The Thing about Menopause

Menopause is one of those inevitable things that happens to all women.  It doesn't matter what medications you take or whether you've had surgery or not, menopause happens just like aging happens.  Eventually, things change and your body just may not do well with the same levels of hormones that you had when you were younger.   Other illnesses like thyroid problems, diabetes, and high blood pressure can all start in our fifties, muddying the waters even further.  For some women, the time of menopause is liberating, for others it can be really frightening.   We all start to realize that we're getting a little older. 

When my daughters started having their periods, we had a party to congratulate them on this rite of passage.  We had talked about what it meant to be a woman and we marked this transition as something amazing, unique, and special.  I know that many young women are not excited about starting that transition because bleeding, cramps, acne, and mood swings are a little hard to celebrate.  Understanding that the body is changing, it is normal, and that we all share this experience helped my daughters to know that they were not going through this transition alone.

Most women don't take the time to do the same with menopause, but they should.  It is another rite of passage, the start of a new phase of life, and a time that should be celebrated and embraced.  Many women go through menopause without too much trouble with symptoms - their periods stop (no one ever complains about this), they may have a few hot flashes but they feel well and it really isn't a problem, just different.   For some women, going through menopause is like entering adolescence again - with acne and mood swings but also with hot flashes and vaginal dryness to boot!  The transition is not only unfamiliar but also exceedingly uncomfortable.  Just like young women going through "the adolescence from hell", those women may need a little help with the transition of menopause.  Regardless of whether menopause is easier or harder, we also start to have concerns about getting cancer or other illnesses, and we start to feel our mortality a little more.    

My body has been doing things without my consent for my entire life - adolescence, labor and childbirth, many other changes, and it will continue to do so.  It always makes me step back and try to figure out how I'm treating myself and whether I need to change something.  When I had trouble with my hair being brittle, I stopped coloring and realized that my silver hair is soft and thick.  When I had shoulder and neck pain, I realized that I was spending long hours on the computer without moving.  When I put on some weight and didn't feel well, I realized that I had cut down on my exercise and was eating a long list of chemicals in my food.  Stress on your body is another thing that will cause you to stand up and take notice.

After a lifetime of learning about and listening to our bodies, it's important to use this time in our lives to celebrate what we have and to listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us so that we can feel well as we move forward.    Your body will tell you what it needs, one way or the other.   Just remember to reach out to one another if you need a translator.   

And always keep in mind that your body is changing, it is normal, and that we all share this experience.  Remember that you don't have to go through it alone.