Nothing makes you face your age more than the menopause

Helen Seymour is in peri-menopause, and writes every week for IMAGE about the trials and tribulations of this new stage of life.

I sat around a lunch table last week with five women. One was seventy-five, the rest ranging from forty-five to fifty-five. All were at different stages of peri and post-menopause. Here’s how the conversation went:

“… Hot flushes were awful … “
“… I didn’t get them …”
“… I was so depressed …”
“… I didn’t get depressed at all …”
“… The anxiety is what kills me …”
“… I don’t have any anxiety …”
“… I’d be lost without HRT …”
“… I never needed it …”
“… Neither did I …”
“… My menopause was very mild …”
“… Mine went on for twenty years …”
“… CBD is working very well for me …”
“… I’m on a progesterone cream and it’s brilliant …”
“… That didn’t work for me …”

We are all different. We are all going to have a different menopause experience. What will work for some of us, won’t work for others.

Some of us may be blessed to have an easy menopause. Believe it or not, there are women out there who just quietly menopause and cruise on through. Seriously — my mother is one of them. My aunt is another. And a woman I know from the gym. All of them just glided through it, like swans. I do have another name for them, but I’m not allowed to say it here.

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Different challenges

Most of us will experience menopause in different ways, to different degrees, with different challenges. And one of the first challenges we have to figure out is whether we are experiencing it. Is this actually happening? And if it is happening, the next challenge we face is trying to come to terms with that fact.

Up until the point when your own menopause starts, you think of women in menopause as being old. It’s something your mother or your aunt or your friend’s mum got, but you never will. In your mind, you will never be that old. Until suddenly, one day, you are.

Honestly, I think there is nothing that makes you confront your age more than the menopause does. You enter your forties, everyone tells you how young you look (and you do). You go to the gym, you watch your figure, you get your hair done, your nails. You stay on trend; bomber jackets are in, you’ve got one; tassel earrings, five pairs. Instagram your workouts, parties with the girls, people can’t believe you’ve got a kid going into secondary school.

Your forties progress, and you still look great, and you are great, you are playing a blinder… and then …

It’s a hint at first, a gentle warming, a restless night. Did I imagine it? I probably did. Too much wine. You brush the thought aside. The physical symptoms disappear for a couple of months. Then they reappear. You brush them aside. You have a bad day. Was that … am I … no, it’s the flu, I just feel a bit low after the flu. Why can’t I sleep? I didn’t drink last night, I still have a headache …

The pattern continues, and then one day your brain and your body stage an intervention. With me, it was three days of mad hot flushes, a temper flash, depression and no sleep all rolled into one. I’m actually grateful that the alarm bells rang as loudly as they did. Only a complete dumb-dumb could deny what they were. It was black and white, a matter of fact, this is happening. And when you know definitively that it is happening, when the barrels of that menopause gun are staring you right in the eye, in between the practicalities of figuring out what treatment or course of action is the best for you, there is a point, a definitive moment, that you face your age.

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And for some people, that’s hard. Menopause can be a huge physical, emotional and psychological challenge for some women. So, if you see a pal who you think might be struggling with it, reach out. Lend her a hand. Because we’re not all swans — most of us aren’t in fact. Swans are rare.


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