I didn’t know about menopause. I mean I knew it existed, but if the women I knew spoke about it at all, we spoke about the ‘the change’ like we were Les Dawson characters, elbowing our bosoms, mouthing the words in silence.
I don’t know why we didn’t talk about it. We talked about everything else, my women friends and me. We called our vagina’s ‘VAGINA’S,’ loud and proud. We raised babies, talked cracked nipples, postnatal sex, leaking bits. We’ve been through all the screenings and a few close shaves together, so it wasn’t as if we were uncomfortable talking about our bodies.
I don’t know why we didn’t know – I mean, I’m a well-informed woman. I read stuff. I Google. I’m 51 bloody years old for god’s sake, and all I really knew about menopause was hot flushes? Bit of dryness down below?
Holy shit, we did not know about the rest! The brain fog, the exhaustion combined with insomnia, the sore boobs, the dry skin, the spots, the weight gain, the mood swings, the rage, the flooding, the feeling utterly, miserably, not like ourselves. Did I mention the hot flashes, night sweats, and lack of sex drive?
We didn’t know. Each of us struggling with odd little things from our early 40’s and in my case, late ’30s and we didn’t know how to put it all together and say ‘Oh, is this the start of the C-H-A-N-G-E?’
We didn’t know about women facing discrimination at work as they struggled to manage increasingly difficult symptoms – irregular bleeding, anxiety. We didn’t know that even though there are effective ways to help manage the symptoms, many women are dismissed by their doctors or worst still treated for things like depression instead of being offered hormone therapies. Hormone therapies which are now safer than ever, hormone therapies that some reports say as few as 30% of women experiencing symptoms actually have access to.
And before you start, don’t try telling me this is a natural process that we need to just endure, do some yoga maybe, avoid sugar, pop a couple of Black Cohosh? Appendicitis is a natural process, but no one tells you to get through that with a bit of downward dog and some wheatgrass juice.
HRT saved me. HRT gave me back parts of myself that I didn’t know I’d lost. I know it’s not for everyone and I can feel the judgement that I am allowing my body to be medicalised but popping a couple of Black Cohosh up ya bum when you’re crazed with hormone-fueled rage, insomnia and sitting on your sofa in a puddle of your own menstrual blood is, quite frankly, bollocks.
At first, I struggled to find the right dose as my hormone’s levels swung back and forth like a u-turning Tory minister, but eventually, I found a way back to myself. No that’s not right. Not back to myself. Forward, to a new myself, with patches and sticky black circles on my legs like some weird abstract tattoo.
In all this not talking about menopause, why are we not talking about how powerful we’ll become, once this bleeding thing has all settled?
How freed from our empty nests, and moon-cups we might have the energy to discover more about ourselves, about the world. I know for many there are caring responsibilities for ageing parents, and young adults to settle out in the world, all the while our hormones dancing us a bloody tango – hot flashes and cramps at the same time, such fun? But there is a freedom waiting for us, one this bleeding thing is over. Joy at being who we are. Who have we become after all these years?
Now we talk of nothing else, me and my women friends.
We are louder now, stronger, more confident, more likely to say Fuck off! And No!
Maybe that’s why we didn’t know about menopause.
Maybe that’s what they don’t tell you?
Maybe loads of newly middle-aged women being bolshy and uncooperative and wanting everyone else to piss off is too much for society to bear.
Maybe the big secret is that, instead of crying in the loo for no reason, we are going to become powerful, sexy, utterly fabulous, and not going take any shit anymore.
In all this change, after all this drama has settled, maybe we will realise that now is our time. Our time to come out to play. Our time to take centre stage.
And maybe for those women following us, we should shout it out a bit louder.
The future is bright, baby, because now we’ve changed.