Enjoy this guest post by Lori Ann King, author of Come Back Strong, Balanced Wellness after Surgical Menopause. And check out her free resources, 10 Simple Tips for Balanced Wellness and Healthy Living.
What if … you went to sleep one night and when you woke up in the morning, your whole life had changed? That’s what happened to me when I went into surgery expecting one result… but reality demanded another.
Every woman one day arrives in menopause; however, the intensity and duration of symptoms vary. Surgical menopause is different than natural menopause in that it is often more abrupt, more intense, and depending on the age when it occurs, lasts longer.
Each year, approximately 600,000 women are thrust into surgically induced menopause, and it wreaks havoc in their lives — and that of their families. Here is how it happened for me.
In 2015, I went into surgery, hoping and trusting for the best-case scenario: the simple removal of one ovary and its fallopian tube. I was excited to erase the pain that was burdening me. I didn’t expect anything else to happen.
I awoke to learn that the worst-case scenario had happened: I had received a full hysterectomy as well as a double oophorectomy. Uterus, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes—everything had been removed due to the severity of endometriosis that had been found.
I expected to be pain-free when I woke. It didn’t work that way. I was in severe pain. I was tired. I was afraid. I couldn’t pee or poop. My body felt and looked swollen and bloated. This was uncharted territory and I had no idea how to fix it.
I spent one night in the hospital. I was on pain meds and my doctor prescribed an Ambien to sedate me, to no avail. Sleep would not come. I awoke every hour or two, and in the morning felt exhausted.
I had a history of panic attacks, and this was a breeding ground for anxiety. I cried at the drop of a hat for what seemed like no reason. My breathing sped up, my heart raced, a lump developed in my throat, and I felt the anxiousness that comes from a panic attack. As I tried to calm myself and slow my breathing, feelings of worry and depression would roll in. I no longer felt healthy and vibrant. I felt like I had fallen into a pit of darkness and despair. And I couldn’t get up. How long would I feel this way?
At my follow-up appointment the week after surgery, I was prescribed bioidentical hormone therapy (BHRT). I wanted desperately to heal and feel normal again and was willing to do anything to get suddenly well.
Over the course of the next year, my doctor adjusted my hormone therapy. He increased the doses of estradiol and progesterone based on blood work as well as my reported symptoms, which eventually became complaints. These included hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, insomnia, loss of libido, weight gain, lack of focus, zombie-like state, depression, anger, and overall lack of passion and energy for anything in life.
I learned that hormone therapy is not an exact science. In fact, it seemed a bit like a guessing game as we attempted to balance my hormones and emotions and help me feel good again. The hardest part, perhaps, was that it simply took time to get it right.
As I moved through this transitional time in my life, my body and mind transformed. My hormones changed and it felt like every aspect of my life was out of balance. I sought to heal old wounds and rediscover passions from childhood. It was a time of personal discovery and creative expression. I questioned who I was and who I wanted to be in the future. I found myself putting all areas of my life, from relationships to career, hobbies, and interests, under a microscope for examination.
The quality of my life improved with this surgery. I no longer fear unbearable pain, heavy periods, or endometriosis. There is relief in knowing that I am not at risk for diseases like ovarian cancer. However, this life event forced me to develop tools and create habits that strengthened my mind, body, and emotions so that I could live a more balanced life.
I combined everything I knew from traditional and nontraditional healing practices and I explored new paths and lifestyle changes to reduce stress. I worked to bring more peace and calmness to my life through meditation. I defined my definite major purpose. I uncovered passions and spent more time focusing on the positive. As I focused on happiness, balance and joy showed up.
And there was hope.
It took me close to two years to get where I am today, but now I mostly feel peaceful, balanced, energized, and free on a daily basis. I made a strong come back, and you can too.