A woman who said she went through menopause and had to be hospitalized six times is telling her story in hopes of helping others.
Annie Cardone, from Rainham, suffered from insomnia and sleep psychosis before doctors diagnosed her as menopausal. But hormone replacement therapy turned her into “a 14-year-old, sex-crazed, aggressive, wild boy,” she says.
Annie officially entered menopause at age 50, but unknowingly entered perimenopause, the time before menopause, a few years earlier.
She said: “I didn’t know and a lot of women don’t know anything about perimenopause.
“I was 48 years old, I still had my cycle and that’s what puts many women off, they don’t realize it’s coming.
“You start to feel a bit more emotional, I mean for me the dominant symptom was insomnia.
“I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t know what was happening to me.
“I went to my doctor and I didn’t get any help. It was ‘well, we can refer you to a psychiatrist’, and I don’t really believe in psychiatric drugs.”
She said psychiatric help was “never a solution” for her.
Annie’s father died in 2013 and her insomnia persisted. After three or four sleepless nights, he suffered from sleep psychosis, which causes hallucinations and delusional thoughts.
“My mom had to get an ambulance and take me to a hospital where they sedated me,” Annie said.
“After a few days I was completely back to normal and I was like ‘wow, what just happened?'”
Annie says none of the doctors she saw mentioned that it could have been menopause, so she hadn’t even thought about it.
“I stopped because maybe I had a bit of a breakdown, my dad had died and it was understandable, but then it happened again when I moved to America.”
When she was in the US, she was lucky enough to find a doctor who specialized in hormones and told her that she was probably in menopause.
Annie said she opted for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but that made things worse.
HRT is a treatment that aims to relieve menopausal symptoms and replaces hormones that are at a lower level.
Annie said: “HRT was an absolute rollercoaster. I was frequently switched from pills to patches to creams.
“It was three years of HRT trial and error, and I was probably hospitalized five times.
“At first I was given a testosterone implant at a cost of £1,500 and it turned me into a sex-crazed, aggressive and wild 14-year-old. I had to put up with it for three months.”
Annie has now written about her experiences in a book and is running a series of events across Kent, giving women the chance to talk about what they are going through and get support.
In recent years, household names such as Lorraine Kelly and Carol Vorderman have been raising awareness of the menopause, while presenter Davina McCall, who created the Channel 4 documentary Sex, Myths and the Menopause, has called for better support for the women.
But Annie said the kind of help celebrities can get is out of reach for many.
She explained: “I think a lot of times women in the public eye talk about menopause, but they’ve had a lot of help and support.
“They’ve had all the help money can buy and for a lot of these women they don’t have the money to go into that kind of thing.
“Especially with the cost of living going up, I really wanted to reach out to the community and offer my advice and information that I’ve gathered and share a little bit about what I went through.”
Annie is hosting talks to help women understand what the stress of menopause is doing to their bodies and to educate them on how to make positive changes.
She said: “I went on this horrible journey and came to the conclusion that the only thing that really helped me through menopause was to take care of myself and not allow all the stressors that were going on in my life to continue.”
Now 57, Annie added: “If you think about it at that age, it can be very stressful. There aren’t as many opportunities at work, or if you’re single, and there’s so much stigma around aging for a woman you have all these pressures and stresses and it has a massive impact.
“Self-care isn’t taught in schools, it’s not really taught anywhere, so you spend your life taking care of other people.
“You have couples that need rescuing, maybe you do too much for your kids, you take on your friends’ problems, I did that too.
“So my sense of self-worth and my worth comes from helping other people and solving their problems and that makes you very useful to people.
“But the problem is, you’re not very good at solving your own problems, and that works fine in life until you get to menopause, and then your body changes, your hormones change, and everything starts to shut down.” .
Annie’s series of events will start on Monday at The Oast Community Center in Rainham, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.
Guest speakers will include a menopause nurse, a nutritionist, a fitness specialist and a reflexologist.
The event, which seats 100 people, is nearly sold out, and Annie’s said she has been inundated with emails.
“It’s really an indicator of how much this is needed,” he added.
Annie plans to hold events in Gravesend, Dartford, Bexleyheath, Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham, with dates yet to be announced via her website.
Her book, called Menopause WTH! will be released in the coming weeks.
She said: “I want to share the information I have researched and studied for eight or nine years with women who have nowhere else to go.
“It’s not about selling a book, it’s not about promoting myself, I prefer to be invisible.
“It’s not a comfortable situation for me, telling a story is incredibly difficult, especially when it has to do with mental health. It’s not an easy thing to do, but I think if I don’t do anything it’s irresponsible and I want to help women. “
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