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If only I had known… Reflections of ‘Cotton Wool Head’

Please find below a personal story from the Warwick community, you can read more on the Personal Stories page.

If you'd like to share a personal story of experiencing menopause please complete the form here.


Submitted by Emma Shield:

"How many times have women said their GP has dismissed their symptoms because they are “too young” to be menopausal in their opinion? Too many times, I hear you cry! And in my experience every time I went, which was about once every three months over a three year period (around age 41-44), I am now nearly 49.

"Oh no, you are far too young for that, you’re just depressed, take these anti-depressants and all will be fine”…Something told me this wasn’t right, and I resisted taking anti-depressants for a long time…

I got so exasperated and then fortunately on a less ‘cotton wool head’ day when I could explain myself clearly instead of not being able to find the words, and could stand up for myself without crying, after much eye rolling (I kid you not!) from the GP they agreed to send me for a blood test. “Oh, so there is a blood test? Why didn’t you make me aware of this and send me for one earlier?” (like 3 years ago)… So off I went… Low and behold my ‘FSH levels’ (my what?) were considerably high, so guess what, I was experiencing an early menopause.

Hallelujah! I just knew it! I felt such relief. At last there was a reason for my symptoms, my hunch was right all along, and I didn’t need to keep incorrectly grasping at what else might be causing all of this. It’s an age-old saying isn’t it that we know our own bodies!

The average age for women reaching menopause in the UK is 51. Peri-menopause (the bit leading up to reaching menopause) can last for 5-7 years, so there are many of us in our early to mid-forties going through symptoms. I now know that I had been experiencing peri-menopause and very extreme hormonal imbalance to boot! Who knew? I certainly had never heard of it before.

My symptoms had been fatigue, horrendous mood swings, sometimes I just felt like I wasn’t ‘me’, crying all the time, irregular periods, foggy head or cotton wool head, loss of confidence, not being able to find the right words, confusion, lack of clarity of thought, being hot all the time, weight gain, being bloated… It was just horrible and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

It affected my work, relationships, and my confidence. I still have days when I struggle with ‘cotton wool head’ but I have come a long way. I have tried different HRT’s and in the early days consider that they were a life saver. I also took anti-depressants as unfortunately my experience had triggered depression, which apparently is not uncommon. I am now off all medication and am trying a homeopathic route. I decided on this as after a few years of HRT going well for me I started to not feel well again. Maybe I could try another HRT but my gut told me to try a homeopathic route together with a re-evaluation of what I eat and exercise, so watch this space!

I can now understand how my GP because of my age thought I was depressed and nothing else, as the symptoms were similar, however I do feel they could have sent me for the blood test sooner, as this would have reduced the period of time that I felt I was going mad, it was just an awful time in my life, and I don’t look back on it fondly at all!

I hope in sharing my story it will help someone else. I know not everyone will have exactly the same experience but it is so nice to be able to reach out and share hints and tips. It certainly helped me, and still does.


Top tips

Don’t be afraid to ask for help – don’t suffer in silence. You are not on your own. Millions of women are going through the peri-menopause and menopause so please know you are not on your own and there is help and support out there.

Talk to your family/partner/friends – they can’t help if they don’t know what’s going on. If you don’t know where to start, come along to our Menopause Staff Network, share with us or just listen to others, and/or read up on some of the information that is out there.

Suggested websites:

Every woman is different – your choice of treatment and what does or doesn’t work for you may not be the same for someone else, and that is ok."

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexels. Colour filter added to original.

You may also be interested in:

ED&I Newsletter

Support, initiatives, and guidance relating to menopause

Training and Learning


Dignity at Warwick


Initiatives - including Menopause Support Resources and Book Loan 'Menopause: The Change for the Better'.