Menopause isn’t something we openly talk about and yet it is a conversation we should be having.
Menopause, when you google it, is described as “a natural decline in reproductive hormones when a woman reaches 40’s or 50’s”. This sounds very calm and natural and I was not prepared for the chaos that would come with this so-called natural decline.
I went to my doctor when I was 42 as my hormones and menstrual cycle were erratic, as well as my moods, and discovered I was perimenopausal; I remember saying “That’s not right, I am only 42.” Perimenopause literally means around menopause. After turning 45, my symptoms hit a whole new level and started to affect all aspects of my life. Weight gain was a big problem. From previous episodes of gaining weight where it would go if I cut out certain foods and do exercise, this was completely different. It didn’t matter what I cut out, my weight would not alter. Wine or no wine it didn’t change, so I opted to keep the wine. However, coffee did not survive menopause, it had to go.
I would say the last two years leading up to turning 50 were the hardest. Looking back, I feel like I lost myself in this time. My weight increased, my confidence dropped, and I started to get anxious. I run my own business, and travel and teach around the world, so a loss in confidence and panic attacks do not go well with my job. Hot flushes were happening more and also whilst standing in front of class teaching; with these comes brain fuzz and anxiety. I would look in the mirror and not recognise the person looking back at me; I didn’t even think like me anymore. I was once wanting to conquer the world, and suddenly not wanting to face the world.
I started to talk to other women my age, reading up as much as I could about menopause and was relieved to know this was normal. Thinking most women go through this, why hadn’t someone warned me or passed on their words of wisdom to prepare me for this stage of my life? It wasn’t a conversation I had with my mum before she died and I wished I could talk to her. Nature plays an interesting trick on you – in your early twenties you are still trying to find out who you are and still wanting to fit in, in your thirties, you learn who you are and find an assertiveness that wasn’t there in your younger years. The early forties and you don’t care what anybody thinks anymore, then suddenly menopause happens, and all your insecurities come back with a vengeance.
It was just after turning 49 when I hit an all-time low and felt like I couldn’t cope anymore; my body didn’t feel like me; it felt weak and vulnerable. This was a nice life lesson for me to learn, to associate vulnerability with strength and not weakness.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” ― Brené Brown
I was diagnosed with pelvic congestion syndrome which now, after reading everything I could possibly read on this subject, is much more common than I knew. I had avoided HRT because of my family history of cancer but went to my doctor (who is fantastic) and asked for HRT; she advised to stick with it as I was through the worst. I had tried many concoctions of supplements, happy hormones, promensil, remifemin, magnesium, St John’s Wort and found the right mix for me to keep symptoms at bay. Now, after turning 50, I feel like I have come out the other side. Exercise is a pleasure again (pleasure may be too strong a word). When I look in the mirror, I can see a tiny glimpse of me.
This may resonate with some of you and not with others, and I am sure everybody’s experience of menopause is different. But if you are experiencing any of the feelings I have mentioned, first, know it’s not just you and secondly, talk to other women. If you have found a great supplement or diet or exercise that helps, share it with other women. It’s a cycle of our life; it happens, it just needs to be a word we are comfortable talking about.
It has made me ponder why we feel like we should always think we are superwomen and when someone asks us how we are we say “yes all good” even when we are not. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just be honest at times and say “actually it’s tough at the moment..”