HRT and me: What if it isn’t what I really need?

It’s now two years since I first went to my GP with menopause symptoms and started HRT, over a year since I met Haitham Hamoda, now the chairman of the British Menopause Society, and six months since I found a doctor who I felt was on the same page as me.

And yet I’m still standing in the shower in tears most days, turning to face the wall in case Mr 50Sense comes in because I can’t face another kind, understanding conversation.

I’m fed up of them just as I’m fed up of feeling this way. I’m fed up of asking people to be understanding. I’m fed up of putting on a brave face. And yes, some days I’m fed up of fighting to try and change this.

It’s selfish, I know, but I feel it’s time I had a break from feeling this way. However, I’m now starting to think that may never happen on the route I’ve been taking.

Covid hits my HRT plan

Of course, the pandemic is having an impact on this. Like everyone, I’ve been hit by Covid-19. After finally getting a GP to listen to me about my reaction to progesterone, my appointment to have a Mirena coil fitted was cancelled because of lockdown.

Here’s why that matters. If you’re on HRT and still have a womb, you need to take progesterone to cut the risk of endometrial cancer. But some women, like me, are sensitive to progesterone and so need to find the gentlest form of taking it, which is usually a Mirena coil that directs the progesterone exactly where it’s needed. (It’s a condition known as PMDD, here’s how it affects me.)

Without a coil, I have to take progesterone in a way that floods my entire body if I wish to take HRT and that isn’t good news. Earlier this year, letting progesterone run loose led to me breaking down and feeling that I wanted to jump in front of my train home. (A huge thank you to the wonderful women who helped me through this. You are true kindness and humanity.)

Consequently, when I heard my coil fitting was cancelled, I was straight on the phone to the GP asking for an alternative HRT.

And anti-depressants.

Mixed messages about HRT

As I said the words, I felt I was letting the side down. I’d spent two years reading about how HRT is THE ANSWER and how it transformed women’s lives within seconds. How doctors should stop prescribing anti-depressants for menopause. And yet here I was, willingly asking for “the enemy”.

But the truth is: there is no one answer to menopause symptoms. Since talking about my progesterone sensitivity, I’ve had messages from other women who found HRT left them feeling worse, too. I’ve also had messages saying I just haven’t found the right HRT yet and to keep trying. And you can add to that the messages of the anti-HRT group, who seem to think I could be the poster girl for them.

It’s a mess, to be honest. So many messages at a time when women need clarity and good, solid advice from impartial sources.

Down comes the mist

It’s been a little more than two months since I started taking the new combination (Evorel Conti patches and 50mg Sertraline) and once again the clouds are gathering. This could be a variety of things – changes in my worklife, ongoing trouble with the neighbours, worries about my mam’s health, the pandemic – but the timing has me thinking it’s progesterone again.

I’ve been waking at night worrying about mistakes at work, the vast majority of them imaginary, running over hurtful comments made to me and worrying if they’re justified, worrying if my husband still loves me, worrying if I still love him, wanting to flee from it all… In addition, I’m bleeding and spotting while my body gets used to the HRT (please note: this happens).

And then, walking to the shops past my favourite spot on the river, I quickly caught myself thinking the old: “What if you jumped in?”

This time, however, mindfulness and an understanding of what my mind can go through with menopause made me note the thought and file it away as one to be aware of and watch to stop it growing.

I call that a major win.

So what now?

Usually by this point in an article, my brain has unscrambled itself and I have a plan. Right now, I’m frowning like crazy.

I’m not giving up on HRT just yet – but it’s there in my options. I have no doubt HRT does wonders for the vast majority of women and it has many, many health benefits. But it’s not the cure-all it’s made out to be and women need to be aware of this, too.

So while I’m contacting the GP to try and arrange a new coil fitting, I see this as the last throw of the dice. Which means I have to start looking forward and getting serious about alternatives.

And then, there’s the question about anti-depressants. Once the thought of being on anti-depressants long-term was scary. But after talking to people (thank you, Menopause Café) and listening to mental health advocates such as Alastair Campbell, I’m rethinking that. Together with practising my CBT behaviours, they may have a role to play for me a little longer.

So, yeah, my plan is as clear as mud!

Wait, there is a positive!

Two years ago, I felt the world was falling in and it was all my fault and I didn’t know what to do. When I felt the same way this March, I was able to talk about it and not be ashamed of feeling so bad. When the thought passed my mind this month, I was able to dismiss it.

That’s the power of education and knowledge. Of knowing I’m not the only woman who feels this way in menopause.

I was discussing how scary it is putting your work out there when it’s so personal and intimate just this week. But it is by others doing this that I can cope better now. And I hope it helps you, too.

How has your HRT journey been? Please let me know in the comments below. They help a lot of women.

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16 thoughts on “HRT and me: What if it isn’t what I really need?”

  1. Well done for battling on. Endocrinology and hormones is such a confusing field. I did some reading and started to get fed up when I found that the symptoms of oestrogen deficiency are the same or similar as oestrogen excess. I thought maybe I had a progesterone deficiency, but no one would give me any without a lot of expensive tests, and cream is available but most of it seems to be made from mares’ urine … So I don’t take anything. Feel a bit meh most of the time, but not sure if HRT would help. Do you think it’s worth trying? sorry to hear about your problems with getting your coil. Damn virus.

    1. Hi Carrie (I wanted to be called that when I was little!!) It sounds like you’re having the runaround too. Why isn’t there any help for us? Well, it’s because women’s health isn’t considered important enough… But enough of my rant!!! There is HRT that doesn’t use horse’s urine and is body-identical. I think that’s what’s usually used now. I would always say give HRT a shot. It has worked so well for so many women that it has to be worth trying. I know many of my friends swear by it. Good luck and let me know how you get on x

  2. You are working so hard to help yourself. I just sit and feel bad but don’t take anything. My hot flushes are diminishing but my anxiety which seems to be a menopausal symptom for me, is off the scale and Covid 19 is pushing all the wrong buttons for ne. By sharing your story it helps me feel I’m not totally going mad

    1. I’m so glad it is helping you, Elaine. You’re not going mad. Have you talked about your anxiety with your GP? Please do xxx

  3. Hi Carrie
    This just reasonates so much with me. I have explored every option of hrt to find a progesterone I can tolerate. For me, the ‘holy grail’ utrogestan that everyone raves about was the worst. Sent me into utter despair. Have just come off Evorel sequi after 3 months – the progesterone is insidious – at first absolutely fine but after a couple of months I could feel the negative thoughts swirling around my head as it built up. A week without any hrt now and I feel I have myself back. The last option for me now is the mirena – but I have to wait until covid has gone so I can have it put in under general. Best of luck with it all, Claire

    1. Evorel Sequi was the devil for me. It made me so bad with my intolerance. I’m on utrogestan and so far, it’s okay. Not fabulous and I have some dodgy days (post coming up soon!), but I feel livable and after so many years of feeling crap, I’m going with that for now!

  4. By
    I am 54 nearly 55 and I am on Evorel sequi now for 8 months …it’s not made me feel great at all ..like they say it makes you feel fabulous …not me ..I’m so lethargic all the time and I work I’m my business standing most days..so I’m not lazy….it’s great for the hot flushes…but that’s all…this is the 4th HRT I have been on as all the rest made me have awful breast tenderness…..but these patches don’t..I have started a supplement called ESTROLUX…so I’m hoping combining this with the HRT will help …but I really need a solution if to come of the HRT and see how I feel….i have had enough i feel its really aged my skin to…sick of course black hairs to they really have gotten worse….please help and give me some advice and has anyone been on the tablet CLORIDINE for hot flushes …and tell me how they felt.

  5. Lindy Wiltshire

    hi there, im so confused and frustrated, I was put on hrt by my gp 4 months ago due to early menopause, I luckily didn’t really suffer with symptoms or not that I can remember , but after 8 years of hitting and missing periods and male gps telling me I was too young I finally had the blood test to confirm it. my gp has put me on femoston 1/10 as a treatment for bones, heart, womb etc , the past 3 years i have only had a couple of monthlys and shortly before visiting my gp had just gone a full year without a period, the hrt she prescribed does give a withdrawal bleed and that I can cope with but…..I have gained weight at a rate I cannot cope with and look like I am 9 months pregnant, I have taken this hrt for 4 months and feel at the minute that I was better off with out it, I am a young 44yr women that has a very busy social life and for me I feel I dont want the anxiety that the weight gain is causing me …. I think I was better off just plodding along wuthout hrt…..probably slight symptoms but able to control my weight ….I am not going yo take hrt anymore ….I may consider it later down the line , but at the minute feel hrt has name me feel worse not better ….any advise on the above would be welcomed…thanks lind😄

    1. Hi Lindy. I was put on Femostan for my first HRT and I piled the weight on so quickly. Plus it did absolutely nothing for me so I came off it and went on anti-depressants at my GP’s advice. But they did bugger all too! In the end, I went on patches and now a gel and progesterone tablets and I’ve got my head back together, which is helping me focus on the weight I’ve put on. At your age, you will be gaining a lot of benefit from the oestrogen in your HRT, so perhaps try another form for a few months before you call it a day? Let me know how you do x

  6. Hi Elizabeth, what a moving account of your current situation. Well you know part of my story and I too was sensitive to progesterone and I have chosen to manage without it (yeah that one size does not fit all) but that is because I had an endometrial ablation and Prof Studd’s clinic have agreed to give me 6 monthly scans (so far absolutely no thickening at all) but OMG I remember those months/year of taking the progesterone, it was hell! So I get it and I sympathise! I really hope that the coil helps you and you can move forward. I have decided (for now) to stay on the AD as well as Oestrogen and Testosterone. I might come off them eventually. Chat more soon, Michelle (www.fiftyandfab.co.uk) xx

  7. Hi, I am 52 and have just come across your blog accidentally whilst searching HRT and anxiety – thank you for writing this. I started HRT last year, 2020, during the pandemic when I finally realised that all my ailments (severe cramping, joint pain, itching and the obvious hot flushes) were related to the menopause. I have never really suffered from anxiety, I can be a little sensitive or worry a little but nothing serious. However, since being on Evorel Sequi 50 I have moments where anxiety, I think, goes through me to the point that my arms tingle and I feel shaky or sick, sometimes little things too?! I thought it was caused by the pandemic but I am normally quite resilient and happy go lucky and I have a very stable home life and supportive husband. I do all the right things, exercise, toga, breathing etc. I am now starting to wonder if it’s the HRT but I am loathed to change as all my other ailments have disappeared and will anything else be any different? I am also not sure if this is the culprit but I am not sure I can cope with these waves of anxiousness!

    1. Hi Rachy and welcome! Thank you for stopping by and sharing your story. Please, go and see your GP and explain how you’re feeling. There are many different types of HRT (I’m on my fifth sort!) and there may be one that does everything for you. Also, not everything in our lives is menopause related – it’s been a tough year, even if we haven’t really felt it, so the pandemic may be having an impact. But my first port of call would be the GP to ask about a change of HRT. Good luck and let me know how you go x

  8. I am so happy to know that what I am thinking and feeling doesn’t deem me “crazy”. I went into early menopause when I was 42, I am 46 now. I am in the states and first tried Prempro, which is mare urine. I was on Prempro for almost 3 years. I felt the best when I was off of it for 3 weeks. I then started bio-identical just last month and feel HORRIBLE!!! I am having such dark horrible thoughts. I believe I am progesterone sensitive. I have another appt with my dr on the 9th of August but feel like that might not be for me and am concerned if I go off them I will be a victim to cancers, heart attacks, and osteoporosis. In addition, I have zero sex drive and am young still. This is all too much! I am frustrated and wish I wouldn’t wake up some days. Not to mention the weight gain and feeling inadequate, fat, ugly, and saying to myself that no one would want me or that I can’t keep a man. Why would he stay with me….fat and crazy. I know this is all the hormones talking but it still affects me. It’s nice to know I am not alone. Thanks for sharing ladies.

    1. Hi Dee. Boy, do I understand your fears – I’ve had them all. But then I started thinking about the older women I know, several in their 90s and living full and active lives, and they haven’t had HRT, they’ve just looked after themselves. And if you go back through the centuries, you realise the tales that women either died shortly after menopause or were ill and bedridden are just tales. Many lived to be in their 80s and 90s too without cancers or heart attacks or osteoporosis. Lifestyle has a mahoosive part to play in having a fit and health second half of our life. Good luck with your doctor on 9 August and let us know how you get on x

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