Menopause is a strange beast. I’ve started comparing it to childbirth in that you forget the pain once it’s over (no, I haven’t had children, but that’s what everyone tells me).
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reliving my menopause story while talking about the KnowYourMenopause campaign. But while I can remember the highlights, some of it I’d completely forgotten about until I started talking to other women. (That’s why it’s so important to talk about it!)
One other thing I have noticed, however, is how menopause is like a little club, with lots of knowing looks and nodding heads over the life lessons you share with other menopausal woman.
So here’s what the menopause has taught me…
Puberty was a breeze
No, I wouldn’t like to be a teenager now. I was bullied at school so my heart aches for anyone going through that with the pressure of social media and smartphones.
But puberty itself? That wasn’t too bad.
Like many, I was grumpy and moody and would burst into tears, but everyone expected that because I was a teenager.
I could also disappear into my room for hours on end when I hated the world, or sleep in at the weekend when I was tired and exhausted.
And looking older – that was to be celebrated: I was GROWING UP!
Now I have to work, do the shopping, clean the house, garden, iron and – even worse – be nice to people when my hormones are raging and I’m dreaming of a Uzi 9mm instead of a Hermès Birkin. All this while also being sold anti-ageing products because I’m GROWING OLD.
Oh to hide in my bedroom again…
I’ve learnt who my friends are
Despite my successful career, imposter syndrome was a big part of my life and I continually compared myself with others and found myself lacking. If someone wanted to be my friend, I would accept gratefully – even if I did find their comments a little cutting at times, or would go home feeling even worse about myself than before.
An important promotion was met by one friend telling me to expect to be shouted at, because she always was, another telling me how she had obviously undervalued herself if I had that job and a third constantly asking me to prove that I really had that job.
My menopausal years, however, have made me reassess that. Those mood swings make me more likely to say: “Sod it” and those people I talked about – they’re not on my friends list any more (nope, not even Facebook).
And while I miss having a best friend close at hand, last week I had a wonderful three-way Skype conversation with two women who do nothing but make me feel happy. We don’t always agree, we sometimes piss each other off, but we value each other and our friendship and that’s what counts.
That’s because I know who I am
For many years, I wanted to be someone else. Anyone else. Mainly the smart, witty, successful women around me.
Not any more (unless it’s Kim Cattrall, obviously, or anyone who is close to Chris Hemsworth.)
Menopause is the end of one part of your life and the beginning of another. That has been a huge mind-clear for me, like wiping the slate clean and getting ready to forge a new path.
Society looks at menopausal women differently and with that comes a huge freedom. I no longer feel I have to be a certain way.
I’m never going to look like a 20, 30 or even 45-year-old again so why not look like me? I am no longer “trendy” so what does it matter if I don’t know who is top of the hit parade? And these young dudes going to meetings with their laptops while I have a notebook, pencil and cup of tea? Who cares? I’m the one checking their work and telling them what needs changing.
This is me. And I’m happy with that.
And I am stronger than I thought
If talking to so many women over the last few months has taught me anything, it is that we are far from the weaker sex – especially as we get older.
I see women struggling with menopause while juggling children moving on or parents getting older; partners becoming ill or redundancy threats at work. And the thing that always gets me is that more often than not, their talk is followed by a sigh and: “Just got to get on with it.”
Through experience, we know we can get over the heartbreak, or the bad day at work, or the argument with the bus driver…
Menopause can knock us, but I often think it comes when we are emotionally strong enough to cope with it. I couldn’t have gone through this aged 20, but now I know it will pass and that gives me strength.
If a little angrier
Being a people-pleaser, I used to avoid getting angry. Or rather, avoid it in public. While I’d look calm, inside I’d be fuming, with a small nuclear reactor exploding inside me.
Menopause rage was something I had never heard about until I tried to maim Mr 50Sense with a flick of the tea-towel. (Don’t ask me how flicking his bum would maim him. It made sense at the time.)
While the anger was scary, it felt good afterwards to have got the emotion out there instead of festering away.
So now, if something is annoying me, more often than not I will voice it and explain what I’m feeling and why.
And actually, it has made me calmer rather than angrier. Small annoyances no longer grow into major events and I can move on easier.
Although Mr 50Sense has put the tea-towels out of reach…
WHAT LIFE LESSONS HAS THE MENOPAUSE TAUGHT YOU? LEAVE ME A COMMENT BELOW…