Facing our minds through menopause

I’m reading The Change by Germaine Greer, which is her book about women, aging and menopause.

I have found that menopause and aging in general about women isn’t talked about much, even among women, and Greer talks a lot about that. Women talk about their periods and their experiences of being pregnant and with childbirth, but peri menopause and menopause don’t come up. Or are even actively avoided.

When I have mentioned to my women friends that I’m going through menopause they’ve gotten a knowing look, but said little if anything about their own experiences. Almost as if they understand and empathize with me, but feel there’s no need to actually talk about it at all. Or maybe talking about it opens up too much that’s too close and personal.

My mother talked about the physical symptoms she and her mother experienced. But menopause is not only physical. In fact, I am coming to realize that the physical symptoms only highlight the emotional and psychological changes going on inside me, and I suspect that is so for many other women as well.

Also that follows as to why women are simply not talking about it, because it’s more about the mental side of menopause that gets us and makes us feel vulnerable. Sure the physical side can make us feel as if we’re out of control and sometimes very uncomfortable, but I think it’s how that makes us feel emotionally that really clams us up.

I have felt like I was chained and needed to break the bonds to free myself, not only from lifestyles that no longer suited who I was, but also from demands physical and emotional that I no longer wanted to carry. I have been in a role for years looking after children, aging parents, the house, car, animals and then myself. An exhausting list that I no longer want to carry.

I made an effort to find out more about menopause by reading different books. Some are solid information and uplifting, such as Christiane Northrup’s book, The Wisdom of Menopause. I read, or tried to read, another by Dr. Jen Gunter called The Menopause Manifesto and found it a laundry list of all the things that can go wrong as women age, and had to stop reading it because I found it super depressing. So it’s not easy to find good information on menopause out there that doesn’t make us feel as if we’re just a walking time bomb of aging bones waiting to go off.

But again it is not only the physical that is the hardest part. Northrup addresses the emotional side of it too, and does a good job of it, but even then where are the conversations among friends? They just don’t seem to be there.

Considering the stigma around discussing anything remotely mental, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. And changes can bring up some difficult realizations, such as not finding a relationship fulfilling anymore or not really enjoying sex like we used to. And people aren’t as talkative about those aspects of their lives. Not a lot of women will openly say, “My life with my husband doesn’t make me happy anymore,” or “I used to really like sex, but now I feel I do it more out of duty than because I want to.” That may come up in therapy, for women who go, but not across the table in a cafe.

I am not shy about talking about it and all the changes I’ve made in my life I feel mostly because of it. I turned 50 about a month ago and I have no problem telling people that. Aging doesn’t scare me. What scares me more is the idea of women all over the globe not talking about how they feel, especially once they stop getting their periods and enter a new phase of life.

So I will talk about my feelings and experiences here, and anyone who wants to talk with me about their experiences are welcome. I am not a doctor and I can’t give any medical advice, but I have spent many, many hours writing in my journal telling myself the truth about how I feel, and that truth hasn’t always been easy to write, even just to myself, nevermind to live or talk about with others.

The inner work I’ve done has given me a certain knowledge and even wisdom however, and I work every day to keep being honest with myself above all. That trickles down into my relationships with other people too, and sometimes with some unexpectedly good results.

I think the best we can do for ourselves and others, especially as we change and grow, is to know ourselves really well, and accept that we are not who we were twenty or thirty years ago, and that in all honesty, we wouldn’t want to be.

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