Is this menopause? How to get ready for ‘the change’ that’s coming

I never took menopause more seriously than when I felt that surge of hormones that signaled to me that I am no longer on the fuzzy edges – is this menopause, or something else? I am in the middle of it – now maybe getting close to the end. (Yes, please!!!)

That’s the thing about a life process – be it birth, puberty, young adulthood, childbirth, menopause, knowing that you’re old not ‘young’ anymore, or death – sometimes it sneaks up on you. But once you’re in it, there’s no backing out, even if you’re not sure you’re ready for it. Am I ready for menopause? I am now – definitely – but I had a few doubts when l started noticing my own menopause signs a few years ago. (BTW, I don’t like the word ‘symptom’ when it’s used in relation to ‘menopause’, since the word symptom has an association with disease. Menopause is definitely NOT a disease.)

When I first met my husband John back in the late 90s, he couldn’t even say the word menopause. I think he actually blushed when I said it. I found his reaction astonishing, and a bit of a challenge.  I think now his attitude probably had something to do with his mother’s experience and the negative attitudes towards menopause that were the norm in the 1960s and 1970s.

I thought about the fact that I would go through menopause  in the next 10 to 15 years and I realized I had some work to do to make menopause normal and acceptable – to both of us!  The big ‘M’ was coming to our house, whether it was welcome or not, so I might as well make peace with it.

I started with a light approach and began to tease John. I brought up the topic and if he flinched, I quickly said ‘menopause, menopause, menopause’ and laughed, so he could get used to the sound of the word – you know ‘Menopause Out Loud’ – like the play.  Over the next few years, he got so used to the word that when I told him I wanted to produce this website, he was as supportive as if I’d said I wanted to produce a website about baseball. Well, not quite as supportive as that!

Traditionally men don’t have a lot of empathy or understanding for women who are PMS-ing or having a mid-life ‘freak-out’. It seems irrational and threatening to them. Who is this banshee who says she’s my wife? I can hear the collective gasp of horror expressed by all men living with a mid-life woman: ‘Just exactly how long is this going to go on?!?’

Women actually have a few more questions like: When’s it going to start? When’s it going to be over?  And: ‘Is this menopause?’ Some fortunate women have few or no uncomfortable indicators of menopause at all. However, the rest of us ask ‘What can I do to get through this time without doing serious harm to myself or my loved ones’?

It’s actually too bad that the experience of menopause is different for each woman, because if it were the same, there’d be predictability. First this happens, then you feel that, then you have a meltdown, then you become yourself again, only better!

But some of it is predictable. When you reach your 40s to early 50’s chances are your focus on your body will change into a focus on your talent, your power and your passion for living life according to your terms, not your ability to please someone else.

If you have uncomfortable menopause indicators such as hot flashes, depression, fatigue, there’s lots that you can do to help yourself naturally.

1 Accept the truth that you’re not going crazy and you’re not alone.

2 Put your attention on reducing your experience of stress . Much research has linked ruined adrenal gland function to heightened menopausal distress.  

3 Be kind to yourself during this special time. In other words ‘give yourself a break’. Haven’t you felt the primal urge to pull the covers over your head and stay home when you’ve had an uncomfortable menstrual period? Go home early and have a nap? Can’t do that you say? I’ve got to work? Think it over – seriously! Taking a ‘sick’ day to stay at home and nurture yourself through a day or two of menstruation or menopausal blues – how beneficial that would be to all of you – body, mind and spirit? It won’t be news to you when I say our society has lost touch with honoring our females, and respecting our bodies and biology.

If you decide to research menopause, as much as I have, you’ll find there’s a consensus among women who’ve been through ‘the change’ that this is a time of our re-birthing. It’s the beginning of an important phase in our lives. This is our time. We’ve birthed and raised our babies, we’ve built careers and been supportive of our partner’s career. Now we may connect with a need to look inward and nourish ourselves.

We have other choices that are not available to, or don’t occur to younger people. We can share our lifetime of acquired wisdom and compassion with others. We can look inside ourselves and find our ‘life’s purpose – why we’re here.

You’ve heard the song ‘To everything there is a season’? This is your season!

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