Dawn's Perimenopause: Challenges and Triumphs

By Christina Hanna, MPH, CHES • Published 3/25/2024

Headshot of Dawn, a Versalie Ambassador

The Versalie Ambassadors are a group of everyday people who are currently experiencing the ups and downs of the menopausal transition. They’ve been working with us to help build Versalie. Their experience and insights are helping us test our ideas, learn, and improve what we’re creating.

We hope you see yourself in their stories — their symptoms, their highs and lows — and find that you’re not alone in this beautiful (but sometimes chaotic) phase of life.

Versalie Ambassador – Dawn, 52 

Not sure about her stage of menopause, but noticed some symptoms at age 47 

9+ symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings, irritability, trouble sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy, weight gain, dry skin, and wrinkles 

When and how did you first realize you were in perimenopause? 

I have an IUD and I haven’t had a period for 10 years, so honestly, I don’t know if I’m in perimenopause or menopause. And my doctor/OB-GYN has never specifically said that we should do bloodwork to find out for sure.

But the first signs that I definitely knew something was changing were the hot flashes. Now that I look back, I would also say mood swings, being cranky, and short-tempered. Little things would set me off. Looking back, I feel horrible for my daughters — that had to have been rough on them. And they are going through their teenage years, so their hormones are crazy. When it was just the 3 of us girls, it was tough to go through, for sure.

You mentioned a few of your symptoms. Can you talk more about them and how they’ve affected you? 

I’m still having hot flashes every day, multiple times a day. It kind of stopped there for a while. But recently I’m doing it again. I can be at my computer, and I'll just start sweating, even in the middle of the night.

I haven’t been sleeping so well. I've always been a great sleeper and now I’ll wake up in the middle of the night several times and I just can't get comfortable or I’m hot. I just wake up out of the blue and then I'll fall back asleep and then I'll wake up again, fall back asleep, wake up again. Oh my god, I would love to just get a full night's sleep — sometimes I do, but mostly no.

I've always been one that jumps out of bed at 5am and goes to work out. Now I have no energy, like I don’t want to get out of bed. And I'm just tired all the time. I gotta do something so I can get my energy back, you know? So yeah, I hate it.

I have to accept the fact that I’m getting older, my skin is changing, my skin is drier, I’m starting to get wrinkles. There’s a lot that I have to do to come to the realization that I’m 52 years old. I think that I’m 30, but I’m 52.

Dawn, a Versalie Ambassador faces the challenges of perimenopause

It’s really depressing. Menopause is hard. My body is so much different than it used to be. My body is the main thing. I used to have an hourglass figure, a thin waist, and it’s not like that anymore. It’s hard to get the weight off. Years ago, I wouldn’t eat much for a couple of days and I could lose 5 pounds. Now, there’s nothing I can do to get this weight off, it’s horrible. I can work out, I can walk every day, I can do all these things, eat healthy, and it just doesn’t go away. I’ve contemplated getting a tummy tuck. But it’s just so depressing. Like every day I’m just miserable, honestly, but I put on a happy face and I just keep on going. But it sucks. I hate it. It’s horrible.

And then being tired and not having the energy. I don’t feel as attractive as I used to. I’m a single mom and I’d love to have a relationship with somebody, but I don’t even feel attractive enough to have a relationship with somebody. It’s tough. I lost that body. I was proud of that, and it’s gone. I’m definitely grieving — that was who I was and that’s not who I am anymore.

What have you tried to do so far to manage your symptoms? Is there anything you’d like to try? 

When the hot flashes started, I did some research and started Googling what to do for them. One of the things that came up that I thought I’d give it a try — these little pellet things that put under your tongue and I think it helped. That was probably 5 years ago, and I haven’t taken it in quite a while because I don’t have hot flashes as often.

I also did some counseling, but that was also because my ex and I were having problems. But I did some counseling, and I feel like that helped. And I think that that counseling would be great for anybody because of all the things that your body is going through and the emotional feelings that you’re feeling. I would suggest counseling for anybody because it is a lot to handle and to go through and for your family. Counseling definitely helped. 

Illustration by Naomi Likayi of Dawn’s perimenopause experience

I also try to work out. I think that helps. And just try to eat healthy, get my sleep, drink lots of water. Try to do the healthy things to help me with my mindset. Because when I do all those things, I feel happier, and I know I feel more energetic when I do those things. I just really have to push myself to do that — to be on that track. 

In my job, I’m so busy and I’m constantly on my feet 12 hours a day. I’m constantly moving and walking around (I have a home daycare). So, if I have a hot flash, I push through it. I’m constantly moving so I don’t think about it. I think “This is miserable”, but then I just move on to the next thing.

For my skin, I just stick with my normal routine. I do look in the mirror sometimes and see the age spots and think, “This sucks!” but what are you going to do? While I don’t obsess about it and buy all the stuff, I have done some Botox here and there.

I’m constantly like ‘What can I take to lose weight? Or what supplements or foods?’ Thinking ‘I should be eating this much protein; I should be doing this and that.’ I almost give myself a headache because I’m constantly trying to figure it out.

I also met with this online coach. I did learn a lot of good information from her, and she set me up with a workout program, and the percentages for my macros of what I should be eating. Although I got good information, I still feel like it didn’t really help me.

This is a personal story and does not constitute medical advice. 

Have you talked to a medical professional about your perimenopause symptoms? How’d that go? 

My doctors have never mentioned menopause. But the next time I go to my OB, I will definitely address it. And maybe ask about the IUD — should I have that taken out? Should I have bloodwork done?

I have questions now — I want to know about hormone levels, hormone replacement therapy. It’s disturbing that they haven't talked about it. I'm curious about my hormone levels. I know a friend of mine who started getting testosterone. She had no sex drive and she said it's changed her life. And I'm like, “Well, how do you know that you're low on testosterone?” And she's like, “You have to be tested.” And I’m like, “Nobody's ever mentioned it to me before.”

Dawn, a Versalie Ambassador, stays positive while managing her perimenopause symptoms

Did anyone talk about menopause growing up? Did anyone talk to you about menopause before it happened? 

Nobody — not older relatives or anybody — nobody ever mentioned it.

I did not live with my mom. I went to live with my dad when I was 12, so I wasn’t around my mom then. But my brother was, and he said she was crazy. So, I think that it really affected her quite strongly with her mood swings and stuff like that. But she never talked about it with me. We became closer later, like when I was 30. But she never discussed it.

I think her era — it was like you don’t talk about that type of stuff. Which is kind of sad because I want to prepare my girls for what will happen down the road. And I want them to be able to come to me when they are going through something and ask me for my opinion or advice.

What role have your family, friends, and partner played in your menopause journey? Have you seen any changes in those relationships? 

I’m close to high school friends still and we’ll get together for happy hour. I’ve talked to a bunch of my girlfriends, my daughters, my sisters.

My friends — they’ve all shared the same things — the weight gain and can’t do anything to get it off. Although there isn’t anything that we’ve shared that has been helping with the symptoms. Everybody is just going along, dealing with it.

With my friends, I feel like it’s brought us closer. I have a best friend and we’ve been friends since we were like 3, I feel like it’s brought us closer. I’ve been more open talking about it, so it’s brought us closer to share our thoughts and feelings about it and compare stories. I have another friend too, that just being able to be open and honest about how we’re feeling and our symptoms and what we’re doing has brought us closer.

My daughters are 16 and 20. We’re super, super close. They’ve been there and have been a part of my menopause journey. We’ve never said, “Oh, mom is in menopause.” But they know if I start fanning myself, they ask if I’m having a hot flash. They’re very sympathetic because they know that it’s miserable and they’ve just put up with it. If I’m in a bad mood or I’m moody because of it, they don’t take it too personally. They know Mom is just “in a mood”.

But I think they understand too because my younger daughter will come to me and complain about her sister being crazy. She gets super emotional. It’s funny because she and I are mirror images of each other. I have to tell her, I know honey, it’s her hormones. We have to be patient with her. I feel like they’re the same with me.

They understand the symptoms, but I don’t think they actually know why they’re happening. But now that makes me want to sit down with them and be like this is what’s happening. I want them to know that in the future, this is what you have to look forward to.

I feel like my younger friends, the ones just turning 40, I want them to know — this is what’s going to happen. You guys have no clue what’s in store for you down the road.

Dawn, a Versalie Ambassador, shares her perimenopause experience so others can learn from it

What I wish I knew: What would you tell your younger self about menopause if you could go back in time? 

I wish somebody would have told me about your hormones. Even now, I don’t know what’s going on. Hormone replacement therapy — I'm confused about that. I wish someone would have educated me on that whole thing — what's going to happen with your hormones, and do you need hormone replacement therapy? Or why do you need it?

I wish somebody would have told me the timeframe to expect things to start changing. And somebody to be honest and tell me — your body is really going to change. And which symptoms to expect. When stuff started happening, I wasn’t thinking about menopause.

I wish somebody would have prepared me a little better for this because I was not prepared at all.

Are there any misconceptions, myths, or stigmas about menopause that you want to debunk or clarify? 

I feel like menopause is associated with old age. When I was younger, I probably thought 52 was old. Now that I’m 52, it’s not old at all! It’s not an old person thing, at all. And it can happen at any age — not just 50 — it could be 40 or whatever.

What advice would you give to others starting or going through the menopausal transition? 

Talk to your doctor beforehand if you can, if you know you’re going in that direction. Ask what you need to prepare for, what’s going to be happening to your body, do you need to have your hormones checked, stuff like that.

Don’t be afraid to talk to other people about it — your own age or older. Talk to relatives that are older and went through it. Ask them what they went through. Ask ‘What am I going to expect here?’. I wish I had asked people before. That’s why I want to educate my daughters and even their friends. Tell them this is what’s going to happen. Come to me and ask me any questions that you have — just prepare them. 

What's an unexpected improvement in life now, as you’re aging and going through perimenopause? 

I can give my daughters’ advice on what to expect. I think they’ll appreciate that down the road.

Another unexpected improvement is that my hot flashes and night sweats have subsided, which is a great relief!

Why did you want to become a Versalie Ambassador? 

What I’ve gone through, if I can help other people and share my experience so people know they’re not alone and it’s normal and the fact that we don’t know a whole lot because nobody talks about it. I think it’s reassuring when you hear from somebody else that you’re going through the same thing.

Back in the day, nobody talked about it. I think that gets instilled in you from your parents — they didn’t talk about it, so then you think you’re not supposed to talk about it.

What’s your favorite part about being an Ambassador? 

I like being an Ambassador because I really enjoy telling people about Versalie and the great information I have learned along this journey.

I love sharing my journey and encouraging other women that they don't have to suffer in silence anymore!

What’s the biggest change you’ve made since joining as an Ambassador? What’s one thing you’ve learned about menopause that you think is critical to share with others? 

The biggest change I have made is that I feel comfortable talking about menopause and my journey to other women AND men. One huge thing that I have learned is that men are just as confused about menopause and symptoms of what their partners are going through. My fiancé and I have had lots of problems in our relationship over the last 11 years. We now realize a lot of issues resulted because of my symptoms with menopause which caused several break ups. He wished he would have known what I was going through and would have been more patient and sympathetic. 

Last Updated 4/2/2024

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