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How I Successfully Battled Perimenopause and Hormonal Imbalance

“Menopause remains one of those delicate topics that rarely finds its way into everyday conversation, especially during dinner. Women are woefully unprepared by the healthcare industry for this stage of their lives, so when something like this strikes you simply feel crazy. I hope to help change that.”

Hello! Who are you?

Hello, I’m Mia West. On an average day, I’d like to believe I exude a high-energy, exuberant, and joyful disposition. I suppose those who know me would agree, whether they’ve encountered me on a good day or during one that’s a bit more challenging.

Admittedly, living in San Diego, “America’s Finest City,” certainly helps – the average temperature is a perfect 70 degrees and the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean aren’t too shabby.

Plus, I’m surrounded by the unwavering support of a generous and loving partner and have two endearing mutts who consider me the center of their universe. Being in a place brimming with beauty, friendship, and love, tends to manifest happiness, and for that, I’m most thankful.

After years of putting my public relations career first, I’ve recently relinquished the fancy titles and fast-paced agency life for a much more peaceful role.

Currently, I’m a brand consultant and copywriter, helping startups I believe in shape their narratives. This shift has allowed me to prioritize and lead with my identity as a human being, recognizing that work, though significant, no longer defines me. It’s a refreshing perspective that has brought a renewed sense of fulfillment and contentment into my life.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

On a Sunday morning in March of 2022, I woke up to a paralyzing panic attack, something I had never experienced before. Crying is completely out of character for me unless tragedy strikes, yet I couldn’t stop the waterworks and it was hours before I could pull myself together. These were some next-level Sunday Scaries.

In the months leading up to this moment, I had been coping with underlying anxiety, brain fog, and insomnia, which I attributed to my overwhelming SVP role that involved managing teams and clients in various time zones while understaffed and chasing lofty financial goals.

The years prior, I’d also been through a divorce that warranted its own telenovela, as well as the shock of my father’s stroke that left him paralyzed. I assumed this breakdown meant I was finally cracking, but I found out much, much later how terribly off this assumption was.

The next day I spoke with my CEO about my mental health and resigned in hopes of getting a grip on my situation. I eased out of the role over the next six months and slowly began to feel human.

Sure, leaving an intense position within an already high-stress industry was a helpful reset. However, while all those stressors were challenging, they weren’t at the root of my issue. 

While I was transitioning out of my position, I also began hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I was entering perimenopause and had no idea these hormonal changes were the genesis of my mental health and sleep issues, not to mention a slew of other awful symptoms which thankfully spurred me to seek treatment.

Women are woefully unprepared by the healthcare industry for this stage of their lives, so when something like this strikes you simply feel crazy. I hope to help change that.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

Did you know that women of menopausal age (40-60) are prescribed antidepressants more than any other group in the US? Or, that over half of peri and postmenopausal women report menopause has negatively impacted their work life?

A third are considering shifting to part-time work and 22% thinking about retiring early due to menopause’s effect on sleep (45%), mental health/mood (30%), physical health (20%), relationships with family/partner (20%), ability to focus on work (17%), daily activities (15%) and even career progression (9%).  

This describes me in a nutshell. I felt completely inadequate after years of thriving and was clueless that perimenopause was the cause. Instead, I believed I had lost my touch and was no longer relevant, capable, or worthy of my role; as a woman of color, it intensified the imposter syndrome that had always been buzzing in the back of my mind.

Since I didn’t understand what was happening, I had no language to frame my experience. So I kept my struggles close to my chest and hoped no one noticed. Talk about head games. 

To compound matters, when I sought assistance for the recent weight gain and hot flashes, which I was convinced were related to menopause, my doctor essentially dismissed my concerns with a response akin to, “It’s all in your head.”

Her disinterest in my situation led to months of unnecessary suffering. Sadly, these were the days leading up to my resignation that ultimately could have been prevented by correcting my hormone imbalances, or at the very least walking me through the symptoms of perimenopause which include depression and anxiety due to declining estrogen.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

In the weeks following my resignation, I sought answers on the internet, unaware that this would mark a pivotal turning point in my journey. The rumors about Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) causing cancer casted a shadow over my options.

Despite these concerns, my desperation to regain a sense of normalcy and feel human again led me to consider taking that perceived risk. However, as I dug through the information, I soon discovered that I had been grossly misinformed about the safety of HRT.

Contrary to the widespread fear, there’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that when prescribed and monitored correctly, HRT can be a safe and effective option for managing menopausal symptoms. Armed with this knowledge, I found a telehealth provider to write me a prescription.

Within a few months of beginning treatment, I felt 50% closer to myself but continued struggling with brain fog, low-grade anxiety, and occasional insomnia, still unaware that these were symptoms of perimenopause. It wasn’t until I educated myself even further on menopause did I finally find my way back to “me”.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

After a six-month sabbatical to rest and spend time with loved ones, I was introduced to my first potential client, which was fortuitously a hormone optimization provider. As someone experiencing HRT’s benefits, I was excited to help with their content development.

Over time, I learned about the 34 horrifying menopausal symptoms, variations of hormones utilized in HRT (bioidentical, synthetic, and natural, which isn’t exactly natural), and the importance of hormone testing. These three combined were the final kick in the pants that helped me recover the other half of “me” that was missing. 

Why? Firstly, I found empowerment through knowledge. A recent survey of women at the age of menopause revealed that 69% didn’t connect their initial symptoms with this transitional phase.

Without comprehending the shifts occurring in my mind and body, I not only perpetuated the belief that I was no longer deserving of my SVP title, but I also began to doubt my own experiences, especially after my doctor gaslit me.

79% of respondents from that same survey believe that the most effective way to navigate menopause is through self-education and I couldn’t agree more.

Second, I realized some members of the medical community take a one-size-fits-all approach to treating menopause or simply ignore women’s symptoms altogether because they feel ill-prepared themselves – only 7% of medical residents training in family medicine, internal medicine, and obstetrics and gynecology said they felt adequately prepared to help women patients manage menopause, according to a 2017 Mayo Clinic survey.

Not only did my doctor blow off my concerns, but my first HRT prescription only required filling out a simple online questionnaire and there were no hormone tests or virtual doctor consultations. Without that information how could the doctor know what was out of whack (Estrogen, Progesterone, Thyroid, Testosterone, etc.) and the amount needed to restore balance? 

These realizations prompted me to undergo hormone testing, and the unsettling results exposed that my prescription was for hormones opposite to those needed for effective treatment.

After notifying my current provider of their epic failure, I adopted my client’s program, which necessitates regular bloodwork to track imbalances and address fluctuations induced by stressors.

Following five months on the program, inclusive of two rounds of tests and treatment adjustments, I can unequivocally share that I now feel like myself again—liberated from insomnia, severe mood swings, and bouts of depression.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

Menopause remains one of those delicate topics that rarely finds its way into everyday conversation, especially during dinner. Our society tends to marginalize women once they’ve surpassed their child-bearing years, often making it challenging to open up about this significant life transition.

It took a night with close girlfriends, accompanied by several bottles of wine, to even broach the subject. And even then, we made light of it rather than engage in a serious conversation about how menopause has profoundly impacted our lives. I’ve yet to confess to them that menopause was the true catalyst for the end of my career, suggesting there is still a lingering sense of shame.

However, my journey toward true vulnerability began when my client, Wellcore, provided me with a platform to share my experience and contribute to their health and wellness blog.

With every article I write, I discover more about how women are frequently misled and underprepared for this phase of life, as well as the ongoing mistreatment and oversight we endure.

It has stirred a passion in me to use my voice to dismantle the stigma surrounding menopause and become a resource for those who feel lost and hopeless like I once did.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

Simply put, advocate for yourself. This can be in the form of seeking a doctor who validates your experience, alerting your healthcare provider of any gaslighting experiences or neglect so it’s on file, doing your homework, asking for other professional opinions, and demanding your hormones are tested.

In the words of hormone specialist, Dr. Jenell Decker, who I recently interviewed about her own experience of medical gaslighting, “Remember your medical provider works for you and not the insurance companies out there.”

Women’s appeals for menopause support are often neglected, with some enduring up to six visits before receiving proper treatment or a diagnosis. It’s crucial to assert yourself and find a healthcare professional who understands and addresses your concerns.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

  • Journalist, Alexa Mikhail: She writes for Fortune’s “Well” section and has become a champion of menopause education in the past year or so she’s been covering it. She’s cast a light on everything from menopause’s impact on women in the workforce to healthy aging and mental health. Her articles are incredibly eye-opening and helped me to feel seen.
  • The Peter Attia Drive Podcast: As a renowned longevity expert, Dr. Attia provides profound insights into optimizing physical, cognitive, and emotional health while offering strategies for disease prevention. I particularly appreciate how he adeptly breaks down the intricate nuances of hormone imbalances in women, shedding light on a topic crucial for understanding and enhancing overall well-being.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

You can read more from me about my menopause journey and experience with medical gaslighting here, or you can join me in the Wellcore Women’s Facebook Group, which is a safe, supportive community of women facing the same menopause struggles.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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