The upside of menopause

The Upside of Menopause

For those of you enduring the emotional and psychological sh*tf*ckery of perimenopause, there is light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, I am here to tell you that life after menopause is blummin fantastic. 

Many of you are in the thick of perimenopause right now suffering from a variety of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, irritability, sadness, and less resilience to stress. Additionally, it is estimated that up to 60% of women suffer from brain fog. And that’s on top of the emotional distress of the litany of physical symptoms.

Perimenopause can feel like trial by fire for many of us.  However, once through to the other side, there are many reasons to celebrate menopause.  

For many women, our level life satisfaction INCREASES post-menopause. Mental health improves, and women are generally happier about their life than before menopause. 

However, unlike the other major life transitions – puberty and pregnancy – there seems to be very little sympathy for what we’re going through. In fact we are ridiculed for our irrationality and hot flushes. Reduced to a caricature. (If men suffered from this sh*t, millions would have been spent on medical research to reduce the symptoms and the impact on our lives.)

So I’ve written this article to tell you that there is hope and that those mental and emotional symptoms of menopause will decrease over time.

You can also listen to this post as a podcast if you prefer

5 reasons to celebrate menopause

Here are 5 reasons to celebrate menopause (and some suggestions of what to do/who to see if you are really struggling):

 

Your brain undergoes a renovation during menopause

My favorite neuroscientist (everyone should have one) and author, Lisa Mosconi PhD, tells us that during menopause the brain is undergoing a renovation. Just as it does during puberty and pregnancy. Have a look at her books: The Menopause Brain and The XX Brain.

When you hear all the disaster stories about menopause, what you are largely hearing about are perimenopause symptoms as your brain transitions from being ‘run’ on Estradiol (a form of Estrogen which Dr Mosconi calls the ‘master regulator’ of the female brain.)

So it’s not too hard to imagine that when estrodial starts to run low, your brain has to recalibrate to function without it. Hence the perimenopause symptoms such as depression, cognitive difficulties/brain fog, and insomnia. Yes even hot flushes – they’re caused by the hypothalamus (which regulates body temperature).

Find out more about why this shift in hormones creates the change in mood at Harvard Health

During peri- and menopause your brain reboots itself to run in this low-estrogen environment and also prunes back all the redundant skills and information it no longer needs. 

I imagined little neurological elves reorganising my brain files: How to make a baby? Nope, no longer needed, ditch that. How to have a period every month. F*ck no. Had enough of that shizz for a lifetime…

Once your brain ‘update’ is complete, brain fog and the other neurological symptoms dissipate and your brain is a lean, clean machine once more. Huzzah!

 

If you are suffering: 

Brain fog, depression and anxiety are just a few of the cognitive impacts of this brain transition. Please see a GP that specialises in menopause for proper treatment. For those that can take it, HRT is a lifesaver for many of us and can help you keep your career, relationships and sanity.

(Please note that not all GPs have received adequate menopause training – their role is to be a generalist and refer you onto specialists. Sadly no one really ‘owns’ the field of menopause medicine – not the Gynaecologists, nor the Endocrinologists etc.  Thankfully some wonderful GPs have done additional specialist training in this area. You can find a list of them in your area at the Australian Menopause Society website.

You can find my science crush, Dr Mosconi all over the interwebs, but here are a few suggestions:

The Times Article “Menopause brain is real. Here’s how to deal with it” 

Her TED Talk “How menopause affects the brain”

 

 

No more surfing the crimson tide

No more periods.  No more period pain. No more PMT.

I thought I’d miss it. I thought my body would somehow shrivel inside because I was no longer menstruating. I’m still exactly me but without the monthly pain or palaver of periods. 

A few months ago I went to get some paracetamol from the cupboard and found that they had expired several years ago. I hadn’t used a pain killer in years. Vastly different to my monthly consumption, curled up on the coach hugging a hot water bottle. 

 

If you are suffering:

For those of you with Endometriosis, it is likely that the drop in estrogen will reduce your pain. Sadly 2-5% of you will still get pain. Find out more advice here: endometriosis after menopause.  

 

 

Less stress about getting pregnant

Assuming you weren’t actually trying to, how many years did you spend stressing that you might get pregnant?  Suddenly it’s off the cards and that level of stress vanishes in a poof of smoke! This makes sex a lot more freeing! Huzzah!  (Please see your GP for advice as there is a low chance you can still get pregnant during periomenopause)

 

If you are suffering:

Changes in libido (both up and down) can occur with this transition, affecting your relationship and your sense of self.  Please don’t suffer in silence. See a GP that specialises in menopause to get some help; or speak to a Sexologist

If you are grieving the loss of your childbearing years please reach out to me or to a professional counsellor near you.

Thirdly, that low estrogen situation can mean you get sore lady parts (vaginal atrophy) – see your GP about vaginal estrogen cream. It only acts locally (it’s not systemic), meaning it’s safe for those worried about taking HRT.

 

Zero fucks given

Au revoir lady helpfulness hormones estrogen and menopause! Adios trying to please everyone and looking after everyone else’s needs above yours. Bonjour boundaries! 

You might start standing up for yourself more, asking for what you need. Go on, shock the hell out of your partner by saying what you really feel! 

 

If you are suffering:

Your nearest and dearest may be somewhat surprised by this change in your personality. You may be feeling overly emotional, snappy as a crocodile and prone to fits of rage, which can feel discombobulating and energetically draining.

And because telling everyone to get f*cked may be a career-limiting move, and locking husbands in the shed is probably frowned upon, you may wish to get some emotional support during this time. Just to feel like someone is on your side and understands what is going on for you.

Please reach out to a trained mental health professional.

To find a counsellor/psychotherapist have a look at this directory:  Australia Counselling Directory

What’s the difference between a counsellor and a psychotherapist? The difference between counselling and psychotherapy

Also see 10 reasons to try somatic psychotherapy

 

 

Meno-start not menopause

This is not the end of your life. Far from it. Lady you’ve got a lot of skills, experience and talents to share with the world. And now that the clusterf*ck of perimenopausal symptoms are hopefully receding, you’re going to have the energy and focus to think about what you want to do/achieve/leave as your legacy.

If this is your Second Spring, what do you want to do with it? 

 

What are your strengths?

Do you know what your key strengths are? I’m not talking about your ability to do your makeup in the car on the way to work, or tolerate f*ckwits in the coffee queue. I’m talking about your core character strengths that make you really you. 

There are some brilliant, credible, web-based surveys on the internet that can help you find out more about yourself. When you do these tests and you find out what they are it’s like someone shone a microscope into your brain and had a squizz at your personality. 

These are my preferred tests, although there are more out there.  

 

The free tests – University of Pennsylvania

Professor Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness and Flourish, is leader in the positive psychology movement. Seligman and his team at the University of Pennsylvania have created a whole raft of free personality tests that you can do.

https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/testcenter 

Their character strengths tests measure 24 character traits. You can take a Brief strengths test (24 questions) and the more detailed VIA Character Strengths Test (240 questions). 

 

Clifton Strengths Test (Gallup)

Run by the data analytics company, Gallup, the Clifton Strengths test measures 34 strengths. This is a paid test and costs $49 USD at time of writing. 

I really liked this one. I found it informative and helped me understand why certain jobs/tasks fit me like a glove. (And why I would rather consume cat urine than do some others.)

Clifton Strengths Tests

 

If you are suffering:

Please please please reach out for help. This is a really turbulent time. Mentally, emotionally and physically. You do not need to go it alone. Please reach out to me or find a counsellor near you.

There are also some helpful factsheets on Menopause and Mental Health on the Australian Menopause Society website.

 

 

This blog post is written to give you hope. To show you the light at the end of the menopause tunnel. Whilst written in an irreverent tone, I am not meaning to diminish the anguish or suffering you may be going through. Please reach out to me or to a mental health professional in your area if you are struggling.

Sarah Tuckett

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