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Pamela Fagan Hutchins | I need a happy pill.

Even my glasses have had it — both ear pieces are attached to the lenses by scotch tape.

Well, that was fast.  Two weeks ago I brazenly declared Eric and myself in full-bore preparation for an April Half Ironman.  That was before my hormones tightened the screw on me.

So we pushed it back to May, which now even seems fairly remote as far as possibilities go.







I’m trying to maintain my normal bonhomie and positive outlook.  But it’s getting harder.  For the last four years, I’ve eaten handfulls of bio-identical progesterone to help defuse the bully in my body –estrogen — and it has helped, but each cycle gets worse.

First, though, my gyno told me that I am NOT going through perimenopause, because I am too young.  She told me this when I was 41, 42, 43, and 44 (my current age).  “Ms. Hutchins,” she said, “it will be 10 years or more.  And you’ll know when it happens.” Oh, and she put me on estrogen-rich birth control to “even me out.”  It’s a miracle I didn’t commit murder while that poison coursed through my body; I could have sent her the bill for my defense attorney, I guess.  So I ditched the unneeded and damaging birth control.   And I relegated her to ‘scrips for mammograms and annual PAP smears, and switched to Hotze Health & Wellness Center for taking care of ME.

Everything I had read screamed PERI-MENOPAUSAL, PERI-MENOPAUSAL. At Hotze, they said, “Could be.  Only time will tell.  Let’s get you feeling better.” So, a few times a year, the staff at Hotze increases my progesterone. I stay one step ahead of the werewolf.

But in the last few months, the process has speeded up.  (I promise, I’m getting to a point sometime soon — Half Ironman, Pamela, you were talking about training for a Half Ironman) It started with sleeping problems — exhaustion/insomnia/exhaustion/insomnia and so on.  Then, increases in the 3 a.m. night sweats.  Next, the migraines and carb cravings shot up; my kingdom for an apple fritter!  So did my weight.

One day I woke up and realized I felt sad; melt into the Earth sad.  My hormones are raging beasts, not depressed ones, so WTH? My cycle shortened from 28 days to 17.  My breasts swelled up like angry cantalopes.  (And angry cantalopes are really really…oh, I don’t know, I couldn’t think of anything but cantalopes, so maybe I have the first angry cantalope breasts in the history of the world, but run with it — the big fat suckers are pissed off, ok?)

Other body parts wanted in on the “beat the crap out of Pamela” game.  So my urethra contributed recurrent UTI’s.  And every injury I’ve had in the last 10 years — all the old healed-up ones — rose from the dead and zombie-marched through my body.  Old hamstring pull on right thigh?  Torturous.  My struggling feet and achilles?  I was walking/running on burning stumps.  A right groin strain from a few years ago? It was like I’d stabbed myself with a butter knife that lodged and slowly rotated on its own.  My left shoulder, the proud bearer of a “snuggling” injury from 2007 (ye-es, a snuggling injury — we had to change sleeping positions, and it took months to heal)? So painful I cannot do any of my normally easy arm and shoulder stretches.  This wacked out muscle memory, this macabre parade of old wrongs against my body, made no sense.  Makes no sense.  Is crazy as hell.  Yet it’s real.

The unimpacted parts of me?  My heart and lungs.  If I can somehow make it, stiff-legged, through the painful part of my run (two or more miles), then I burst out of my stumbling body like a butterfly from its chrysalis and I soar.

Sometimes I don’t make it past the first half mile.

The constant of my period with cramps and an accompanying UTI has decreased my bicycling enthusiasm.  During a ride last week, the pain was so intense that I did something I’ve never done before: I pulled over to the side of the road and stood with my bicycle for 45 minutes while Eric went and got the car.

And swimming?  Between the migraines (which include nausea) and the immobile shoulder, I don’t think so.

Does any of this mean I CAN’T train?  Of course not.  But when you add these things to my  melting-bone sadness and exhaustion, training is not appealing.  Training is thus not happening very frequently.  I am weak.  I am ashamed.

“Sounds like peri-menopause,” a friend said.

From her mouth to my doctor’s ear.  The doctor I’d like to string up by her ankles right now.  While that sounds a little extreme, I’m FEELING a lot extreme.

I don’t want to get my hopes up too far that the end is near.  And yet I could use some hope.  I’m hoping against hope that my hope is rewarded.  I’m hoping that all of this STOPS.  Either by nature or knife — I’m not above begging for a hysterectomy, y’all.

In the meantime, I have to get a grip on this.  I can’t float and fail.  I will go forth with purpose and a PLAN, a wonderful beautiful marvelous plan, even if I end up in the same place.  Here it is:

  • I’ve changed a menopause-friendly diet: soy milk, blueberries, multi-grains, turkey, fish, bananas, yogurt, cranberry juice IN; sugar, fats, simple carbs OUT.  I think I’m supposed to lay off the coffee, but hell-to-the-no.  I don’t drink alcohol, so nothing to give up there.
  • I’m scaling back on the exercise: more walking, hiking, stretching, and weight lifting.  I think if I take the pressure off that every workout must live up to a “personal best” on the long march to Ironman that I will do something instead of nothing.
  • I’m starting the year with doctor’s appointments, to rule out any other (unlikely) issues.
  • I’m looking for the world’s best natural sleep aid.  Right now I am using melatonin, but I’m open to suggestions.
  • I’m scaling back.  I can’t do it all.  I will tell myself NO.  I think. Maybe.

Those of you spelunkers who have made it through the dark cave ahead of me: advice is very welcome.

The rest of you: ignore me while I cry in the corner.

I wanna be Pamela again.



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31 Responses to I need a happy pill.

  1. Eric Hutchins via Facebook says:

    ARG, I am sorry you are having such a tough time.

  2. Eric says:

    I don’t suspect you will get a lot of comments on this one, but I do know that a lot of people can relate one way or another. Some of it goes back to the balance conversations we have been having recently that unfortunately it seems that along with the highs there are sometimes associated lows. I am sorry that you are having such a hard time, I am here, and I hope you get through it healthy and happy and sooner rather than later.

  3. Pamela says:

    Yeah, it’s a real “Peace” conundrum for me, b/c I have to let the things go that can’t be done adequately when life gets like this, but as you well know…that’s hard. :-) Thanks, love.

  4. Nancy says:

    Hey Pamela, I know this is a tough time, for I’m going through some of the same issues at age 47. Docs can say you’re too young for peri menopause, but everyone is different and you know your body better than anyone else, even the doctors. Your plan sounds like a good one and I predict it will begin to make a difference. In the meantime, hang in there and remember this is only temporary. You will feel like yourself again except you will be even better!!! If that’s even possible – you’re pretty darn swell just as you are right now!!! Hugs and love to you!!!

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks, Nancy! As my mom once told me when I was pregnant and barfing (the whole 9 months, both pregnancies), “You’re not the first nor will you be the last woman in the world to survive this, Pamela.” And she was right :)

    • Pamela says:

      And by the way, I wanted to punch my mom when she said that, of course.

      Nancy, hang in there as you traverse it too. It’s no fun, and I’m sending solidarity vibes your way.

  5. Ally says:

    I kinda want to kiss you right now. To know someone else understands angry cantaloupes makes me very happy. Not happy that you have them, just happy that you understand them. I’m also 44 and “too young” to say that my ever changing symptoms are “peri-menopausal”. Your symptoms sound way worse than mine, so you have my utmost sympathy. I can’t imagine it being worse. Just the other day I threatened to have my ovaries removed just to stop the hormone flow. Not really a good option, but it sounded good in the moment. Luckily my sleep is still decent – except for those 4 days a month when I have insomnia and night sweats… ugh. And after reading your post, it’s the first time I’ve considered that my current “dark cloud funk” might be related to the hormones…
    I hope you find some answers to make you feel better!

  6. Alexandra says:

    Ay, m’ija.

    My understanding from Dr Northrup’s incredible amazing book on women and women’s health ( WHICH I ENCOURAGE YOU GET NOW LIKE A MOFO) is that perimenopause can begin ten years before your period BEGINS to come to an end.

    So, say, your last period will be at age 52. Your menses will BEGIN to end around age 50, so perimenopause will begin about 40.

    That’s what Dr Christine Northrup explains.

    And that makes sense to me.

    Get the book. Really. I love it.

    • Pamela says:

      I’m sooooooo getting on amazon today and buying it! Thanks Alexandra, you are a goddess! You know hat chaps me tho, and maybe all my md’s sucked, but no one wants to talk about or admit pwrimenopause is happening or real or even a possibility. My dads a doctor and we talk aboit this alot — what medical school teaches, the impact of bi pharma companies and the dominance o f insurance: end result is a lack of focus on wellness and general well being for SOME physicians. My dad now treats with bioidebtical hormones, I’m so proud of him!

  7. Heidi Dorey says:

    I’m really sorry to hear this.
    I can understand this in a some small way
    because of my past (and soon to be future) issues.
    But what I have learned from reading your blog is that first you boo-hoo,
    then you get off your butt and fix the problem, then you blog about how great life is again.
    But there’s always the turn-around.

    And that’s what great about you.
    You’ll be fine.
    I can’t wait to hear how you’ve conquered this issue.

    • Pamela says:

      Thank you my sweet friend. I’m at the gyno as we speak. Next stop: bioidetical hormone doctor. I feel empowered to be on the attack. That in and of itself is almost enough.

  8. Terri Sonoda says:

    Hi Pamela. Very sorry to hear of all this nastiness. I can’t help but believe in the peri-menopause diagnosis (or lack thereof). I was going through it in my early 40s, as were a few of my friends. We were all athletic (geez what happened to that) but not like you. We jogged and played a little tennis and golf. But. Our doctors told us we were going into menopause. They didn’t use the “peri” word then, but instead “going into”. Sheesh. Anyhow, because I had a diagnosis, I was able to dive head-first into treatment. And things got better. I was lucky and didn’t have to take the drugs, but some of my friends did, and it helped. I had the night sweats and the body aches, too. I had migraines, but ended up, they were attributed to my high blood pressure, and once medicated, no more headaches.
    Probably too much info from me here. I’m more empathetic than helpful. But peri-menopause is a butt-kicker. Best wishes with your plan. I know you will take care of business, my friend!

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks Terri! That’s great that you were able to take care of HBP & migraines at once. My grandmother’s migraines stopped with menopause, and I am looking forward to that! I think the insurance domination of the medical INDUSTRY is not a good thing. I think for many doctor’s it changes the time they will spend talking about non-covered issues with a patient. But, that’s just my bias speaking.

  9. Sandy Webb says:

    Oh how I know how much this sucks! I began before I was 40. Did you ask your gyno about Implanon? I swear it saved my sanity.

    I think the best sleep aid is alcohol….lol, but I know that is not an option for you.

    I hope it gets better soon hun, for your benefit as well as Eric’s. I know TJ wanted to kill me a couple of times when I was going through it. Hang tough! BTW, I just turned 46 this past September and I am already done with menopause so it does happen early.

  10. Eric says:

    I love all of your colors. One of those is your honesty and willingness to put personal stuff out there. It lets people know that they are not alone, that you are real, and that life is good, even when it is tough. That is why you have loyal readers and followers, that is one of the things that I think sets you apart from the pack.

    I am sorry there is not some way for me to absorb some of this for you and make it easier.

    • Pamela says:

      You help ease it just by your presence in my life. Most of the time :) And other times you fan the embers into a raging bonfire ha ha. Seriously, you DO help. You help ALL the time, and I love you and I appreciate itsoooo much. Happy Anniversary, baby.

  11. What kind of doctor says a blanket statement like you are NOT going through perimenopause because you are too young? I’ve had friends it hit in their 30’s, a couple actually had it happen in their 20’s. I was mid 40’s.

    Also consider cutting out the soy milk (or at least check the research). There is enough research out there that proves soy is not the health food everyone has been hyped into believing it is. And since soy milk doesn’t exist naturally in nature, it is, and always has been, a processed food. They presoak the beans in an alkaline solution and the resulting paste is cooked in a pressure cooker, eliminating key nutrients and producing low levels of the toxin “lysinoalanine”. Doesn’t that sound delicious?

    I read enough research about chemicals (processed foods) aggravating and amplifying menopausal symptoms, peri or full-blown. THAT was enough of an eye-opener for me. Anything to keep me from standing outside naked in the middle of the night in the middle of winter and going, “Ahhhh!” I’m sure the neighbors were glad, too. Consider at least looking into getting off processed foods. You would be absolutely astonished at how badly you feel based on simply eating processed foods.

    I can’t believe how good I feel now that we’ve cut almost all chemicals out of our food choices, and how AWFUL I feel if I do eat processed foods now. It is almost instant icks from flu-like symptoms, joint aches, aches in places that I hadn’t had aches in in years, headaches from H- E- double hockey sticks, lethargy, insomnia, dry skin, waking up in the morning with runny nose and cold symptoms (which fade as the day progresses), sometimes feeling like I have a major hangover, blah blah blah – ALL from eating processed foods (like in a restuarant).

    It is another area to research in order to feel better for the rest of your life. I believe you will find good answers in all these comments – sometimes it is best to get it from people who’ve been there and kicked its’ butt (whatever “it” is).

    • Pamela says:

      I already feel better after 4 days of getting the processed foods back out. I so know you are right. We are running out the door for our anniversary weekend, but I am going to re-read your advice in a few days and follow-up on it, b/c it is fabulous stuff. Thanks, Nan. Love you!

  12. JennyBean says:

    You’ve got me so scared, I just tried to call my doc for a valium script, and she’ not in.

    I had one of those nightmare hormone induced migraines several months ago, and I was so sick, I thought I had the flu.

    Hoping that your new regimen and a new year brings the old Pamela back, and while we’re at it, here’s hoping that there’s a book deal in 2012 too!

    XOXO, Jenny

  13. We should so have coffee!!! Have you experienced the brain fog yet? The I-think-I-have-dementia-brain-fog-but-it’s-perimenopause? A few years ago, I had crippling plantar (blah blah blah) – and one day when I got blisters on my feet, I jazzercised in socks – and WhaaaLa! Feet problem gone (try those shoes with toes – it’s amazing the better stretch you get on your feet). Because I started a son of mine on a zinc and magnesium regimen – my brain started functioning better and my appetite seems more normal. Also, this son has migraines (which is why we started him on zinc) and drs. tried “prescriptions” which didn’t work – but on barometric pressure changing days, we give him 2 Migraine Excedrine, a diet Mt. Dew (and the zinc – which we just heard about) and another WhaaaLa! Migraines be gone. I couldn’t get my Christmas Tree up for weeks and for 3 days, looked at it standing there without the lights wondering, “How can I do that?” – and, I don’t know if it was the zinc or a hormonal reprieval – but suddenly my brain cleared up and I have been multi-thinking for days (not as awesomely multi-thinking as when they put me on pretosone for ears – but mighty fine). Of course, I prayed for my brain to clear around the time I took the zinc – so just thinking. . . . LOL

    Here’s to smooth hormones for 2012!

    • Pamela says:

      We sooooo need to do coffee! I went out and bought a zinc/magnesium supplement today, thanks to you. I agree on the VFF (finger shoes). I use them for exactly that reason, and I also use “minimalist” shoes that do the same kind of s-t-r-e-t-c-h-h-h-h-h-h ah. Hang in there. We are stride for stride. Oh, I also bought another menopause “supplement” today, plus a new herbal sleep aid that Dr. Dad recommended. I’ll report out soon.

  14. Molly says:

    Pamela…. I know a bit how you feel. I have had hormone and female changes since my mid-thirties… I’m now 41 and was told that peri-menopause can start in your 30’s by my doc. This spring before moving, I finally had uterine ablasion done (aka Novasure). My gyno is a friend and had been telling me for years to have it done. The heavy periods that were coming closer and closer together were driving me nuts. That is one piece of the puzzle you could solve and it REALLY has made my life so much better. The procedure is like 15 min itself… he even does the procedure in his office 2x’s a month- you want to be put under though- my friend’s Dr. didn’t and she said it wasn’t pretty. I went in at 11:45- home by 1:30 up and around by dinner. Dave was even in Suisse when I did it. AWESOME is all I can say. My yucky cantaloupes went away, too. I think my mood is better- but that is REALLY hard to say when you are adjusting to life in a new culture and language!! xo The muscle stuff could be stress… you are juggling many, many, many things– I’ve had issues here since moving that I know are triggered by stress… days that are particularly bad– the muscle issues can be almost incapacitating, too. :( xo Hope things are better soon!!!

    • Pamela says:

      Molly, wow thanks!! That is VERY helpful. I think I am going to switch gynos to one that is more friendly to the concept of perimenopause. Novasure sounds like a good route. My mom ended up having a hysterectomy when she wasn’t much older than me.

      I have a new bathtub going in. I plan to be the bubbles and aromatherapy — stress can be killer.

      I hope you are settling in. It sounds like, while exciting, a very very stressful change.

  15. […] my efforts to regain some hormonal balance, sanity, and mojo, I caved to my doctor’s recent instructions. Some of them were easy enough, like changes in […]

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