I thought it was early onset dementia … and I was terrified. Not being aware of perimenopause at all, I missed all the signs. It wasn’t until I thought I was going crazy that everything clicked into place. Menofog or Peribrain are real and are another delightful element of the perimenopausal gift that keeps on giving.
Some women have no issues in this department at all, or symptoms are so subtle they barely notice them. Mine come in waves and are dreadful. I can be skipping along in life, entertaining my friends and impressing my colleagues with my sharp wit and fast brain. Then… BAM! Total wipeout. It can happen mid-sentence, causing distress and embarrassment, especially if I’m in full flow in a meeting at work.
My brain fog can be worse if I’m in a period where my sleep is particularly bad, which I guess makes sense. But other times there is simply no explanation at all. What scared me most at first was my memory loss. I’m not Rainman by any means, but my ability to remember phone numbers, pin codes and passwords was second to none. Now, these just fall out of my brain – thank God that most platforms and systems have simple methods that let you reset access credentials!
My attention span is also suffering. I can’t watch a film or read a book without wandering off mentally. I’m not talking about a Dolly Daydream level of wandering off … no, I can mentally check out, take a world tour and check back in wondering where the hell the last 30 minutes just went.
Decision making can suffer, too. First world issues like choosing which wine to drink are highly entertaining to the people I’m with, and I try and smile at them while I really can’t make a choice between white or rose. It might sound funny to you, but inside I’m in utter turmoil and feel completely overwhelmed by the decision making process.
Did you know that some women suffer so much with their perimenopause symptoms that it interferes with their ability to work? Some are walking away from careers they have worked hard for because they were forgetting appointments and making mistakes. Employers are often unaware of or underestimate the negative effect perimenopause has on women.
I often feel like my symptoms are not being taken seriously. Even younger female colleagues have tutted at me for wanting a window open or giggled at the fan on my desk. If only that was all I had to deal with. My life sucks enough as it is right now – I don’t want to draw attention to myself with the fan/open window. I don’t want to talk openly about any of this. I’m actually a private person. But because I’m being judged on my behavior I feel the need to explain.
If I come to work with a bad back or a twisted ankle, people will fall over themselves to help me and offer kind words. I just want that same level of kindness and support as I complete this particular stage of my life.
I have found a few things that help me. I have tried drinking more fluid. In the past, before perimenopuse, if I was struggling with concentration I’d make sure I stayed hydrated. I now make sure I’m never far away from a bottle of water and make regular trips from my chair or desk to grab a drink.
Recently, after signing up with Noom and eating more healthily, I have noticed an improvement. Gone are the frequent lockdown Just Eat and Deliveroo deliveries. Everything I eat now is homemade and wholesome. I’m eating fresh veg until it’s coming out of my ears! It wasn’t until a friend treated me to a takeaway recently that I realised how good my new diet regime was making me feel. I’d totally recommend looking at what you eat and seeing how you can improve it.
I’m also moving more. I have dusted off the Fitbit and am getting more steps in. I’m also taking time out for regular walks. Nothing major, but decent 1-1.5 mile circular walks that require no real effort or pre-planning so therefore no excuse for me not to do them. I time how long they take me and try and do them faster each time.
But the biggie for me is doing less. Less is more. I’m building time into my schedule for doing nothing. As the world tries to unlock the lockdowns and get busy again, I’m keeping some time for me and learning to say no. Self-care is something we talk about all the time at So Just Be and we make no apology for that. Stress and anxiety can lead to sleep issues. Sleep issues can lead to brain fog and poor cognitive skills.
Speak to your health professionals and find ways to help you keep your brain, stress levels and life in check as you navigate perimenopause. With so many natural and medical solutions available you will find something that helps you.
I did have one more really good tip … but I can’t remember what it was … hang on … it’s on the tip of my tongue. Oh look, there’s a butterfly.