Worst year of my life!
It was a long time coming but I didn’t really pick up on the signs until after the fact.
Till the dust settled.
This was NOT your average “hot flashes” story.
This was a total spiral down.
Physically, emotionally, and whatever aspect of being on this crazy Earth you want to look at.
This is a guide to what I found out the hard way (bad doctors, bad advice, bad nights!)
Otherwise, let me tell you a little story.
One note...this centers around estrogen but the story for men is very similar...just more gradual.
Rather than the drop off a cliff late 40's (goodbye estrogen), it's a slow decline at 1% per year (so long testosterone) from around age 20. Same effects...just less obvious.
If you’re reading this, there may be elements of it way too familiar to your story but that’s the point.
If I can help one woman avoid the nightmare below...then it might be worth it.
But let’s start with the overview:
- Age 40 - 46 - the slow preamble of not paying attention to myself
- Fall 2016 - Panic attack and crazy periods
- Jan 2017 - Hello ER doctor - one ticket please for a ride to hell!
- Feb - Aug 2017 - Bring in the Clowns (I mean doctors) and horrible medications
- Fall 2017 - Finally, some guidance and maybe….some relief
- Winter 2017 - So...hormones ARE important!
- Spring 2018 - Spring….literally and figuratively
- Summer 2018 - We made it!! You will too!!
Look...I’m not a doctor.
That being said, I was given SO much bad advice from so many doctors, I’m not sure it’s a negative.
Try to find a good one...who will work with you through this process.
If anything, you’ll learn what to ask, demand, and negotiate from what I went through.
My perimenopause almost broke me. I’m not exaggerating there.
There was a time around July of 2017 where I had ZERO sleep for 3 days in a row (from Lexapro) and I could swear I was negotiating with “someone” on whether I wanted to be on this Earth any longer.
It was that bad.
The more women I talk to, the more I find similar stories.
Kept in silence. Maybe in shame.
No more! This is not a badge of honor to suffer through silently.
Perimenopause doesn’t have to be a death sentence.
For me...it was literally a rebirth!
I’ll explain later.
Let’s get started.
Like a detective story…
“From the beginning, mam!”
The pre-perimenopause years - Slowly putting on water (and weight)
In hindsight, the signs were there.
I am married and have two boys.
I had them at age 30 and 32.
Both were preemies but are okay (except that they are teenagers now).
I often joke that having kids older is crazy for one reason…
Going through perimenopause while they are teens is HORRIBLE!
Really...like I’m in any state to deal with a 15 and 17-year-old??
Anyway, that’s where I was.
I slowly put on weight after the birth of our second born.
My husband is great but I did the bulk of the work with the kids.
Let me guess...that’s typical??
The day to day is just a constant state of “need”.
There was a tendency to neglect myself.
I put on weight slowly but steadily from my original weight of 150 to about 190.
I look back at those pictures and it's shocking now!
So….years of working, raising the kids, PTO, art docent, blah blah…
By age 45-46, I started feeling anxiety in meetings.
I remember the first time at a PTO meeting.
All of a sudden, I felt a slight panic attack come on.
I brushed it off.
And kept GOING.
That was a sign way back in winter of 2015 of what was to come.
Check out our perimenopause versus menopause article to see how the signs can come really early.
I should have listened!
Fall 2016 - Panic attack and crazy periods
A few milder (if there is such a thing) panic attacks in meetings and doctor offices bunched up in 2016.
We were visiting our friends (and future Indigo Natural partners!!) in Roseville Ca and I suddenly felt like I was having a heart attack.
My friend took me to the ER and they did all the lovely tests.
No heart issues.
Panic attack. Full-blown.
Check out CBD and panic attacks to understand how that nonsense works.
Very strange. I had one panic attack way back when I was starting a new business at age 24.
Nothing really since then.
Around this same time, my period started to really change.
This was gradual over about 3-4 months.
- Irregular duration.
- Coming early or late.
- Bright color and different consistency.
Around Christmas time, I broke down crying for no real reason.
My doctor had noticed a cyst on my ovary earlier in the year but said it wasn’t changing much so we would watch it.
Her recommendation...get ready...
Thank God I didn’t listen or was too busy to act. (Check out Progesterone and ovarian cysts).
Okay...things were getting strange but I put it off.
“I’ll bring it up at next annual”.
Perimenopause had OTHER plans!
Jan 2017 - Hello ER doctor - one ticket please for a ride to hell!
One day, late January, I came unglued.
I was on day 7 of this typhoid vaccine for a planned Hong Kong trip and felt like I was being poisoned with each passing day!
My heart was pounding and I felt like I was coming out of my skin.
No real trigger.
Full-blown, rolling panic attacks!
My first (of a few) trips to the ER.
They run all the tests. Everything’s negative.
BP is around 180/130 to start. Pulse is about 130.
I’m hooked up to a saline drip and the ER doctor proceeds to write a bunch of meds for me.
As I’m sitting there for 4 hours, my BP and heart rate start to drop.
Can I now get a side of White Coat Syndrome please!
My battle with blood pressure readings has officially begun.
I go home.
It won’t be my last ER visit.
It definitely won’t be my last piece of bad advice, bad guidance, and terrible outcomes.
Feb - Aug - Bring in the Clowns (I mean doctors) and horrible medications
I’m going to quicken the doctor section because there’s just too much to cover.
This is the overview...the cheat sheet to incompetence if you will.
Let’s list them out first.
- Family practice nurse - hands out a host of blood pressure meds
- Family practice doctor - hands out SSRI's like candy
- Respected Cardiologist (“you’ll be on these for life”)
- Disinterested psychiatrist - I can barely function right now!
- Fake naturopath - "You'll have a stroke with hormones"
- Real naturopath but with SOME bad guidance - "cycle hormones"
- Genetic counselor (actually helped a bit)
- ER doctor who prescribed catastrophic med combination (Thank you for the dance on the edge)
- Good acupuncturist (Oona!!)
- Good naturopath (Dr. Takashima!!)
I’ll leave out all the heavy-handed nurses... “Oh no...I can’t find a pulse...and I was an ER nurse”.
She literally said that when I was coming out of my skin.
There was one ER nurse who was SO freaking awesome! Thank you so much when I needed that!
What about the meds?
The lovely meds they write up after 5 minutes talking to you.
Again, we’ll blow this out for a full review because it’s the most involved history and story there.
But for good measure, here’s the just a small snippet of the medication merry-go-round:
- Hydrochlorothiazide - diuretic for blood pressure
- Metoprolol - Beta Blockers for BP
- Lotensin - ACE inhibitor for BP
- Propranolol - another beta since the first one had bad side effects
- Bystolic - since Lotensin had side effects
All these bp, heart rate meds made me feel horribly.
Read up on how they actually work and what they take out of the body.
The book, Drug Muggers by Suzy Cohen is a must-read.
Here’s the deal...I never had a BP issue or heart racing till age 47.
Ding ding ding….bells going off...maybe hormone related due to age??
Nope. Not for all these doctors.
Business as usual. Load up the meds.
Now let’s get into the meds for the anxiety.
Just a small sampling, a taster if you will:
Learn all about them at our CBD versus benzo's review.
And icing on the cake...doctor’s goto for perimenopause…
Here you go little lady, take these and don't cause such a commotion.
One of the doctors actually looked at my husband who came to the visits with me and told HIM, "This will give you a break at home".
Fill in the blank for your doctor’s favorite SSRI
Check out how they really work at CBD versus SSRI's for serotonin here.
What I really love was the taste of metal and a total flatline of feeling.
Oh...and the 3 days of zero sleep ending in the ER.
They don’t really mention that coming off of any of these meds might be a living hell.
Both classes build tolerance! Benzos throw in an addiction kick by spiking dopamine.
Again, I’ll really detail the to’s and fro’s of this medication medley and doctor nonsense in a separate article.
When I’m less angry about it :)
So how were all these meds working??
All these meds sent me a tailspin.
Symptoms at any given time during the 6-month window:
- Heart would race all night (and day at the worst of it)
- Blood pressure would spike all over the place
- Feeling of dizziness
- Lack of energy
- Negative thoughts
- Anxiety and depression
- Waking up every few hours like a shot of adrenaline hit me
- Pain inside
- My feet went nuts!!! I couldn’t walk, they hurt so bad!
- Irregular bowel movements!
- Yeast infections
- Staph flare-ups
- No appetite (my weight dropped 30 pounds in 1 month)
- A feeling like my insides were vibrating or shaking
I felt horrible for months!
Around August, I cut all the meds.
All of them.
I graduated off every med there with this little pill cutter (long since burned!).
I was nervous especially since the doctors had told me the bp and pulse were going to kill me.
I just felt so bad on them.
My husband and I were scouring the internet and learning everything we could!
If it’s out there, I tried it.
In our pantry, there is a Killing Fields of supplements, ointments, elixirs, and balms.
It looks like storage for a medieval witch doctor.
We’ll touch on all those in a separate supplement article but the one's that don't build tolerance actually have research are here.
My fake naturopath put me on synthetic progesterone.
It helped a bit.
I wasn’t defcon 4 anymore.
I researched and learned about the benefits of bioidentical progesterone over synthetic which the first naturopath didn't know then (has sinced changed).
Love this website and this article here (shout out to Lara Briden):
Good lord...it's right there in NIH studies (google "bioidentical hormones versus synthetics NIH").
The misinformation or just lack of info that DOCTORS have is amazing.
I found a new doctor.
The beginning of turning this thing around.
Fall 2017 - Finally, some guidance and maybe….some relief
My next doctor “specialized” in balancing hormones for women.
She did get me on the right path but also handed out some bad info (adrenal fatigue, cycling hormones, etc).
But...we were coming out of the ether finally.
We switched to Prometrium bioidentical progesterone. Progesterone supports GABA (target for benzos) and calms the immune system.
It drops by 50% at age 40 and keeps going down (hence all the autoimmune, histamine, and other issues that crop up for women 8 to 1 versus men).
Get to know progesterone...it's huge! Especially for mental health.
This is after someone FINALLY running my hormone panels.
Get a Dutch test as soon as you can!
Can you believe all the other doctors just looked at baseline Estrogen.
Did none of them understand the importance of Progesterone?? Testosterone?? Or Estradiol?
No… because that’s a few hours dedicated during medical school and let’s face it...it’s for women.
I hate saying that but if men were routinely losing their shit around age 48, this would have been addressed a long time ago!
This doctor put me on the right path but there were other things in hindsight where she was off.
There was lots of talk about adrenal fatigue and various ways to fix that.
I learned much later (on my own) what’s really going on there.
So much simpler.
And guess what, it’s another hormone.
Winter 2017 - So...hormones ARE important!
Look...there are other aspects at play here.
- Environmental factors
I’ll touch base on each of those in separate sections but…
Hormones are QUEEN!
It’s kind of ridiculous to say this in regards to perimenopause.
Perimenopause is a big shift….in hormones (really estrogen since progesterone has been dropping for a while now).
It’s the CHANGE that’s crushing us.
For the Progesterone alternative, check out pregnenolone.
You'll see we don't mess around when it comes to research!
I finally find a good doctor (Dr. Takashima!))
She’s the first one to actually run all the tests!
- Full hormone panels (yes, there are three estrogens and one of them is an ass-kicker for my symptoms!)
- Nutrition and allergy panels - histamines were a major issue for me!
- Total lab work including D, B, inflammation markers, and on and on
How is it that these weren’t runway back in the beginning.
The amount of suffering that could have been prevented.
- My general doctor - FAIL
- My OBGyn???? FAIL She’s a woman in her late 40’s for God’s sake
- My Cardiologist FAIL "you'll be on these for life"
- Fake NaturoPath 1 FAIL "you'll have a stroke on hormones"
- Real NaturoPath 2 Partially got there "cycle hormones and adrenal fatigue"
It’s really pretty amazing.
I’ll touch base on all the things I learned about testing and labs in a separate section.
It’s too detailed.
I’ll let you know the labs that packed the most punch so you can try to avoid wasting money.
- Bio-identical oral progesterone - Check!
- Testosterone cream - Check!
- Bio-identical oral Estradiol - Check!
After much research, I have finally gotten to bioidentical oral estradiol (called Estrace). The process was labored.
FIrst, there's the fear of estradiol itself. A few deep dives:
Then there's the voodoo around oral estrogen:
oral estrogen. We did a deep dive on that here based on brand new research around Bijuva (more here).
For my situation, the triumvirate!
And a lot of supplements (Magnesium glycinate, Vitamin D, Methylated B12, and Folate)
What did that do?
Spring 2018 - Spring….literally and figuratively
Bad nights went from every night to 1 or 2 per week.
And then….things started to change.
I started sleeping through the night again.
There were some additional helpers, but I can’t tell you how different I feel now.
The spring of 2018 had me tweaking and testing levels of hormones, supplements, and other items.
In order of importance!
There were other things I did to help of course:
- I swim every day...just 30 minutes and not crazily but find what works for you
- I eat so much better now! Single item ingredients. Vegetables. Meat. Good fats (no more seed oils). You're hormones are made from LDL cholesterol by the way!
- I have a regiment of basic supplements based on my body and genetics
- I value sleep! I value family and friends.
- I meditate 10 minutes a day (that new Calm app is awesome!) Check out exercise and meditation for neurogenesis here.
Ohhh...the suffering I could have avoided.
CBD to the rescue
Some friends had told my husband about CBD about one year before the very beginning of this slow-moving trainwreck.
My husband and I just dismissed it.
We're not pot people.
I get anxious and he just gets tired.
Turns out my reaction is an allergic one to THC and plant material.
Pot was never our thing.
We just didn't understand what CBD was and most importantly, what research was showing for perimenopause.
You can check out all the details on CBD and perimenopause here but the net net…
It's SO in the wheelhouse for all the issues brought about by perimenopause.
- It boosts the system that's in charge of balancing...hormones
- And inflammation (pain, auto-immune, gut issues, histamine)
- And the nervous system! (mood, sleep, anxiety, etc)
We finally came around to trying it after learning everything we could.
Most importantly, CBD supports GABA (since progesterone left the wheel) and Serotonin (since estrogen is fleeing).
Serotonin is really a big deal for every perimenopause symptom. It's THE target.
Here's the key thing with CBD...
It's not all created equal!
I tried some of the big brands that are EVERYWHERE.
- The first one sent my allergies in hyperdrive and gave me a fever.
- The second caused a clicking noise in the back of the throat (allergic response)
- The third just smelled really bad (couldn't get past it)
- The fourth gave me foggy thinking.
- The fifth one gave me diarrhea
Turns out that I (like 40% of the population and closer to 60% of women at my age) have allergy issues. Remember...progesterone keeps immune response under management.
My husband bought CBD Isolate (just CBD and MCT oil - extract from coconut oil).
Learn all about CBD and histamines (which NO ONE is talking about!!)
One last try!
I took it (reluctantly the first time).
I braced myself.
My sinuses immediately cleared up!
I have histamine issues so the type of CBD really mattered.
After we learned everything we could and found the cleanest, safest CBD, I ramped up my levels.
There was this crazy thing that occurred during the dark days of perimenopause where my feet felt like I was walking on glass.
Multiple foot doctors with orthotics, MRI's, x-rays, shoe prescriptions, and more missed what one doctor found.
We now know that it was regional complex pain syndrome...or basically pain locked in the nervous system.
It's so funny...I took a big dose of CBD (about 200mg) before the doctor appt for my feet (because by this time, doctor visits totally freaked me out).
He wanted me to walk up a hill in the back of the office to see where exactly it was hurting.
I walked up the hill but my feet weren't hurting!
You don't understand. One of the doctors before put me in a boot (which wrecked my other foot and back) and the other one recommended a month of bed rest.
There was a period where I was wheeling around on a chair through the house and getting out to the pool on knee pads!!
It sounds crazy in hindsight but I couldn't walk on my feet!
Now, after a 200 mg dose of CBD, I can't make them hunt for the doctor to figure out what's going on!
That was the first indication that CBD was going to be my newest, best friend.
I just came back from the good foot doctor today.
MRI shows the lowest two vertebrae have no space...almost bone on bone and the there's a bulge that pushing on nerves.
My foot issue was an inflammation issue in my back.
Maybe CBD's biggest advantage is what it can do to the inflammatory response in the body.
Check out CBD and inflammation here.
Also, serotonin manages our pain threshold and estrogen keeps its levels up. Hello!!
It's not just inflammation and pain though.
Check out all the aspects of Anxiety that CBD can help with here.
Meanwhile, back to my clawing back story….
Summer 2018 - We made it!! You will too!!
By summer 2018, not only can I sleep through the night but I can almost handle when my 15-year-old has 3 friends sleepover.
Can they possibly close the doors quietly in the house?
Are they just incapable of doing that?
Anyway. I’m about 99% there.
I keep learning and testing things out.
Trying to fine-tune the crazy, complicated female body as it goes through a huge change.
Here’s the net take-away…
If you do this right, you may feel better over the next decade than you have since your 20’s!
I’m not kiddings!
Science is changing so quickly.
Many of the things we associate with feeling young and good slowly go down as we get older.
We can offset this with the right actions.
Perimenopause is a change but it can be a change for the better.
Right now, let’s get you on the other side of it.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve hit some of the roadblocks I mentioned above.
Feels something like an oncoming car.
Figuring out the root cause (hormones, nutrition) and getting some relief (CBD) saved my life.
There's no band-aiding loss of estrogen and progesterone! Every cell of yoru body has receptors. Heart. Bone. Liver. Immune system. Brain!!
Hopefully, it helps other women who are literally flying blind!
The highlight is 20/20 - My perimenopause review!
I was soooo low and helpless that I really started to question whether I was going to make it.
This is after 30 years of being a rock.
Knowing myself. Raising two very active boys. Married and loving my husband for 18 years. Starting my own successful business.
People thought I had cancer in 2017.
I literally disappeared. I couldn’t get out of bed.
Here’s the deal...if you’re starting to feel any of this…
The fix is probably simple.
It’s not rocket science (it is...but not once you KNOW).
Our body is run by simple cycles.
Perimenopause is flux in all these cycles.
Your body has been used a certain equilibrium for over 30 years (since puberty).
All of a sudden, the ground beneath you is shifting.
This FEELS like stress to all the interconnected systems.
Not every woman gets hit the same way but you would be surprised how many are getting walloped the same way I did.
It's estimated that 25% of women will have a DEBILITATING perimenopause. Like mine. (find out why here)
No matter how bad it is right now, trust me...you can feel better.
We WILL get you back on your feet.
You WILL come out of perimenopause happier, stronger, and healthier than ever.
You can’t really explain to someone who hasn’t gone through it.
I did. Let me save you some suffering and time.
That’s my way of saying thank you for getting my life back.
Much love and support to all my ladies out there trying to find ground.
Andrea Goodacre Jarvis
Here are some amazing resources that helped me understand I wasn't the only one (by a long shot)!:
Let us know about the resources that you find helpful.
Also, this is my story...tell us your story!
As history, they seldom are the same but often rhythm.
Get specific links for CBD and Perimenopause symptoms and questions here.
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.