DEAR FIONA: I feel irritable all the time – could it be the menopause?

Picture: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos
Picture: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Ministry of Justice: householders can protect themselves if in fear of death

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Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective for a woman who’s concerned about going through the menopause and a boyfriend who has popped an awkward question.

QUESTION: I don’t know what’s wrong with me but I’m miserable and bad-tempered all of the time.

My family are avoiding coming to see me because I’m so grumpy with them, and I know people at work are starting to avoid me too. My periods have become erratic and heavy, and I don’t like myself very much right now.

My husband suggested that maybe it’s down to menopause, which didn’t exactly go down well, as I’m only 39. Perhaps my feelings may be down to having to face the fact that I’m turning 40 on my next birthday?

I just feel awful, but I’m not sure what I can do.

FIONA SAYS: You may think your husband is being cruel in suggesting that this is the menopause, but it’s certainly not impossible.

Technically, the menopause is the point at which your periods actually stop. The time before that, when periods can become erratic and moods can change, is the perimenopause, and the process can last as long as ten years.

I would strongly advise that you go and see your GP for a check-up, as what you describe sounds as if this could be a distinct possibility.

The doctor can advise about what’s going on with your body and, if it is the time leading up to your menopause, they can suggest ways to help you.

Everyone has their own views on hormone replacement therapy and I’d urge you to discuss this with your doctor too. If you decide it’s right for you to try, there are different types you can take and one may suit you better than another.

If it’s not for you, then discuss other options with your doctor as there are remedies available that can help, especially with your mood swings.

It sounds like an apology would be worth making to your family and your colleagues. I’m sure they’ll cut you some slack once they realise you haven’t been deliberately nasty.

You might like some support for what you’re going through from others who appreciate and understand it. Menopause Support can almost certainly help you to look at both natural and medical options, as well as provide advice and help.

QUESTION: For the past three years, I’ve been in a relationship that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. We laugh together a lot and have similar tastes, but I don’t really fancy him – although we do sleep together and I enjoy it.

On New Year’s Eve he proposed to me and it’s completely floored me. I like him, but I don’t love him, and marriage is out of the question.

I’ve managed to avoid the issue so far, but I’m not sure how much longer I can do this as he brings up the subject every day. Is there a way out of this mess without really hurting his feelings?

FIONA SAYS: I’m afraid I don’t think there is. Your boyfriend has clearly invested more in this relationship than you, and after three years together, he feels a commitment that you don’t.

You need to come clean with him, and the sooner the better. Be gentle and explain that you’ve realised you don’t feel the same way about him as he does about you.

He will almost certainly feel hurt and rejected, but it is unfair to let things go on as they are. He needs to be free to start a new relationship with someone who cares for him in return.

Finally, do be sure of your own feelings. Everything you say about your relationship – the laughing, shared interests and compatibility in bed – indicate a great relationship.

Are you sure you just haven’t recognised love when you’ve found it?

QUESTION: My husband, who is only 45, has terminal cancer and doesn’t have much longer to live. We’ve explained to our son that he’s dying and, although we all struggle to keep a brave face on things, sometimes it’s all too much.

Our son is only eight, but we felt we were doing the right thing by explaining to him what’s happening to his dad and talking about the funeral. It was only when I mentioned this to my sister that I started to doubt myself.

She said she thought we’d gone mad and can’t understand why we would want to expose a child to death like this. Have we made a huge mistake?

FIONA SAYS: I don’t think you’re mad – I think you’ve been brave and thoughtful while dealing with overwhelming emotions of your own.

Children have vivid imaginations that can lead them to invent all manner of terrifying images about death. Far from harming your son, by involving him in this process, I think you will help him to better understand and come to terms with what is happening.

There have been instances of children, who haven’t had things explained to them properly, believing they’ve been deserted. In some cases, they may even think they are responsible for the desertion because they did something wrong.

This is a desperately distressing time for you, but hopefully family and friends will rally round to help. When the time comes for the funeral I wouldn’t exclude your son, but offer him options of how involved he wants to be.

I’d also ask someone to keep a close eye on him in case the grief becomes too much for you – ideally, someone less emotionally involved.

QUESTION: My boyfriend and I never go anywhere and I am completely fed up. His idea of a night out is a trip to the local pub with beer and darts.

There’s only so many times I can listen to him and his cronies brag about how many beers they can drink and their sexual conquests – mostly fiction, I suspect.

To make things worse, my boyfriend joins in, even though I’m sitting next to him. I could easily let on that he’s no good in bed at all!

I’m wondering whether I’ve wasted the last four years of my life with him.

FIONA SAYS: If your boyfriend is as bad as you say, then why are you still with him?

So much of what he does clearly annoys and disappoints you, so what is it that makes you stay? Are there other things he does that make you happy or feel loved and cherished? What is it about him that compensates you for the things that are lacking in this relationship?

If there isn’t anything then, like you, I really can’t see why you still there. Maybe you find it easier to leave things as they are, rather than ending the relationship or working on the problems.