize that maybe you were going through perimenopause?

JF: Well, the first sign I had of going through perimenopause was a skipped period, and I was like, “Oh, this is probably perimenopause. I’m about that age, and—” [laughs] But then the other stuff, the first symptom I had that wasn’t menstrual, um, was like IBS (digestive issues), and it took me a minute to realize that that’s what it could be, and then I had the migraine, and then I just started googling every time I had this random thing happening in my body I would Google that symptom, perimenopause, and see if there’s a link. But, like, you have to go look for it yourself. Because there’s—you know. Uh.

OBOS Today: I’m sorry, continue.

JF: Yeah, because there’s no— there’s not even enough research into it to have, like, a comprehensive list, so there’s not even a lot of agreement in the medical establishment about what symptoms are. I have a friend who tried to get hormone therapy for brain fog and fatigue during perimenopause and was told by her gynecologist, who was not a specialist, that brain fog and fatigue were not symptoms of perimenopause, and therefore she couldn’t get hormone therapy. And then she went to an endocrinologist—supposed to deal with hormones—and said this was happening, and the endocrinologist said, “I can’t prescribe you hormone therapy. You have to get it from your gynecologist.”

And so she went back to her gynecologist, and she ultimately said, like the gynecologist had to write down some other diagnosis in order to describe her the hormone therapy. So, like, even things that amongst ourselves we know are common symptoms, like not all of them are recognized as linked, by the medical establishment, as linked to perimenopause. So, yeah, I’m kind of nervous going in to see the doctor, like, what my options will be and if it will help. Some people get help right away and it’s the right thing and some people, like, it’s really hard, and I also have a history of breast cancer in my family, and I don’t know if that’s going to make me disqualified to get hormone therapy, um, in which case, like, what are my options going to be? Do I just have to suffer through this? It’s just like so many question marks and it’s, it’s just incredibly frustrating. I mean, it’s already a difficult time, because—I’ve been calling it reverse puberty [laughs].

OBOS Today: [laughs]

JF: It’s like, your hormones go crazy, and your body’s doing things you don’t understand, um, and like, it just feels very out of control, like, I don’t understand what’s happening with my body, and I don’t understand how to make myself feel better. Um, and then on top of that, to have there be, like, so little—like, to turn to the experts and the experts being like, “Meh, we don’t know that much either.” [laughs] Um, it’s just madness! Like, half the population goes through this. [laughs] Um, it’s, it’s infuriating. I keep trying to—like when I’m having a hard time with it, I keep trying to remember that this isn’t just some sad thing that is randomly happening to me, but that actually, this is a systemic situation, right?

Like, the reason I’m really struggling with this is in part biological, but also is systemic, because if this is a thing that happened to men, there’d be like a cabinet secretary in charge of dealing with it. [laughs] Right? Like we’re all just, like, left to our own devices, and I’m trying to figure out how to live my life with all this stuff, is—it’s so gendered, it’s so systemic, and it, it makes me angry. And—I don’t know, for me it makes me feel better to feel angry than just, like, sad and helpless [laughs].

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