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SUSANNE MITCHELL

AUTHOR

The Truth About The Transition to Menopause

Back in 1969, David Reuben, psychiatrist and author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask said: “Once the ovaries stop, the very essence of being a woman stops … the postmenopausal woman becomes as close as she can to being a man or not really a man but no longer a functional woman.” A clear example of the misogyny we have been forced to fight for generations.

The postmenopausal woman seems to scare the bejesus out of modern men too. In 2008, referring to Hillary Clinton, radio host Rush Limbaugh said, “Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?” But who cares how a woman looks as she ages? Surely what we all do is more far more important than our appearance?

In recent times women newsreaders and TV presenters have been stripped of their jobs after they reach a ‘certain age’. Film and television executives drop women from leading roles like a hot potato once they stop being … well … hot.

Not to mention the ogres we apparently become, if you believe the Father of Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud: “It is a well-known fact … that after women have lost their genital function their character often undergoes a peculiar alteration [and they become] quarrelsome, vexatious and overbearing …” If we do then it’s surely because we are so pissed at men like you making comments like that. I know, right? 

And the rollercoaster hormonal retreat we suffer doesn’t help our tolerance.

The reality of menopause for women today

Even in 2021 women dread the consequences of losing our youth. We have years of mid-life myths and history to undo on top of dealing with the physical effects of perimenopause and hormonal deficiency.

I used to walk into rooms like I owned them, I felt comfortable in my skin and enjoyed a healthy social life. But suddenly, through the perimenopausal transition I felt like an empty shell. With a sagging jawline, bulging muffin top and dinner lady arms my feminine power fled my once-defined waistline and took exile on my arse. And I couldn’t remember where I’d left my libido either!

Perimenopausal women are mostly Generation-X aged 40–55. Born between 1965 and 1980, we are often stretched between work, caring for elderly parents and raising children – so exhausted we often feel there’s simply nothing left to give.

How can we possibly achieve a worthwhile life or live up to our fast disappearing youthful potential? We were brought up to believe we could have it all, a fairy tale for the early years of feminism’s second wave. Sold on a myth that we could become anything because we had more opportunities than our mothers did. 

The reality of trying to do it all for so long has hit us hard. We can be super critical of ourselves in our careers, our looks, our weight, our finances and relationship status. Add to that the stress of trying to remain on the career ladder while Millennials with youthful exuberance climb over us.

‘With a sagging jawline, bulging muffin top and dinner lady arms my feminine power fled my once defined waistline and took exile on my arse.’

We feel invisible at times and many women are tormented by feelings of despair over failing to live up to the opportunities we were offered. Our discontent grows, often exacerbated by divorce, or relationships breaking down and the onset of health issues, reading glasses and hormonal deficiency.

Enter perimenopause, stage left wearing an invisibility cape. 

For many the withdrawal of oestrogen can be the last straw and all through the additional worries of surviving through the current pandemic.

Changing the misconception of midlife

In Western societies we generally view menopause as the end of our youthful bloom. We dry up, get narky and become advertising fodder for incontinence knickers and funeral insurance. 

But we don’t have to buy into it, because we’ve got a lot more life left in us yet, once we sort out the physical bedlam and find the right support to help us through.

For many the withdrawal of oestrogen can be the last straw and all through the additional worries of surviving through the current pandemic.

The Japanese word for the menopause life phase is konenki, which translates to renewal years and energy. One study found Mayan women, although they experience uncomfortable symptoms, look forward to menopause, as it provides newfound freedom and status.[1] Indeed in many cultures, menopause is seen as a time of new respect and freedom for women.

Why don’t we, in Western society adopt this view? If we had a societal shift in our attitude and expectations towards menopause then women in perimenopause would approach and manage the process better.

We are a powerful consumer group and together we must find a voice to demand change, starting with the way the medical profession treat us when we seek help.

The transition to menopause

Silent and confusing, perimenopausal symptoms can ambush us from our early 40s when we least expect them. Disrupted sleep, fluctuating emotions and other embarrassing concerns are often under-recognised or dismissed by doctors who often just write us off as ‘depressed, anxious’ or even ‘hysterical’.

I was shocked how difficult it was to get help through my transition, and how ill-prepared I was for what lay ahead, ending up in a very dark place as my hormones fled in mass exodus. I’d had my oestrogen fix removed and didn’t understand what that meant. Nothing prepared me for that!

So I began to investigate further and what I found made me extremely quarrelsome and vexatious. I was probably overbearing at times too as I fought to access treatment that worked. Finding my balance again I decided to write a book to share the eye-opening things I learned. It’s been nine months in gestation and is about to be released it into the world; The Naked Truth About PERIMENOPAUSE.

What my research revealed about perimenopause

After speaking with eminent thought leaders, professor’s and specialists in women’s health, and reading many academic papers, a whole new world opened up in my search for the truth about perimenopause. I found conflicting evidence, differences of medical opinion and that there’s far more at play that it seems.

I explore sex hormones and look at what they actually do, which helps to make sense of why many of us struggle as they peak and then ditch through our transition to menopause. Hormone deficiency can be debilitating and cause a devastating domino effect on our personal and working relationships. The first step in navigating the transition is to understand your options so you can find out what works best for you.

In the book I bust some of the myths surrounding hormone replacement therapy (HRT), review alternative treatments and explore the relationship of hormones to our wellbeing, including testosterone. I walk readers through hormone and non-hormone prescription medications, melatonin, offer the low-down on herbal supplements including some interesting results on maca root.

Testosterone therapy is investigated at length and I reveal what I learned from my determined enquiries, how useful it was to me in managing brain fog, fatigue and other debilitating symptoms. I reveal why it’s not mainstream, share how I managed to score some (legally) and the results I experienced.

I found conflicting evidence, differences of medical opinion and that there’s far more at play that it seems.

I’ve also added thyroid into the discussion because by the age of 50, one in three women will have a thyroid disorder, but it is rarely diagnosed.[2]

In the book I offer context to ‘conventional medical thinking’ (there’s a lot of that around and it often doesn’t help) and the very real gender biases women face in the treatment of our hormonal health.

Turning the spotlight to conflicts of interest in the narrative of medicine, I define some of the roles in this play. We must understand how medicine is funded and remain aware of potential conflicts for this can have a knock-on effect to our individual healthcare needs.

We look at options for supporting your mind, body and spirit through this major and often disruptive process of change. From the best types of exercise to the benefits of cognitive behaviour therapy, ways to manage stress, make smarter food choices and sleep better.

By the age of 50, one in three women will have a thyroid disorder, but it is rarely diagnosed.

Through my personal menopause journey I’ve seen GP’s, doctors who are experts in women’s health, endocrinologists and even a professor specialising in women’s hormones in search of a way to manage my debilitating symptoms. Sharing my experience, I offer some super useful tips on how to find a good doctor and a checklist to take to make your experience with medical professionals an informed one.

Once you’ve read this book, you’ll be prepared and knowledgeable enough to stand your ground to ask for what you need from your doctor.

Taking back our female power

When we take action and participate in the management of our menopausal symptoms and include self-care strategies we take back control of our lives and our overall wellbeing. By understanding the treatment options available and making decisions on the best management as individual women, we empower ourselves.

Once we work out how to navigate our individual way through, then we can support others and look at where we want to head next. It’s time to consider what else we can let go of, along with the tampons and period pain, to embrace the next part of our lives.

Let’s change the thinking that it’s an end rather than a beginning, starting today. Share your menopause story with us in our Facebook group and join in the conversation. Read reviews here.

Review of The Naked Truth About PERIMENOPAUSE

 

References:

[1] E. Stefanopoulou, P. Gupta, R. Mohamed Mostafa, N. Nosair, Z. Mirghani, K. Moustafa, G. Al Kusayer, D. W. Sturdee & M. S. Hunter (2014) IMS study of Climate, Altitude, Temperature and vasomotor symptoms in the United Arab Emirates, Climacteric, 17:4, 425-432, DOI: 10.3109/13697137.2014.898266

[2] DeRosa, Angela. How Your Doctor is Slowly Killing You. DeRosa Media 2018

Photo credit Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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