‘There’s no way you have your menopause’ she laughed in my face. ‘You’re only 39! It must be something else!’ That was the response I received from a newly qualified GP, clearly not trained in patient care. Without looking at me once, she proceeded to print a load of pages off the internet. ‘Have some information’ she said and that was it. As I walked home I cried. Not with despair but with frustration. Huge anger and frustration. I phoned my best friend who listened to me rant. All I wanted was an informed conversation about HRT or no HRT. Menopause aged 39 was no big surprise to me. My sister was 34, my mum 33 and my grandma 36. It was kind of inevitable.
As a woman, wherever you are in your cycle of life – pre-, peri-, mid- or post-menopause, it’s a topic I feel sadly remains relatively taboo. And yet we have a natural cycle. A cycle that is meant to come to an end, at some point in our lives. It’s a pause in the menses. A time to take stock, a change.
I was prompted to write this blog by a Zoom call with my wonderful university friends. We’ve known each other for over 30 years. Menopause was a big topic, after all we’re a group of friends in our early 50s. And yet part of me found it tough. No one wanted to talk menopause when we were in our late 30s, when it happened for me. If only we talked about it more in society, between ourselves, with women young and old. With men. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so daunting. When I first came home to Wales, I set up a women’s group to talk about different topics. One evening about 10 of us got together to talk about menopause. It broke my heart to hear others’ stories of the myths and lack of information they had been faced with. Also for male partners who had admitted to feeling lost, who wanted to support and yet didn’t know how.
There are so many myths, it’s almost become a time to dread. Will I have symptoms? An increase in libido, a loss in libido? The dreaded night sweats and embarrassing hot flushes? The loss of concentration, forgetting if I locked the door? Or is that just me getting older? Do I need to take HRT and if so is it safe? Is bio-identical HRT better? Is it safe? Many women go through menopause with no symptoms whatsoever. My experience then and now is that it’s not easy to find good information. Information about how we can best approach and embrace this next chapter of our lives.
This blog is already going to be long and I could go on. Those who know me, know that I am passionate about a number of things and this is another one! So here’s my simple guide to the menopause for those who are interested. Not from a medical perspective, I am not a doctor. But from my own research, experience and the stories I’ve heard:
- Be curious. Our bodies and cycles are amazing things. Given the lack of information, I highly recommend reading up on how you can help yourself. The two books I found really helpful are listed below. I’ve also found some good websites, but am loathe to recommend as they change so often. HRT has pros and cons. If we value ourselves, then it makes sense to be informed before we make this decision;
- Do what you can to manage stress and anxiety. Not easy right now I know. Stress and anxiety play a huge role in hormone regulation. Our bodies needs the maximum chance to take us through this change healthily, without any extra challenges;
- Diet is more important that many of us would like to admit. On a very simple level, we think we should take calcium, but without magnesium the body can’t absorb it. We are beautiful, complex beings and so if you want to take supplements, be informed. Red wine and coffee? Yes, proven to make hot flushes worse. We can make a choice. Diet also plays a very significant role in hormone health;
- Exercise. In her book ‘Bringing Yoga to your every day Life’ Donna Fahri talks about different yoga for different phases/chapters of our life. Listening to what we need at different times. That’s not to say that as older women, we should be lying around over bolsters and only doing restorative yoga all the time! No! It is perhaps to say that at times as our bodies change, it’s OK to feel exhausted. The energy will return if we choose self-care. And exercise and movement become even more important if we want to stay strong and avoid or limit osteoporosis. That’s another blog.
Sorry this turned into a bit of an essay. I hope you’ve finished your herbal tea 😉 by now. I have to bring this to a close by mentioning the wonderful things that menopause can bring. A freedom, a new lease of life, a focus. Great creativity and wisdom. Welcoming the new. And as Rumi so wisely said: ‘Try not to resist the changes coming your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?’
Some possible books below. Share yours please. We’re all unique and there’s new information all of the time.
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, Christine Northrup (a holistic view)
Natural Solutions to the Menopause, Dr. Marilyn Glenville (very diet and nutrition focused)
The Complete Guide to the Menopause, Dr Annice Mukherjee. I haven’t read this but it’s been recommended by a friend. (possibly more allopathic)
Let me know what you think.