Real Talk: Powering through my Hormonal Imbalance and Making Sense of my Body
Welcome to Real Talk, where we discuss all things identity, body, and sex care without shame or filter. No taboos, no clichés, just real-life experiences so you won’t feel so alone. We’re all in this together!
BY SHEMS ROCHA
"When I started experiencing extremely painful PMS and irregular periods overnight, as well as major happy-in-the-morning-crying-in-the-evening type of mood swings, a lack of focus, sleeplessness, exhaustion, and a sexual appetite that went through the roof, I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to."
BY SHEMS ROCHA
20 January 2023
I had an eventful Summer last year. Sadly, I didn’t go to a myriad of exhibitions, gigs, or other outdoor activities and cultural events. Instead, I battled a rollercoaster of emotions and abrupt physical changes.
That time made me realise how little I knew about the changes my body would experience as I grew older. As a cis-woman in my late thirties, it’s fair to say I’ve been somehow warned - like many others with a uterus - about eventual hormonal changes, cycle dysregulation, menopause, and other delights that were bound to happen to me in this lifetime. But those warnings don’t mean anything until you actually start experiencing those changes in your body, until you start, unexpectedly, feeling a drop in your mental health and a whirlwind of other shifts completely outside of your control. This was my Summer, and it lasted a good few weeks.
I have a fairly active life. I work, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy diet - well, mostly. I go out or stay in and binge on TV; I attend cultural events, have fairly regular periods, and have sex whenever chance is in my corner. So when I started experiencing extremely painful PMS and irregular periods overnight, as well as major happy-in-the-morning-crying-in-the-evening type of mood swings, a lack of focus, sleeplessness, exhaustion, and a sexual appetite that went through the roof, I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to. And that last symptom turned me upside down, quite literally.
As someone who usually manages to keep her sex care routine fairly minimal - for multiple reasons - I once had such a random rush of desire that I had to stop working on the spot, as I was left paralysed by the sensation. This is hard to put into words, and I didn’t know it was even possible to feel this way. We are not talking about the sexual energy you have in your twenties, but the one that leaves you hopeless. It felt like an anxiety attack was building inside of me, combined with a rush of high sexual energy. I ended up with what I can only describe as a ‘ball of energy’ growing inside of me that was so intense that I could have fainted right then.
My health as I knew it flashed before my eyes, and I had *many* questions. How did I get there? Where was this coming from? How would I get rid of it? Was there something ultimately wrong with my body? I couldn’t help but think that my body was screaming for help. So I googled it, and the internet had shocking answers.
The first one was that I wasn’t sick. Yes, my body was going through some major changes. No, there was nothing I could really do about it. I eventually came across an article online on the ‘10 warning signs you may have a hormonal imbalance (and what to do about it)’, and realised then that I checked a lot of those boxes. The article didn’t provide me with an actual answer on what was happening in my body and in my head, but it gave me an initial response and a sense of peace.
My hormones were just messing with me.
Getting a clear prognosis from my GP was hard. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) was mentioned as a potential cause, and with time, I figured out how to better control my body and my mind. However the episode did leave an after-taste, and I still have a hard time understanding how far modern science has come, yet how little we know about the human body. Especially about how our uteruses, vaginas, periods, and hormones truly work. I felt so uneducated about my own body - but so was the NHS.
Women go through so much in life, yet, we don’t seem to know or learn much about sex care. How are we supposed to remain sane and calm when something like this happens? Had I received that education early on, I may have recognised the signs, and wouldn’t have worried so much about my health, imagining the worst, week after week.
A higher sex drive doesn’t phase me. In truth, it makes me feel like I’m twenty again, and gives me a lot of confidence to own my body and experiment with it. But I don’t want hormones to take over my life. I don’t want any of these symptoms to take full control again, and I’m not too keen on taking the pill or any other sort of medication at this point. So while there’s no miracle remedy, I know I can take some additional steps to make my life easier. I’m reading up and getting my own sex care education, and it’s already making a huge difference. I am taking ownership, solving one problem at a time. And if me sharing this can shed the slightest light on someone else’s hormone-fuelled days and sleepless nights, then this experience will have been worth it.
*10 warning signs you may have a hormonal imbalance (and what to do about it): https://adriaticawomenshealth.com/hormonal-imbalance/