The Menopause

It’s been a while since I wrote and shared a blog of this magnitude; I prefer to post pictures of my dog, sunsets and sunrises. But when I keep sighing, “More people should know about this …”, then I feel an obligation to contribute to the awareness.

The menopause.

That’s what this is about – so you can choose whether to read on or not …

Interestingly, my ‘sighing about the subject’ has got more intense lately, due to a few media caps being ‘doffed’ to the subject.  And whilst it’s great that they are even finding room on TV for such a ‘taboo’ subject  – there are more programmes about drugs, domestic violence and even murders than the menopause – I find myself even more frustrated as they just scratch the surface of a subject that can gouge huge , gaping ravines in your life.

The more I have talked to people – men as well as women – I am sure that the menopause contributes to as many divorces, suicides and mental health issues, as alcohol and drugs do.   And yet most people still don’t talk about it, or even worse, realise it.

My own experience of the ‘change’ has been at best bewildering, and at worst harrowing. And has gone on for far too long, I’m bored with it now. I’ve been bored with it for a long time.

A recent BBC programme, ‘The Truth about the Menopause’ will have been helpful for some I’m sure, but it still didn’t even attempt to discuss the depths of destruction and havoc that can be wreaked by an inevitable shift in hormones.  The Welsh news ran a story in the same week about the first Menopause Cafe in Wales – great, a place where people can meet and share experiences and solutions but … in the middle of the table was a humungous pile of heavily iced chocolate cakes (sugar will not be your friend if hormones are your enemy, trust me) and endless inane references made to ‘having your cake and eating it’, and ‘the icing on the cake’.  C’mon Wales, we can do better than that.

If the only thing that this blog achieves is to raise awareness that exhaustion, frustration, hopelessness, anger, brain fog, memory loss and mood swings are all symptoms of the menopause, and to prompt you to consider this as a reason for any upheaval in your life, then that’s great. But hopefully, it will encourage you to take action too. Sadly all of the aforementioned symptoms are all synonymous with being  tired and overstretched too, whether you are menopausal or not; and are also symptoms associated with anxiety, which is also another classic symptom of the menopause. It is a bloody nightmare to figure out. It can feel impossible to determine which is as a result of what. You may well feel like you are losing your mind.

And the menopause is insidious – it’s not like Christmas, with endless adverts and promotional insanity to forewarn you of its inevitable arrival.  The chances are you will be well into the menopause before you read something, or have a relevant conversation with a friend, which enables you to consider it.

So what can you do?

First of all, accept that it is happening and endeavour to read and research as much as you can. And that can be challenging enough when your brain feels like porridge and your eyes itch and burn (also a lack of oestrogen).

Then ask for help. You won’t feel like doing that either. But it will help enormously if you are able to explain what’s going on. At the talks I have given, the men are equally as relieved to learn that the woman they love isn’t going mad. And yes, men do go through a hormonal change too, with varying degrees of symptoms.

Some women apparently have no symptoms as all. I’m still not convinced about that and frankly I don’t care. I care about the women who are having debilitating life altering symptoms and wonder what the hell is happening.

Several women I know have lost partners, are leaving jobs (or have lost jobs and are leaving partners) and are struggling to keep their heads above water. They are all around 50.

The menopause is not just about hot flushes. Dear God, if only. I’m not belittling any of the symptoms, but as someone who works outdoors all year, for 8 months of each year hot flushes would be most welcome as an internal heat source.  And I have given talks and had felt that familiar feeling of the thermostat being turned up and have just ‘owned’ it, calling it a ‘power surge’. The audience has always understood and been sympathetic.  You will not be the only one going through it, no matter how much you feel you are.

It is the emotional side of the menopause that I have found the most cruel. Feeling invisible, having suicidal thoughts, the brain fog, the self doubt, the inability to trust a decision. Oh, and stupid things like boiling the kettle without the lid on.

Most people laugh kindly when I tell them about the ‘stupid things’ and add, “I do that sort of thing all the time.” It is kind of them to be sympathetic but frankly, I have never done those things and loathe the fact that I do now, even if it is as a result of hormonal chaos. When people speak to me, it can take me a couple of seconds too long to process what they are saying and that can make me seem disinterested, aloof or just stupid. It’s all just too painful to acknowledge, sometimes.

I have retreated from public commitments, gatherings and most things that involve people. I had a nightmare of an experience with a professional relationship in the midst of the menopause. Turns out that the guy was a twat, but it took me 12 painful months to realise it.  He has always been a twat but I haven’t always been so poor at making a judgement.  It jeopardised a very promising and personal project.

It has also made me reluctant to trust my ability to make an appropriate decision about people and their motives. It is another example of my knife-throwing hormones cutting up my confidence, and an example I haven’t read about in the numerous chapters written about hot flushes and mood swings.

My saviour has been a woman in Harley Street.

I foolishly delayed seeking professional help due to my concern about the ‘perceived cost’ – another flawed decision. I went to my GP and was prescribed antidepressants.  “You are depressed.”  Insisted my female GP.  “Yes I am,” I agreed,  “It is f*cking depressing not to be able to get any help or understanding other than be prescribed antidepressants.”

Several female friends, who were further along the menopausal road than me, recommended professionals at Harley Street a while ago but I was afraid of bankrupting myself and adding to my already substantial anxieties, having already spent more than I could afford on every single herbal potion and lotion available. Ironically I was spending small fortunes for ‘medicines’ that would enable me to keep going to work (as self employed) to earn money to be able to pay for more (often bizarre) ‘cures’.  Another example of menopausal madness.

Bearing in mind I can only share my own experience, I believe it to be essential to get professional help.  You cannot govern your hormones with positive thinking, or another glass of wine, or just by hoping it will all go away.  Every menopausal path will be different for every woman, but the one thing that is pertinent to all, is having awareness, accepting it and taking action.  You may feel like you are losing your mind, but for me it was a real risk of losing far more than that that made me take action.

And it’s not as expensive as you think.  Some things are available on the national health and even though I pay privately for my ‘natural hormone balancing’, it costs just £30 a month.

So to summarise – or I will still be writing this tomorrow –  the things that categorically helped me are:

Monica Lascar
I chose Monica from several recommendations, including John Studd (Carol Vordeman’s recommendation), the Gluck Clinic and Nick Pannay, as she uses Bio-identical hormones and is just someone that I got on with whilst talking to. And that is essential. I like Monica a lot and trust her.  I have friends who are with their chosen consultants for the same reasons. She also speaks my language, talking about ‘hormone rebalancing’ and ‘being solution focussed’

Exercise I can’t stress the importance of this enough, especially when you feel tired, miserable and unmotivated.  Ironically, despite being incredibly tired (I have a physical job) I have found exercise classes actually helped. I never thought they would. I have always been a solo exerciser – preferring running or the gym to classes of any sort.  But the group I work out with now are just the nicest bunch of people and I always, always leave feeling better than when I arrived.  I know I have made an effort and not excuses.

Good diet and lifestyle choices (which Monica advices on as part of the ‘treatment’).
Your ‘fuel’ is so important when going through the menopause and there is no excuse for ignorance.  Read, research, ask and eat more greens.

Talking about it all Talking is so important in order to help others understand, but as Monica says – ‘solution focussed’ talking is also essential.  Sympathy is OK, but a solution is better.

All of these things will require you to be pro active and to take action – something you will probably feel the least like being and doing. It’s cruel.

Please don’t fall into the, “It’s just not me …” trap, every time your hormones hit the fan.  It is you. You are still a very capable and rational person but your hormones are running riot, and that will change your behaviour. It’s what hormones do. Hormones are the most powerful things – underestimate their power at your peril.  Your hormones may be going mad, but you are not.  Accepting and owning this was important to me as I decided to be the best me I could be each day, and that is what inspired me to research, read, ask, and take the actions necessary. Yes, I would probably rather a glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc than a smoothie of blueberries, almond milk and kale, but knowing the latter was far better for me (and my hormones) helped. You have to befriend yourself. Stop beating yourself up, play nice.

As I come out the other side (hopefully) I do have some weird theory that the menopause is a rather cruel ‘crash course’ in sorting out any shite you haven’t sorted out by the time you are 50. A little like ‘last chance saloon’. Stop messing about, be yourself, it’s all you have.

And even though I thought it was just to make me feel better, when my post menopausal friends told me I would emerge stronger, happier and more content with myself, I can confirm that it is true.

I have chosen to accept the ‘change’ and the changes it has brought. I say how I feel – truthfully, without guilt and without fear of upsetting anyone.  That is their problem. You can’t give offence, only take it.  And I have enjoyed my own space and learning about myself and what I am really like when I am not waiting to be rescued or fixed, or busy rescuing or fixing others. And I’m OK. And it’s also OK to want to be invited to events but not want to go.  And those people that matter will understand, and those who don’t understand don’t matter.

There is a famous saying, “When you are going through Hell, keep going,” which I think must have been written by a menopausal woman.  So, you strong woman you, keep going!


9 Comments on The Menopause

  1. Thank you for sharing this eloquent, insightful and constructive account (and media critique) of the menopause. Coincidentally I was talking to a woman only last night about her ordeal and struggle with the menopause as well as the media’s deficient representations to date. You powerfully make the case. And we men too need to hear it. Thank you..

  2. Dear Lynne
    A great read and so true to my own feelings and thoughts. I think at times I’m losing the plot and forgetting things etc is awful. The menopause certainly needs to be discussed a lot more. I’ve been going it for the last 2/3 years and I’m now 48. Anyway thankyou for writing this piece on it. Best wishes and I’m free for chats

  3. Lynne, I’m inspired by your words. I too, suspect that menopause is a ‘sort it out ‘ message from Nature. I crashed and burned most of my external life during those years, and only managed to claw my way back due to a deep interest in the esoteric and the physical well-being of my life. I would love for you to see what I do now. I mentor women through these years, and help them build their next version of self, without firebombing everything else. I wish I’d met you sooner! Warm wishes,

  4. My wife keeps going to be her GP with an endless list of different aches and pains and feelings of being ill. I am sure it is the menopause, but the doctors never say this and my wife refuses to accept it. I’m so glad to be a man. I hope you and her come out the other side soon and feel much better

  5. I love this blog, its such a good feeling knowing that im not ‘losing it’ Im 46 and currently going through the ‘what the hell is happening to me stage’I have always been a active person in my professional and personal life, some would say i live my life at a hundred miles an hour, always on the go with work, home and my 3 kids. In recent months i have struggled with my emotions and concentration levels which has had a huge impact on my work and in my personal life, i had my crash a burn about a month ago and am currently on sick leave after experiencing chest pain and palpatations through extreme anxiety which left me in tears at my desk. Not being fully aware of of the symptoms of menopause i really did think i was having an emotional breakdown, i felt i was incapable of doing my job, be a good mum to my children and felt generally useless too everyone. My saviours have been a very understanding partner, manager and Gp, they have listened, supported and helped me make decisions that will hopefully put me in a place where i can feel like me again, if that means making changes to my life then thats what i will do, who knows what the future holds …

  6. Perfectly summed up. Wish I had read this before my menopause as I had to work all this out on my own. However, I now take opportunity to talk to other women about this, informally, especially the anxiety/brain fog/not feeling like yourself stuff before there are any physical symptoms. Seems we all just thought we were going barmy…thank you.

  7. I’m just so inspired by what your readers are saying Lynne. I have taken myself into the ‘field’ of menopause education because I’ve been personally depleted and nearly wrecked, by not having had any! My own journey was pretty grim. My mother, god bless her, did not make it through and I suspect that is partly what drives me

    I wrote this to a friend last week:-

    “Do you have life insurance?
    Did you find out about contraception when you needed to?
    Were you curious about the process of pregnancy and childbirth, if you went through it?
    Do you save money for ’emergencies’.
    Do you pack before you go on holiday?

    So given that we prepare for almost every life event, large and small, HOW come we do not prepare to venture into what might be at least 3 – (average 7) years in which our body is not only doing a massive hormonal shift – but our emotional, psychological lives are in turmoil?

    At the very least, we should understand what is happening as an entire piece and not just as ‘ovarian failure’ – and face it with confidence, know how and appropriate tools. I believe we should also consider the impact of our negative – or positive – responses on our daughters, nieces, granddaughters -and all the younger women who will walk after us – don’t they also deserve to be prepared, to have the fear of aging diminished and inherit a legacy where women are inspired when perimenopause begins because they know it is a gift and not a curse?

    We are not fading quietly into the background: we have great wisdom and gifts to enjoy and share in the ‘third third’ of our lives. But I know, while menopause is touted as a ‘failure’ and (nearly) as an illness, we are also losing out on of some very important information. Women coming into menopause need not have such extreme symptoms – but who prepares them for it?

    So glad I am alive at a time when this conversation is happening – thanks, again, Lynne and all the contributors, who have found a place to express their views and feelings.

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