While we often poke fun of menopause and the women who are experiencing it, there are many challenges to be faced. Menopause is a natural phase of a woman’s aging process. Peri-menopause is the time approaching menopause and often when the most challenging changes are noticed.
The physical changes that women may experience are generally better understood than the emotional ones. These may include but are not limited to hot flashes and night sweats, vaginal dryness, decreased libido and weight gain.
Aside from the many physiological changes in a woman’s body, there are significant psychological and emotional upheavals as well. Oftentimes these can be the most challenging for a woman to negotiate.
As a therapist, when I am doing my initial assessments with new female clients, I have learned to always ask if they are experiencing peri-menopause or menopause. This is a result of my realization that so often women in this age range are dealing with issues associated with this transitional time of life and do not recognize it.
It is however primarily a result of my own experiences and greater understanding of the emotional roller-coaster called Menopause that I feel better-equipped to address it with my clients.
My body slowly started changing. I gained weight and couldn’t resist the urge to eat. I felt depressed and unhappy with how I looked so I ate more. I seemed to have to work so hard to lose a minuscule of weight. My skin became dry as did my hair. My periods were heavy and long. I had no energy. I just wanted to get home from work, put on my yoga pants and lie on the couch and watch Dr. Phil give bad advice. I felt weepy and angry and emotional as though I was in a constant state of PMS. I couldn’t sleep. I was up several times a night because of hot flashes and having to pee. I started to worry about my age and getting older. I really didn’t like myself much and I’m sure I wasn’t a peach to be around either. Luckily my husband is a saint!
Nobody told me it would be this hard. I had totally underestimated this “change of life” and was not prepared for it. I sought advice from the Medical community and was told to go on anti-depressants and/or start taking the pill. Neither, I felt was an option for me, so I started on my own pilgrimage to become educated and to find ways to manage “my menopause”.
It has taken a great deal of time and effort to understand the changes I have experienced and continue to experience throughout this time in my life. I have learned to be patient and kind to myself, largely in response to my discovery of Mindfulness. I now meditate. I have sought out more complementary, non-traditional medicine, ie. acupuncture, to help with my hot flashes and night sweats. I have decided to let my hair go gray, slowly mind you and with much help from my hair dresser. I still battle with my weight but am much gentler with myself and far more accepting. I am eating well but not denying myself. My bikini-wearing days have ended. I am learning how to embrace this time in my life as opposed to fighting it. There is a liberating freedom in this new acceptance. I am getting to know the new me and identify with my new roles. I feel a hopeful sense of adventure and look at the world with excitement and gratefulness.
I now want to work with other women to share my journey and to hopefully offer some insight into their unique experience with menopause. I am excited to support women as they learn to manage their own menopause journey with grace and dignity and in turn discover and embrace new opportunities for growth and change.
Shelley Read, MSW, RSW
firstname.lastname@example.org, or by cell 226-339-2218
Related: Upcoming Menopause workshop series at SOCC!