Written by Karen Noble
I needed my oven fixed, but the serviceman’s stench roiled the contents of my stomach and his here-to-save-the-day smugness triggered a tailspin.
When he chuckled at my reaction to the cost and delay for parts, I erupted into a white-hot rage, exploded at him, showed him the door, and slammed it on his exit, watching him stomp back to his van like a petulant child. A ferocious pulse of pain throbbed at my temple and a wave of heat flooded my body as sweat dripped down my back.
I doubt this is a perfect recollection, but you get the idea. I had let forth a barrage of abuse at a stranger I’d invited into my home to fix an appliance, despite needing him to return and complete the job. I shared what had happened with hubby later that day in an indignant rant. Softly placing a hand on my arm, he gently responded with ‘Honey, don’t take this the wrong way but the guy was just doing his job.’ Followed by ‘Are you okay? You seem to be getting very angry lately.’ It was then I burst into tears. What was wrong with me?
After a second incident with a used car salesman (I’ll let you imagine that one) I realised I was not coping. I made an appointment to see my doctor.
I’d researched and read many symptom checklists for menopause but this time I identified with more of the symptoms than ever before. I’d been habitually giving myself lots of reasons why and judged myself harshly for them all. ‘You’re not eating right, not drinking enough, not exercising, too much alcohol … etc.’ You name it, I blamed myself for it.
Statistics from women’s health researcher Dr Jean Hailes state that 20% of women suffer no symptoms, 60% suffer mild to moderate and 20% severe symptoms.
Looking at these stats now I can’t help but wonder where neurodivergent folk sit in the numbers, but back then I was ignorant of my neurotype.
I had them all! I’d just been in a ritual of denial and blame.
I began to act.
First, I needed my oven fixed! So, I did what was right, what any self-respecting woman would do, I asked hubby to take one for the team. My rage still close to the surface, I knew there was no way in hell I could meekly apologise to the smug, smelly repairman. I chose to protect my senses and avoid the angst! Job done, oven back online.
I recall the stress and elevated anxiety from chronic health concerns that the hormonal ambush of menopause revealed.
To summarise, I got medical help for many things including scalp psoriasis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, dysautonomia, ADHD, Autism, and somewhere in the mix I saw a hormone specialist for menopausal MHT treatment. Everyone is different and there are professionals who can help if you seek their advice. Don’t just accept the symptoms as part of life without proactively seeking solutions, especially for any chronic co-occurring conditions. Every little bit you do can improve things for you overall.
So let me say this. Menopause is just another one of life’s transitions, and you know how great we are at those … But I suspect by now you have developed ways you adjust to change, and you are probably already aware of some of your sensory sensitivities and have been accommodating and advocating for yourself, even if – like me – you didn’t know your neurology till later in life.
My advice? Don’t be afraid, you’ve got this! My severe symptoms were mostly due to the impact hormonal changes had on underlying chronic health challenges.
Having not registered these challenges and been misdiagnosed for so long, I had blamed myself for failing to cope instead of doing something about it. I accepted my poor mental health as though it was inevitable.
I’d been masking and placing unreasonable expectations on myself my whole life. But once I identified my AuDHD neurology, learned about neurodiversity and shifted my lens, everything got better. Menopause was not that bad after all – it was just another thing to advocate for and accommodate.
The menopausal monster that hurled abuse at a poor unsuspecting oven repairman was a mask-wearing version of me. I sincerely apologise to that knight-in-shining-armour because he did save the day when he repaired my oven. I am truly grateful and sorry I couldn’t say this to him myself, but my olfactory sensitivity was dialed up to 10 back then. I appreciate he was indeed ‘just doing his job!’
What has helped has been to seek medical advice and to accommodate my sensory needs more diligently. Bear in mind, everyone is different, and the impacts will be dependent on your own unique situation.
Temperature control, body pain and fatigue have been my biggest challenges, so I walk in nature often, have regular baths and more rest. I can feel bone-cold one minute – icy feet and hands, unable to get warm adding to body tension – then an overwhelming wave of heat can consume me, which could precipitate nausea and a faint. This often happens after a meal and especially if drinking any alcohol.
In cold weather I wear gloves, scarf, and warm coat with thin layers beneath so I can rapidly peel off and cool down. In Summer I keep a pocket-fan handy and a cooling towel I can place on my neck, and I try to stay well hydrated with electrolytes. Above all I foster as much self-compassion as I can.
Disclaimer: The information in this guest blog and in any linked materials should not be construed as medical advice. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment.
The Reframing Autism team would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we have the privilege to learn, work, and grow. Whilst we gather on many different parts of this Country, the RA team walk on the land of the Birpai, Awabakal, Wattamattagal, Whadjak, Amangu, Bunurong and Kaurna Yarta peoples.
We are committed to honouring the rich culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of this Country, and the diversity and learning opportunities with which they provide us. We extend our gratitude and respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to all Elders past, present, and emerging, for their wisdom, their resilience, and for helping this Country to heal.