As I edged towards fifty I absolutely dreaded what was coming; the sweats, the sagging, the fat, the memory removal and the dark descent into the menopause, or as my mother’s generation referred to it in a whisper, ‘the change of life’. Looking for a glimmer of hope that it might not be all bad, I asked friends, and people on social media, if there was a bright side to the menopause; their replies were ‘no periods’, and er..’no periods’. Apart from no periods though what was there too look forward to? As I edged towards my mid-fifties I grew ever fearful. I read articles and books on how to have a good menopause and following various recommendations I took small steps to help me deal with the inevitable. I stopped drinking (the best thing I’ve ever done) upped my exercise, cut out spicy food (easy, I only ate it when I was out; I don’t really like it) and stopped eating chocolate (only for a week but the thought was there). I eventually noticed at the age of 57 that I hadn’t had a period for months, maybe a year and I still felt like me but slightly tweaked and not necessarily in a bad way. No weight gain (cutting out the drinking and upping the exercise saw 16lb melt away) no flushes or sweats (as an ice queen I was looking forward to feeling warm all the time) but my memory goes walkabout, words evade me and anxiety often creeps up in the middle of the night leaving me wide awake and worried but I’m never sure what I’m worried about so I worry about worrying. I look my age (bye bye fat, hello wrinkles), my joints ache a lot (but I tell myself it’s the exercise), it takes a lot of effort to burn up the calories and I can’t do the splits or play the piano but I couldn’t do those things before the menopause and never say never.
Do I think the small measures I have taken have helped with the symptoms? I don’t know but they have helped me feel better about myself for some of the time and exercise is, without a doubt a mood booster. I know there is a positive side to being an older woman in the 21st Century. The menopause isn’t the taboo subject it used to be and some women, my mother included, don’t live long enough to experience the menopause. I realise that I’ve been incredibly lucky up to now and that some women have symptoms that have a massive impact on their day to day lives. It’s a change in our lives that we can’t escape and we have to get through it whether it’s with HRT, mainlining chocolate or going to bed for ten years. So, what are the positives apart from no periods? For me it’s the new attitude of not giving a toss what people think about. I wear what I want, do things I want to do and some of the time (not all the time I haven’t had a personality change) say exactly what I think without worrying if people like me or not. It’s still having the opportunity to do something different (I trained as an exercise instructor and hula hoop teacher at 57) even if we have to do it around our on-going commitments; I still have to work full time whilst others have to look after older and younger generations. It’s the gradual appreciation of the smaller things in life, a nice walk, a cup of coffee and a magazine, the appearance of a flower you planted last year. It’s the knowledge that you don’t have to be good at something to enjoy doing it and it doesn’t have to lead anywhere; I’m still studying for exercise qualifications that I’ll probably never put into practice because I can’t afford to give up the day job.
Here we have a space to share the good, the bad, the tips, and help each other be uplifted whilst we celebrate being older if not necessarily wiser!