The M Word

Last week, Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark appeared in a documentary on the Menopause.  To be honest it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know but it was nice to hear about another woman’s experience because we just don’t talk about it in this country, not even amongst ourselves.  Yet it will happen to every single one of us.  I remember joining my Camera Club and was talking to a woman there in her early 60s.  I was rampantly hormonal that night and got confused so said jokingly “ignore me, I’ve got Menopause brain” and her eyes nearly popped out of her head that I would mention the ‘M’ word in polite conversation.

Historically, women’s hormones have been a taboo subject because we’ve lived in a male dominated world, even though men are currently in a 48% minority here in the UK.  Yes we had a female Prime Minister in the form of Margaret Thatcher but she only rose to power because she acted like a man, which kind’ve defeated the entire purpose of having a woman in charge.  Girls have always been seen as emotional, hysterical creatures simply because we behave differently to men and anyone who shows emotions is still seen as weak and not to be relied upon – then we wonder why mental health issues affect 1 in 3 people :-/

Women are just supposed to get on with their periods.  The adverts on tv tell us if we only use x brand of tampon we’ll be running marathons or climbing mountains, and if we pop a Feminax Ultra we won’t know what pain is.  Thankfully for some women this is the case but for others periods are a form of 4 weekly torture and going about our day business as usual is jut not possible.  This of course intensifies during Menopause yet we’re supposed to act like nothing is happening.  We are, thankfully, now sympathetic to puberty-induced erratic behaviour, door slamming and crying fits, and pregnant women are allowed days off work if they’re unwell, but the Menopause is still ignored and I can’t for the life of me understand why.  It’s the largest bodily change in any woman’s life and can cause absolute havoc.

We aren’t even honest about Menopause amongst ourselves.  When my periods first started to change and I suspected peri-menopause I went to see my (female) GP who said “well it’s a bit early but it only lasts 2 years then it will all be over with” which even I knew was a big fat lie!  Six years on and there is still no sign that my periods are about to stop for good.  The biggest shock of the documentary for me was to hear that at age 61, and ten years after The Change, Kirsty still has Menopause symptoms in particular the fact that she still doesn’t sleep well.  The myth that our periods stop and that’s the end of that may be true for some women, but certainly not for all.  In a phone-in for the documentary a 72 year old woman rang up to say she was still having hot flushes every single day of her life twenty years after her final period and I remember my paternal Grandmother started to sweat profusely following Menopause and didn’t stop ’til the day she died.  My own Mum’s vagina atrophied so much in her mid seventies that she was prescribed oestrogen pessaries and her (female) Gynaecologist joked “women were supposed to die shortly after Menopause, so to be honest we’ve no idea how to treat hormone-induced symptoms in old people!” which tells you everything you need to know about the lack of information given to medical students in respect to older women and the female-related issues they face.

I don’t particularly want to celebrate my Menopause but I have no intention of ignoring it either.  I will bring it up in conversation if I feel the need and people can be as shocked as they like.  I won’t beat myself up, or apologise for, feeling irrational or emotional and will pamper myself when I’m feeling physically crap.  I won’t be hard on myself when I’m fatter at 55 than I was at 45, or joke about needing an afternoon nap.   All this is normal and it’s about time society recognized this huge transition in women’s lives and made allowances.

 

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3 thoughts on “The M Word

  1. Sarah

    I agree with what you’re saying. 2 years ago at the age of 44, I was thrown into menopause after having womb cancer and a full hysterectomy. I couldn’t find much information online only the standard 2000 possible symptoms you could get. I joked then that as teenagers we were taught about periods but the menopause is never discussed. I felt very alone, frightened only hopeful that as my cardiologist said he doesn’t normally see women who’ve gone through the menopause with my heart condition (IST) that would be one less thing to worry about. I’ve been very lucky, only experiencing hot flushes for the first 6 months and only when I got stressed so I learnt to control them. Nothing else really so just be aware some things you read or hear about are sometimes the extremes. I can’t be on HRT because of the cancer and unfortunately I still have my IST (inappropriate sinus tachycardia). So anyway Jak, you may be ok. Also I think having a long term health condition tends to make you stick two fingers up at the menopause anyway

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    1. Jak Post author

      So glad the Big M went fairly well for you Sarah. I must admit, so far it’s been Ok for me too though I totally agree with you that that is probably because I’ve been sick for years anyway and the menopause symptoms are barely registering with everything else that’s gong on! Jak

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  2. Jennifer

    I agree…don’t be afraid to talk about menopause. I don’t care what anyone thinks.

    For me peri menopause started at 37 and menopause 42. 20 years later I’m still having symptoms. It’s hard to tell what causes what. I know food and any supplements make me hot. Because of the uterine cancer I’m on a very low gel topical of estrogen applied externally. No progesterone because the doc removed my ovaries too.

    I’m not hiding my age at work or what comes with it. Why shouldn’t people be in the know. Some day they’ll have to deal with it and ignorance isn’t bliss.

    Menopause can bring on migraines but my mom never told me her mom had them. Why? Education is a good thing. My daughters all had to learn because my migraines were incapacitating for days and it took a few years to figure out what to stop eating and about Excedrin before I got out of bed.

    We don’t have to be shoving it down people’s throats but neither should we be embarrassed or afraid to share. All the young people I work with know when I take the stop bar out of the pastry case to release the cold air it’s menopause and I’m on fire. When I put the bar back in it’s passed. If I’m doing my job then they can put up with a little freezing for 5 minutes. They know I don’t wear short sleeves because of the scars all over from histamine issues. It’s better to inform people or they come to false or ridiculous conclusions. And you just might help them in years to come.

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