Once I had got through the worst years of my menopause I had time to reflect on what had actually happened. It was the time at which I wrote a book about my journey.
It took me years to have a comfortable conversation about my symptoms with friends younger than me, mostly because I thought they’d see me as ‘getting on’. I felt old and embarrassed. Thinking back now, I had got it all so very wrong.
I always thought I didn’t need advice and support, I could get through ‘this’ by myself, but when I did finally open up to people, I found many were having similar experiences to me, which was such a relief, and some had it much worse, and my heart went out to them.
I remember speaking to my mum about it many years ago, and she couldn’t even remember her menopause. I do! I remember when I was about 16, one day I saw her stick her finger into a sauce she was stirring on the stove, and then she put her finger into her mouth to taste it. I made some teenage noise like, “Eyewww mum, how could you?” At which, she instantly threw the pan across the kitchen. It crashed into the opposite wall splattering the contents in every direction. I was immediately shocked, embarrassed, and upset, and knew I’d pushed her too far. Somehow, in that instant, I realised that my mum, who had never reacted so, was going through something far, far more than what showed outwardly.
Back in those days, menopause was spoken about so very little, and so she would have had nobody to turn to, to talk about how she felt. The word ‘change’ was used freely back then, but it was something that women had to accept and get on with. Not too many years before that women were still being institutionalised during menopause years, often by their loving husbands, for ‘going mad’. My birth mother actually took her own life when I was three months old. She was 43 and I was told she was going through ‘the change’.
Our close family and friends have to endure our experience. But if we don’t understand what’s happening, how on earth can we explain it to them? What’s our search term if we don’t know where to start looking? How do we know what we don’t know?
So this message is for the friends and relatives of women who are going through menopause. Please, if you notice differences, changes for the worse in a woman you’ve known a long time, reach out to her to see if there is anything you can do to help her learn about menopause and understand more. It’s possible that she may feel as I did, that going through menopause means she’s over the hill, that people will regard her as past it, and she may be very afraid. What she’ll need is patience, love, and understanding from those who love and care about her, and most likely a cuddle, often.
For excellent information on what to do next, go to Louise Newson’s website.
I’m not a qualified clinician, dietician, or psychologist. I write based only on my own experiences and research into menopause. Please always seek the advice of a professional. Jacky Wood