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Sharon - Interview 30

Age at interview: 51
Brief Outline: Weight gain has been the most distressing menopausal symptom for Sharon. Although HRT has brought relief from hot flushes, mood swings have left her irritable and short-tempered. Vaginal dryness and loss of interest in sex have affected her relationship.
Background: Sharon is a police officer. She is married with two adult sons. She started the menopause at age 48. Ethnic background/nationality' White British.

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Although Sharon first noticed changes in her periods at age 44, it was only around age 48 that they began to ‘stop start, stop start’. She sees this as the beginning of the menopause for her but it is only in the past year that she started to experience significant menopausal symptoms, including hot flushes, weight gain and irritability.

Hot flushes day and night left Sharon feeling tired and irritable. In a job where wearing a uniform is mandatory, she has been reprimanded by a male boss for taking her tie off to cool down. Now on HRT, her hot flushes have eased but she has been disappointed to find that it has had little impact on her other symptoms.

Sharon’s mood swings have had a serious impact on her relationships. At work she has found herself reluctant to take part in everyday banter, adopting a more serious attitude to her job. At home she has found herself increasingly short-tempered, nagging and unable to ‘chill out’ with her family.  As she puts it, ‘I just want to go back to the personality that I had’.

The hardest part of the menopause for Sharon, however, has been her weight gain. Always slim, she has found her weight ‘ballooning’ by two stone in the past year. While convinced that this has been triggered by water retention associated with HRT, she also acknowledges that giving up smoking six months ago and an increased appetite may be factors.

In a long-term marriage in which she has always enjoyed an active sex life, Sharon has had to come to terms with vaginal dryness and loss of libido. As she describes it, ‘I suddenly don’t feel like it, don’t want it and have pain with it’. She resents having to use a lubricant and acknowledges that her lack of interest in sex is putting a strain on her relationship. So far, being on HRT has not helped with lubrication. As her doctor advised, however, she may have to try a number of different types of HRT before she finds one which suits her and which effectively acts on all her symptoms.

For Sharon, the menopause has so far been a distressing experience. As she explains, ‘I don’t like who I am, don’t like the way I’ve become, and certainly don’t enjoy what’s happening to me’. Still having irregular periods as well as other symptoms, she wonders why women have to have the menopause ‘on top of getting older’. She feels ‘it’s about time men had something’.

Sharon was interviewed for Healthtalkonline in April 2009.

 

Sharon’s hot flushes start from her toes, travelling as a tremendous heat through her body

Sharon’s hot flushes start from her toes, travelling as a tremendous heat through her body

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What happened with me the very first signs I had was around about a year ago when I started to experience hot flushes. And they became so bad at one stage that I would be stripping off in front of people just literally ripping my clothes off to the extent that I had to go somewhere private just to cool right the way down.

If I could bottle it, I’d make a fortune. Right okay, basically what happens and I can’t describe them, it’s all of a sudden you are totally overcome by a traumatic, tremendous heat inside. Not outside, because you can feel cold outside. But a tremendous heat and it literally starts from your toes and it works right the way throughout your body and you know it’s travelling. Have you ever tasted Southern Comfort? Have you tasted a little Southern Comfort and as it gets down to your throat and then all of a sudden it sort of just hits your chest. And as it hits your chest, it sort of, I don’t know what it does, but it warms up your body. Well you can imagine that happening, not drinking but that is a flush to me and I always used to think “Oh I wish I could have them when I’m working outside, when I’m cold”. “And switch them on” but you can’t, they’ll come anytime.

How often do you get them?

Oh gosh, I don’t know, I mean my husband could probably pin point it more if I’m with him all day long, ten, fifteen, twenty times a day.

 

Sharon has been friends with the same circle since junior school; they all talk about their...

Sharon has been friends with the same circle since junior school; they all talk about their...

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Yeah, I have got a circle of friends who I’ve been friends with in junior school. So I’ve known my friends longer than I’ve known my husband and this circle of friends, there are six of us in all, and we’re all the same age because we were in the same class together. And we still go out on Friday night, we still get pissed up, we still have a dance and we still have a laugh and we still have a joke and we still cry together. And we’re all going through the same things so we’re at the end of the phone or text messages and I think it’s good that you have got that, I’ve got that connection with my mates. And I’ve got a sister. And my sister’s only 50, how old’s [sister’s name], she’s 56 so of course there’s only a couple of years between us and she’s another network that I can discuss these problems with and issues. And [husband’s] mother’s very good as well. She’s in her seventies but she knows what’s happening to me.

 

Sharon’s lack of lubrication is putting her off sex

Sharon’s lack of lubrication is putting her off sex

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You mentioned that sexually there’s problems with vaginal dryness?

Oh yeah.

Can you talk a little bit more about that?

The dryness, alright, okay. I’m not a big person but I mean I’ve been with the same man for many years so we know intimately each other’s bodies. But when you can’t, for a start you don’t feel sexual. I don’t feel sexual because I’m like nearly ten stone, I don’t feel attractive anymore because of my size and together with that then I’m not lubricating. There’s nothing happening down there and I mean obviously that does cause arguments between a couple because I mean the sex is very important in a marriage and yet when you’re sort of saying “No, no, no, no” night after night after night after night and it’s not because it’s anything to do with that person, it’s you. And it does, because you just can’t get any whatever it is lubrication yourself. And then you go on to using a jelly or something but it’s not the same then because you’re like, “Why am I having to use this”. I’ve never used this in twenty odd years and I’ve got to use it because this fucking thing’s happening to me. And it does cause problems yes. I mean we’re alright but it’s not a good time for any relationship and I reckon if you can get through this within your relationship then you’re on to a winner.

 

Sharon fears her lack of interest in sex may jeopardize her relationship

Sharon fears her lack of interest in sex may jeopardize her relationship

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I’ve always had very good skin but all of a sudden I’ve noticed my skin’s gone extremely dry and with the dryness I’ve also dried up in other places, I don’t know whether that’s going to be relevant if we’re talking about that side of it.

Yes.

Now that’s really started to turn sour when I thought I was going through the menopause and it’s a shame because I’ve been very very active, my husband and I have been with each other for nearly thirty years and then to have suddenly sort of not feel like it, don’t want it and have pain with it, phew, don’t want that. And that’s another big issue when it comes to your relationships because then that starts to go downhill and when your relationship starts to go downhill and your husband wants to go out and you’re wondering where they’re going and then you think “Oh my God, and I’ve got the menopause, I’m not smoking” and so you turn to have a pint then.

And I think that’s one of the hardest things because that’s where if you read magazines and, not that I do I never have time, but it’s always the man who’ll go off with someone younger. Why, because that younger person not only looks better but they probably give them so much more affection. Well sometimes I just can’t cope with all that nonsense because you’re worrying about what you’re coping with yourself. And it is difficult, it’s bloody hard. A lot of my friends are divorced and they all went through their divorce around about their late 40s after the children had grown up or after the children were becoming in their teens and becoming independent and then when the female was possibly either starting to go through menopause or starting to realise that things weren’t as taut and as supple as they used to be. And they went off sex, that’s the big thing, the big issue. And I’d like to find this, if there was something for women out there, I know they’ve got the Viagra but I don’t want to really take any more tablets. You just have to put up with it.

 

Sharon no longer shares office banter. She’s become more serious at work

Sharon no longer shares office banter. She’s become more serious at work

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I’m very very serious in work, very very serious. Where I’ve noticed other colleagues of mine having a bit of banter about taking the piss out of people or having a laugh and a joke, winding people up yeah, for some reason I’m just work, work, work and even like, my husband and the kids if they make a joke I can’t see that joke anymore. Years ago I could but I can’t anymore. And that is upsetting. Well that hurts that does because then people don’t banter with you or wind you up because they know that you can’t take it anymore.

Have people said anything to you?

Yeah, I’ve been told to “Chill out”, “Calm Down”. It’s not that I’m not good at my job, I am but I’d be so much a nicer person if I was good at my job and able to have a laugh with it, if you can see the meaning. And I know that has changed over the last twelve months.

I was told then to “Chill out” in work today.

Why was that?

Because I wanted to do something, I interrupted somebody when they was talking, because I needed to get that out straight away and there was no need to get it out straight away, I’m interrupting people when they’re talking and it’s not only bad manners, it’s not very professional. And I know I’m doing it, and why am I doing it. And I know I wouldn’t have done it last year.

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