I’ve come a long way since then and, at the prime age of (very nearly) 53, I can confidently say I know a lot more about perimenopause and menopause now. Why did it take me until the age of 50 to start finding out?
It’s good that so much more is being shared about it these days, in no small part thanks to the great work of a number of Baby Boomer and Gen-X broadcasters, writers and campaigners. At last, we appear to be breaking the stigma of this much-maligned time in a woman’s life.
These are 5 things I’ve learnt about menopause (so far):
There’s no cookie-cutter approach in the hormone department. Not only do we have different experiences of the (allegedly) 34 symptoms of menopause, we will react or respond to them differently too. What I have learned is to take judgement out of the equation. If I suddenly fly into a rage and snap at my kids, it doesn’t make me a horrific mother (as long as I haven’t hurt them and I apologise wholeheartedly afterwards). If I feel I need HRT (and I do), then great. If my friend thinks HRT is dangerous (and there are those who feel uncomfortable about it and for whom it can pose extra risks), I fully accept her view. This is our own journey.
I’m Not a “Mad Cow”
“Why is menopause called menopause? Because mad cow disease was taken.”
With menopause awareness increasing exponentially, there will come a time (maybe now) when this genre of humour will go the same way mother-in-law jokes did in the ‘80s. I did think I was going mad for a while, though. The forgetfulness, the low mood for no apparent reason, the rages … they all faded away with a few daubs of oestrogen gel. My hormones were going into freefall, not my mind.
Write It Down
One thing that I have found really impacts my work is the memory-loss. How I shudder at the embarrassment of being mid-sentence and clutching for a non-existent word or phrase; all the books in my mental reference library suddenly out on loan. What I have found really useful is to write things down. I carry a book of “Captured Thoughts”; I subscribe to the Evernote app; my Apple Notes and Reminders apps are in constant use; and I have a notebook in which I list the important things for the week divided into 3 sections: Work, Personal and Home. Sounds like overkill – but I find it liberating!
A Problem Shared
Why did it take me so long to talk about it with any of my friends? Or with my Mum? Some studies suggest that genetics (alongside environmental factors) play a part in menopause. If you are able to speak with your mum, her experience may shed some light on your own. It has been so useful (and often very funny) talking with my friends about this. It certainly helps to know you are not alone and share tips.
I Am Not Old Yet
Some of the menopause symptoms I have experienced made me feel like I had been catapulted into sudden old age. Aching limbs (my feet even ached as I got out of bed in the morning), stiff joints and a constant state of tiredness made me feel as if I had bypassed two decades almost overnight. I suddenly felt ancient and was not prepared for it. These symptoms, like many of mine, have been alleviated by HRT, but diet and exercise can play a major part too. Once I understood that these sensations were just more hormonal sabotage and not a life sentence, it was easier to deal with and not allow myself to be defined by them.