When I first noticed my periods were going a bit haywire I went along to see my GP just to check everything was OK. She said it looked like I was starting the menopause and not to worry, it would be over with in two years. That was seven years ago and I’m still waiting for my periods to end.
I can’t really blame my Doctor. She most likely had one lecture about the menopause in medical school and it was probably taught by a man. The lack of information about menopause and peri-menopause amongst medical professionals is scandalous and I now know from experience the only useful appointment you ever have is if you actually see a nurse or doctor who has been through it themselves!
I’ve talked to my Mum about her menopause and she put the fear of God up me. Both her and my Nanna had horrendous flooding and in the end my Mum had to have her womb cauterized. She was probably anaemic for years so consequently had insomnia and very little energy, and in her mind this is what menopause is like for all women. Only of course it’s not and thankfully hasn’t been for me. I’ve had some not very nice symptoms, including on a few occasions thinking I was having a stroke which was really scary, but I’ve coped well I think so far though that may change when my periods actually stop.
I talk quite openly about my peri-menopause. Not in great detail, but if I have trouble remembering stuff or lose my thread mid-conversation I will just say “sorry, menopause moment there!” at which point the person I’m speaking to will look horrified, even if they’re female. Historically it’s just not something women have ever talked about and has been some kind of shameful secret, despite the fact every single woman on the planet will go through it.
Until twelve months ago, it was never mentioned on TV either and then something changed……….maybe a BBC exec is female and is going through it?……………..and suddenly it was all over the telly. A documentary was recently made about it and all last week BBC Breakfast covered the topic, which I think is great if a little overboard. However many people, mostly men but including some women, think we need to shut the hell back up about the menopause. It’s an “uninteresting” event that women have been dealing with quietly for millennia, says Julie Birchill in the Telegraph and hundreds of commentators to her article agree. It’s not the first time women have sabbotaged other women. It still blows my mind that any woman voted for sex offending, mysogenistic Trump, for example, while others have criticized the #MeToo campaign. I can only think that the brain washing of girls from the day they’re born into thinking their experiences are insignificant and we just need to put up and shut up runs deeper than any of us realize.
Despite the fact the BBC have covered the menopause all week, actual information about the condition has been sadly lacking. It’s great to hear about other women’s experiences, but some advice about what to expect or help with symptoms would be useful. The reason this hasn’t happened is that there is very little real information ‘out there’ on the menopause. It’s the last big female event that has yet to be studied. Can you imagine having a baby and your midwife saying “sorry, we don’t know much about childbirth but it’s a natural event so I’m sure you’ll be fine”?! or “maybe you’d like to spend hundreds of pounds visiting a private hormone specialist because NHS childbirth treatment is wildly out of date?” because that’s how we’ve always viewed The Change. The best advice the BBC could come up with on coping with hot flushes at work was to wear layers and have a desk fan. FFS! No mention of treatments to stop hot flushes because to be fair we don’t know what causes them and existing hormone treatments work for some women but definitely not for others.
There’s even been hoo ha this week about using testosterone replacement therapy in menopausal women. All women have some testosterone, it’s not just a male hormone, and of course it can disappear during menopause just like your other hormones, only it’s never talked about. Can you imagine if men’s testosterone disappeared in middle age and they suddenly had no interest in sex?! It would be headline news, yet women’s sex drive and stamina can vamoose and we’re just expected to live with it.
I am delighted there is finally recognition of the menopause and that we are able to openly talk about it for the first time in history. It’s not just women who need to know what’s in store, but our men folk and children too because it’s also going to affect them. I’ll never forget Keira Knightly writing a short essay for the book Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) about the realities of childbirth and the fact her vagina tore, and her husband admitting he had no idea that had happened! It’s the same with menopause. Some women sail through but many don’t and for all of us it’s a transition and, just like childbirth, I don’t think we’re the same people once we’ve come through the other side.
I personally seem to have developed a “fuck off” button, alongside slovenly housework habits, pleasure seeking tendencies and an addiction to peanut M&Ms. I’m also both more chilled and more grumpy than I’ve ever been before. My waistline is disappearing at an alarming rate despite the fact I eat less than I ever have and I will never again wear shorts due to my thighs resembling an entire crate of Jaffa oranges. I feel like an entirely different person to the me of my twenties and thirties and that’s taking some adjusting to, while at the same time being hugely liberating.
I’m loving being a menopausal woman in today’s society, which is finally recognizing us and our experiences. Middle aged women have always been invisible and I will not apologize for the spotlight currently being on girls because it’s been on boys for a few thousand years and we have a lot of catching up to do.