MENOPAUSE: A CURSE & A PRIVILEDGE

BODY IMAGE, HEALTH, MENTAL HEALTH, MUST READ

I’ve just read and reread Louise’s list a couple of times. I won’t lie its freaked me out a bit. I knew that the menopause could be a pretty ‘full-on’ experience. But my goodness this was a reality check. I’m not going to lie I do feel daunted but determined to embrace that chapter of my life.

  • The average age of female suicide in the UK is 51-55. 

  • The same as the average age of menopause.

  • That can’t be a coincidence

  • GPs training in menopause is lacking. You need to get informed.

  • You might find that tricky – this is a topic that’s only just starting to be considered worthy of conversation.

  • Read on!

  • Menopause is a normal, natural process that every woman (that’s half the population) will experience. 

  • Apart from death, is there anything else that happens to every woman? I don’t think there is!

  • Menopause officially is the 24hr period of time when it has been exactly one year since your last period. 

  • After that you’re postmenopausal.

  • Before that you will be in the peri-menopause stage, the time in your life when you are experiencing menopausal symptoms but still having periods.

  • The whole process, from symptoms starting to finishing, can last years.

  • It can be difficult for us to know when peri-menopause begins for us until we have the benefit of hindsight because the symptoms can be varied, subtle and gradual.

  • Up until about 18 months ago I’d never heard of peri-menopause. 

  • This is how I thought it would pan around the day I hit 50…

  • Periods stop.

  • Hot flushes & night sweats start.

  • Shrivel, wrinkle, wither like an autumnal leaf.

  • Wear comfortable shoes only (this is the only one that’s actually happened so far, thank god trainers are fashionable!)

  • I’d like to reiterate that periods stopping/hot flushes/night sweats were  the ONLY symptoms of the menopause that I’d heard of.

  • I’m 49 (50 at the end of August).

  • I still have regular-as-clockwork periods.

  • I’ve never had a hot flush.

  • I’ve never had a night sweat.

  • My career is still evolving with new things on the horizon.

  • I’m still madly sociable – I like going out, getting drunk and dancing.

  • So, to be clear, there’s no sign of me slowing down just yet.

  • The Menopause is something that happens to old ladies, yes? …Husks of women at a time in their life when they’re happy to ‘shut-up-shop’ and take life at a more sedate pace, right?

  • WRONG! 

  • Yes, in the early 1900s women tended to achieve menopause around 47 and their average life expectancy was 49. Menopause then WAS very much an end of life experience and you’d only expect to live post-menopause for a couple of years.

  • TODAY we achieve menopause, on average at 51 but for women, our average life expectancy is 83 – so another 3 decades of life to live and enjoy post-menopause!

  • Looking back, the very first sign of things ‘changing’ (I know it’s considered a bit old fashioned, but ‘The Change’ is SUCH a perfect description for this time of life!) was that my periods altered. 

  • They stayed as regular as clockwork, but their duration shortened from 6 days to about 4

  • However, the first 48 hours of my periods these days now render me pretty much housebound because they’re SO heavy… NOTHING can contain them.

  • I’m unable to contemplate a Moon Cup or those new clever period pants where you use nothing else – there is no way these new additions to the sanitary wear market have been designed with my peri-menopausal flow in mind.

  • Then, gradually over a few months (again with no thoughts of peri-menopause, because NO ONE tells you this stuff) I self diagnosed myself (incorrectly) with: 

  • Depression

  • Bi-polar

  • Early onset dementia

  • Autoimmune disease

  • Various cancers 

  • All because of the following manifestations that NO ONE had EVER told me were actually symptoms of peri-menopause…

  • Occasionally my mood would shift to very bleak place. 

  • I would find myself genuinely questioning what the point of living was and not being able to come up with an answer. 

  • Sometimes I would honestly believe that my family didn’t need me and would be fine without me. 

  • I never actually felt suicidal – I just felt this miserable acceptance that life was a bit pointless and that there was nothing left to look forward to.

  • Then came insomnia – the very worst of my symptoms.

  • I could go to sleep fine but once I’d had about 3 hours the slightest disturbance would mean I was wide awake, mind whirring furiously… 

  • Panicking because I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back sleep and that I’d be shattered all of the next day.

  • Catastrophising about things like imminent death (my own, my children’s) 

  • Suddenly convinced that I’m actually SHIT at everything I do. 

  • What will I do with my parents if they become infirm? 

  • What about when I become infirm? 

  • What about when my children are old people and infirm and I’m not there? Who will look after them? 

  • What if Paul dies? 

  • Should I wake him now and get him to run through all the stuff that he takes care of that I find too boring to bother with – like finances, insurance and internet connection and how to make the Apple TV thing work?

  • Have I fucked my children up?

  • Am I happy with my life choices?

  • Should we move to Cornwall?

  • You get the gist. Midnight, midlife catastophising on an epic scale.

  • During the day I was fine. For a bit.

  • Then I started to notice a continual low-level anxiety creeping in and there are certain situations and things that will ramp it up a notch:

  • The prospect of being even 30 seconds late for anything

  • Going on holiday 

  • The day after drinking alcohol 

  • Lack of routine 

  • Untidiness 

  • Social media 

  • Having to get dressed up 

  • Not having my phone with me and fully charged 

  • Having to relinquish control in any way of anything 

  • I noticed that I never got excited about or looked forward to anything anymore – just a bit ‘meh’ about everything. 

  • FOMO had been replaced by JOMO 

  • My memory was shit all of a sudden. I could be in the middle of a sentence and forget what I was saying 

  • My joints started aching. A lot. 

  • Other changes that didn’t worry me so much because they were more recognisable as symptoms of old age were:

  • Dry skin

  • Weight gain

  • Intolerance to alcohol

  • Hearing loss 

  • Receding gums.

  • I read a book by Liz Earle called The Good Menopause Guide and in the second chapter she goes through symptoms of peri-menopause (all of the above) and it was a light bulb moment for me!

  • I’m not depressed/bi-polar/losing my marbles

  • I’m not dying

  • I’m perimenopausal

  • You could be too

  • Many women, with hindsight, realise they were from their mid 30s

  • Understanding the emotional/mental health symptoms I was experiencing and why has changed my outlook and my experience of peri-menopause completely.

  • These unpleasant feelings are fluctuating,

  • They’re not there all the time and they won’t last. 

  • I can cope with them.

  • If and when I can’t I’ll be signing up for HRT.

  • Get informed about HRT – worth understanding that Daily Mail type headlines around HRT & risks of breast cancer/heart attacks/strokes are based on flawed, discredited studies. 

  • Get Facts. The British Menopause Society is a good place to start.

  • Symptoms are complex and vary from woman to woman

  • Don’t underestimate the power of talking – in person or follow any of the fantastic peri-menopause handles on social media.

  • Menopause is often seen as just a clinical condition. 

  • It’s so much more than that.

  • It’s a time of transition, reassessment and re-emerging.

  • I’m re-energised and excited about the next stage of my life

  • I’m wiser

  • I give less fucks and I can’t tell you how liberating that is

  • I don’t have to do things I don’t want to anymore

  • I don’t have to spend my precious time with people who are a drain on me emotionally.

  • Here’s a weird thing (and it’s not just me, other peri-menopausal women talk of this) – yes, I have days where I’m anxious & besieged by Imposter Syndrome, but I also have days of soaring confidence when I feel I can do anything! (hence the self-diagnosis of bi-polar)

  • I’ve also learnt during this time that rather than pushing my anxieties to the back of my mind and soldiering on, I should lean into them…

  • I can spot the symptoms – my heart pounding, my stomach flipping, the automatic thoughts that my mind starts running with and I remind myself that these thoughts are not reality.

  • Peri-menopause has provided the opportunity for more self-awareness and empathy.

  • (I’m just cross nobody explained everything so I could reach this point sooner!)

  • It’s a time to become more your authentic self.

  • It’s a time of freedom for me – my children are pretty much grown up, I have more time on my hands. 

  • I’m so thankful that I’m reaching this stage in my life at a time when there’s emerging conversations and support.

  • Just 3 years ago there was none.

  • When we share with others who get how we feel any ideas of isolation and shame fall away, connection and empathy grow and then we can move forward.

  • We need to change the thinking behind menopause and aging.

  • Look at Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Oprah Winfrey…

  • We need to reframe the negativity we’ve been fed for so long. Let’s not pass down that negativity any more. 

  • Let’s consider the positives.

  • Ageing is a privileged many don’t get to have.

**Louise the Producer and Co-Host of Meg Mathews’ new podcast – Meg’s Menopause she also runs Menopause Workshops. Both of which are great resources. Not to mention important in opening up the conversation around Menopause.**

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Comments

  • Reply Sophie Ireland July 16, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    This is amazing!! I read this and it is almost exactly the experience I have had in the last two years (started off by a traumatic ‘flooding’ institute on a train ) and culminating in crippling anxiety and panic attacks in the last six months. I am 44. Helpfully another couple of friends bad experience similar and already been ‘diagnosed’ Just knowing I wasn’t going completely mad was a huge relief. In the last month I’ve been wearing a device to balance out my anxiety (LadyCare) and whether it is the device or my relief in just believing this is the cause has changed my life! I love everything you have said and will be sharing! Thank you

    • Reply Louise Daniels July 17, 2019 at 11:59 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Sophie! I’m pleased that you’re feeling reassured that you’re not going mad – exactly the same as me… once I knew what it was it was all much more manageable emotionally.

      Thank you again,

      Louise x

  • Reply Amanda July 16, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    Thank you so much. This is the most accurate account of peri menopause that I’ve ever read. It’s as though I wrote it! I’m now on hrt and haven’t looked back. It’s great that FINALLY we are talking about this stuff xxx

  • Reply Louise Daniels July 17, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks so much Amanda for your kind words! When we talk about it, it turns out most of us women feel the same!

    Louise x

  • Reply Carol July 18, 2019 at 9:17 am

    On this particularly shit day (for no reason of course) I feel a bit like crying having read this. I could’ve written every word of this and I too feel like I’m changing and not, at times, for the better either. I feel demented today and just want to hide in my bedroom and not come out. This is so far from the person I actually am. It’s good to know I’m not alone, thank you for this, I really appreciate it. Hope things even out for you soon. Sending love. Xxx

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