An actual photograph my husband Eric shot of me in 2007. OK, maybe not. But this is how I felt, and probably how he saw me.

Silly me.  I thought the hormonal challenges of my life would be the teenage years, pregnancies, and menopause.  I was wrong.

The biggest hormonal challenge of my life?  I don’t have a name for it.  Is it gradual aging?  Perimenopause?  I’m not sure.

But here’s what it looks like.

In my41st year, I noticed that my general feeling of a decline in wellness and energy accelerated.  Keep in mind, I was not the picture of “at risk” for health problems.  I ate well, ran, bicycled, did not smoke or drink, kept my weight around 130, enjoyed a happy relationship, and slept as best I could.

Yet one day while out riding bicycles with my husband, laid out in the “drops” (lower position on the handlebars), I pulled over and gave up.  I walked my bicycle home, sobbing.  Now, I know I am prone to issues and ugly mood swings, but that’s wasn’t it.  The problem?  My head, back, and neck hurt in a non-specific but excruciating way.   That day marked the beginning of what felt like the end.

Over the next six months, I experienced the following major changes (I won’t bore you with the little stuff):

* the pain spread until nearly all of me hurt most of the time — I described it as fybromyalgic-like symptoms to each caregiver I later saw

* my lifelong battle with migraines escalated to the point I spent weeks instead of days each month tortured by them

* I gained 25 pounds, without significant change to my diet (I did exercise much less)

* my fingernails took on a ridged pattern

* the pupils of my eyes dilated into a fixed open position and were non-reactive to light changes

* my “normal” PMS ratcheted up from merely insane to ragingly, violently psychotic, and increased from five days to ten

* I couldn’t sleep, and I had wicked night sweats

I researched and concluded it likely that my issues were hormonal, and at first I tried an array of vitamin and herbal remedies.  Nothing I tried made a dent.

I visited my GP.  She sent me to my OB-GYN.  She said, “Hormone fluctuation,” and prescribed birth control pills, although my husband had a vasectomy and I needed no birth control.    She suggested I consult a psychiatrist for depression.

But I wasn’t depressed.  I was afraid I was descending into some kind of irreversible midlife onset of mental illness (seriously), but I knew from past bouts of depression that I was not depressed.

“Fine,” she said.  “But if the birth control pills don’t work, I still think you should take antidepressants.”

I took the birth control pills for one month.  Does anyone want to guess what happened?

Yeah.  What was horrible before became so bad I thought I had turned into a werewolf.

I dumped the BCP into the trash and cried some more.

Now, the following is not an advertisement, so don’t worry that you’ve stumbled onto one of the branded blogs where writers are paid by the post for clicks through to endorsed websites.  This ain’t one of them.  I’m just going to tell you what happened to me.

My mother said, “Have you tried Dr. Hotze?  I have friends who say he saved women’s lives when they had nowhere else to turn.”

“Never heard of him,” I said.

“He does some kind of hormone thing.  He has a radio show.  And he’s in Houston.”

I would have tried anything at this point, which I guess makes me one of those women who had nowhere else to turn.  And he was in Houston, where I live.  But he didn’t take insurance.  And he was expensive.

“You’re worth it.  We’re worth it.  At least try,”  my husband said.  Bless him.

So I did.

“The only way you gained 25 pounds in 6 months without a hormonal issue or some other medical issue is if you laid in bed stuffing Tootsie Rolls in your mouth the whole time,” the doctor who examined me said.  Bless him.  He was an associate of Dr. Hotze, who I never actually have met, fyi.

The doctor listened to me.  He talked to me.  He told me I was not insane.  I cried.  I couldn’t help it.  I begged for help.  He promised me they could help me.  He said he had seen hundreds of women, just like me, albeit, not all as severe.  He said, in their opinion at the Hotze Health and Wellness Center, fibromyalgia was a symptom of some other problem, so telling him I had fibromyalgia made sense because the symptoms I experienced were fibromyalgic, and indicators of a severe hormonal imbalance.

He prescribed bioidentical hormones — nonsynthetic hormones — and a yeast elimination diet.  He explained that my primary issue, in his opinion, was an over abundance of estrogen in relation to my other hormones; he called me “estrogen dominant”.  Wow.  Most people would agree with that without any medical explanation!

He cringed when I told him about the birth control pills.  “The hormone in BCP is estrogen.  She just pumped you full of more of what was already poisoning you.”

Interesting word: poison.  Because that’s another way I described how I felt.  Like I had been poisoned.

Anyway, he gave me progesterone, which would address the long, psychotic stretches of PMS, and the migraines.  He added cortisol for my constant state of stress (dilated pupils, anxiety, sleeplessness).  He put me on testosterone to boost my energy.  And he gave me thyroid to further put me back in balance.  He also provided nystantin to kill off yeast in my digestive track in conjunction with my three month long diet change.

In four days, I felt 50% better.  In eight days, I had lost 11 pounds.  In two weeks, I wondered if I’d really felt as bad as I remembered.  In one month, I was me again.  For real.  No exaggeration.  I kept a diary, and I’m just ticking off the notes I made as I write this.

Two weeks after I started the hormones and diet, I got up off the couch and started training/running/bicycling/swimming.  Twenty-two weeks later, I completed my first half ironman triathlon.  Six months later, I ran my first marathon.  I weighed less than I did before my decline in health started.  I felt 30 again.  For the next three years until the present, I have worked full time, was a much better wife, took care of our three kids (along with my husband, who does his share and more), and wrote three novels in my “spare time” after triathlon and marathon training.  I slept.  I enjoyed life.  I couldn’t believe it and still have trouble accepting my good fortune at finding a solution through Hotze.

One of the best moments of my life. Made possible by bioidentical hormones. P.s. My time was 6:53. Eric's time was 6:23; we finished together because his "wave (age/gender group) started 30 minutes behind mine. He caught up to me 300 yards before the finish line. The time above us was the "pros" clock. My goal time was "under 8 hours." 🙂

Does this mean my life is now a fairy tale?  No.  I have yearly visits and occasional phone-in’s to adjust levels and symptoms.   I am still a PMSy bitch with monthly migraines and anger management issues. 🙂  I have put on some weight recently due to a year off running from plantar’s fasciitis, but make no mistake, this weight I gained the old fashioned way — bad eating while sitting on my butt.

But compare the me now to the me in 2007.  That woman thought her life had ended, that she was in decline and could expect only worse for the rest of her days.

That woman — the werewolf — is dead.  And we don’t miss her.

Pamelot

p.s. Makes me think of all the women my age committed to asylums “back in the day.” And women that did inexplicable, horrible things in midlife.  How much of what was chalked up to insanity, hysteria, etc. was simply changing hormones?  And thank God I am me now and not me then.

p.p.s.  Here’s the text of my diary entry from day 8 back in 2007, a diary I kept in an online “friends and family only” blog, so it’s complete with links and books references.

DAY EIGHT: I feel so much better! I am smack in the middle of “PMS” and my symptoms are greatly reduced. I had only about a 12 hour period of “werewolfness” that then magically disappeared. I have unfortunately had migraines, but I am not dismayed because my doctor said that my dosage starts low and will adjust upward if insufficient, until we eliminate as close as we can to 100% of the PMS symptoms. A side effect of the treatment for hypothyroidism and yeast overload, by the way, has been a weight loss of 11 pounds in 7 days (I haven’t weighed on day 8 yet), obviously mostly water retention/swelling. Weight loss was not the goal of treatment, but it is a tremendous boost to my spirits. I’m telling you, www.hotzehwc.com, these guys are the bomb. I feel as if the essence of me is emerging from a thick fog of pain and fear, and it feels miraculous. And they treat guys too, very effectively, for male versions of hormonal imbalance (often related to, ahem, aging) or allergies. You can get the book, which explains it all so clearly and compellingly, at amazon.com — Hormones, Health and Happiness by Stephen Hotze. I don’t even get a commission. I just want anyone else having trouble and feeling they are without hope and at the end of their rope, whether because of perimenopause and estrogen dominance and associated issues like me or for some other health reason, to find relief, and I believe this is well worth a try.

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31 Responses to Ding Dong the Werewolf is Dead

  1. Wow – what an inspirational story, Pamela! You give hope to all of us women out there to not just accept changes in our life without questioning that there is more to it. Kudos to you for taking charge of the problem, instead of letting the problem take charge of you!!
    A Mother…Again recently posted..Where- O Where Has Sandy Gone

  2. Christina says:

    The best doctors are the ones who are willing to admit they don’t know everything and want to work with their patients to solve problems. They seem to be fewer and further between but good for you for persevering!

    • Pamela says:

      There are so many specialists heavily “educated” by their pharm reps thy they have trouble seeing a whole platient with a whole range of wellness solutions. My dad is a physician and I don’t think he disagrees with this statement.

  3. Heidi Dorey says:

    Yeah, I was misdiagnosed, put on meds I didn’t need that made me sick,
    and almost had major surgery to solve a problem I DIDN’T have!

    Never-ever settle on one person’s diagnosis.
    Especially if things aren’t getting better.

    That’s a great story…bit of a scary adventure you had.
    But now I know which doctor to turn to if I start having similar issues.
    Thank you for sharing.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been having too many werewolf moments (ah, days) and am working with a good doc who is helping me look at various non-drug options for me (I lose my flight medical if I take anti-depressants and am freaked out by them anyway) He has mentioned the bio-identical hormones but we haven’t tried them as of yet.

    I find great comfort in reading what you wrote because I feel less alone. Thanks 🙂
    Myrna CG Mibus recently posted..Baking Weather

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christina Uticone, Christina Uticone. Christina Uticone said: @pameloth on listening to your body & getting well! "Ding Dong the Werewolf is Dead" http://t.co/ClwjH0N #blog #hormones #wellness […]

  6. Lee Block says:

    I am so glad you found a great answer for you. As we talked about this over lunch, I am all about my synthetic hormones, which I can not live without and hope to never have to. But, if I do, then I will absolutely give this dude a call.

    I am finally getting a full physical in January and expect them to find something whacky with me…hopefully it will just be a bit of anemia or vitamin D deficiency!

    After the holidays…lunch??
    Lee Block recently posted..Recipe- Blended Family

  7. That sounds like a rough road, Pamela. I’m so glad things are better for you now!
    Terri
    Theresa Sonoda recently posted..I’m a Little Put-Off

  8. very interesting story! thank you for sharing that personal voyage with us. it is nice to hear that someone took the risk of going outside of mainstream medicine and found what they needed and were able to turn the frown upside down.
    best wishes for continued happiness!
    -g-
    gene @boutdrz recently posted..Operation Jack

  9. Heidi Milton says:

    Such great info, P! We’re in that big question mark period of our lives where hormones are concerned and it’s encouraging to know there are docs that will think outside the box. I’ll have to grab his book!
    Heidi Milton recently posted..The Itch to Pitch- The Urge to Purge

    • Pamela says:

      My physician father who is in his 60s has started treating patients with bioidentical hormones since my experience including his own father who experienced an amazing reversal in health.

  10. LBDDiareis says:

    I’m glad you found answers and that you are feeling better – and that you shared this with us. Amazing turnaround – and it is scarey how often physician’s just throw pills at patients with a total disregard to health!
    LBDDiareis recently posted..Ho Ho Ho- Merry Snowmen!

  11. Wow Pamela, it sounds like you went through quite an ordeal! I am 34 and have always had some weird hormone things – migraines since puberty, etc, and it is nice to know that when my issues become more severe mid life that I have options.

    Thanks for sharing your story and keep up the great work on your fitness!
    Susan@Home Workouts recently posted..Astaxanthin Benefits & How It Can Help You Lose Weight

  12. Irene says:

    Oh, wow! Hmmm, migraines are a bitch! I blame anything medical on hormones with me. I’ve been a hormone since 16. But I’ve never had anything like you went through! What a dark time in your life! I’m SO glad you found help!

    With all the break throughs with fibromyalgia and lupus, I wonder if my mom would still be here today. She was a mess with all those symptoms that you spoke of. Sad to think she went through life in so much pain. I never understood why she did certain things in life. She never spoke to me about it until I was married with kids. Too late as far as I was concerned. I might have been a better daughter if I had known what she was going through.

    Glad you’re back to yourself and enjoying life again!
    Irene recently posted..Be Sure To Drink Your Ovaltine

  13. Rebecca Nolen says:

    That’s great, Pamelot. Good encouraging news.

    I had to have a hysterectomy (at 42) and was fine for a number of years until I hit 45 when I started putting on weight at five pounds a year despite diet and exercise. When I turned 50 I tried the bio-identical hormones that had to be mixed at a special compounding lab. How did the doctor find out which ones? With a saliva test sent into a lab. Apparently saliva has all the chemicals to tell exactly what I had and had not. My cream had progesterone and testosterone in it. After several months on it I felt no different. Now I’m on a small dosage estrogen patch which chemically is the real deal. And I take a tiny bit of thyroid daily. My emotions are good. No more wild outbreaks of ugly.

    Balance is good.

  14. Ally says:

    Wow – I love this story! So many get “meds” to fix the wrong problem! So happy you got the “right” fix! I can totally relate to that hormonal imbalance state – especially the werewolf-ness!!
    Ally recently posted..Our Christmas Wish To You!

  15. Eric Hutchins says:

    The effect on your overall quality of life was so amazing (in addition to the reduction in wolfishness. One of the things that really grabs me (and we have talked about) is medical treatment of women through history and the number that were likely committed to institution or the like and were totally helpless to do anything about it. It is horrible to think about.

  16. […] names.  I’m a challenge, a tiger, the General, overly dramatic, moody, emotional, a werewolf. Sometimes people say I am driven, goal oriented, type A, a little OCD.  My closest peeps know that […]

  17. […] in the words of my beloved Dr. Debbie, it is time to “saturate me with progesterone.”  Bioidentical progesterone, that is. And pull me off that awful testosterone, ha ha (testosterone is actually great for energy, but when […]

  18. […] reductions, but he doesn’t want to be part of the data analysis.  He swears I wait for PMS-time each month to update my spreadsheets.  And he’s right — the exercise feels about like my […]

  19. […] No sugar, no flour, no rice, no potatoes, no pasta, no fruit.  I also avoid “simple carb” veggies (the sweetest tasting ones) like corn, carrots, and sweet peas. Don’t cheat!  If you do, you’ll gain, not lose.  Low fat cheese and avocado is a yes on this diet, as are nuts — good fats are fine, bad fats are always bad fats.  The leaner the meat, the better, but all meat (and eggs) will work on this diet.  I avoid lentils and beans in this phase — they’re good carbs but yet too carby for breaking the hold bad carbs have on me.   The first four days, have Excedrin handy because you will have bitchin’ headaches along with your carb cravings as you go into the withdrawal phase of breaking your value-less carb addiction.  But, after four days, you will not be hungry. Oh, bonus: you’re eating gluten-free.  And eliminating yucky yeast in your digestive system, which can farg your health up in about a million ways (read more about yeast and you at http://www.hotzehwc.com; these are the geniuses/saints who saved me with bioidentical hormones). […]

  20. […] natural medicine (as is my physician father). I’ve written about my past successes with it HERE and HERE. Last year, after my symptoms started post-hysterectomy-anesthesia, they’d noticed […]

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