The M(enopause) Word

I turned 54 this year and seem to be (fingers crossed) in menopause. Yes, my periods have stopped. Finally. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.

There’ve been a few false starts on the whole menopause thing. Perimenopause has definitely been way more than I bargained for…periods have turned up out of nowhere only to stop again for a couple more months. Night sweats, sore joints, frozen shoulder, vertigo, sadness, brainfog – it’s all been a bit of a shock. I’ve tried doing nothing, eating more phytoestrogenic foods, taking supplements (daily doses of B12, Calcium and Vitamin D, Fish or Flaxseed Oil), more exercise, less exercise, yoga, reducing drinking, taking Vagifem, and joining as many menopause groups as possible to increase my awareness and understanding. When I talk to friends, so many of them either seem to have sailed through doing nothing, or have taken HRT without a second thought.

In my thoughts, I imagined getting to this time of life as a bit of an adjustment and then hooray!! No more periods and no more emotional rollercoaster every month. I remember in my thirties reading The Change by Germaine Greer. I was excited for getting over something she called ‘biddability’. I was looking forward to stepping into my time as a strong, rad, older woman [never mind the fact that Germaine talked about using invisibility as a superpower or being happy with celibacy because, you know, you’re old. That’s the problem with generalising your experience to everyone else].

In any case I really didn’t anticipate any major hiccups along the way and I certainly had absolutely no idea that perimenopause could last as long as ten years. I feel a bit ripped off.

Loss of confidence has been a huge issue for me. I took part in an Accelerator program in 2019 and part of the process included pitching our work to audiences. My first time in front of an audience, an important one, I froze. It was a completely new feeling for me. I’d never frozen before, not even as a beginner violinist on stage during Eisteddfod. It’s the performer’s maxim – if you stuff up, just keep going, no one will ever know. I stood there, grasping for words. It was excruciating. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. When the words came, I felt the audience’s relief. Two years later, I’m only just starting to feel confident speaking again. I can’t help but think hormones have had something to do with it.

So as I patiently wait for my 12 months of no period to officially gain my menopausal status, I feel like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I know my symptoms may not go away with my periods. I am accepting this new phase of life with the difference it brings to my mind and body. I’m still hoping for the rad, powerful woman to emerge but instead of waiting for it to happen, I’m working on it day by day. And I’m trying to talk to people – younger women, older women, anyone really – about menopause as a part of everyday life and nothing to be ashamed about.

(Image courtesy of the Pausitivity Campaign #KnowYourMenopause)

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