You, Menopause and I
Updated: Sep 23, 2020
This blog is dedicated to all the amazing women I know, families and partners
Let's talk about menopause...
Recently, I've become aware of how little we openly talk about menopause, not with our partners, our families, our friends nor medical professionals. I've written this blog to hopefully start the conversation and I would encourage you to continue it with yourself, your families (including your partner and children), work colleagues and friends. This blog is for everyone and especially, for women or anyone who knows someone who has started menopause (35 - 55 approx); in menopause (45 - 55) and post-menopausal (one year after finishing periods 50 - 100).
What are the reasons for talking about menopause?
I would like to share that I have started to openly talk about menopause and the impact it has had on me with my own children (adults now), friends, and other professionals because I realised that one of the reasons I didn't talk about it, was because I didn't understand everything menopause entails and because a lot of my own symptoms I accepted as 'normal'.
If you don't mind me sharing my own experience, I am post-menopausal by 3 years and I am 48. I was young at 44 to have reached menopause and I had probably started perimenopause when I was 38, putting me in the 1 in 100 category of women who start before the age of 40. Now I realise there was nothing normal about it!
I will confess that I also joined the menopause knowledge party late and I am delighted to be here.
If you were to ask me, what kind of future partners would I like my adult children to become? It would be for them to be able to support, empathise and walk with their partner in this new chapter of their lives. In addition, to mirror and model that behaviour to their own children and so the cycle continues. But how can we expect our partners / spouses / families / friends / colleagues to empathise, understand and support us if we don't understand the full impact of menopause ourselves.
If there is one thing we share globally, culturally, socially is that all women go through the different stages of menopause, including peri-menopause (body transitioning to menopause), menopause (periods have completely finished for a year) and post-menopause (no periods for over a year and any bleeding should be checked out by a General Practitioner, just in case). For the purpose of this blog I will use the general term menopause to describe all three stages.
As women, we tend to put up with our symptoms and not seek support or access resources available to us. Here are some startling statistics from the British Menopause Society (BMS):
20% of women do not experience symptoms which means 80% of women do
40% approximately experience hot flushes; night sweats and low levels of energy
Over 50% of women's sex lives have been impacted because of soreness; dryness; atrophy; prolapse; loss of libido
Approximately 30% of women isolated themselves socially because they felt they were not good company
Approximately 50% said menopause had a strong negative impact on their lives, including relationships and work
Approximately 60% of marriages fail in the age group 40 - 60 and menopause was linked to be a contributory factor
Now, I am also very mindful that the impact of menopause is not one person's sole responsibility and that there are other factors at play. However, what we can do as a woman, is take responsibility and become accountable to ourselves for creating our own support and way of managing our symptoms and minimising the impact on ourselves and those around us. With knowledge comes power.
How does having conversations about menopause matter?
This is important because by understanding and learning, we can then create our own management strategies both for the physical and psychological symptoms and include our families, workplaces, friendships in that conversation. For example, if you are experiencing any sort of discomfort in your female genital area, there is support such as women's physiotherapy that can help with prolapses; atrophy; painful penetrative sex; urine leakage to name a few. There is strong evidence to show that this specific physiotherapy can be more successful than surgery.
This matters because some of the benefits is that you are being heard and treated, you are not on your own, and, your quality of life improves both physically and psychologically no matter how old you are.
How can coaching help?
Coaching can help because I would argue that when looking at menopause, it is imperative not to separate the mind from the body as happened in the scientific revolution in the 17th / 18th centuries started by Rene Descartes, a philosopher, who wanted to reduce human suffering through religious wars and thought by separating the mind / soul from the body, this would help work towards alleviating this suffering.
Descartes famously said, 'I think, therefore I am'. Consequently, the scientific revolution reduced human ailments to parts of the body that was observable and was concerned with fixing the symptom but sometimes not the cause. That ruled out emotions and complex psychological behaviours.
Conversely, there is a place for isolating symptoms and treating them medically but there is also a place that we take a holistic / humanistic approach to physical changes, painful or otherwise and appreciate they can have a profound psychological impact which can lead to depression, suicide, anxiety, stress, relationship breakdowns both professional and personal.
For instance, the core principles of yoga, breathing and relaxation techniques is to embody the mind and the body as one and not as reduced separate entities, which is how they are successful in reducing stress and anxiety, and, strengthening the body and mind.
Coaching would also look at how to build your confidence, self-esteem and improve your quality of life both professionally and personally in a holistic way. This would include facilitating conversations surrounding your thoughts and belief systems; diet; exercise; emotions and physical well being and help you to create your own action plan, and, maintain your choices.
Sometimes not only can it be useful to look at the goals we set ourselves and create action plans but it can be vital to look at the impact of doing nothing. I would invite you to try this simple coaching technique by creating two columns of benefits and consequences of doing nothing and list them. Write the impact of what each one would be on you and those around you, if you do nothing.
This can also help to structure that conversation with others to help them understand and empathise and you could take that learning journey together and share with others you have found out. I have shared an example below.
It is important to note the menopause journey is also subjective (your experience can be very different to someone else's or similar and that is okay). What's important is opening up the conversation. It is also about making informed choices. Some treatments will suit you and others won't but at least by finding out, you are making that choice.
What resources are available?
Some of the resources I would like to share is not an exhaustive list and the purpose is to get you started on your learning journey no matter where you are in your menopausal journey:
This is the British Menopausal Society's website where you can find lots of useful information
This is an example of women's physiotherapy available and in no way am I endorsing them, it is an example of what to expect if you find one in your local area
A fantastic book that can be shared with loved ones as it is written with humour of one person's experience of menopause and the impact it has had on her, her family and her professional life.
This book looks at examining the reasons for taking oestrogen and how it can be an effective treatment for women.
Avrum Bluming MD
A link outlining what atrophy is and possible treatments available on the NHS
This is a NHS website looking at how employers can improve the work environment for women experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Other useful links:
Take care, Paula
Damasio A, 2006. Descartes' Error, Vintage: London
Finlay L and Langdridge D, Ed Hollway W, Lucey H and Phoenix A, 2007. Social Psychology Matters, Chapter 7 Embodiment. Milton Keynes: Open University
Lewis J, 2018. Me & My Menopausal Vagina, Great Britain: Pal Books