My testosterone story


It’s been almost a year now since I started on testosterone. That’s such an easy sentence to write, but it took so much time and effort to get here. So I’d like to share my story in the hope that it will be helpful to others.

Menopause hit me in 2020, aged 49. It started with unrelenting anxiety attacks. Once I worked out what was happening I started to search for solutions. After a few false starts my gyno prescribed estrogen and progesterone.

Quickly, I was sleeping better, my anxiety disappeared, sweats and flushes were a thing of the past. But two years in I was experiencing pain throughout my body every day, had a real problem with my left knee, and my libido was shot. I was 51 years old.

I didn’t want to accept living like that so once again I went on the hunt for solutions. 

The advice I read first didn’t help:

Lose weight! – I don’t have weight issues and never have.

Exercise! – I do, every day, alternating cardio and weight-bearing exercise, and have done all my life, adapting as I move along and listening to my body.

Meditate! – Yep, daily.

Stop smoking! – Never touched the things.

Drink less alcohol! – Although I drank a lot from my teens right into my early 40s, I’ve been drinking less and less for years and at that stage was down to 1-2 drinks and only when I was out with friends.

Improve your diet! – I eat a balanced mediterranean-style diet with no meat and rarely overeat.

Reduce stress! – I have a very low-stress lifestyle and have done for many years.

Take supplements! – I take vitamin D, Omega 3 and hyaluronic acid for my joints (not sure about that one but I take it just in case). The supplements suggested by my gyno (maca for libido, agnus castus for sweats etc.) had zero effect.

A lifestyle paragon, more or less, that’s me;). That wasn’t the issue. So what else could I try? 

I went and listened to lots of podcasts on testosterone replacement by UK-based hormone specialist Dr Louise Newson and others. I read any studies I could find. I spoke to friends and doctors. 

Here’s the gist of what I learned:

Random people on the internet said “Be careful, you’ll grow hair in places you don’t want it and turn into the hulk, and your voice will drop!”

Friends said: Give it a try and let us know how you get on.

My gyno, at several appointments in the course of a year, said various versions of: “I know more women are asking for testosterone but I don’t prescribe it and don’t want to take the lead by prescribing it to you”, aka “I’m scared I’ll do something wrong if I prescribe it and I’m not educated enough about hormones to do it”. She gave me the names of some endocrinologists, who are hormone specialists (I tell you this because, in spite of all my readings and research, I had no idea, I thought gynos were the hormone specialists) and told me to go to one of them.

The official recommendations in most countries say: Prescribe it for libido disorder only.

Many women who take it say: It helps with joint pain, muscle maintenance (yep, what a surprise), libido, confidence, energy, enjoyment of life.

What to do with all this information?

An appointment with an endocrinologist was made for a month later (an under-discussed aspect of the menopause experience is the time it takes to even get to talk to doctors, never mind the difficulty of getting what we know we need out of them. Sometimes it feels like we’ll be out the other end before we get sorted). In the meantime the body pain and libido issues continued and it was difficult to exercise properly because my knee would hurt as soon as I tried to squat or kneel.

The day of the appointment came. I went armed with all my information. I did my calming breathing exercise in the waiting room but was still nervous going in there as it seemed high stakes after a year of trying to get to this moment. 

The doctor was an efficient woman of few words in her 60s. I made my case, emphasising the low libido aspect of my symptoms. She asked me if I was in therapy (I was) and talked to me about the option of taking testosterone or DHT (a precursor to testosterone which can also be helpful). But she already seemed to know what I was after – I guess I put my case well. She ordered a blood test, which showed low testosterone (surprise!), signed the prescription and you would think that was that, right? I had it! 

But no! There was no testosterone product for women on the market, except in Australia (I live in Germany). So they have to take the men’s product and divide it by 10 to get the recommended dose for women. That meant the prescription had to be sent to a “compounding pharmacy” in Hamburg. 

Finally, a few weeks later, I got a little bottle of Testogel in the post, enough for about one month (it should be taken for three months for your system to get used to it).  

The instructions were to rub one pump on my lower inner arm each morning. I don’t have enough lower inner arm for that amount of gel so after some more online research I rubbed it all over my arm, inner and outer and rubbed the remainder on my inner thigh, alternating sides each week with my estrogen gel on the respective other side (what a palaver, I know, but I got used to it quickly).

Three weeks in: full body pain gone, knee pain disappeared, energy levels up to the point that I no longer needed a nap every afternoon.

But by then my bottle was almost empty. I wrote to the doctor asking for a larger order of three bottles in the hope that they’d arrive before the tiny bottle was empty, otherwise I’d have to start again from scratch. The response was: We didn’t realise the bottles were so small. Come in for a blood test and we’ll see. Did that on the same day. Three larger bottles were duly delivered.

Six weeks in: libido back, i.e. thinking of sex again, wanting to have it, skin tingling and responsive to touch, orgasms stronger and more satisfying.

Two months in: a sense of growing confidence and motivation that have made it possible to build a new business and sow seeds in all sorts of new directions.

One year in: I took part in my first podcast interview on the topic of menopause and midlife wellbeing last week. If you had asked me a year ago to speak on a podcast I would have run for the hills. My body is mostly pain-free, except when I drink even one beer, so I try not to, and my libido is good most of the time.

Side effects: No discernable hair in odd places, but a definite shift away from some excess belly fat to muscle. I consider that a win! Testosterone replacement was definitely the final piece in the hormone puzzle for me.

This is one person’s experience, I realise that and would like to emphasise that it will not be everyone’s. But what I’ve taken away from it and my entire menopause story is that we need to advocate for ourselves with doctors. We need to be informed, we need to read, and we need to talk to others who are at the same stage in life to share knowledge and spread the word. 

Or we just accept what’s happening to us as the “natural course of things”, as my gynecologist told me they used to say, but was actually partially still saying. That of course is an individual choice, it just hasn’t been mine.

I hope this article has been useful:).

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