“The change.” “The time of life.” “Climacteric.” “Menopostal.”
No matter how you spin it, if you live long enough, you will encounter Menopause. It signals the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle and a new season of life. Personally, I found this fact liberating and I quietly wondered why menopause wasn’t something to be celebrated with, say, a parade, a Super Bowl sized party or, at the very least, a red velvet cake with the words “Happy Menopause” written in beautiful script icing and adorned with a fist-pumping woman figurine on top. But maybe that’s just me.
Menopause and Shame
Some would argue that the hallmark of menopause revolves around the frustrating symptoms, many of which we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. Maybe. For many, this natural transition brings about anxiety, frustration, and shame.
Today, menopause is still somewhat of a taboo subject, even spoken of with hesitancy and embarrassment in doctor’s offices. The stigma of menopause has resulted in women being misinformed, miseducated, confused and perturbed.
In my early days of menopause, I was awash in silent shame.I couldn’t allow the world to see my distress, to stare at me in wonder as my face flushed in tandem with the flames erupting just under my skin’s surface.
I finally decided to open up to my husband. Since he was on the receiving end of unwarranted moodiness, the recipient of tongue lashings that erupted out of thin air, and the man who almost daily bore witness to my broke down, low-rent strip tease routine (thanks for that, hot flashes), I felt it was time he knew the truth.
“Baby, it’s been 12 months since my last period. I, um er uh,” I stuttered, “I think I’m in menopause.”
There was a moment when his face lit up with the promise of empathy and understanding. All too soon, the moment passed, replaced instead by a “I have no idea what you’re talking about” look on his face as he smiled weakly, painfully. He didn’t know whether to cheer me on or flee in terror. Then and there, his look told me all I needed to know: This man who I vowed to love till death do us part is gonna be utterly useless as I embark on this change of life. I was in this alone . . . up to my soon-to-be thinning eyebrows.
At the time, I hadn’t realized the gravity of what had befallen me.
Menopause is a gift of sorts. It means that we are growing, evolving and, yes, still alive. It’s a stretch, I know, but bear with me here. It’s a time of transition and, despite the symptoms we encounter, it opens up opportunities for women as we move forward in life. So why then do we not give this gift the reverence it deserves?
Menopause as Another Season of Life
In Chinese culture, menopause is referred to as “Second Spring.” It is looked upon as a time of renewal, a time to start over, a positive time in life. Women are valued, and the knowledge that they have reached this pinnacle of life is greeted with an appreciation for their life experiences.
We should take a cue from the Chinese – this new season of life should be accepted with open arms. But that’s difficult to do when it comes with so many uncomfortable symptoms!
Moodiness. Fatigue. Memory lapses. Incontinence. And the coup de grâce, hot flashes. These are all normal symptoms in menopause, and nothing to be ashamed of.
It’s time to erase the stigma of menopause. How do we do this, you ask?
Talk about it openly with other women. Look, if we can talk about the new shoes we just purchased or the latest episode of Grace and Frankie, surely we can engage in rousing discussions about menopause.
Those things that you’re embarrassed about? Confront them head on. I suffer from vaginal atrophy. Yes, it’s as ugly as it sounds. And yes, it has affected intimacy with my husband. However, I refused to be held a prisoner of shame because of the natural changes taking place within my body. I’m doing something about it.
Do your research. Find out all you can about menopause. Google it. Read articles and books on the subject. Check back often here at Kindra. Resources abound; take advantage of them.
Have a chat with your GYN or locate a menopause specialist. When you ask questions, you get answers. If your GYN isn’t providing you with the answers you need, try working with a menopause specialist.
Get help. If you suffer from depression and it’s too much to bear, seek professional help. If something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out.
Get real. Unfortunately, women and menopause go hand-in-hand, skipping down the road of life in a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship. Accept it. Acknowledge it. Treat it as the rite of passage that it is.
Menopause will be as hard as we make it. It’s time to reframe it as a new season, with both potential and pitfalls. Enjoy!
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