I don't know how else to say this. Menopause sucks! Especially with a brain injury.
Some of the common struggles of menopause are hot and cold flashes, increased body and facial hair, weight gain, migraine headaches, mood fluctuations, depression and anxiety, disturbed sleep, food allergies and a host of gynecological issues.
For over 20 years, I had hot flashes so bad that I would stand outside in -30 C weather to cool off. I would roll down my vehicle windows in the winter. No matter how cold it was, I would turn down the heat in the house and turn on the ceiling fan in my bedroom. Summers were horrible. I rarely spent time outside unless I was in water. During tropical vacations, I would spend a lot of time in my hotel room with the air conditioner cranked up to maximum.
My poor husband Bob froze every winter. He would go to sleep wearing a long sleeved shirt, jogging pants and socks. He asked me many times "when is this going to end?"
After brain injury, my hot flashes got worse. I had to wear my hair up in a pony tail all of the time and my night sweats were off the chart. I was very confused about how this could possibly be happening. I thought hot flashes were supposed to decrease over time, not ramp up. What the heck was going on?
My case manager at the Brain Injured Group (BIG) noticed I was literally burning up during one of our support sessions. I told her my hot flashes were unbearable. She asked me if I experienced worse hot flashes after my injury. I had to think about it for a minute and I told her the answer was "yes." She explained that brain injury damages the body's temperature regulation system. Brain injury survivors can have either hot or cold flashes or swing between both.
Since my injury, it is a daily routine of taking cold showers or baths (even in the winter) and dressing in layers. People in my circle have become accustomed to seeing my face suddenly turn beet red and watch me dash out of the room. It's a good thing I don't wear makeup because it would be dripping off my face. I used to have dry facial skin but now I rarely use cream because my face is well hydrated - and not for a good reason.
Going through menopause and having a brain injury is having a double whammy of symptoms. Friends of mine report because of brain injury, they developed menopause symptoms AFTER they completed menopause. This is like a ghost that never stops haunting us. The difficult aspect of this is determining what symptoms are because of menopause and which ones are brain injury related. There is definitely a significant overlap here.
Putting the topic of menopause aside for a moment, us survivors are used to symptoms going away, then coming back. It is a constant argument with ourselves not to stay discouraged because we often feel we are going backwards in our recovery.
It is noticeable that medical practitioners who treat female brain injured patients know very little about assessment and treatment of combined brain injury and menopause symptoms. This is not their fault because there has been hardly any research done on the topic. It's frustrating because if a condition is not proven scientifically, then it's regarded as non-existent. Survivors' concerns fall on deaf ears and they're told there's nothing to prove their concerns are valid. We might as well be told that that we're crazy and making this all up for attention. Not being heard is a common occurrence for survivors.
I feel there's been a huge ball dropped. Why hasn't there been research done in this area? In Prince George alone, I know many who are suffering with no treatment or relief in sight. This gaping hole in research and data collection is shameful andneeds to be rectified.