Aging With HIV!
By Rae Lewis-Thornton on March 03, 2014
I've said it before, I never thought that I would live to see perimenopause, but I did. While I'm glad to be alive, I've got to admit, menopause or pre-menopausal which is what I'm gong through, is more than a notion. Now, menopause is when your menstrual cycle has ended, no more, done. Perimenopausal is basically, everything a woman experiences leading to menopause and you still have a cycle.
While every woman will have to go down this path, studies show that women with HIV have more severe perimenopausal issues. We tend to begin menopause earlier at 48-49 years of age. This is true for me. I started having hot flashes at 48. Women with HIV tend to have more severe hot flashes, depressed moods, irritability, sleep problems and all of this could lead to issues around adherence to HIV medication and ones overall well-being. As well as, a greater risk of heart disease.
It's interesting, older women don't really talk about menopause much other than hot flashes. When I was younger, I laughed off the topic with a shrug like most young women.
We go through most of our younger years not really seeking any information on menopause and then before we know it, the months have turned into years and 25 into 50 and we find ourselves knee deep in it and don't have a clue. As a woman living with HIV/AIDS, I'm learning that there is a heavier burden for me as I go through perimenopause.
This is at least true for me and I'm finding it difficult as I muddle through. For the longest, I've suffered through hot flashes. A hot flash is heat consuming your body like an inferno on the inside coming out. For a good two years, hot flashes were a thorn in my flash. Then they went away, then they came back, then they tapered off. Which is where I'm at now; a hot flash every now and then. But when I have one, it stops me in my tracks.
Now perimenopause is far more then hot flashes. First off, this thing with the menstrual cycle, it just won't go away and when I'm this close to being done, then BAM! That's what happened last week. I hadn't had a cycle in 7 freaking months, then BAM! For me, having a menstrual cycle is not a breeze. I also have endometriosis, so my cycles tend to be heavy in the cramping; like someone has their hand up my vagina up to my uterus yanking down.
Yep, that was last week. Then these night sweats. Now night sweats are scary to me. Let me explain. Back in the day, night sweats were common for people living with AIDS and it often meant some kind of infection. So when my night sweats started back a few months ago, I went to my HIV doctor in a panic. She tested me for everything HIV related and all my test came back normal. So the night sweats that I'm experiencing are clearly caused by my perimenopausal status
For the last 3 months or so, I wake in the middle of the night soaked. The weekend was the pits. Friday night I had to change my gown about 4:00 AM. But Saturday night was the pits. I woke up wet, wet, and wet, my gown, my sheets, my pillows, even my blanket was so wet that I had to remove everything. This happens at least 3- 4 times a week, where I at least have to change my night clothes and shift to the other side of the bed, and sometimes it happens a couple times in one night.
All of this means my sleep is deprived and I have to then get up and start the day tried on top of the HIV fatigue that I have a few times a week. I'm not sure how I've been making it these last few months and keeping up with my projects. Somedays I press through it, never really complaining.
Saturday night was the worst in terms of the level of my wetness so far. Needless to say, I woke up sacred. I thought that I had peed on myself . The first thing I did was smell my gown and sheets. Finally it hit, there would be no way for urine to make it to my pillows. Relieved somewhat, I got up and changed my gown and sheets. I eventually fell back to sleep and when I woke for the day, I was wet again. It was one rough night.