The shame of menopause

At the time when my symptoms were at their worst, I’d landed a job in the office of a young, ambitious property developer.  The team were all in their twenties and early thirties, and I’d got the job through a friend.  I think the owner did my friend a favour in agreeing, because I really was a lot older than their average age!  So right off, I felt like I’d been given the position ‘as a favour’ and that I was also ‘the oldest one in the company’.  But my age hadn’t, until that point, really troubled me, so this should be easy.  I was always accepting and didn’t think much about it.  But now, well, this was different.  As I got involved in the role, which was during perimenopause, what increased my feelings of incredible discomfort within my working environment were the six(plus)-times-an-hour hot flushes, which was accompanied by never feeling clean, the intense feelings of anxiety, the irrational bouts of anger, the frightening episodes of complete memory loss, the need to run and scream, because I didn’t know how to handle these simply impossible experiences that I’d never come across in my life before, ever.

Looking back, I couldn’t explain what was happening.  Yes, I knew I’d reached my menopause years, but that’s all I knew.  I had no idea if my symptoms were normal, or were they less or more than others felt?  I had no idea who to talk to or where to look for help.  All I knew were the very real and new emotions I was feeling.  I felt like the only one who could possibly feel as awful as I did.  What on earth was happening to me?

At work, I was amongst younger, vibrant people – the exact type of person I’d been, up until just what seemed like only months earlier.  And now look at me!  I have no idea where my sharpness, my energy, my sense of fun, my joie de vivre, had all gone.  Oh god!  I’ve reached middle age!  I felt so old compared to my colleagues.  I’d always felt decades younger than I was.  Not now.  I felt older than my years.  I couldn’t speak to anyone about it, I had to hide it at work.  If I didn’t, what would they all think?  They’d want me out, wouldn’t they?  I couldn’t fit in any more.  I’d passed that point where I felt I could fit in anywhere.  I’d become the older generation.  What do they think of me when I look vacant?  I can’t fan myself because they’ll know I’m having a hot flush.  I can’t let them see that!  Surely I must appear as capable as they are, or I wouldn’t stand a chance in this job.  

But all I really, REALLY wanted to do was cry, and I did, every night I got home from work.  Every morning I woke up, I wanted to stay in bed.  I didn’t want to be seen outside.  I felt so ashamed that I’d reached a time of my life that I couldn’t control, I felt weak, old, and past it.  I’d reached that point that I’d seen other women get to and I never believed it would happen to me.  I had been totally in denial.  Who knew that when my time came, it would be so emotionally and physically draining, dramatically life-changing! Well, it was for me.  I felt so alone.

I knew so little.  I had such a limited and judgemental view.  I was ignorant and uncompassionate!  I certainly learned my lessons the hard way.

Shame has no place during this transition.  It should be a time to allow the spotlight of menopause to shine upon us and encourage us to reflect on our lives, taking a very, very close look at how we’re treating ourselves.  Are we being nurturing and caring, or are we starving ourselves of self-love and acceptance?  Do we accept that this time of our life is normal, natural and healing?  Do we see it as a time to strengthen ourselves, or as a time of weakness? 

I went through anxiety, depression, darkness, and utter imbalance, before learning that I’d been given the opportunity to look at myself closely.  It was only then that I understood.  I was doing everything wrong.  I was making everything worse.

Thank goodness women in the workplace are finally getting heard!

#menopause #perimenopause #menopauseintheworkplace #menopauseshame

 I’m not a qualified clinician, dietician, or psychologist.  I write based only on my own experiences and research into menopause. J Wood

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