“She’s on the change!”
It was a phrase often whispered between women when I was a child. It summed up and explained away everything about the poor woman who was the object of concern. If a women who was no longer young should get angry or start crying or, heaven forbid, be dissatisfied with her life and family, she was either mercilessly gossiped about or knowingly forgiven. It’s funny, I can still see so many women whispering behind their hands and giving a conspiratorial nod to each other.
Somehow the dreaded ‘change’ was talked about by everyone yet why did so few seem to want to understand what that person was going through? The poor woman who really was struggling with the effects of the menopause would find herself so often alone, misunderstood and being told to ‘pull herself together’ or just get on and stop complaining.
Many anxious, unwell and unhappy women of my mother’s generation went to see doctors (mostly male), who simply didn’t comprehend the shock to the system and the emotional and physical effects it can have. Their husbands didn’t know, didn’t want to know and most often didn’t believe that they had any reason to be feeling so bad. The more caring ones often kept a shy distance, feeling inadequate and worried in silence.
Then along came Hormone Replacement Treatment. My mother was one of the early guineapigs for HRT. After being ignored by her own GP for years she eventually became so anaemic from continuous menstruation she had to be admitted to hospital. She finally was given a female consultant who wanted to do everything possible to help. She received a slow release implant which should last for three months, though nobody knew quite how long it would actually. When she started feeling rough again she would contact her gynaecologist to arrange for another implant. And at the age of 70+ my mother was still on HRT and still struggling with erratic and very heavy periods. In fact I was already free of that monthly hassle for many years, whilst my mother was still subject to indignities and inconveniences she should have been able to leave behind a long time before.
We might have started to use the official term menopause as opposed to the ‘old wives’ name, but were we any further in helping women? Finally some help was being offered and more women were being listened to. The down-side though was that HRT was heralded as the magic answer that saved the day and started being handed out to anyone who was over 40 and felt a ‘bit down’. It seems to me that no one actually thought that my mother and other women like her may want or need to experience menopause; to pass through the changes to the other side.
I now believe there was more sense to the old name than I used to think. It truly is a time of change and any change brings challenges and questions that can be hard to deal with. It is a time of hormonal changes and the accompanying physiological turmoil, which also coincide with a time of life changes, such as children leaving and parents ageing. It’s a very real sign that we are growing older and all that that implies.
I wonder where we are at now and how much further we have to go in understanding ourselves and in being understood. I still hear so many women literally dreading the menopause, convinced that they will suffer terribly. Of course anxiety, depression, mood swings are common symptoms but then many people experience those with or without the menopause. Remember too that for many people it isn’t too rough a ride at all and I can promise you there many gains on the other side.
There is one thing for certain though, whatever symptoms you, or your mother or your wife are going through, there is no need to suffer alone and in silence. If you’re not in a position to get professional help from a therapist at least talk with your friends and family. Explain how you feel and ask for their help and understanding while you ride the roller-coaster of your hormonal and life changes.
If anxiety and depression or mood swings are getting too much for you, please can contact Jane Miller to discuss how she can help you.
Jane and Janet Rich will be holding a group support workshop here on Thursday 17th October during our Menopause week. Just give us a call on 020 3384 0509 to book your place. 🙂