Have I mentioned lately that I’m starting the whole menopause “thing”? All I want for Christmas this year is queen-size sheet sets. Preferably very high thread count.  Seriously, I sweat more while I’m sleeping than I do at my kickboxing class. At least  when I’m at kickboxing I’m burning calories. I don’t think sleeping and sweating is going to make me thin.

So, when Dr. Jennifer Payne was introduced as our next speaker at the recent luncheon for Hope for Depression Research Foundation I sat up at attention like my dog when he thinks he hears the refrigerator door open. Her topic: Women and Depression – especially women going through “the change.”

Menopause? Did someone say menopause?

Dr. Payne is assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She had good news and bad news. The good news is that – technically – menopause lasts for only one day. I was snickering too loud to hear this revelation but it had to do with some weird confluence of hormone levels that would happen only for one day in your life. Ha! I wasn’t the only one raising her plucked eyebrows.

Apparently, the damp sheets, weight gain, moodiness, hot flashes, memory lapses, suddenly having to pee, wrinkles, gray hair and other annoying, uncomfortable, irksome, lousy, aggravating, unpleasant, embarrassing and yucky symptoms of menopause are not really symptoms of menopause but symptoms of perimenopause.

Interesting – but whatever. Call it whatever you want. I don’t care. Just give me clean, dry sheets, please. And some relief.

Now for the bad news. Depression is twice as common in women and men. According to Dr. Payne, “there are a lifetime of potential mood disorders in women.”


Well it could the numbers are inflated because women are more likely than men to seek help – thereby making their mood disorders more apparent and easy to document. Women are more likely to have suffered abuse. Women are exposed to more stress than men (I like that one). Finally – HORMONE FLUCTUATIONS!!!

“Changes in estrogen and progestin lead to a period of vulnerability,” Dr. Payne said. During perimenopause are hormone levels are all over the place. Many women ovulate more frequently during perimenopause – “one last gasp at pregnancy” – Dr. Payne said. (Nice way of putting it.)

The really bad news is that these out of control hormones mean there is an increased risk of depression during perimenopause, Dr. Payne said. For women with pre-existing mood disorders – such as ME – perimenopause may increase our risk for a major depression.

Medical treatments for menopause include short term estrogen therapy and SSRIs – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Lexapro, Paxil, Celexa and Zoloft. Post-menopause, when estrogen and progestin stabilize at low levels, tricyclic antidressants appear to be more effective, Dr. Payne said.

Then there are the things that we can do – but probably don’t want to do – that can greatly alleviate the symptoms of perimenopause. Eliminate alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, simple carbs (such as donuts) and use your bed ONLY for sleep and sex – not watching re-runs of Sex and the City. And exercise.

So, there you have it. You’re in perimenopause – unless today is YOUR LUCKY DAY. Just think, it will all be over tomorrow…