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Highland woman says she 'lost herself' in the thick of perimenopause

By Annabelle Gauntlett

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Michelle Lawrence was diagnosed with perimenopause at 47, but neglected her symptoms for years.
Michelle Lawrence was diagnosed with perimenopause at 47, but neglected her symptoms for years.

A woman from Inverness 'lost herself' after she was diagnosed with perimenopause as it took a detrimental strain on her mental health.

High Life Highlands HR officer, Michelle Lawrence, (49), was diagnosed with perimenopause at the age of 47 despite experiencing symptoms years beforehand.

According to the NHS, perimenopause is when a woman has symptoms before their periods have stopped. Menopause occurs when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months and is due to lower hormone levels.

Michelle largely suffered from the metal health inplication's that came in hand with the menopause, in particular anxiety.

She said: “When I look back, my symptoms probably started about four or five years ago but exacerbated over the last 2 years.

"I found the mental health symptoms more challenging to deal with than the physical ones.

"The anxiety element has been the worst for me. I would say I'm quite a socially outgoing person, but in the last few years I have found myself getting worried about things I wouldn't usually worry about.

"Things I have either been tasked to do at work or things I would usually be confident doing I would then doubt myself, and the anxiety would take over."

From experiencing a lack of confidence and over-thinking to extreme brain fog and feeling incredibly irritable, Michelle 'lost herself' in the think of perimenopause.

She said: "Some days I would struggle to get through yet another Teams meeting which often left me in tears and simple tasks like parking in a multi-storey car park would make me literally sweat with panic.

"This was tough enough to deal with but trying to pretend I was “fine” and carry-on as normal was utterly exhausting.

"After listing the 20 plus symptoms I had to my GP, she said straight away that she thought it was perimenopause and put me on HRT."

Referring to her perimenopause discovery, Michelle said, “It was all quite a surprise to me as, only being in my 40’s, I wrongly assumed I was too young. I wrongly assumed that the menopause only affected women in their 50’s and older.

"I also wrongly assumed that you only got menopausal symptoms when your periods stopped and that it was all about night sweats. I was wrong, wrong, wrong on all counts."

While Michelle has taken her life back with the help of HRT, she continues to struggle with anxiety, which in many cases menopause is misdiagnosed with depression.

She said: "I have many friends who have been diagnosed with depression because of the mental health symptoms that come along with the menopause and have subsequently been given anti-depressants, but they obviously haven't felt it has benefited them because they've been misdiagnosed.

"So the misdiagnoses's around mental health for me are huge, as if you're still getting periods but feeling abnormal then it may be perimenopause.

"I think there is just so many people out there, once like myself, who don't know enough about it, especially with perimenopause."

Michelle is now sharing her story in the hope of others having the same 'lightbulb moment' she did and to discover menopause sooner rather than later.

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