Samara Streeten experienced Covid and menopause symptoms and has concerns about HRT but would like menopause to be a positive change, leading to a more spiritual, peaceful life.
My name is Samara, and I am 53 and menopausal. I know this because the past year has been a blur of exhaustion, foggy brain, chest aches, a racing heart, night sweats and such bad cramp in my legs that it wakes me up. But I have also been diagnosed with long Covid. Confusingly many of the symptoms of the menopause and long Covid are the same.
It all began – as it did for so many of us – in March 2020. My husband had been skiing in Italy, at that time a hotbed of Covid infection. A couple of days after he returned, I started having severe chest pains, tightness when I breathed and a feeling of total exhaustion. One night I ended up in A&E with what I thought was Pleurisy, my chest was so tight it felt like an elastic band was stopping it expanding. I was referred to a lung specialist and a few months later was diagnosed with long Covid as I presented with all the symptoms.
I wasn’t so sure. The overlap between the menopausal effects I already had and the symptoms that constituted long Covid was so great I wasn’t sure where one began and the other ended. I was exhausted all the time, had heart palpitations, cramp….
I went to the GP about the menopausal stuff – they prescribed me HRT – but the patches and pumps are still in the pharmacy’s bags in a drawer in my house in Hastings. Given the severity of my symptoms I know it might work but I am reluctant to take it. I know the HRT is there, but I feel viscerally uneasy about it. I’m just not one for medical interventions if I can help it.
Partly this is because I’m not a pill popper. I don’t even like taking tablets for headaches – I’m the kind of person who would rather do things naturally. But also, because there are sound medical reasons why it might not be such a great idea; my family has a history of blood clots (exacerbated by HRT) and my sister died of stomach cancer.
I started looking around for the best non-medical options. I was looking for something I could take which would help with the night sweats, the foggy brain and the sleep deprivation – my dream was to look glowing and for my brain to feel sharp again.
My objection to HRT is not only medical. I’ve talked to older women who have taken it for years and stop in their seventies and are then thrust back into hot flushes and menopausal symptoms. Other women I know who haven’t taken HRT seem to come out the other side of menopause changed, sure, but somehow more peaceful and strengthened. I would like that to be my own journey.
Menopause as a positive change to something new
There are many ways to think about and approach this time of huge change. I believe menopause is a transition into a new stage of life – I feel more purposeful and grateful. I know that if I am lucky, I will have a couple more active decades to come, I want to make the most of them.
I used to have a busy high-powered job, but I have taken a different approach to my career now. These days I work in a charity which helps people with learning disabilities and every day I feel lucky that I am able to rationalise my decisions – that I am empowered to make decisions about my own body in a way that the people I work with are not.
A more spiritual time?
When it comes to menopause, some women I know say they feel they are entering into a more spiritual, still phase of their lives, that passing through the menopause has released them from the hormonal storms of their bodies. That feels right to me. I think it is important to view this time in our lives from lots of different angles.
I find the narrative of menopause as another season in women’s lives comforting.
Some women might find the thinking of people such as Jewels Winfield who argues that our bodies are teaching us a deeper wisdom as we pass through this change a bit out there, but I find her narrative of menopause as another season in women’s lives comforting. She says that women at this stage are “Autumn Queens”, rising above the ordinary into a more spiritual realm; at the peak of their divine sexuality, well at least that is positive! Our culture needs new narratives and ways of understanding the later parts of women’s lives – menopause is not just a medical condition to be managed but a transition to a new phase.
I know there are millions of long Covid sufferers, and many must be menopausal women like me. I’m sharing my story as I would like to hear the experiences of others and to start a discussion about different approaches to this important time.
What have other Noon women found helpful? We would love to hear your stories and tips.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.
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