What is it? Well, the Mayo clinic defines it as this:
Perimenopause means "around menopause" and refers to the time period during which a woman's body makes its natural transition toward permanent infertility (menopause). Perimenopause is also called the menopausal transition.
Because of all the chemical changes, women with anxiety and panic disorders can be heavily affected. This in turn causes problems within relationships. Think about this for a moment...you have a spouse/so/girlfriend who learned to manage their anxiety and get a relative handle on that particular part of their psyche. It feels like just as they get that figured out...this curve ball is thrown onto the field and now the entire game is changed. Irrationality abounds, tears flow with reckless abandon, and she feels lower than a snakes belly in a desert. She goes to the doctor, gets verification that this is in fact a physiological condition driving her mental process. This can make things both worse and better. Better because now she (and you) have a solid answer to the problem. Worse because...well what feels worse than being told "yes your body is shutting down the very process that makes you a woman while your peers are still popping out babies. Oh! and you're going to come across as mentally insane for an extended period of time and no one will want to be around you". Regardless of whether or not she ever wanted to have another child, the simple idea that you will be permanently different- physically and mentally- is a lot to swallow. Ask any accident victim that has ever been remade, so to speak. Something out of their control changed them for the rest of their life. Whether they wanted it or not.
There are several good articles about anxiety and it's correlation with perimenopause, these are but two that I found helpful:
Answers in the past have included anti-depressants to deal with the severe emotional issues that come with this combination. That is kind of like taking a cough suppressant to cure pneumonia. Sure, it'll mask the outward symptom, suppress the cough-but it does nothing for the root cause, the disease deep in the lung causing the cough. You have to deal with the root cause in order for the outward signs to abate.
I'm having an impressively rough time with this. Sadly, my husband and one of my close friends is having an even rougher time with it. I've been repeatedly told in the last 6 months that I need therapy because I'm crazy. These words have been thrown at me repeatedly: crazy, insane, irrational, psychotic. I went to my doctor and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am in full perimenopause swing. I took the steps to find the proper herbs to help, the doctor told me those were fine. The only other options are synthetic hormone treatments. The thing is....either way you go...they are only a HELP. They don't completely remove the symptoms, they don't stop the process because it can't be stopped. One of the most important things a woman going through this can have is a great support system of people who love her and understand that this is temporary. People in her corner to say, "it's alright, you're still a woman, you might feel crazy but you are not crazy this will pass". There are tons of articles online as well about spouse's and this condition, I even found a few forums run by men who help each other deal with what's going on in their so's life.
While I have a wonderful husband and good friends....this is a journey I have been and will continue to be on alone. The effects of the anxiety/perimenopause combo are too great for them to bear right now. So my only option is to take a step back from spending too much time with these people. I will make sure I take all my supplements and keep talking with my doctor to make sure I don't need to do something different or more. Yes, I do feel completely abandoned but if it is necessary to maintain my marriage and other relationships, then checking out for a while is what I will do. I can't really go to my mother about this because she doesn't believe her time was all that bad...again...she doesn't remember it like my sister and I do. I have no grandmothers left. The only grandparent I ever had passed away more than 10 years ago and most of my friends are still having children or they haven't hit this point yet.
If you're a woman reading this and you think perhaps you're going though this same combination...you don't need mental health, you need a doctor and some hormone support. If you're a man and you think your wife/so might be going through this...don't abandon her. Read, study, learn, and find out how you can help. You can't fix it because there is nothing to fix, but you can help her not feel like a complete mental and physical disaster.
It won't last forever. I know that. But it doesn't stop the hurt and it doesn't stop the anxiety from taking on a persona of it's own. Day by day...that's all I can do.