Monday, October 29, 2012

For Gals Only

I know I promised a further exploration of Anosognosia, but I’m taking time out for a medical heads-up. Ladies, menopause may be dangerous to your mental health, and going hormone-free might not be one of your viable options.

I noticed a couple of years ago that I was destabilizing rapidly and had no idea why. In a few months, it felt like I had been dropped back into hell - I was in total misery, as vulnerable to symptoms as if I were taking no medications at all. When I started feeling suicidal, my husband and I talked it over. We determined that the only physical change in the last few months had been the cessation of my periods. This meant a massive drop in hormone levels, which might reasonably be responsible for what I was experiencing. So I started on a small dose of hormone replacement therapy, and Bingo! Within two weeks my symptoms receded to previous levels.

Here’s the kicker: it looks like I may not be able to get off them. Just recently my new GP reminded me of the possible link between certain cancers and HRT, and asked me to cut my dose in half to see if I could tolerate it. Within days, I began to feel depressed and experience anhedonia. In less than a month, I was suicidal once more. So much for that experiment.

I know there are a lot of women who just don’t want HRT, or only for a short while at most. They may be justly worried about long term effects, or they may simply want to go the natural route. This may be a choice you will have to face: which do you want to preserve, your mind or your body? It is a very personal dilemma.

For myself, I would rather have cancer temporarily, at the end of my life, even if it shortens my life, than the torture of psychiatric symptoms in a healthy body for years on end. I would rather be in a medical hospital at the end of my life than in a mental hospital for large portions of my golden years. You may feel differently. That’s fine. But I am already accustomed to a permanent regime of pills that may be harmful to various parts of my body. I find that one more risk is acceptable to me. I made my choice long ago: I would rather be sane. No matter what.

I’m not trying to influence anybody in this decision. Just be aware that if you are female, and you live long enough, this choice may be coming your way. Hormones can have a profound effect on our mental condition. One way or another, expect some rocks in the road.

Deborah is a public speaker and the author of Is There Room for Me, Too? 12 Steps & 12 Strategies for Coping with Mental Illness. She is currently recording it as an audiobook and CD set.  Her books are available at, Kindle Editions, iBookstore, and other major vendors. Visit her web page at, or see her catalog at She has also narrated a guided meditation CD with her husband, musician Robert Hamaker. Check out sound samples at