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Menopause and how TikTok opened its doors to women over 40
TikTok is the platform for teenagers. Sixty-seven percent of teens use TikTok, according to Pew Research. Facebook is where the old folks go, right?
I thought that too. I’ve been on TikTok because as a writer, it’s impossible to ignore the influence of BookTok and how TikTok has been instrumental in selling books. So I made my TikTok book videos and my videos are fine. Then every person I know asked me if I read about Colleen Hoover, the author who has become a TikTok phenomenon, because they read about her in the New York Times and because many of her books are on the top of the New York Times bestseller list every week.
Yes. I know all about Colleen Hoover.
(God bless Colleen Hoover but if you see me in person, don’t mention Colleen Hoover. I am all about supporting other authors, but I am not linking to Colleen Hoover. Don’t ask me about Colleen Hoover. But seriously, I love Colleen Hoover and she deserves all the success!)
The more time on TikTok I spent, my feed changed. My algorithm gave me videos that I didn’t know I needed, as a good algorithm will do. I started seeing menopause doctors. Videos about aging skin. Hormone replacement therapy. How to apply concealer so that your under eye doesn’t look “cakey.” How to use bronzer and blush—not in the apple of your cheek when you’re over 40, but above your cheek bone. Why a collagen powder supplement is important. Why you should be taking turmeric, and omega-3’s and vitamin D3 with K2.
I found women, celebs and non celebs, I could relate to. Cait Kiernan talks about her changing skin and how hard it is to look in the mirror sometimes. Valerie Bertinelli jokes about her aging experience. Naomi Watts of all people, yes, the actress, created a menopause line because she felt so alone during the process.
I also found Mary Claire Haver, MD, who is an obgyn and a self described “menopause warrior.” Watching her first video was like stumbling on an oasis. Her voice is soft, with a southern twang, yet precise. The video starts out with her out of focus, and slowly becomes clear. She’s got her brown hair pulled back is wearing blue scrubs and glasses. She’s beautiful in that put together way. She’s not a supermodel. She’s not an “influencer.” She’s not an actor.
She’s the kind of doctor you might trust if your best friend recommended her. Except this time, it’s not your best friend recommending her. It’s TikTok.
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About a year ago, around the time of the month I was ovulating, I started getting depressed to the point that I couldn’t get off the couch. I didn’t have suicidal ideation, but I wondered about the point of living. I wondered about life and it’s purpose. I questioned why I was here. I’ve been through a divorce. I watched my parents go through a bad divorce as a child. I struggle with anxiety. But I had never been so depressed in my life. It was shocking.
There was nothing really to be depressed about. (Of course, I know this is not how depression works, but I’m trying to make a point.) At 50, I was accomplishing everything I had dreamed of. Writing for the New York Times, publishing books, a husband who I wanted to kill only some of the time. (Kidding!) But during those few days of ovulation, I was dark. I’d say it out loud over and over, “I’m so depressed I don’t know what to do with myself.” Plus, I had awful, debilitating cramps. (The cramps got worse when I had my period, plus I had a very heavy flow.) No one tells you that this might happen when you’re in perimenopause. You hear about the hot flashes, but you don’t hear about some of the other side effects. When I was out of ovulation, the darkness passed. A cloud lifted.
Yes, PMS brought about a different cloud, but I was able to see through it. I was at least familiar with PMS. We’ve been trained since our teenage years to expect hormonal changes during PMS, cramps, bitchy-ness, irritation, bloating.
We are not trained to understand perimenopause and menopause.
I finally spoke to my therapist about it and we decided that I should try to up my dose of Lexapro a small amount for a few days in the middle of the month. It didn’t work. Another doctor put me on Lo Loestrin. It made me more depressed.
One of my best friends had been talking about how a progesterone cream changed her life. She wasn’t getting her period anymore, but she was on a progesterone bio-identical cream. I had heard about hormone replacement therapy, but I didn’t understand it. Weren’t there side effects? Was it like a snake oil? Was my friend giving its miracle powers too much weight?
I went to a new doctor, a gynecologist who I liked. I told her what I was feeling. I mentioned the bio-identical cream. I thought she was going to tell me I was crazy.
She held my hand and told me if the bio-identical progesterone cream works, it will “Change your life.” Those were my friend’s words. Now they were a doctor’s words. She prescribed it for me from a pharmacy that makes compounded bioidentical hormones.
Side effects? Actually, she said, it will protect you from ovarian cancer. It will give you energy, help with the brain fog, with cardiovascular disease and protect you against osteoporosis. She was hopeful. She was scared of being too hopeful, because of course there was the chance it might not work. “There are other things we can use if this doesn’t work,” she said. “But if this works, it’s going to be great.”
On day 14, I smeared that cream on my breast and for the first time in almost a year, I was off the couch. No depression. Increased sex drive. Energy. I’m telling you, it was the wildest thing I had experienced. I couldn’t believe I was me.
What I’ve realized: I’m lucky. I have a great fucking doctor. And if you’re in the Glen Ridge/Montclair, NJ area, her name is Karen Diaz-Martin. She is brilliant.
I’ve been on bio-identical progesterone cream for a year and I’ve had to play with the prescription a little as I go further into menopause. Covid messed up my cycle (*confirmed by my doctor) and look, my body chemistry is constantly changing. I still get my period sometimes and sometimes I don’t. I’ll probably have to start using it daily. By the way, progesterone cream may NOT BE FOR YOU.
What I’m suggesting is that YOU talk to your doctor and if your doctor doesn’t acknowledge what’s happening in your body GO TO ANOTHER DOCTOR.
MenoTok has been a life saver. (I know. I can’t believe those words are coming from me either.) It’s become a place where I’ve found like minded people and doctors, and make up artists and estheticians and dermatologists who WANT to talk to women over 40. There is no other place on the internet where women and doctors are talking about hormone replacement therapy, “scream cream,” a lack of libido, menopause supplements, restless leg syndrome (Yes, it’s a menopause thing!!), dry skin, brain fog and more.
Just search “menopause” and you’ll get thousands of videos that address exactly what you’re feeling. You’ll feel less crazy and alone. More, you’ll find ANSWERS.
TikTok might be for the teenagers. But it’s for us too.
Hope this helps. Let me know if you’d like to see more articles like this. I’d love to use this platform more and talk about issues outside of writing.
All the love,