What is menopause? Menopause is a normal occurrence that most women face around the age of 45-55. This takes place after the last ovulation which means the end of the reproductive period. What is going to happen after menopause? It results in physical and psychological variations in the body of a woman. When aren’t we talking about menopause in mass media? We live in a patriarchal society.
Television, magazines, movies, news channels stay miles away from talking about this phenomenon that happens to every woman. Something most people don’t understand is that menopause is rough, but it can also be a wonderful experience.
As Kristin Scott Thomas says in an episode of Fleabag, “It is horrendous but then it’s magnificent.”
Louise Morris, a Dubai-based athlete, reveals her heartfelt inspiring experience of menopause. She also asks an important question about how we train girls for the “coming of age,” but we’re not preparing ourselves for the other end of the spectrum.
This is her story.
“I would find myself crying in the middle of shopping malls”
When I was younger, menopause was something that happened when you were old, and it was the end of life as you knew it! It was not something I thought too much about as it was so far off, it would be an eternity before it hit me. And then eternity hit!
When I was around 45, the signs and signals crept up on me . My monthly cycle backed off and I started to feel a little “off”. Straight on to Dr. Google where I started ticking off the classic symptoms and signs of the menopause. Even then I thought surely not.
I am generally ruled by my emotions (I blame being a Cancerian). But I suddenly found myself on a pendulum of highs and lows of emotions and erratic outbursts that I had no explanation for.
I don’t have children; the maternal gene passed me by. However, I would find myself crying in the middle of shopping malls feeling so incredibly distraught when seeing families and children together. Not having children was my choice but now I was dealing with that choice being taken away from me.
“You feel like you are on fire”
Then there were the flushes. I would find myself saying the classic line of “is it me or is it hot in here” umpteen times a day. I always thought a hot flush was that you just felt hot. But oh no, this is something that burns from the inside out – it’s like a bunsen burner going off in your body. The sensation of heat flowing through your body as you get hotter and hotter and hotter could be quite overwhelming at times. The flushes would last for anything from 30 seconds to a minute. There is nothing you can do to stop them and you feel like you are on fire. I would have my jumper on, jumper off, jumper on, jumper off. Layers were the way to go.
I made my flushes into a joke and would quite often say “excuse me, I’m having a moment”. My friend bought me an old fashioned hand fan so I would sit at my desk fanning myself like something out of the Victorian era. I’ve been in situations when “flushing” which has made me feel awful. One instance when I was shopping and flushing, I asked the shop assistant for a tissue. She took one look at me and haughtily replied “I think you need more than one”. I was mortified and scurried out of the shop feeling so humiliated. I had to be so careful about what clothes I could wear to avoid unsightly sweat patches.
“As a society, we tend to look at older women as past their sell-by date.”
The night sweats were just as bad; duvet on, duvet off. I would wake up in the middle of the night saturated. Tiredness eventually kicks in because your sleep is so disturbed.
I knew my body was going through “the change” as I just didn’t feel like me at all. I constantly felt anxious and agitated. My confidence was at an all-time low and I generally felt invisible. I pride myself on being super organized but that had all changed. I had lost focus and couldn’t decide if my life depended on it. My brain was shrouded in fog.
Menopause is not something that you just go through
Eventually, I took myself off to the doctors to face the reality of life and the aging process. I’ve got a fantastic doctor who was great at explaining that what I was going through was perfectly normal. I also started reading up and bought many books on the subject which were helpful (again in helping me realize I wasn’t going mad!). We decided to put me on a low level of HRT to help with the mood swings and flushes. My happy pills, as I affectionately call them, have been the best thing for me. I can honestly say I now feel the best I have in a long time.
I’m an extremely active person, running has been my savior, and the menopause has helped me become more in tune with my body (and has helped keep the weight off). At 49, I’m now the fittest and healthiest I’ve been all my life, and with fitness comes increased confidence. I take much better care of myself and I am more aware of the need for exercise, a well-balanced diet, and sleep.
Menopause conversation is getting better
It does seem the menopause is becoming less of a taboo subject and is being more openly talked about (either that or I am simply more tuned in to anything relating to bodily changes!). I do think it is an important topic to discuss. I’ve been relatively lucky. I had all the classic symptoms but was able to get them under control quickly once I had decided on the appropriate course of action. As a society, we tend to look at older women as past their sell-by date. Our bodies are changing/adapting, and this is both hard physically and emotionally. We prepare girls for “coming of age” but we do not prepare ourselves for the other end of the spectrum.
I have a great group of friends who are all at the same stage in life. We laugh about it together but we also embrace it. There are a whole plethora of women over 50 who are strong, active, and who I hugely admire and take inspiration from. I’ve certainly realized life doesn’t end when you hit the menopause and I’m proud that, whilst my body continues to go through an enormous change, it’s still healthy and strong and that keeps me active and young.