diaryofthemenopause

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Bad Symptoms with Poor Holiday Diet

spanish-cuisine-assorted-tapas-on-ceramic-plates

Anyone who has read my blogs is aware I’ve discovered my HRT-Free Menopause Symptoms can be controlled, in the main, by diet.  I’ve worked out over the past few years my body doesn’t agree with bad carbs or high sugar.

So off we went on a holiday to Spain for 2 weeks.  I took my diet book with me to record everything I ate.  I bought German Porridge flakes and fruit from the supermarket with every good intention of sticking to my plan.  I did last nearly 4 days before I just tucked into the most delicious Spanish hams, cheeses and breads along with everyone else.  I have a love of calamari and tapas in general.  Seafood Paella is just so good.  Why does Europe have so many Waffle, Crepe and Ice Cream stalls everywhere you go?  My bad-carb and sugar intake went through the roof.

I didn’t have a decent night sleep in the whole 2 weeks.  I’m normally disturbed a lot at night anyway, mainly stress induced due to work, but this was night sweats (we had the aircon on all night too), frequent waking and general restlessness each night.  I knew what was causing it but decided I would have my 2 weeks off and enjoy tapas and cheese.  I love cheese.

We ate 3 meals a day, very rarely picked in between, did a lot of walking and even more swimming.  Somehow, despite coming off my Slimming World Plan, I managed to lose 4lb.   I got straight back on plan when we came home and by day 2 the migraines started, along with a bad stomach.  I think it was just my body clearing out and getting back to what it is used to.  It has all settled down now and I am sleeping better again.

What I hope this will teach me, and remind me when I read this blog back, is my diet is key to me coping without HRT.   I follow the Slimming World rules, so have my diary, fibre, lots of free fruit and veg, low fat meat and my Syns so I don’t miss out on chocolate, butter, cream and all the nice things I enjoy.  I do follow a low carb version of the diet.  I do eat rice and porridge, but I avoid bread and white pasta.  For me this works and I’ve now lost 46lbs and have managed my menopause symptoms HRT free.  I still have maybe up to another 14lb to lose. My problem is keeping weight off though. I lose it, gain more, lose it, gain even more. I’m no different to about 80%+ of all other dieters.  I am hoping this time the knowledge my diet impacts my menopause symptoms though gives me the determination I need to keep my weight off for one year and then it becomes second nature.

I can still have cheese, I just need to weigh and count it as part of my plan.

spanish Cheese

So back to Slimming World, back to no white carbs and hopefully back to sleeping again and being able to manage the symptoms.  The holiday did remind me how awful the menopause can be though.

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Losing Weight after Menopause

The-Keys-to-Losing-Weight-After-Menopause

When I was asking people why they took HRT, other than the hot flushes and night sweats, the next biggest reason was how difficult it is to lose weight after the menopause.  My neighbour successfully came off HRT and admitted she found it more difficult to lose weight, but did remain off HRT.

I gained a lot of weight after my hysterectomy and I hit my highest ever weight.  Looking back I really deserved this.  My recovery was slow and I ate anything I could get my hands on.  I was working 12 hours shifts, 2 days, 2 nights then 4 days off, and my nightshifts were a diet of curries, Chinese takeaways and kebabs, followed by whatever chocolate and crisps I could get from the vending machine.  I knew I had a problem so with one of the guys at work, we set up our own weigh-in club once a week.  Knowing I was far heavier than him should have rung alarm bells for me, but it didn’t.

I came off shift nearly 3 years ago, and instantly lost 1 stone (14lb) in weight by just not having the takeaways and the anti-social eating hours.  Following a family holiday in France, I saw a photo the children had taken of me and my husband.  We were both huge. How did that happen?

Calendar

I had failed to lose weight on my own, and I don’t have time to fit in a diet club around work, so I joined Slimming World On Line.  Between January 2016 and June 2016 I lost 2 stone (28lb).  As I lost my battle with depression and anxiety, I gained 1 stone 3lb (17lb) of that back on between June 2016 and January 2017.  At the end of January 2017 I decided it’s time to battle this again.  Since then I’ve had my ups and downs after the initial 14lb was very easy to lose and since then my weight has stabilised, or worse, slightly increased.

blood sugar

My turning point came when a few things happened one after the other, starting with an article on stress, depression and how it impacts you during the menopause, along with foods to avoid.  This was immediately followed by a BBC TV documentary “The Truth About… Stress”, which said almost the same thing as the magazine article.  The third factor was a diabetic friend of mine trying to maintain his diabetes without the reliance on medication using the 8-week blood sugar diet.  This diet not only works on diabetics, it also works on the menopause (well for me it did).  I didn’t follow this initial diet (it starts off with 800 calories), instead my friend talked me through the diet and the food groups and it became clear a lot of it was similar to what I had already pieced together using the menopause article and the information from the documentary.  It was then applying what I had discovered worked and didn’t work for my body.  My mood and my ability to cope with stress is impacted by my blood sugar levels, once my levels raise I will binge on chocolate.  So avoiding “white” carbs works for me – no eliminating, just minimising. I don’t believe in eliminating anything, as I will fail if I think I can’t have something ever again.  So I limit pasta, bread, rice.  I don’t miss these as I do eat the foods lists in the diabetic healthy list, bulgur wheat, lentils, etc which luckily I love.

I lost a stone (14lb) and stabilised.  I was getting very despondent until I started a Food Journal. I write down everything I eat and drink and it was glaringly obvious I was going over on my Slimming World Syns, by a lot actually. I’m amazed I didn’t gain more weight.  I am now 2 weeks in with the Journal and have lost 3.5lb in the last 2 weeks.  I am now officially the lightest I have been for over 6 years.  My battle is by no means over, I have around 16lb-20lb more I’d like to lose before I try and maintain it.  I also know the importance of exercise and keeping active to go alongside a diet after the menopause.

So in my personal experience, the menopause has not made it more difficult for me to lose weight, I’ve managed to do that all by myself.  I have had to adapt what food I eat more off and now eat a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables, along with different pulses each day.  I don’t feel I’ve missed out at all and the difference I feel is incredible.  I am now nearly 3 stone (42lb) lighter than I was the year after my hysterectomy, that has to be good for me in the long run, as long as I can keep it off that is.

I would like to thank my friend David (Ginge in Germany – germanginge.wordpress.com) for his guidance and support for the last 8 weeks, and for helping me finally work out what I needed to do and helping me get there.

 

 

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Hot Flushes? Air-Con Heaven

The UK is in one of its unusual heat wave cycles.  The UK is an Island protected from extreme hot and cold by the Gulf Stream.  This is a Geological way of saying the weather is always mild, wet and boring.  This means we have central heating and no air-conditioning as standard in houses.

Although I have my hot flushes under control, when my average room temperature range becomes  28C to 32C, my hot flushes have some company.  By the time my room gets to that heat, my normal coping mechanism of removing layers doesn’t work, as I have no layers to start with.  I had a lovely tower fan which was great for blowing already hot air around the room, and my husband moaned at the warming food as I tried to climb into the fridge,  so last year we decided to replace an old stand-alone air-con unit I had with a new one.

menopause1

 

My new tip for hot flushes?  Just stand in front of an air con unit for about 10 mins.  I love this unit, we live in a Townhouse and the entire top floor is our bedroom and bathroom, so it’s a big area and yet it can cool it down enough to make me comfortable.  I’m just spending all future heat-waves in front of my air-con now.

I just need to convince my husband we need this on all year round now.

 

 

 

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3 Year Milestone – Let’s Talk

hormone-replacement-therapy-hrt

I have made it to the 3 year milestone.  I’ve never once used HRT during this time, so it’s highly unlikely HRT will be in my future.  I have managed a natural menopause.  I should be celebrating, but the past 3 years have taught me the menopause is never what you expect it to be and there are hidden surprises just waiting for you.

The medical professions attempt to force me to take HRT in the first place did make me question my decision, but in the UK they aim to get you off HRT by 50.   I was only 3 years away from 50 when I had the hysterectomy.  In hospital after my surgery, my notes were marked “patient refuses to take medication” just because I didn’t want HRT.

3 years

So, what would I change if I could go back 3 years?  The first thing to say is I don’t regret my choice.  Not having HRT was right for me, that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone though.  Younger woman should really do their research as the benefits of HRT can far outweigh the cons in a lot of the population.  I thought I was ready for the menopause, but I wasn’t fully prepared.  I focussed on the hot flushes and the mood swings too much, purely as I believed these would be my tipping point and send me running to my GP for HRT.  I was wrong, I found out quickly how to control them (again this is for me, other people have very severe flushes which adversely impacts their life.  I was lucky).

I missed depression/anxiety, aches and pains and I also didn’t fully look into diet and the menopause.  The whole “natural menopause” advice on eating high Soya products, taking supplements, etc, didn’t make any difference to me.  I have Vitamin D deficiency, so I do take Vit D, it’s the only supplement I now take.  The depression and anxiety were my most difficult issues.  Had I realised sooner they were linked to the hysterectomy, I would have addressed it sooner.  In fact, I should have just done something about it no matter what the cause.  There is an embarrassment when dealing with any mental health issues, and I just didn’t want to appear weak to my family by saying I needed anti-depressants to get by.  However I did, and I strained a lot of relationships by not sorting this out.

mental health

There are a whole host of wonderful menopause symptoms out there and I now understand it’s like entering a lucky dip competition, you have no idea which one you will get or how it will impact you. Every single person is different and the menopause is your own personal challenge.  I do now have a better understanding of diet and how what you eat impacts your life in more ways than weight gain.  Controlling your blood sugar levels is not only good for diabetes, it’s good for the menopause.  Your body is clever, it can sort itself out if you allow it to.  There are aches and pains which come with the menopause, and losing some weight and keeping active becomes important.  Just a 10% loss in weight has significant health benefits.  I have found keeping active is vital to my life minus my uterus.  My biggest tip to anyone though would be to talk.  I kept a lot of things bottled up, mainly around the depression and anxiety.  It took me to breaking point before I asked for help, by which point I had caused a lot of problems at home, as I took it out on those closest to me.  When you talk to people you do start questioning why you feel that way, is this normal, do they feel the same way to?  Generally they have a friend, or a friend of a friend who has been there.  It was because of talking to a friend, and then with the help of another friend, who just happens to be diabetic, I have managed to control my depression and anxiety dramatically by controlling my diet.  Talking to my husband wasn’t easy as he didn’t fully understand what I was going through, but I was given Counselling and they taught me how to broach the subject and how to deal with his lack of understanding and try to get him to support me more.

If I could go back in time, I’d tell the me sat in a hospital bed right now, to talk about it all. The flushes, the insomnia, the night sweats, the back ache, the pain shooting down my legs, but most importantly the feeling of uselessness, the inability to cope with every day life, the panic at the thought of leaving the house, of being told someone is coming over to the house, of having to sort out a house full of people each and every day and trying to battle the voices in my head telling me it would be so much easier to just get in the car and drive far, far away and make it all stop.

After 3 years I feel I can now deal with whatever is thrown at me next.  I am the first of my friendship group to go through this, so hopefully I can make other people’s menopause less of an issue.  This blog and people I have met through this, and the Hyster Sister’s website have been a massive help too.  We all need to talk, even if it is to someone via the Internet.

34-menopause-symptoms-list

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Low Sugar/Carb Update

My last post was about an article I found regarding the connection in the body to stress, cortisol levels and blood sugar levels and the affect these have on you, particularly with the menopause and anxiety/depression.

Since writing it, I’ve seen a number of other articles or documentaries talking about the same reactions within the body.  These weren’t specifically about menopause, but they did connect anxiety/depression to food and sugar levels too.

I figured I’d do a quick update.  Since the article was written I’ve gone back on the Slimming World diet plan.  I do avoid “white carbs”, so pasta, bread, potato and rice.  I am not carb-free, I do eat lentils, bulgur wheat, wholemeal couscous, but I do moderate them.  I actually prefer these so for me it’s quite easy.  Since doing this, I’ve found it easier to avoid the sugar-cravings I was getting, which usually ended up with a very large “sharing” bag of chocolate for one (who shares chocolate?).  I have more energy and I’m sleeping better again.  This has not only led to me not being put back on anti-depressants again (yet), but has stabilised my mood swings and helped me lose weight too.  I am 37lb lighter than I was 18 months ago, the majority of that was lost last year not this year, but I am now only 10lb off my first goal.

I haven’t done this alone.  Support for me came from a friend with diabetes and a desire to control it with diet.  Using the 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet book, he is tackling his diabetes and getting on top of things.  A lot of the principles of this book are the same I’ve read or seen in recent documentaries and can also help people with menopause symptoms of anxiety/depression, and other conditions not helped by spikes in blood sugar levels.

I feel better and I’m determined to stay off the anti-depressants as long as I possibly can, but not wanting to kill everyone around me is quite a nice way to feel too, so I am still monitoring this closely.  For now though, I can honestly say I feel great.  Not falling asleep on the sofa every time I sit down and having the energy to get through the day is certainly helping and helping me stay away from the sharing bag of chocolates (OK, I used to eat 2 of them by myself).

choc

Big Share Bag.  I just see them as a challenge rather than to be taken literally.

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Stress, Sugar and Sweats

What is clear from my blogs is I suffer from anxiety and depression on a regular basis.  I’m in a stress cycle I can’t get out of.  My stress levels start to rise, so does the anxiety and depression, which makes my stress levels worse, which makes my anxiety and depression worse, and so the cycle goes on.

As I’m nearing the “I Need Help Now!” phase, a friend and I spent Saturday at the Spa just chilling and doing nothing but reading, swimming and generally being left alone.  My friend picked up a magazine to read and found an article on why stress leads to you craving sugar and also makes hot flushes worse.  It’s all to do with primary and secondary hormones.

I’m HRT free, so no artificial oestrogen or progesterone for me.  My body is coping with this and it copes very well as long as I stick to my Slimming World Plan.  I feel great when I stick to plan. I’m not tired, I’ve got energy, I just feel wonderful.  Every so often I come off the plan.  I have noticed this is linked to my stress levels.  I work full-time in a relatively stressful job (I do On-Call work) and also have a house with 7 people in it (3 young teens, one older teen and one grown child), so I have to deal with sorting out food for everyone, including a Vegetarian option, house-work and washing.   The same things everyone has to deal with.  When my stress levels rise I get a form of OCD where I can’t control what is going on in my head, but I can control the house.  Heaven help anyone who leaves a fingerprint when I’m in this stage of depression.  The mess of 3 school age children adds to my stress, so the cycle begins.  At this point I start craving sugar, and I keep on eating sugar.  The next day I’ll have the inevitable crash and get over this by having sugar. It takes my body around 2 days of being back on my Slimming World diet to get over this.

The article my friend found was about the stress hormone Cortisol.  Although I’m oestrogen free, my body is getting by when everything is aligned.  As soon as Cortisol starts being produced, it becomes the primary hormone.  When this happens, our body then struggles to maintain the optimal levels for the other hormones we need.  The article went on to say how an increase in Cortisol and Adrenalin then cause a craving in sugar, which can then cause an increase in hot flushes as other hormones become a lower priority for your body, including Insulin.

On Saturday at the Spa, I was approaching the peak of my stress, and am holding off getting put on more anti-depressants to help control my anxiety, depression and OCD (the reason I resist, is I don’t like being medicated).  This means my day was full of chocolate cake, cream teas and chocolate bars.  My body seems to like proving a point, so Saturday night was my worst one ever for the Night Sweats.  I ended up in a cycle of insomnia and the dreaded Night Sweats.  Once they started and I couldn’t cool down, I got more anxious, so more awake, the more I realised sleep wasn’t going to get me out of this, the more anxious I got and the worse the Night Sweats became.  I could have quite happily run out into the road just screaming at the world in general by 2am.  The advantage of insomnia is extra time to think through things.  So Sunday morning finally came and I’m back on Slimming World.  My sugar levels have stabilised, I’m not craving sugar and I don’t have that drained and exhausted feeling I get when my body has the sugar crashes.

I am still stressed and trying to work out how to deal with that, but if I can control what I eat again, then maybe I’ll get more sleep and fewer hot flushes.  I still need to lose around 30lb so it can’t do any harm either.  I just need to get my brain to accept the cycle mentioned in this article definitely applies to me and there is a link, for me, between stress, sugar cravings and my general well-being.  I hate when I binge on chocolate again and feel terrible as I know how great I feel if I minimise it all. On Slimming World I don’t exclude anything.  It just forces me to eat it in moderation, the way you should.  Funny how this seems to hard for me to maintain when you read it back, as it sounds very simple.

So Stress = Sugar Cravings = Sweaty horrible days and night = Insomnia = Stress = Depression/Anxiety/OCD = Stress

For anyone reading this, Curly Wurly and Maltesers are my best chocolate friends.  One per day as my treat at the end of the day and so I don’t exclude sugar completely from my diet – it’s not good to just cut out everything you like after all!

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Is the Menopause the start of the end?

I was put into Surgical Menopause following my hysterectomy.  I was 47 at the time.  I know very young women have hysterectomies too, but I’ve recently seen a few articles and TV programmes where the start of the natural menopause is seen by woman as the end of their youth, their lives and their usefulness, so it got me thinking.

The articles and TV programmes show women approaching menopause with sadness and regret, their youth is going and they are no longer functional.  It’s not like I ever celebrated each period I ever had, I could never wait for them to stop and was most upset when I didn’t follow Mother into an early on-set menopause.  For me, the menopause was the end of what was quite frankly a horrible experience.

Men are allowed to age however they want. Women dye their hair, use all sorts of creams and potions, Botox parties, eye-lifts, chin-lifts, full blow face lifts.  Look at any magazine and it’s young, flawless models (airbrushed), they even airbrush posters of films staring older actresses.

I am rebelling.  Admittedly I’m not a hair and make-up person anyway.  I wash my hair and it dries naturally however it wants and I don’t wear make-up.  I don’t see growing older as something to fear and dread.  Quite the opposite, I’m looking forward to being able to say what I think and putting it down to something women of my age do.  “Ah bless her, she’s at that age now you know”.

I have dyed my hair since my 20s when I first started going grey.  Now I’m wondering if grey is really so bad.  In the UK, it’s the latest hair colour for the younger generation.  They are actually choosing to have they hair dyed grey.  I’m now letting it grow out and it will be whatever colour it is and I shall wear it proudly.  I’m not in my 20s, 30s or 40s any more.  I don’t fear growing old. I’m celebrating the menopause as it ends years of torture for me.   I didn’t have any doubts about having my uterus removed.  In fact, I’d have had a ceremonial burning of it if they had let me.

The menopause isn’t the end of anything, it’s the start of something new.  Yes you probably are older and wiser, but this is now my time.  I’m not a slave to my body and hormones (minus hot flushes of course – they are more like a Dictator).  I’m nearly 3 years into my HRT-Free Menopause and things are easing up for me.  Life is great.  I’m keeping active, I’m going out and doing more as I have more me-time.

I honestly feel better than I ever have, even with all the menopause issues.

I’m going to be grey, old, grumpy and proud.  Bring on my 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 100s  – I’m not even half way done yet!

 

 

 

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Menopause and Hair Loss

I do wonder why I was so worried about hot flushes, mood swings and nothing else when I got thrown into a Surgical Menopause.

I was created by someone with a sense of humour.  They gave me Scottish Skin and said “if the sun so much as appears between 2 clouds – you shall have sunburn”.  To go with this they decided to give me very thin, very fine hair.  I spent my teenage years and 20s with a ponytail which was more elastic band than pony tail . When I had my first child I discovered you can buy baby hair bands.  Sadly I still use them.

When I was pregnant with both my children, my hair became lovely and a lot thicker. Sadly shortly after having both my children, my hair fell out by the handful.  It was far worse with my first child and meant after both births,  I needed to have most of my hair cut off and a very short style to try and hide this. It did settle down after a few months. It’s hormone related and very common.  With my first child it was more noticeable around my ears, but with my second child it was from all over my head.

Since my menopause I’ve been losing so much hair that I dread washing and brushing it.  It started looking thin and pathetic.  It’s not as if it were great to start with.  It seems the same hormones which cause hair loss after pregnancy, do the same at menopause.  Thank you so much Mother Nature, but thank you for taking it from all over my head and not one area.

Because of my beautiful Scottish Skin, I now have to wear a cap or hat the whole time we are out in the sun. My hair got so thin, there was no protection from the sun so my scalp started getting sunburn.  Very painful and very difficult to put sun cream on your head.

BUT THERE IS SOME GOOD NEWS……..

In June this year it will be 3 years since my total hysterectomy.  About 2-3 months ago my visible hair loss slowed down.  I will always have thin hair, it’s a family trait, but it no longer looks quite as pathetic as it did.  It’s looking healthier again and beginning to return to how it was.

Hopefully this means around 3 years into an HRT Free Menopause, things are beginning to settle down for me.  The hot flushes are still there (for me not life changing thankfully)  but for now I’m considering my hair no longer jumping off my head a win.

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These blogs have got me through.

I made a decision to go HRT free from the start, but it’s not an easy choice to make.  The blogs on this page helped me so often and gave me a fantastic insight into someone who had gone down the HRT road and was trying to stop using it and the war we have with the menopause in general.  I highly recommend her blogs to anyone – they’ve really helped me so much.

 

I never thought I’d be able to stop HRT (hormone replacement therapy). I tried twice before without success. My intolerance to hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, headaches and brain fog kept me coming back to hormones the two times I tried to quit. I had no real idea how any woman managed to stop hormones […]

via Why & how I stopped HRT — da Vinci Total Hysterectomy

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Treating Menopause Depression Naturally

I am aware of the risks involved in this.

If anyone has read through previous posts of mine, you will know I did all my research before going into Surgical Menopause HRT free and I focussed on the flushes and night sweats as being the things which would have me begging for HRT, and I missed the one symptom which would change my life – depression.

Prior to my hysterectomy I was on Prozac as part of a study into treating PMDD, a severe form of PMS.  After my hysterectomy I wanted off all medication.

My husband says the problems started shortly after my operation and since then I’ve had a continual battle with depression and/or anxiety.  The last time it came with insomnia, which if any one has suffered from, you know how debilitating it can be.  My GP put me on a tablet which helped me sleep, but the problem was trying to get up and go the next day.  It was taking me a few hours to get into the day.  I halved my medication which did help a bit, but following a break away in France at the end of last year, where I forgot to pack the medication, I haven’t gone back on it again.  I really enjoyed waking up and feeling awake and ready to go, rather than feeling drugged and like I was coming out of an anaesthetic.  As part of this treatment I also had 6 sessions of CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), which really helped put things into perspective.

I know my symptoms are still there.  The Anxiety symptoms outweigh the Depression ones these days.  If my bad days start outnumbering the good days, I will go back and see my GP.  For now though, I’m trying to change my life following my hysterectomy.

Before the operation I had low blood pressure.  Since the operation I have high blood pressure – I’ve never had high blood pressure in my life.  I am overweight.  I lost a stone, which has stayed off, since giving up shift work.  I still have around 35lb I could do with losing though.  I have gone from shift work (2 days/2 nights), to working an On-Call rota every other week.  I regularly did 70 hour weeks to get extra money for things we have needed.   I am now 1 in 4 On Call and have weekends free, and am strictly 8am – 4pm at work.  I need to start using my free time and do things for myself more.  I get angry having to cook and clean the whole time while everyone else gets to do the fun stuff, which is part of my anxiety issues.

My plan is diet, exercise and now my girls are older, find my life and what I’m going to do for the next however many years.  I’ve been asked for my 5 year plan at work.  I’m 50.  My plan is to work and save up money.  Part of the money is to overpay the mortgage, so I can one day be mortgage free, and the rest is to go on holidays and trips away to see the world and have fun.  I don’t want a stressful work life, I want a work/life balance now with the emphasis on life.

I’ll let you know how long this plan lasts before my GP has to step in again.  The plus side about using Anti-Depressants though is they can weaken the impact of the other symptoms of the menopause on your life.

 

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