After circling each other for years, Jay and I started dating when I was 47ish. I was "perimenopausal", meaning I was just starting the process. I thought it would be a gradual thing, ya know? And I wasn't having any of the common symptoms, like hot flashes (I think I may have had two mild ones - or maybe the thermostat was just too high), or sleep disturbances like night sweats, insomnia or intense dreams. No dryness or loss of libido, nothing.
I quite literally found myself terrorizing Jay. "Found myself" because it was like I was outside myself watching me chewing him to bits, and I can't even say it was over minor things, it was over nothing! He had been legally separated and was involved in a very nasty divorce, and needed my support, and here I was dragging him across the coals. It was like I had split into two people. Outside I was a harridan. Inside, I'd see and hear myself, and I'd be screaming at myself, "Stop it! Stop! He doesn't deserve this! He's the sweetest guy, and he's trying so hard! Stop it!", but outside I'd keep on snapping at him. I couldn't control it. It just got worse and worse.
At some point I went to my doctor for some other thing, and he asked how the menopause was going, and I said that was ok, but there was something else going on, and I told him about how I felt like some very nasty person was taking me over and I couldn't control her and I was hurting the people I loved. Many years before, I had been diagnosed with a "poorly integrated personality", but after years of psychotherapy I thought I was doing well. I was worried that I was now having some kind of psychotic break or something.
He handed me five tiny pills, said to take one a day, and stop in his office on the fifth day and let him know how I was doing. He wouldn't tell me what the pills were, just smiled and said, "Try them. Trust me for five days."
It was wonderful! The effect was immediate. The nasty person went away the very first day. I assumed it was some kind of "happy pill", like Prozac or something, I certainly felt calm and happy, and the doctor knew me well enough to know that I would have resisted if I knew it was Prozac or something. I like being me.
On the fifth day I went to his office and told him it was pure magic.
It was hormone replacement (HRT/EPT), the smallest dose. Yea! I was still me!
I was on HRT for the next ten or twelve years, until research was saying it caused various cancers, or something, and then I quit. I wish I had stayed on it. Current research shows a much lower risk than previously assumed, and it helps with bones and vaginal issues. My last bone scan says I'm starting to thin, and I like sex too much for vaginal issues! I wonder if there's a doctor in the world who would let me start up again.
When I stopped the HRT, I expected menopausal symptoms. Nope. Nothing.
So, I'm not a good one to ask about menopause. I am a good one to ask about HRT.