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‘Perimenopause made me feel like I was losing my mind’

When single mum-of-two Janine McDonald, 52, from Manchester, lost the ability to park and touch type she feared for her sanity…

As told to Danielle Hine

‘I’m partway into a journey I didn’t know I’d begun. It started around 2015  and happened so slowly it took me around a year to work out what was happening.

I started forgetting things. Little things at first: ‘why am I in the kitchen? Oh yes, I put the kettle on an hour ago.’ I had to re-read pages of books because I couldn’t remember the characters. I’d forget I was running the bath or had put a pan on the stove for dinner. Once I made a cake and popped it in the oven – three hours later, I thought ‘What’s that humming noise in the kitchen? It was the oven alarm. OMG, the cake!’

Then the exhaustion started to hit, too. I’d fall asleep during the day on the sofa. I’d think to myself: ‘Just a 10-minute nap and I’ll be fine’. But if I didn’t set an alarm, I’d wake up 3 hours later.

My driving suffered too. I’ve always been good at parking but even that became a problem. Then there was my touch typing – it was like someone had moved all the letters on the keyboard and I had a degree in gobbledegook.

If that wasn’t enough, my mood swings started to become like a pendulum: going back and forth gently and then bam, it would get stuck on anger for 3-4 days a month. I’d go from 0-100 in a millisecond, feel totally out of control with my emotions and would get so angry my body would shake.

My relationship with my kids started to suffer, especially with my eldest, Ciara, 13. As she started her own journey into puberty, I wanted to be there to guide her through her emotions and changes. Instead, we were regularly at loggerheads. I feared I was ruining her childhood.

I had genuine concerns I was losing my mind. But I kept trying to convince myself I was just doing too much. I’m a single parent juggling family life, generally running around and working – at the time I was setting up own my own decluttering business Clear the Clutter.

It was only when my periods became shorter but heavier in 2017, that I talked to a friend about it. She mentioned perimenopause, which I’d never even heard of. I went to see a GP to find out more and saw a locum who gave me a leaflet about HRT and told me to book an appointment with my regular GP. But I decided I didn’t want to go down that route – I wanted to look into more holistic ways to handle my symptoms in the first instance.

Not long after, I met someone at a networking event who recommended essential oils because they’d been so transformational for her

I got some straight away and the positive effects on my quality of life and energy have been amazing.

I use a calming blend that contains ingredients like sage, lavender, bergamot, and roman chamomile, and apply it to the bottom of my feet at night for about a week before my period. It really calms and soothes me. In fact, my hot flashes, which I’d been getting at night about 2-3 times a week reduced to a couple of times a month. It’s helped my mood, too, because my sleep isn’t getting so interrupted!

My rosemary, peppermint and eucalyptus oils are a godsend for my brain fog. I pop some into a diffuser so they can circulate in the air throughout my home. It really enhances my clarity and concentration. If I’m tired, they give me a bit of ‘zing’ too.

For low moods I pop a drop of pure geranium oil on my wrists and temples – I’ve noticed it helps reduce my PMS.

I also meditate regularly, say positive affirmations every morning, and go for a walk if I feel my anger bubbling. Even powering around the block does wonders.

I’m still having plenty of ‘mid-life moments’ – my parking isn’t any better – I reverse and think I’m close to the car behind but I’m about 6ft away! And my typing is all over the shop. But now I know what’s going on with me, it doesn’t worry me as much.

As for my relationship with my daughters? Once I knew what was ‘wrong’ with me, I was honest with them about what I’m going through. Now, when I’m struggling, I’ll tell them. If they see I’m a bit overwhelmed Ciara or my youngest Emilia, 11, will say ‘Mummy, sit down, take a deep breath.’ They’re as understanding – as kids can be!

I want to get through this. I want to be me again. And I want to help other women. So make sure you talk to your friends. Join menopause and perimenopause groups on Facebook. It helps you realise that you are not on your own.”

If you’re interested in alternatives to HRT but aren’t sure what your options are, this video is a great place to start

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