“The Change” was historically spoken about in kitchens and over garden fences across the land. I recall my granny relaying a cautionary tale of “so and so up Belle Hill running off with a lorry driver in the change.” I had no concept of this mystery ailment but was concerned about the prospect of this symptom afflicting my mum.
For me, The Change has been an appropriate description for the menopause. I am physically present but there is a definite psychological absenteeism. I experience hot flushes that provoke me to resemble the drummer Animal from The Muppets. I have the memory of a goldfish and the aching bones of a retired ballet dancer. For some reason unknown to me I have also developed skin sensitivities to products that were part of my daily life. My sleep veers between that of a dormouse to none at all. The upshot is that from time to time I possess the emotional fragility of a toddler pageant queen.
I bore myself at times but also perversely relish seeking out women of a similar age to bemoan symptoms and share miracle cures. The list of which is endless. The first few months of 2018 saw a motivated me determined to fettle the menopause with lifestyle changes and alternative remedies and treatments. Recently I’m far more content to paddle about in my slippers, wearing something snuggly, munching crisps and chewing sweets. No surprise that I have gained weight, then. In my defence your honour, my altruistic attempts to outwit the menopause have included eating vast quantities of humous, womb yoga and having a shamanic womb clearing ceremony. At this point my daughter stated that our home had the makings of a cult.
Each time I attempt a new remedy or approach I am convinced it is the winning formula but then symptoms appear to break through over time. There are a multitude of ever-changing solutions and cures for the menopause, which serve to confuse me further.
Seeking medical attention is a minefield also, particularly if you are unsure about the HRT route. Nothing is without side effects. The most disturbing side effect of the medical approach has been the throwaway comments levelled my way by medical professionals. It was particularly unhelpful to my identity and self-worth to have my ovaries referred to as “withering and dying.” When I had the good fortune to be seen by a sympathetic young female doctor, I was so overcome with gratitude that I could barely speak due to relentless sobbing.
The biggest shock has been the impact of a sense of loss on my identity and womanhood. I know that my life is not over just because my ability to procreate has ceased, however it has evoked intense feelings of loss and sadness. Many bright, independent women I know are experiencing overwhelming feelings of self doubt, anxiety and despondency. There are an abundance of forums and women’s support groups focusing on the menopause and ways of improving wellbeing, however lack of motivation or confidence can prevent women accessing support.
I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life. With any change there is loss, I guess I may dial it down from sensational to fabulous. I firmly believe that women are now coming into their own in later life and are not quite ready to be put out to pasture.