52 Weeks of Editing (Writing?): Week 16—We need to talk about the perimenopause

I'm beginning to think I need to call this "52 Weeks of Writing" rather than editing. I couldn't find any way to do strikethrough text in the title (or anywhere else on Ghost), so if you could just imagine I managed a snazzy title up there, please.

This is what I'm doing: I'm re-writing from scratch. I do occasionally go back to find material from the original zero drafts, but not often.

This is week two of Camp Nanowrimo, isn't it? Or is it week three? I can't remember. I'm sorry. It's week three, isn't it. I've written 42k words, and I've been either writing, researching, or reading for the last two weeks.

This is an uphill climb because, dear reader, I'm in the midst of the perimenopause and have been experiencing some of the most extreme symptoms I've ever encountered. I don't remember much about puberty, except that I got such severe period pain I thought my uterus was trying to murder me. Now it's back, and it's out for revenge.

I'm only writing these posts because, for the last several years, I keep starting projects and then abandoning them because I either get sick, severe depression, diagnosed autistic (or some other neurodivergence), and I feel the need to attempt to maintain some consistency.

Even if all that consistency consists of me explaining that I'm extremely unwell right now.

I'm also writing this because I feel like we need to talk about these things. There is precious little material out there, other than official symptom lists, about menopause and perimenopause. I feel like I've only started to hear the term "perimenopause" in the last five or six years.

According to Google N-grams, perimenopause only starts to be used after 1940; even then, it remains almost unheard-of until about 1980. It's still much less common than menopause, which takes off after 1860.

Here's the thing, though. I haven't even hit menopause yet. I've been turned upside down and inside out and I've still got at least a year to go, based on the official diagnostic criteria for menopause.

I learnt about periods at school, slightly after I'd started puberty and was already menstruating. Back then, menopause was a thing that felt so far away it wasn't worth thinking about. I suspect if anybody had taken me aside and said, "By the way, in about thirty-five years, you're going to be stuck in bed watching BBC comedy panel shows and sobbing and this is going to seem like a cake-walk," I'd never have believed them.

Or remembered them.

Memory is a fickle thing. I look back and I don't remember puberty being as bad as this. Of course, I can't objectively measure the two together. I thought puberty was awful, because it was confusing and upsetting, but at least I didn't have to attempt to earn a living at the same time.

This is what makes perimenopause so stressful, aside from the symptoms themselves. It's that I've got to have the symptoms—unpredictable as they are—whilst also teaching and writing and editing and somehow answering the question, "How are you?" with, "Great, thanks!"

I'm not great, thanks. I'm an emotional and physical wreck.

Now, this week, Dame Kelly Holmes has spoken out about her symptoms, so I decided to do the same. According to the linked article, doctors say speaking out may cause people to worry more. Please stop, doctors, we need to talk about this.

I'm concerned these are the same doctors who dismissed my mental health symptoms as "just a normal part of life" throughout my teens. The same doctors who've told several of my friends to get a stiff upper lip when they have crippling endometriosis.

Not talking about something doesn't stop those of us in possession of a uterus worrying about them. We just also worry that we can't say anything.


Anyway, somehow I've managed to keep writing through all of this. It's made me think, repeatedly, that I should write a fantasy adventure where the main protagonist is such a person in possession of a uterus, also having to deal with life.

The way I've kept writing is to reduce my goals down into smaller and smaller chunks. I take a lot of time off, and try to make it as easy a process as possible. If I get stuck, or I'm not sure about anything, I write around it and then find a way to carry on, or write a section I've figured out.

I don't want to stop entirely because I enjoy the process of writing itself. Or at least, exploring the world. Hopefully, I'll be able to write more next week.