Going through menopause when you are autistic just amplifies the fun of both scenarios. I did not know I was autistic when I went through menopause. Trying to dig myself out of the hole menopause left me in was part of my journey to diagnosis.
I have several autistic friends going through menopause at the moment. They are experiencing some of what I remember going through. They are seeking advice and support and I think many autistic women would be. There isn’t much research out there on females and autism or menopause and if you combine the two my research friend has only be able to find one study and that had about 20 participants so I doubt it could be called comprehensive.
I have no medical training so I will only be writing from my personal experience and observations.
Menopause lasts several years. It can be a grueling marathon. For those women who go through it without any adverse effect (and their loved ones agree), consider yourself lucky and do not dismiss the journeys of others. Be supportive, this is a time we need each other more than ever.
Menopause typically involves disrupted sleep patterns. Hot sweats wake you up. There is just basic insomnia. There is altered moods. Be prepared to spend several years sleep deprived and all of the extra fun that can bring.
There will be changes to your body, including your skin. Skin can become drier, more sensitive. You can have phantom itches all over. My husband resting his hand gently on my thigh gave me physical pain. The heat and pressure from his touch was overwhelming (and not in a good way). I could not bear to be touched, but felt so lost and alone I just wanted to be held tight, but don’t touch me, let me go I am too hot, I am flushing again.
There is the well known hot flushes. Nothing really prepared me for these. its like being embarrassed and blushing, all over your body, with the power amped up to full, for several minutes. I remember flushing so hot I had to lie down on the cold tile floor, rolling over so that the cold tiles could cool me. When the flush had passed my husband came into the room and walked on the tiles. ‘What happen here? The tiles are radiating heat’. ‘Just a hot flush’.
Those are the three main things I remember, any one of which by itself would be bad enough. All together you are going to experience several years of pretty much constant sensory overload. My dark sense of humour wonders at the correlation of average life expectancy for autistic persons being 54 and the fact most women hit menopause in their early 50s.
My recommendations for menopause:
- Have a good support network. Not something an autistic person can establish on the fly while in sensory overload. If you have a support network, use it, ask for help, accept help.
- Find good medical practitioners. When you tell your doctor your husband touching your thigh causes you physical pain, and he dismisses it, find another doctor. A lot of women go the HRT route and swear by how good it was for them. After all of the issues I had with hormonal birth control I was not willing to risk the side effects of synthetic hormones again.
- Un-mask. Masking takes effort. It uses spoons you don’t have, spoons you can’t spare. This is a marathon, get rid of baggage you don’t need to carry. Stim as much as you need to.
- Practice self care. Take time for yourself. As much time as you need.
- Get gentle exercise (as a minimum) during daylight hours. Walking has always helped me stabalise. A 30 minute walk somewhere with positive input for you, as brisk as you are comfortable. You have a holy trifecta there. Exercise can help tire you in a positive way to help you sleep. Sunlight can help with the production of the happy hormones and can help with your circadian rhythm, which helps you sleep and wake. Somewhere with positive input helps with the happy hormones. For me it was in more natural environments where I could hear birds and water and feel the breeze on my skin. All happy stims for me.
For anyone currently going through menopause, I wish you well. I wish you a speeding, safe journey but advise you to pack for a marathon. And just remember, on your dark days (or nights), there is life on the other side. It will be different, you will have been changed by your journey. The thought that kept me going was knowing so many other women had been through this and survived, and the fact that I would no longer have periods again (that was my happy place).