Wednesday 15 April 2020

Coping with Early Menopause

Early menopause is affecting many young women, but among the student community, our conversation about experiences of living with this condition and its effect on mental wellbeing remain limited. In this blog, Emily shares her experience of managing her mental wellbeing while coping with early menopause.

Emily Maybanks

Early menopause happens when a woman’s periods stop before the age of 45. It can happen naturally, or as a side effect of some treatments. For most women, the menopause starts between the ages of 45 and 55. One cause of early menopause is surgery to remove the ovaries. Surgically removing both ovaries will bring on premature or early menopause. I am almost 26 and am going through early menopause. In 2017, I had a laparoscopic operation to remove a large and solid ovarian cyst where unfortunately one of my ovaries also had to be removed. The cyst was tested and it came back as having tumours inside it. Since then, I was living with one ovary but heavy and irregular periods until it was discovered that a large, solid cyst was growing on the remaining ovary and the fear was that it could have tumours in it again. Earlier this year, I had a laparotomy to have the cyst and the remaining ovary removed, thus causing early menopause.

While I’ve not had much guidance from my Gynaecologist or my GP about the menopause (mainly due to the country going into lockdown during my recovery from my operation) – I have done a fair amount of research from the symptoms that I have been experiencing as well as learning to accept my new normal, and coming to terms with the fact I am never going to be able to conceive a baby naturally.

The main symptoms I have endured are the hot flushes and the night sweats, as well as anxiety and difficulty sleeping. I am also more forgetful and find it much harder to focus and concentrate. Sometimes, these are hard to manage, especially the anxiety and the difficulty to concentrate and finding it hard to sleep. But I’m giving myself the time I need to come to terms with the symptoms and learning how to manage them by trying to exercise regularly albeit gently and also eating better. For some young women who go through early menopause, it can cause osteoporosis which is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. Therefore, it’s important to have enough calcium and Vitamin D in your diet.

Early menopause is difficult to cope with and it does feel overwhelming and upsetting and frustrating at times. But, I’ve found that my friends have been very understanding and supportive which is a wonderful help. And I keep telling myself that while the symptoms are horrible, it was more horrible having a large cyst growing inside me which could have become something more serious.

If you are experiencing physical health problems, as difficult as these can be, it is vital to try to remain positive as physical and mental health often go hand in hand. If you're not feeling well physically, this can have a negative effect on mental health and vice versa. However, if you try to remain optimistic, the symptoms become easier to manage and everyday life can continue relatively normally.

"If you don't make time for your wellness, you will probably be forced to make time for your illness."

You can find more resources on looking after your wellbeing here

My name is Emily (Em). In 2018, I graduated from Swansea University with my BA degree in Modern Languages, Translation & Interpreting where I was also passionate about and dedicated to Swansea Student Media and the University students’ newspaper – Waterfront. In September 2020 I will be starting a PGCE at the University of Reading to train to teach Secondary MFL (French and German). I blog for Student Minds because I have experienced mental health issues as a student and now also as a graduate, as well as various other health issues, and I support friends who also have mental health difficulties. I am a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences – both in helping me to explore and to cope with my mental health, as well as sharing my story in order to help and inspire others.

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