Circling The Drain Perimenopause Podcast
Ellie Dunn, of the Circling the Drain Perimenopause Podcast, joins me today to discuss perimenopause, symptoms, hacks, and more. Ellie partners with Julia Granacki to educate and entertain moms with both science and laughter about the funny and not-so-funny realities of perimenopause.
Jen: Hi, welcome to MomCave Live, where we may have lost our sanity, but we haven’t lost our sense of humor. I’m Jen and I’m here with my buddy, Ellie. What’s up, Ellie?
Ellie Dunn: Oh, good morning. We’re doing technology, Jen.
Jen: We’re doing technology. Women, over 40 doing technology.
Ellie Dunn: And I know you do it all the time, but I’m holding multiple devices and it feels really youthful.
Jen: It feels youthful?
Ellie Dunn: Yeah, because isn’t this what the youth do they hold? They’re like holding a phone and they’re looking at a laptop.
Jen: And they can do all the things at once. Multiple screens. So, we’ve got the people of Instagram over here. And the people of Facebook over here. And, if it gets weird, Facebook is our main feed. So always default to that. And that’s kind of fitting, because isn’t it Facebook where the elderly hang out?
Ellie Dunn: Definitely, one hundredo percento.
Jen: And that’s where we are.
So, if you’re not familiar with my friend, Ellie, let’s do an official introduction. OK?
Welcome to MomCave Live. We’re so happy to have you here.
Ellie Dunn: Really happy to be here.
Jen: You’ve seen Ellie before on MomCave from way back when we had little littles. She was a part of the comedy duo, Mel and El. Then, more recently, when Ellie created and filmed an adorable little web series that we run on MomCave called “Potty Talk…”
Ellie Dunn: “Potty Mouth.”
Jen: See, where’s my brain?
Ellie Dunn: It is brain fog, which is a symptom of perimenopause, which we can talk about.
Jen: We’re going to get to that. Yeah.
Ellie Dunn: Potty mouth.
Jen: She does a series called Potty Mouth, which you can find on all of our channels if you want to search for that. Lately, Ellie has a new venture, a podcast, a super-duper awesome podcast called Circling the Drain. It’s about that period before you stop getting your period.
Circling the Drain
How did we get here, Ellie?
Ellie Dunn: Well, I’ll tell you. My good friend, Julia Granacki, who’s my co-creator and co-host, and I went to college together. And we’ve been friends since we were 17 and 18. In more recent years, every time we get together, we pee our pants laughing about all of the ways in which our bodies are betraying us.
And we realized we’re in this moment called perimenopause. Not everyone knows what that is. So I’m going to tell you. Everybody talks about menopause and hot flashes and you stop getting your period. But from anywhere between four months and 14 years, women can experience symptoms of perimenopause.
Ellie Dunn: You heard that right, ladies and gentlemen, 14 years of things like irregular periods, brain fog, increasing anxiety, disrupted sleep, all kinds of stuff. And so we would get together and feel like old ladies joking about all the stuff that was wrong with us.
And in the meantime, a friend of a friend had gone to a doctor for just a regular checkup, and she was complaining about various ailments. I think she was in her thirties at the time, and he said to her, “You know what? I don’t know what to tell you. You’re getting older. You’re basically from now on, you’re just circling the drain.”
Like, going slowly is what the doctor told the woman. So Julia and I have been joking about this and about creating a perimenopause podcast where we would laugh about these things for other people. And that’s what we’ve been doing. We started it, and it’s my favorite new thing because not only are we commiserating together about our symptoms of perimenopause, but with listeners and also getting the advice of experts in all different areas about what’s going on with us, what we should be doing, what’s normal, what’s not normal, what might help and what might help is different for everyone. But they’re great conversations.
Jen: They are. I’ve listened to them every week and you’ve got all these different kinds of experts like nutritionists and yoga gurus and…
Ellie Dunn: Pelvic floor therapy.
Jen: Pelvic floor people.
Jen: Hey, so we have one comment from Jennifer saying, I wish I stopped getting my period.
Oh, don’t worry, you will.
Ellie Dunn: You will. I will tell you that I’ve recently been — in order to mitigate some of my symptoms — I’ve been taking my birth control continuously, which means not having a period week.
Ellie Dunn: I just take it all the time. This is medically safe.
Apparently, I’ve been told by multiple people, and so I don’t get my period anymore. And it’s glorious!
Jen: Is it?
Ellie Dunn: Yes. And I know that at some point I’m going to have to go off the pill and all hell might break loose.
For now, it’s just one idea just keep taking the pill. Don’t bleed.
Jen: If you don’t have to.
Ellie Dunn: Unless you want to bleed.
Jen: Do you want me to weigh in? It’s not just the perimenopausal period. I kind of feel like it’s the entire life of being a female. So many times I’ve gone to the doctor and been XYZ is happening. They’re like, “Oh, that’s because you’re a woman.” Right?
It’s your hormones. When you’re in the fertile years, it’s like, “Oh, that’s your hormones,” or because you just had a baby or you’re about to have a baby. Bizarre things are happening that have no explanation whatsoever.
Then you get to perimenopause and this huge span of years. Your muscles could be hurting because of that. Or you could be having brain fog or depression or anxiety or all kinds of strange aches, basically because you’re a woman.
Ellie Dunn: Right. And you know, not to get on a soapbox, but all kinds of scientific research is geared toward helping men keep their penises hard, right? But here we are, half the population, again for potentially four months to 14 years of our lives
having all of these perimenopause symptoms, and science isn’t paying as much attention to it. They’re just dismissing it as another thing we have to deal with because we’re women and that’s not OK. It’s not OK, everybody. We have to be loud about it and get them to pay attention and help us out because this shit ain’t cool.
Jen: No, and we need help. Totally.
Ellie Dunn: If we feel like crap and if we are acting like we feel like crap, it affects everyone around us. It affects our kids, it affects our partners, it affects us at work. We need to feel good so that we can perform well in all of these roles that we’re required to perform.
Jen: Yes, not just the one role of performing. I’m glad that the males have the scientific help to help them perform, but they are not going to get a chance to perform if the rest of us, their partners, are like, “I can’t take life!”They’re not going to be having sex.
Ellie Dunn: Low male libido is another symptom of perimenopause. So your penis can be as hard as it wants to be, but if we don’t want to do anything with it, you’re out of luck.
Jen: Right? So this is really a good thing for everyone, that we bring awareness and we understand.
We just got like, it’s like 10:30 in the morning. And I think I’ve said penis more times than I usually say it in on an average day.
Ellie Dunn: I think the one time on average.
Jen: I think we win the internet. I think that MomCave is a place where we can do all the things. We are getting a ton of great comments here.
Ellie Dunn: Let’s read them!
Jen: Let’s see. “Don’t get me started on the constant peeing issues. I want the surgery that fixes that. You just can’t feel sexy while wearing a pad. Constant peeing is a thing again that they say, “Oh, it’s because you’re pregnant.” “It’s because you were pregnant and now your pelvic floor is ruined.” “It’s because you’re in perimenopause.”
It’s there’s just there’s constant peeing.”
Ellie Dunn: Retrograde urinary frequency is a symptom of perimenopause.
Jen: Right. That’s what they call it.
Ellie Dunn: Yeah, constant peeing. I like to call it pee-a-palooza.
Jen: Pee-a-palooza. That’s what I want to call it from now on.
Ellie Dunn: Yeah, I do want to share that early on in the pandemic, when it only felt safe to be outdoors, we found lots of like hiking areas and parks, but in a lot of those places, the facilities were closed and I was having urinary frequency and would be terrified that because I’m like, not good at popping a squat, like pulling down my pants and crouching, and naked.
Jen: No, it’s a whole skill.
Ellie Dunn: So this is not a sponsor, but maybe they should be. There’s a product called the Go Girl, which is a silicone funnel that allows you to pee standing up as if you have a penis. It’s changed my life. It’s the best thing ever. I just had dinner with girlfriends last night and we were talking about how it’s changed one of their lives.
Jen: Do you keep this in your purse on a daily basis?
Ellie Dunn: I don’t now, because things have opened up more, but in my we’re-going-out-for-the-day bag that moms have, you’ve got snacks, water, wet wipes. You’ve got all kinds of things. The Go Girl lived in its little bag. If there was only a gross porta-potty or a tree, my husband and my son would stand lookout. I would pee on a tree. And then when I got a chance to rinse it off somewhere, that’s what I do.
Jen: So this is brilliant. This is not a sponsored video, but we totally should have gotten them to pay us for this. We can talk about this for a long time.
Ellie Dunn: We could talk about a lot of things.
Jen: So maybe we could just do the Jen and Ellie show. It’s already been almost ten minutes and we’ve hardly scratched the surface.
After You Freak Out
Jen: What happens… What if you think that you might be in perimenopause? What do you do? What’s the first thing besides freak out?
Ellie Dunn: That’s a great question. You should talk to your medical providers about that. There is a very good chance that your medical providers, even if they’ve served you well in other areas, might shrug it off and dismiss it and just be like, “Yeah.”
Jen: “That’s what happens. You’re getting old.”
Ellie Dunn: Right. So the best thing to do is to kind of make a list of your symptoms and put them in order of importance, meaning how much they’re bothering you, right? Like my sleep got really fucked up and my sleep was really fucked up well after my child was sleeping through the night.
This was no longer like, I have a baby who’s waking me up, right? I guess I would fall asleep, but then I would wake up at 1;30 and 3:30 and 5:30 and try all kinds of things. And so that was the most important thing to me or one of the most important things. First of all, if you’re not sleeping well, you can’t do anything.
So make a list of your symptoms in order of their importance to you and tackle them one at a time with doctors that you trust.
And don’t stop until you find solutions. And unfortunately, you might have to turn yourself into a little bit of a guinea pig. Sometimes there’s a period of trial and error with things like changing your birth control pill.
You have to really give it three months to see if the change is effective. If you start an anti-anxiety medication, you really have to give it a few months. I mean, unless it’s giving you really bad side effects right away.
Again, I’m not a doctor. This is just my personal experience in fighting the fight for getting people to pay attention to me and my problems. Yeah, that’s the first thing I do make a list of what’s bothering you and put it in order of what’s bothering me the most, and go down the list. Chances are, you might find something that fixes more than one thing.
Jen: Yeah, I have trouble with the whole guinea pig thing, because like you said, you try one thing. In order for it to be a scientific trial, you’ve got to try the one thing for a while, right?
Ellie Dunn: You don’t want to change too many things at one time.
Jen: And I’m like, There are three months here, right, in that three months, I’m like, “Oh, I heard about this new vitamin and maybe if I do this… and then you don’t know which this is helping or hurting.
Ellie Dunn: Or hurting, right? All of a sudden you have diarrhea. I just wanted to throw in diarrhea before 11:00 am.
Jen: Good. Sure. It’s all good.
Ellie Dunn: And you’re like, is it the new drug I’m taking? Is it the new supplement?
Jen: The topicals I had last night?
Ellie Dunn: You can’t know. So keeping journals is also really good. Keeping food journals, keeping sleep journals. There are apps that help with tracking and symptom trackers. I’m so youthful with my multiple devices.
And yeah, I can’t. Now I have brain fog and I can’t remember the last question.
Jen: That’s OK, but.
Ellie Dunn: Changing multiple things at a time.
Jen: Yeah, that’s not good. That’s not a good idea, but I can’t be stopped from that.
Cramps in Perimenopause
Kristina saying she has extreme cramps as we speak, I’m really sorry to hear about that.
I have noticed that one of my symptoms is that. Not only do I have no regularity, so to speak, in my period, sometimes it just hurts a hell of a lot more than it used to.
Ellie Dunn: Yeah, your period, your cramps. Yeah, all of that. I have a slightly older cousin who’s like my big sister, and she likes to warn me of what’s to come. And she told me a long time ago, “Your period is going to get really bad. It’s going to get really bad,” which is part of why I’m on birth control continuously. The birth control pill does not work well for everyone. Some people have poor reactions to it. I’m sorry to hear that about your period.
Jen: Yeah, I’m sorry.
Ellie Dunn: Are you on a pill?
Jen: I am not. You see, you know how I can be very like a slacker about things? I’ve decided that since I couldn’t really decide if I was finished having children or not that I would just let nature make the call. I’m pretty sure so far nature is like, “All right. You’re now 44, so it’s just not going to happen.” And it’s made the call, but you never know. So I’ve decided to stop any kind of family planning and see what happens in life.
Ellie Dunn: Okay, just make sure that if you had a later-in-life pregnancy, you’d be okay with that because another part of perimenopause is that as you come to the end of your cycle, your eggs kind of drop faster. And older women who aren’t employing any sort of birth control methods can actually be more likely to get pregnant and more like to get pregnant with multiples.
Jen: Yeah, that part would be scary. I know that being pregnant and then not being sure you want to be or knowing for sure that you don’t want to be — I never want to be in that position where I have to make that terrible choice. So ultimately, yeah, I’d be OK if I got pregnant again. But I’ve also had a lot of problems. And, as you get older, the problems increase the risks of pregnancy. So there’s always that.
Ellie Dunn: So, you could be pregnant right now.
Jen: I could be. That would be… Oh, we’d have so much more material.
Ellie Dunn: I mean, if that’s not a reason to have a kid, material, then I don’t really know the material.
Jen: Comic material. You know, it’s occurred to me I’ve been like, you know, some of my best videos that have done the best have been pregnancy blogs. Maybe I should just get pregnant so I can have 40 more weeks of pregnancy blogs. Just kidding. So, the question we got sidetracked on is if I’m taking any sort of birth control at this point. No, I’m not. But I’m open to it because, as you said, birth control is also a method of managing all your crazy female symptoms. So that could be an option for some people.
Ellie Dunn: You’re a slacker, so you’re not going to.
Jen: But I’m a slacker and I’m lazy, so I’m doing nothing until I’m forced to.
Ellie Dunn: I support your choices.
Jen: Thank you. Those are my choices. My choices may not be great. They might not be wise.
Ellie Dunn: I think they’re fantastic.
Jen: They’re my choices. Thank you. It’s worked out so far in life.
Ellie Dunn: Do you remember that episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte went “I chose my choice. I chose my choice!” I don’t remember what she was talking about.
Jen: I’m going to use that. That’s a great line. Totally.
Jen: It sounds like Charlotte might have been having a bit of a breakdown at that point.
Ellie Dunn: Definitely.
Perimenopause and Mental Health
Jen: Which is a great thing to circle around to. The mental things that are going on. The mental health things that can happen. What have you learned about that?
Ellie Dunn: Well, I’ve learned that if you think you’re suddenly going crazy, you are. No, you’re not. But your hormones really do affect your ability to manage anxiety and to just manage things in general. I don’t have the science in front of me, whether it’s, I think it’s reduced estrogen.
Jen: But it’s one of those elevated hormones of some sort.
Ellie Dunn: Yeah. Cortisol and all these things, all these levels of things change. Maybe in your twenties, you were able to juggle multiple things at a time on less sleep and still be able to nail it all. And then suddenly you might find in your forties that you have a very short fuse or that the slightest thing sends you over the edge or you feel like you’ve got chest tightness or insomnia. Sleep onset insomnia or frequent waking. And all of that is hormone-related. Now we are in a pandemic moment where pretty much across the board, all kinds of people male, female, young, old are having increased anxiety issues.
And I would just say, don’t dismiss it. You know you don’t have to feel that way. Now I lost my train of thought.
Jen: Historic pandemic, we’re already anxious.
Ellie Dunn: You’re multi-talented. You all don’t know the things that Jennifer Weedon Palazzo is capable of. You’re very funny.
Jen: I’m capable of many things, but apparently not family planning.
Ellie Dunn: I don’t want the mental health conversation to go away. Look, it’s complicated because everyone’s medical coverage is different, right? I’m lucky enough to have excellent insurance and I have a therapist and I have a psychiatrist, and I’m able to see all the people and pay attention to all the things and get all of the treatments that I need.
There are a lot of free services out there as well, and there are also a lot of natural supplements that can help. Magnesium, for example. I have tried magnesium in pill form and in powder form, and there’s one particular. It’s trace minerals, liquid magnesium. And it tastes like the saltiest saltwater you’ve ever had. So I take droppers of it and put it down my throat, so I don’t have to taste it. But it has helped my anxiety and my sleep and it’s also really good for brain fog. So that’s a good hack for those of you out there who maybe don’t have the time or the impulse yet to take proper care of any part of you that’s declining.
Jen: Which are all the parts. Aren’t bananas like a huge source of magnesium?
Ellie Dunn: Potassium.
Jen: All right, there you go. See, you say I’m good at many things. Also not good at nutrition.
Ellie Dunn: I don’t know that they don’t have magnesium, but I know that banana chips…
Jen: Right, that’s what I’m thinking.
Ellie Dunn: If you get Charley horses, you should eat the bananas.
Jen: You’re not talking about Charley horses. Let’s see. We have a comment from Julia saying, “Low sex drive due to low estrogen and testosterone, but it’s a combo of that and progesterone. It all sucks. Ovaries stop making these hormones and the adrenal glands take over manufacturing of these hormones.”
Jen: I didn’t know that.
So your ovaries basically go on strike and make your adrenal glands do all the work?
Ellie Dunn: Yeah. Julia’s my podcast co-creator and co-host. So she’s watching me fall apart with all of the technology, and she’s like researching and typing in the science.
Jen: Good, Julia, thank you. We need you!
Ellie Dunn: Yeah, we need Julia.
Jen: I need you to follow me around in everyday life and when I say something like the banana is magnesium, you can tell me no, actually, it’s potassium.
Finding More Information
Jen: So is there one centralized resource other than the podcast that you find has good information on perimenopause? The answer could be no.
Ellie Dunn: There is, for menopause, there is NAMS, which is the North American Menopause Society. And their website, I think, is NAMS dot org. I believe there is a lot of good information there. But no, my answer is I have not found one good online resource that talks about perimenopause because perimenopause is so nebulous and covers so many different, I want to say it’s like 35 to 40 potential associated symptoms.
Jen: Oh my gosh.
Ellie Dunn: So again, that’s part of the mission of this podcast is to get all the people who are talking about it together and get all of the information centralized and disseminated. Yeah. Not inseminated, which means a different thing.
Jen: Disseminated. Ellie, I feel like we have like, hit a tip of an iceberg here that needs to be explored and do many more live videos. So I’m going to make you do that in the future.
Ellie Dunn: And we have three on here. Can Julia join us to at some point?
Jen: We can definitely do. three. We do need to have Julia join us because she knows more about the science than apparently, we do. And there’s so much to talk about. And I just, I find it so crazy that I started Mom Cave when I had my first child. Our kids are about the same age, right? So little, little. We started this whole journey of like the online mom thing. In the beginning, it was all about what to put in your diaper bag and how to get your baby to sleep. It seems like a blink of an eye. And now I’ve got a really mouthy tween that’s. constantly getting time out and we’re talking about perimenopause and this whole scope of ages of moms that we talk with on the internet. We’re here for all of you.
Changing Mom Moments
Ellie Dunn: That’s right. And it’s so fascinating how, in any given moment as a mom, what you’re going through is the most important thing. And then how in just a year, you forget. Do you find this? Those friends of yours who have babies ask you a question because you’re the older sage with the older kids and it’s something about weaning and when did your baby start sleeping through the night and you don’t fucking remember.
Jen: I mean, that moment. You were like July 26, blah blah. You knew because it was everything.
The time I obsessed over what crib to get. I think I literally cried over what crib to get. And then the breastfeeding and things about that. Just every stage is something different. And so now we personally are in the stage where we’re really more obsessed with how our ovaries aren’t functioning.
Ellie Dunn: Right? If you’re a parent, how that affects your kids, how your own, how you react to them. The other day I was cranky as shit and you know, I couldn’t hide it and I apologized to my son, but I was like, really much snappier than usual.
The next day in the morning before he went to school, he was like, “You’re going to be cranky today?” And I was like, I’m, I don’t know. I am allowed to be cranky. And my husband jumped to my defense and he was like, “Charlie, you’re cranky sometimes. We don’t have a warning. We don’t disown you or make you feel terrible. She is allowed.”
Jen: “That’s love, that’s family. We accept each other even within our crankiness. And this is a safe place for that here on MomCave.
So, Ellie, tell everyone all of the places they can find Circling the Drain and interact with you guys.
Ellie Dunn: Our website is CirclingTheDrainPodcast dot com. If you listen to podcasts, ever, our podcast is anywhere you can find podcasts is listed on all the places, and are we’re on Instagram and Facebook, and Twitter. And if you look up Circling The Drain Podcast, you’re going to find us.
Jen: You definitely find it. Oh, I forgot I had your logo, but I’ll send you this one. Although the two ladies are so cute, the ladies, are about to go down, down, down. If you see that, you are in the right place. So thank you for talking with me, Ellie. We are going to talk about this more.
This is MomCave Live, which you can find on all of the places: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and the podcast places. So make sure that you like and subscribe and share all of the things about Circling The Drain and MomCave so that you can see more perimenopausal women talk shit about penises and ovaries before 11:00 am.
We are on it for you so make sure you go follow us everywhere.
Ellie, I’m so happy to talk to you. We will do this again.
Ellie Dunn: Oh, thank you, Jen.