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A funny thing happened to me on the way to the menopause. Why you’re never too old too…

In spite of what we know about this important chapter in a woman’s life, for many, not only is it a defining moment known as ‘the change’ but it can also be a transformative time when we choose to make life changing decisions. Menopause

This might mean setting up a business, divorcing a spouse whom we may have shared our life with for over thirty years and for others it is the realisation that time is marching on and that we may have just seen the best of our years.

Not me. I feel fitter, healthier and more athletic than in my thirties.

Time maybe marching across my face but it certainly isn’t as far as my brain and the rest of me is concerned.

I might be menopausal but just because I’m 50 doesn’t mean I’m dead yet.

When I met with girlfriends recently one couldn’t help but remark ‘let’s face it, luvvies, we’ve seen the best of our years.

menopauseI bristled because not only did she dismiss the menopause as a defining moment for a woman but effectively consigned womanhood to the shelf??

I came away thinking is it really over for menopausal women?

By chance a PR company approached onewomansview by email to promote a new book, So that’s why I’m bonkers! A Girl’s Guide to surviving the menopause.’ by Sheila Wenbourne.

I read it, loved it and had to interview Sheila, we were two kindred spirits experiencing this ghastly woman’s change but in hugely different ways.

When I asked Sheila why she wrote a book on the menopause she said ‘because I went to my Dr. and was told it was the menopause, that I was going to have to learn to live with, goodbye G-string hello big knickers.’

That was enough for Sheila who looked at other options as well as HRT.

Whilst the book doesn’t unearth how or why women endure the menopause, it is a medical fact that all women will at some stage go through the menopause. She writes in a fun, honest and educational way describing what women have to go through but who are afraid to either acknowledge or talk about, what both Sheila and I refer to as the dreaded M word.

In fact the menopause gave her the confidence to set up her own online business selling magnetic jewellery, an alternative therapy she subsequently discovered helped her with all the symptoms associated with the menopause.

She first came across magnetic therapy when she discovered that Yuk, its the menopauseher dog was suffering from acute arthritis and was told that putting him down might be the kindest thing to do but instead she researched what alternatives were available and discovered magnetic dog collars, popped one on her dog and watched her beloved collie transform into a sprightly pup.

Believing that if it could work for her dog why not her and so she decided to find a way of selling magnetic jewellery online.

I’m currently wearing a magnet in my knickers on the recommendation of Sheila. (You can find out how magnet therapy works here)

I’ve fished it out of the toilet twice already as I forget it’s there, but I am going to persist with it because if it means coming off HRT a drug designed to stabilise our declining oestrogen then I’m all for it.

But the moral of the tale is that just because women hit the menopause doesn’t mean it is game set and match.

Coming out of the other side of the menopause, Sheila said that she is more confident than the person she was before so much so it gave her the desire and verve to set up a business.

She acknowledges that magnetic therapy isn’t for everyone and I have to admit I was a little skeptical too, but if you don’t try you don’t know?

As we spoke and shared experiences of the menopause I drew a parallel with our lives.

At 50 I discovered a desire to write and went onto study freelance courses in journalism which after successful completion led to me to the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism.

Not a course for the faint hearted and whilst I have really struggled with time, business and work I can honestly say that if it hadn’t been for the menopause I might not have taken the decision to consider a change in career.

Cameron Diaz reportedly said in her new book, “The Longevity Book: The Science of Aging”, she is not afraid of getting old it’s Hollywood she worries about.

It was refreshing to have a Hollywood A-Lister stand up for women aging and admit that she isn’t in the least bit scared.

There is a generation of female silver surfers and webpreneurs who have set up businesses in their late 50s and 60s following the menopause.

In eastern and asian societies women who start the menopause are revered and considered wise and worldly, a far cry from how western societies view menopausal women.

Sheila has confirmed many successes of women who have used magnetic therapy reporting that that they are more adventurous, confident and happier.

As for Sheila she says; ‘I’m happier in myself, I can cope with life generally much better than I ever did before, the only thing I do is wear a magnet.’

During our chat, she mentions Linda Barker and Julie Walters who both described the experience of the menopause as horrible. Julie said that she feels more liberated and has more energy than she had in her 50s following the menopause.

Instead of viewing this stage as the final act, Sheila says; ‘it’s hard going through it but once you’ve come out the other side, we’ve got 30-40 years to enjoy life, accept the fact you are older.

Fighting back at 50+ she says, ‘we’ve got so much to offer, so much to give to people, so much experience, we are in our prime.

We can feel good about ourselves, why can’t we wear lovely makeup and beautiful clothes?

We are not washed up at 50, we are in our prime, who says you can’t have it all?’

Amen to that!

 

Is the menopause a taboo subject?

menopause and its affect on women
The menopause represents an opportunity for a woman to reinvent herself or does it just mean ‘getting old’.

Why does the mere mention of the word “menopause” make grown women head for the rafters and hide for fear of being looked at as some kind of prehistoric bird, excuse the pun.

On a recent working day broken up by the quiet interlude of a coffee morning, a girlfriend invited me around to her home along with several other women to view her recent house renovation and extension.

Following the grand tour, coffee was taken in her beautiful new garden room.

One of the ladies deep in conversation with another happened to say, “of course all this has changed since I started the menopause”.

The word “menopause” hung in the air like a thick smog.

Similarly when my then 3 year old decided to shout out the word  va-gi-na, va-gi-na’ on a flight to Spain much to the amusement of the passengers.

Everyone looked at each other except me who replied very matter of factly ‘ I know exactly what you mean.’

The ladies, I can say authoritatively are between 49 – 54 years respectively so I am pretty confident that with the exception of our host are well into the menopause.

Astonishingly, it would appear the “M” word is not being acknowledged by women.

The menopause is a significant life event that affects all women.

Women represent almost half the labour force and over 3.5 million are aged 50 and over and yet it is seldom recognised as a major challenge for women.

In her study, “Women’s Experience of Working Through The Menopause” Amanda Griffiths of the University Of Nottingham showed that 33% of women interviewed did view the menopause as a private matter and not something one talked about. 84% agreed that the menopause was a natural life stage and and not a medical disorder and 29% felt that the menopause was a sign of feeling less attractive. [Findings based on a study conducted in menopausal women in the workplace]

The menopause brings with it searing clarity that women aren’t getting any younger.

It can impact a womans self-esteem, self-confidence and make women question their identity.

The study also found that ‘the end of fertility and menstruation were flagged by some as a positive aspect of the menopause. For others, it presented challenges and was viewed as a sign of becoming older, feeling less attractive, not feeling oneself and worrying about appearance’.

The ‘change’ is not really talked about openly, it’s not surprising that women aren’t exactly embracing the “menopause” with open arms.

Natural menopause takes place when the ovaries become unable to produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Ovaries fail to produce the two hormones naturally when there are few egg cells remaining. Eggs are present before birth and are reduced through puberty and there is a rapid decline from 40 onwards. Menopause means the last menstrual period. Periods stop because of the low levels of oestrogen and progesterone which stop stimulating the lining of the womb in the normal cycle.

This isn’t helped by the way the menopause is portrayed in the media. Tracey Emin reportedly describes her experience of the menopause as a nightmare, akin to the beginning of death.

Anne, 56 views the menopause as a very positive experience she says; ‘I had relatively trouble free periods. I noticed my periods becoming irregular and by mid summer I experienced hot flushes which lasted two months, then they stopped. I didn’t associate that the symptoms might be the start of the menopause.

Six months later it started full swing with the hot flushes I then realised that it must be the menopause.

I’m lucky apart from the hot flushes or power surges as the family affectionately refer to them and the restless nights I am managing it. The menopause is something I have no control over. It’s part of being a woman and there is nothing I can do to control it.’

Women are bombarded with fabulous looking celebrity women in their late 40’s and early 50’s like Elle Macpherson, 48 wearing a skimpy bikini on the beach, looking great and quite possibly peri-menopausal.

This only reinforces the feelings women have as they approach middle age – weakening self confidence, insecurity and vulnerability.

At the other extreme are media pictures of a youth obsessed sexualised culture where women are in pursuit of eternal artificially created beauty.

The evidence from the study would suggest that women are finding the transition to middle-age daunting, not only is the change a physical one but a psychological process too. The person they once identified with pre-menopause is not the same woman post-menopause.

Could that be why women don’t view the menopause as something to be optimistic about because it means a reincarnation; a reinvention of oneself?

The onset of the menopause represents completion of motherhood. The children have grown and left home and women are left to face a new stage in their life.

It is a life changing moment an opportunity to make a woman feel reborn. In spite of this, the significance of the menopause is synonymous with a feeling that ‘life is over.’

menopausal symptoms
The joy of the menopause
Courtesy of www.minniepauz.com

Kate reflects, ‘at 52 years you know your baby making days are over so there is a sense of sadness but would I want anymore children now, of course not. The menopause is the final stage in my reproductive cycle and I guess there is a sense of finality about that.’

Helen 58 years says, ‘it was hard to begin with and I thought that I could manage without any help but in the end I went on HRT, the best thing ever, although my husband use to find my HRT patches stuck to the shower wall occasionally. But it’s part of being a woman you have to accept it get over it and move on but I did feel like I was on my own when I was going through it.’

Peri-Menopause is the stage from the beginning of the menopausal symptoms to the post-menopause phase. Post-menopause is the time following the last period and is defined as more than 12 months with no periods in a woman whose ovaries are intact.

Women faced with the menopause have the daunting prospect of ageing to contend with too and although the majority of women probably wouldn’t want any more children it’s that inevitability that makes the menopause so final, so the ‘end.’

Typical symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, palpitations, insomnia, aching joints, headaches, mood swings, anxiety and irritability which are disruptive to the majority of womens lives.

Women require emotional support – sympathy, understanding and tolerance but unless women talk about the menopause discuss it openly and share how they feel then the menopause is likely to remain a ‘private’ or taboo subject.

The question that remains is how do we, as women change that perception?

What do you think?

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The 7 Dwarfs of the menopause can be found at www.minniepauz.com a fantastic fun look at menopausal women.