We need to talk...
Updated: Mar 4, 2019
This weekend I’ve mainly been found with my copy of Liz Earle’s The Good Menopause Guide in my hand (although I decided not to take it to the hairdressers with me).
My period, which has always been pretty regular, has decided that a “two in one month approach” would be an interesting new challenge for me. Given that, due to their heaviness, I am restricted in activities for the first two days each time (sometimes even leaving the house), this has been a particularly depressing road down which to sally forth on the next step of peri menopause. I was hoping (read ‘assumed’) that they would gradually start spacing themselves out, not appearing even more often.
I’ve had a few other symptoms for a while, the hot flushes appear to have been quite mild so far, however I’m also currently on medication for my trapped nerve, and some of the side effects of that (tiredness, trouble concentrating, lack of energy, dry mouth) are very similar to those of the peri-menopause. So I’m monitoring the situation for now, but decided it was time to educate myself.
The Liz Earle book was recommended to me by Tanya Barrow, who has also written about her experiences here and here. The book is written in a clear and concise way, and I found that each time I was thinking “yes, but what about…?” I would turn the page and there would be my answer.
I am 50 next year, and the thought of that doesn’t really bother me, we all know 50 is the new 40. The very mention of the word menopause, however, sends me running to the hills. Or at least it did until I read this book. Now I feel more prepared and definitely better armed to face the GP when the time comes.
Can you imagine if we all went into pregnancy as ill-informed as we go into the menopause? My mother belongs to the generation which would, if pushed, call it “the change”, and, Cissie-And-Ada style, she and her friends would mouth the word silently to each other, as if speaking the it aloud would invoke its terrors onto them. Like Voldemort. The condition that must not be named.
My mother has discussed the menopause with me as much as she explained puberty to me - ie not at all. Her friend once told me that the menopause was the reason my mother suddenly became terrified of driving any further than 15 miles from home. I didn’t understand how a woman’s periods stopping meant she could no longer drive. At that age I thought that’s all the menopause was. I do know that my mum had one shot at HRT before deciding it didn’t suit her, and that was the end of it.
So why aren’t we talking about the menopause more?
Liz’s book is a great start, as is her website. There’s also Henpicked, which has a wealth of menopause info as well as a lot of other stuff of interest for the woman in her prime (aka over 40). On instagram Dr Louise Newton offers advice as the menopause_doctor and The Menopause Collective offers an often-tongue-in-cheek look at life over 40. Alison also wrote a brilliant post about "The M Word" at RubbishWife, and while I'm at it, check out The Bearded Ladies Club, although not directly menopause related it's definitely relatable.
However, this is stuff we need to go looking for, it’s not part of the day to day conversation.
“I worry I have no clue about what might happen when it happens to me”
“I wish this book had been available when I went through it”
“it really isn’t scary, the best thing is to be prepared and try different things to help. HRT, supplements, whatever works for you, there’s no need for anyone to suffer”
“this book was an eyeopener for me and saved my sanity”
“it’s really been a tough challenge for me. I’m almost through it but this is a long and steep learning curve”
“if you have any symptoms you can start [HRT] don’t wait and certainly don’t suffer, I read way too many comments where women are putting up with misery and braving it out”
“Nobody talks about the menopause. It’s such a taboo. And it can feel isolating because you don’t know who to turn to to talk about it. I remember thinking that if starting your periods was the beginning of womanhood then the end of them signifies the end of my womanhood”
These were some of the responses on my Instagram post about the Liz Earle book yesterday.
Lots of my followers wanted to know about the book and what I thought of it, there were sadly many who were not having a great experience with their GPs, and some disappointed that much of the info out there had to be weeded out from those aimed at selling things.
There were also many positive responses from women who were smashing it, they had educated themselves and along with great GPs and a holistic approach hand in hand with HRT they have reclaimed their lives.
The lessons I’ve taken from this so far are let’s educate ourselves and if we don’t get help the first time we ask our GP, try another. Don’t settle, don’t be fobbed off. The more we blaze a trail now, the more the women following behind us will benefit.
To do that, we have to talk about it, not just mouth the words under our breath like we’re ashamed.
We need to share our experiences. We need to talk about the Menopause.