“I started taking estrogen because I thought I was going crazy. Then the studies on hormone replacement really made me nuts. What’s a woman to do?”
If you are in perimenopause or menopause, you know this feeling. Do you or don’t you seek hormone replacement therapy? If so, do you go with synthetic or bio-identical hormones? And do you stay on it for a long time or just use it as a short-term battle plan against hot flashes and other symptoms? Plain and simple, if you have ever asked yourselves any of these questions, you must read Cynthia Gorney’s weekend article in the New York Times magazine.
Gorney tells her own story, first of the puzzling dark “Pit” she would fall into periodically, then of the experience of how her estrogen patches helped pull her out of that pit and gave her her mind back. But she also explores, deeply and relevantly, the science behind estrogen therapy, the conflicting scientific and emotional views of it, her rollercoaster search for answers, and – in laywoman’s terms – the tsunami of hormone replacement research, the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative study that produced so many warnings and so many worries about HRT.
“The patches my gynecologist prescribed worked, by the way. I didn’t understand how, beyond the evident quieting of some vicious recurring hormonal hiccup, and neither did the gynecologist. But she had other women who came in sounding like me and then felt better on estrogen, and I would guess many of them, too, decided after the W.H.I. news that they could surely find other ways to manage their “mood swings,” to use the wondrously bland phrasing of the medical texts. (I’m sorry, but only someone who has never experienced one could describe a day of “I would stab everyone I know with a fork if only I could stop weeping long enough to get out of this car” as a “mood swing.”) We muddled along patchless, my mood swings and my patient family and I, until there came a time in 2006 when in the midst of some work stress, intense but not unfamiliar, I found myself in a particularly bad Pit episode and this time unable to pull out.
“It was profoundly scary.