It’s good to talk, but not, apparently, about ‘women’s troubles’ or issues ‘downstairs’. If you don’t believe me then just try it. I don’t mean walk up to a random stranger and try and engage them in a full-on conversation about your perimenopause symptoms today – that’s just weird. But if you mention anything to do with menopause to most people they will clam up, visibly cringe or just find the whole thing thoroughly awkward in a very British kind of way. More tea?
In an age where, finally, it’s now not a sign of weakness to talk about feelings and mental health, it would seem that menopause and perimenopause are still taboo subjects. Yet they both have a huge impact on how we feel and our mental health. So no, I don’t think I’m ‘ovaryacting’ when I feel angry about having to suffer in silence in order not to offend anyone.
If people are judging me because I look a bit rough today or I’m a bit quiet, why should it be OK to sympathise with me if I have anxiety, but not if my anxiety is being caused by a natural stage in my life? Surely, if you can support a person feeling a bit down at the moment because they are finding things a bit tough, then you can help me when I’m tired and teary, too? Is talking to me that hard?
The trouble is, some of us women will sail through certain stages of perimenopause with little trouble and barely even notice it’s happening. Others, however, will be crippled with symptoms and because WE DON’T BLOODY TALK ABOUT IT, don’t even realise it is perimenopause making us feel that way. Because we don’t talk about it, these women don’t know it exists, think they are too young for ‘the change’ and then worry themselves silly over what is happening to them.
I didn’t talk at first. I was waaaay too embarrassed to talk about it. I can’t even bring myself to say the word ‘period’ out loud FFS. I’ll happily swear like a fucking trooper with total gay abandon, but the word ‘period’ still makes me blush and cringe.
Perimenopause and menopause are natural stages of life, not illnesses or diseases so dreadful and fearful that only the brave can whisper their names. I’m just in a transitional period before another milestone in my life. I’m not asking you to celebrate with me like I’ve just passed my driving test or bought my first home. I just want understanding, maybe a bit of compassion, but don’t brush me off muttering about my hormones as that’s just cruel.
On any given day I could have a period so heavy I can’t leave the house, boobs that hurt so much I’m convinced they are containing a nuclear explosion, skin so itchy I want to scratch it off, a brain so useless I can’t finish my sentence when I’m talking to you, a body that won’t work because I’ve not slept for days, or feeling surges of heat so hot I’m expecting a visit from the Green lobby. There’s plenty to choose from that doesn’t mention my unmentionables, and that’s not even mentioning the hair loss, stress incontinence, irritability, anxiety, tearfulness, depression, and weight gain.
Perimenopause is complicated and will be a different experience for different women. I am being battered mentally and physically. Then to top it all off, I’m made to feel invisible because nobody wants to talk to me about it or try and understand what I’m going through. It’s a scary time, and without people to talk to I can feel quite lonely.
I’m not asking you to show interest in every detail of my perimenopause because it isn’t pretty, and I’m not asking for special treatment because being singled out is as bad as being ignored. But when it comes to perimenopause, women really do need to start talking with other women so we can start supporting each other. Let’s not let each other go through this alone.