I won’t lie, I’ve had some miserable menopause moments so far. But that doesn’t mean everyone will have a crap time like me, some will sadly have things much worse and hopefully many will sail through it all having few, if any, troublesome symptoms.
We have lots of ladies shouting about menopause right now – meno-warrior princesses working tirelessly to get their voices heard for us all. They are taking their fight to everyone who will listen as they campaign for the help and support us women need to live through this natural transition in our lives. While they campaign on our behalf, we should not ignore the ‘other’ fight.
On our worst days, menopause can feel like something we endure. But maybe we should be looking at this transition from a different angle? Maybe we should stop fighting against this terrible, awful hormonal shit storm and instead start living. And yes, I say this to you as I sit here at 2pm in my dressing gown, exhausted and sleep deprived after another period of peri-somnia.
I’ve had a little chat with myself today (no – talking to yourself is not another perimenopause symptom) and I’ve had a little bit of a lightbulb moment. OK, so various symptoms are playing havoc with my body and mind on an evil rotational system, some might even call it a cycle <wink>. Of course it’s a fucking cycle and it’s one I’ve been riding since I was 11 years old. I’ve been fighting hormones for most of life so far and enough is enough.
I’ve been able to live my life quite successfully until recently. It’s time to take back control of my life again, to stop fighting and start living. I need to get on with things and give myself a ‘happy menopause’. After all, I can’t spend the next 10 years pissed off and hating other humans. But where do I start? There are a few areas we can work on to help ourselves, and I’m having a dabble to see what works for me.
First of all I have looked at my mood. Now I’m over the initial shock and fear stage, I really need to stop being so negative. I need to focus on the positives and the one positive that most people think of is ‘no more periods’, right? Well I suppose in the scheme of things that is a plus. I’ll no longer dread weekends away or nights out that clash with my period which was always an unwelcome intruder in my social life, or just simple things like exercise. My period always makes me feel drained and tired, so that will be something to look forward to.
I’m slowly becoming more aware of my triggers these days. In fact, so has the husband who now steps slowly away from me when he notices the slightest hint of a volcanic outburst if I’m struggling to get my words out and answer simple questions like ‘do you want red or white wine’. He just passes me wine and I gratefully accept! I really recommend doing this – identifying your triggers, not the wine!
Situations at home and at work will create stress and make your symptoms more severe. This is something else I can work on, maybe even keep notes of when I’m having a bad time, and if I can bloody remember, note what was happening before it all went down-hill. I can then arm myself with a bank of coping strategies to challenge the things I can deal with, and get help with the ones out of my control.
One of my biggest struggles is with the psychological symptoms of menopause. My self-esteem has taken a hammering, I can be very irritable (much to the amusement of some people as apparently I have lost my ‘filter’). I can feel quite low some days and my memory is shot to pieces. I took some advice here and was told to dabble with something that relaxes me but also provides cognitive stimulation.
Now, I am not good with my hands and my interests are quite unusual for women, so it has tickled friends and family that I have suddenly become obsessed with crafting, sewing and drawing. I have not gone as far as doodling journals and mood trackers, but now the family have stopped poking fun, I might have a dabble there, too. In fact, I am seriously considering buying a decent sewing machine and indulging properly, even if I laugh at myself for turning into the middle-aged person I swore I’d never be.
Physically, I’ve started to notice a change in my skin and in my hair. Neither of them were particularly perfect pre-menopause, but I was doing OK. My face now seems to feel drier more quickly and, the really upsetting one, my hair is falling out much more than ever before.
I’ve made improvements here, too. I’m using a slightly better quality face cream on a daily basis that is designed for ‘older skin’. Buying that was depressing in itself! But I’m starting to notice the difference.
I’ve also signed up to Noom which I mentioned in a previous blog, here, and I’m pleased to report this is really helping! The CBT side of things has helped me get my brain into a better relationship with food and understand my emotional eating habits. The diet side of things has improved the quality of food I eat, and this has impacted my skin and my hair positively.
I can’t tell you how much vegetables I get through each week these days – it’s a lot! But the best part is that Noom has helped me shift almost 3 stone at a very tough time in my life. My coach is an utter sweetheart and totally understands what menopause is doing to me, even though I’m old enough to be her mother. Her support is just what I need right now.
I am slowly learning that I can live with menopause because I have found ways to focus on my mental health as well as improve my diet. Culturally, I’m facing challenges in my worklife and feel hugely grateful to be going through this at a time when women are determined to get their voices heard and remove the stigma from menopause. I’ve managed to build a little support network around me as I prepare myself for the long game – I have a feeling that life will be tricky for a good while yet. I don’t kid myself that I can continue to do this without more substantial interventions, but I don’t want to play all my cards too soon.
I know it’s possible to live with menopause – I’m doing it right now. I just need to live well with it, and to do that I had to take some control so I could make my outlook a little brighter. These are some of my tips:
- Get up and get dressed! It’s so easy to be lazy, miserable and stay in your PJs. Get up and make your bed, have a shower and put some clean clothes on. And wash your hair, even if you don’t have the energy to hold up the hairdryer. If you are tired, get an early night instead of having a lazy morning. You’ll feel so much better.
- Tidy up. Tidy the house, the garden shed, your office/desk or even your mind. By putting things away, de-cluttering and keeping on top of things you will feel in control. Mess just brings you down.
- Step away from devices. Pick up a book, a magazine or a newspaper. Enjoy turning the pages and allow your mind to recharge without the distractions of phones and tablets.
- Get outside. Go for a walk – I love walking on my own, without the kids or the dogs. The walk becomes my time without any stress where I’m only responsible for me. Stop and stare at a view, take deep breaths of air and let those shoulders drop down.
We can all feel miserable from time to time as we learn to live with our symptoms, but that doesn’t mean that we should stop ‘living’. Stop fighting against the things that make you struggle and start living with them. Take control and find ways to help you have a ‘happy’ menopause. You might just surprise yourself. I did.