One Woman’s Experience: Hormones, Love or Hate or Both

I get these events. I like to call them events, that way it doesn’t sound like I’m whining. I hate whining. I even taught my daughter not to whine when she was small, but I think she has forgotten it for I’m realizing she whines when she is having difficulty with her homework. But I’ve gone off track so to speak which is a new record for me, I think, when sitting down to write since I did it within about three sentences *laugh*. So back to these events, it will make more sense why I so quickly went off track, once you hear about today’s event.

These events occur, with some irregularity, some occur after I’ve pushed myself physically, while others occur when I push myself mentally. They start at the base of my skull which are mild and rather not very noticeable. I tend to only give them a cursory look when all it is, is at the base of my skull. They either start on the right side of my neck or on the left side of my neck. Thank god I’ve never had them on both sides at the same time. In a while, they begin to travel up the side of my head and over the top to settle behind either my right or left eye depending on what side of the neck they began. 

A chiropractor told me they are migraines but I always heard migraines were severe and debilitating, sometimes causing the person to have to go to a dark place so sunlight would not bother them. I guess not everyone has those types and I’m thankful mine are not. This one though can become painful but I can usually function through them. Today’s event not only carries with it the discomfort but also a struggle to keep my eyes open. I try to focus on work but find even five minutes is difficult to do, and usually even within two minutes I find myself just staring at the report I need to update and not having a clue of what that update needs to be or where to get it.

I tell myself I need to focus and work and get the job done, while the pain tells me to just go crawl into bed if I want it to go away. My eyes burn and lose focus. I rub them, then rub my hands through my hair rubbing my head, my forehead, the back of my neck and wish I could reach inside my brain and rub from the back of my eyes to the base of my skull. Sometimes I break down and take two Advil, but I wish I didn’t have to pollute my body with medications I don’t want so, I hold off as long as I can. I’ll probably go get them once I finish writing this.

I walked yesterday for forty-five minutes. I suspect that is part of why I feel this pain. I’ve tried to start exercising but this seems to always happen which tends to defeat my determination to get with the exercise program. And my doctors just look at me and tell me I should walk. I tell them I do but afterwards it’s all lost because I feel like crap with this pain I can’t stop. Funny how they say nothing.

So here I am rubbing my eyes again, my head leans to the right because that is the side that hurts and from time to time I notice my shoulders have moved up to my ears because the pain has me so tense. I relax them to only find them back in the same place a few minutes later. I’ve been told I must have a high pain tolerance to only need Advil for my migraines or other pain they would normally prescribe pain medicines for. What good is a high pain tolerance if they can’t find the root of what causes the pain, other than to just get you through the day? Oh but doctors only treat the symptoms and not the root cause. I keep forgetting that one truth about the medical system. If the root is treated then they wouldn’t have to see us again and the pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t need to create so many medications for all those symptoms we keep having.

When I asked my doctor what caused my normally working thyroid to suddenly become a hypothyroid around the age of 35, he told me he didn’t know. That it just happens to some and they have to stay on thyroid medicine for the rest of their lives. So I started taking the thyroid medicine, never feeling really any better. Now at age 53, I read about some progressive doctors that are on the leading edge of science are finding out that thyroid dysfunction (that has no known cause) is being caused by hormone imbalance. That hypothyroidism can be one of the early signs of a woman entering peri-menopause which is when her hormones begin to shut down because mother nature has determined she is no longer within healthy child bearing years.

Interesting that my migraines started around the same time.

My focus keeps breaking, and I just found I had left the milk out from earlier. Not a good sign especially since I had put all the other ingredients back where they belonged. This is how it is when I’m in the midst of a migraine.

This event today, isn’t all that different from my other events other than this one has me fighting to stay awake. I should just give in and curl up in my bed, but I think it is important to describe this for others and the best way to do that is to write the description while I am feeling it. Have you ever noticed that after pain is gone that all we can really remember is that we had pain, that it felt bad but we can’t actually remember the pain? If we could remember the pain, I wonder how many women would agree to having a second child after they had the first.

I write not just about my migraine because there is much more to this than just it, if what I perceive is true. My migraines and my hypothyroid began around the same time. I also have a different sort of migraine that has no pain. It is an ocular migraine, one that causes what looks like a cut in my vision that looks like the prism effect of light going through broken or scratched glass causing a rainbow of colors, except for me the rainbow is inside of this sliver that appears in the shape of an irregularly shaped C. It might start out in the center of my vision, like a little tiny ‘c’ and expand outward until it is a large ‘C’ until it moves completely out of my vision or it might begin at one side of my vision and work its way across to the other side. In any of these cases if I am reading sometimes I cannot see all the letters of the words if this funny shaped C is traveling across my direct visual path. This one luckily has no pain associated with it but visually it can be rather disruptive. I am not sure but this one may have started a little later than the other symptoms or it could be that I just didn’t talk to a doctor about it until I had a number of them that caused me concern. These wouldn’t appear very often and it wasn’t unusual to go six months or more without having one, so I could have gone for years before mentioning it to my eye doctor, which was when I found out it was a migraine.

Then about six years ago, I started having some other problems. I was on the metro in Montreal going downtown to the office I was now supposed to work from. The metro was rather crowded, bodies pressed against bodies. I was sitting thank god, but even that was a bit uncomfortable for a stranger’s body parts could inadvertently be pressed against parts of me that wouldn’t want a stranger’s body parts to be pressed against. We started to pull away from one of the stops and the metro suddenly stopped. The doors remained closed and locked and here we all were pressed tightly together. I felt panic start to rise.  I’m not one for being claustrophobic, but for the first time in my life I felt and understood the rising terror of someone being claustrophobic. I hung on by breathing deeply and biting my lower lip and trying very hard not to think about how tightly enclosed we all were and that the doors were locked that even if I lost it, I would still be locked in tight. I wasn’t too successful about not thinking about those things. Finally the train moved and at the next stop several people exited and there was room to breathe again. A few stops later and I was exiting as well and on my way to the office.

After that event I started recognizing other type events of anxiety and panic. While living in Montreal I passed it off as being just a product of living in a place that was stifling our need to be who we were and how becoming permanent residents of Quebec was trying to conform us into a box of their choosing instead of allowing us to live outside of the box which is our way of being who we are. Part of my anxiety was how badly my daughter was effected by this confinement and attempt to mold her into being something she is not. I felt for sure all of my anxiety and panic would suddenly disappear the moment we moved to a place that allowed us the freedom to be whom and what we are.

It took a year but we finally moved, to the beautiful province of British Columbia. Our freedoms were assured and we were able to relax into our new life and work on creating our new home.

But then it happened out of the blue one day, anxiety. Anxiety that grew into panic and I wanted to rant and scream and stomp my feet but all I could do was ask myself why. The thoughts I was having were no different than thoughts I had every day only a week or two prior or even a day or hour before without any anxiety or panic, so I couldn’t understand why they would grow, on that specific day, into full out anxiety and feelings of panic. A day or two or so later they would go away, and then weeks later they would come back. Then one morning I awoke with my bedroom spinning out of control. I closed my eyes but still felt the room spinning around me and in an attempt to stop it, I put my hands to my face, and over my eyes.  Beneath my hands I could feel my eyes moving rapidly out of my control. Then I skipped right past anxiety and into full blown panic. I felt my hands and feet go numb and I thought for sure I was going to have a heart attack and die. Then the anxiety kicked in as to what would happen to my daughter if anything happened to me. I was scared beyond anything I had ever been afraid of before. All I could do was wait to see what would happen.

Eventually, the spinning stopped and I was able to get up and walk around but any sudden movement would start the spinning so I moved slowly, cautiously for that day and several afterwards. Then I began my research. Research into all the various symptoms I had, to see if anything had them all.

One of the symptoms I hadn’t spoken of was problems sleeping through the night. I would wake sometimes two, or three or even four times a night and this happened every night. I was living a life of exhaustion, perpetual tiredness, the lack of good quality sleep was making my life miserable.

My mind was blown away when I discovered them all listed under peri-menopause and menopause. If in deed this was the case, I didn’t want to go to a General Practitioner and end up on pharmaceutical hormone replacement. I had heard enough horror stories about them. So I started researching Naturopaths and found one within an hour of where we lived. I set up an appointment and went to see her. I filled out their long questionnaire, which she looked over quickly before seeing me. We sat and talked for an hour, by the end she agreed it was most likely my hormones but wanted to do a saliva test to verify because as much as she felt sure which hormone I needed she wanted to make sure because there was always that one patient who didn’t fit what her observations were telling her.

I took the saliva test and waited for the results. We met to discuss and she put me on pregnenolone and progonB.  ProgonB is progesterone, a bio-identical progesterone. It is biologically compatible with the human body. It took a bit of increasing the dose slowly over time to determine the optimum amount I needed and we used my feelings of anxiety and panic to help make that determination. Once we had my progesterone where we needed it to be, I no longer had anxiety or panic attacks, except on rare occasions when I was under a lot of stress. When that would happen I would increase the progonB for that period of time I was under stress and then lower it back down afterwards. The body burns through our hormones during times of stress.

After doing some more research and a lot of reading, in particular Suzanne Somer’s books on anti-aging and hormones, I went to my Naturopath about what else we could do since I was still waking up at night and the research I had done indicated I should have all my hormone levels evaluated.

About a year after starting on progesterone, I took a 24 hour urine test to get a good reading on all of my hormones. Even with taking pregnenolone and progonB my progesterone was still a little low and all of my other hormones were low as well. I hadn’t taken thyroid medicine since moving to Canada in 2004, and though it didn’t show low in the report, I have a low body temperature of 97.6 which is a symptom of an underactive thyroid.  I am now taking Prometrium instead of progonB, pregnenolone, thyroid, DHEA, and testosterone. Estrogen has yet to be added. There is a good:bad ration for estrogen and my bad estrogen is higher than the good so we are working on flipping the ratio before adding estrogen. I’m taking I3C and lycopene to hopefully help flip the ratio. The plan is to check my estrogen ratio in about six months.

Oh and I had forgotten to mention one other symptom. Lack of libido. Ever since my daughter’s father departed our company, my libido has been almost non-existent. At first I excused this as a symptom of a very bad relationship and not wanting to be around men any more. But after eight years of celibacy and not caring whether I would ever be with a man again, I realized it was more than the result of just a bad relationship. In the past, even after bad relationships I still had sexual desires, but that wasn’t the case here.

When testosterone was added I realized just how out of balance my hormones had become. My libido came back full force and hasn’t stopped telling me about it ever since. I consider this a good thing, even though there is no man in my life, it has helped me to refocus and realize how empty my life had become and how I was depriving my daughter of possibly having a father figure who could and would want to be there for her if or when she ever needed a father.

The hormones I am taking are all bio-identical hormones. That means they are biologically compatible with our bodies and our bodies can use them quite efficiently. I go to a compounding pharmacy to have my prescriptions filled. If you want to know more about the pharmaceutical hormones, especially the negative side of them, research them online or read Suzanne Somer’s books.  I do not receive any compensation for promoting her books, I mention them here because they were of great help to me in understanding what was happening inside my body and helped me to connect my past medical history with what was currently happening and what the test results showed and helped me to talk knowledgeably with my Naturopath on what my goals are and what treatments I would or would not want.

Hormones, you either love them or hate them, or have a love-hate relationship with them. Right now I love mine. I’m hoping once we add estrogen that my migraines will disappear as well.

In regards to medical coverage, it has been a challenge to have these medical expenses covered.  I am lucky in that I am able to get supplementary medical coverage above the provincial medical care and between both of these coverage’s I am able to get most of my expenses covered. Unfortunately that might not be the case for others who are not in my situation and with the changes in healthcare in the US, I have no idea any more. Even though I used to live in the US and have experience with their medical insurance, the new changes in medical coverage is beyond my experience. I would appreciate any comments from others who might know.

I am hoping this will help other women to seek help if they experience similar symptoms.  I had no idea that anxiety and panic attacks could be a sign of hormone deficiencies.  The tough part about anxiety and panic attacks is it is very, and I mean VERY difficult to think straight while you are in the midst of having them. Sometimes it is very difficult to even realize that is what is happening. All you know is you are scared that something really bad is going to happen, and it will be connected with whatever concern you might have had at the time the anxiety started to occur and once it starts it is very difficult to change the direction of your thoughts. I at times also took valerian root which helps to calm the central nervous system which I feel is what is under attack when anxiety and panic attacks occur. So valerian root helps some but it doesn’t solve the problem. For me the answer was progesterone replacement, because my progesterone was severely depleted, almost bottomed out. And it took several months to determine what levels I needed for replacement. The key is to listen to your body, recognize the symptoms and have open communication with a doctor who understands the body’s hormones and works with bio-identical hormones.  

Plus, I maybe 53, but I am almost certain my hormones started depleting back in my mid-thirties. Women should get their hormone levels evaluated while in their early to mid-twenties so they have a base-line in their records so tests later in their thirties or early forties can be compared to the base-line to determine if their hormones are depleting and should start hormone replacement.

I would love to hear from other women on this subject. I can be contacted at kate.spyder@gmail.com if you don’t want to leave a comment on the blog or wish to communicate privately with me.

Please note: I am not a doctor, nor a medical professional. This blog is about my experiences and my opinion of what can be done to help women in a similar situation. It should not be taken as medical advice nor supersede any doctor’s advice or treatment.

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