I’m 49. Up until about a year ago Menopause was something I hadn’t given more than a moment’s thought to. I’ve got some friends who are a few years older than me, but, to be perfectly honest, if menopause symptoms were mentioned during our boozy ‘girls’ nights I’d pretty much glaze over and be keen to move the subject on, because, ya know, BORING!
… and not just boring, but a bit scary and depressing too. I mean, why would I want to think about a stage in my life where I would surely be just a sweating, emotional wreck that everyone would hate? Ready for the scrap heap. A husk of a woman.
It’s not a fun, sexy topic at first glance, that’s for sure. Also, it’s taboo. Of course it is… it’s a female issue and we all know that generally topics around the female anatomy, periods, female sexual enjoyment etc. have always been deemed a bit too sordid for discussion or even acknowledgement…that’s a whole other blog post topic for another day, but I will come back to it!
The result is, at the grand old age of 48 I knew nothing and had self-diagnosed myself with an impressive list of terrifying conditions… Alzheimer’s, dementia, Bipolar, anxiety, depression, various cancers and also being an intolerant bitch. I’d noticed that I was tired, my body ached a lot, I was forgetful, had a kind of brain-fog going on, I was more anxious, sometimes had sleepless nights, I had days where I felt in a very dark place emotionally and days where I felt invincible. What I didn’t have, as far as I was concerned, were Menopause symptoms – because we all know what they are, right? There are only 3: hot flushes, night sweats & your periods stop. Simples.
So, I was following Dr Louise Newson (@menopause_doctor) on Instagram, I don’t know why I was following her because, as we’ve established at that point Menopause wasn’t on my radar, although it must’ve been a bit, I guess! She recommended The Good Menopause Guide by Liz Earle so I bought it. In the second chapter there’s a list of symptoms associated with the perimenopause. I read it and the penny dropped. There are 35 listed and I found myself nodding my way through them. I then started grabbing the book everytime I was with a female friend around my age and reading the list out to them and witnessing lightbulb moments every time! I know of loads of women who are on antidepressants and it occurs to me that maybe their doctors just aren’t terribly clued up about the menopause…
One of the foundations of any antenatal education workshops/courses I’ve run over the last 10 years, is informed decision making. When it comes to your body, your baby, your health and that of your family it’s vital to get informed. You don’t need to have medical degree knowledge (that’s what doctors are there for) but in order to have respectful conversations with and also to know how to get information from caregivers you need to take responsibility and get a bit informed. I did that myself when I was pregnant with my first child, I’ve done it throughout my parenting journey, I’ve done it as regards my own health and I’ve done it as I hurtle towards the menopause.
I’m probably perimenopausal. I don’t need a doctor to confirm that for me, I’ve got informed, I’ve read books, I’ve listened to expert speakers, I’ve interviewed experts too. What stands out most of all is that women and men need to get their heads out of the sand and start conversations in the same that they did eventually about 40 years ago around childbirth and parenting – when I was born, my dad was nowhere to be seen and didn’t pick me up until I was about a year old because all that was ‘women’s work’. That’s laughable now! I’m totally confident that my experience of the menopause will be so much better than for women even just a couple of years ago, because we ARE gradually getting informed and TALKING about it.
Let’s keep talking! Get in touch, I’d love to hear your experiences x