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It’s war! The menopause phrases I never want to hear again

Have you been on Clubhouse yet? It’s the new invitation-only social media app that’s kinda like a phone-in radio show, bringing people around the world together to discuss subjects of interest.

I was invited in a few weeks ago and have hosted some chats with my menopause activist friends. It’s been great sharing ideas and thoughts and finding out about menopause from different voices and accents.

But there have been a few groups I’ve joined where I’ve found myself feeling more and more uncomfortable about what has been said. Ideas and theories have been presented as facts, or women are directed to the expert’s website to buy something or get more information – for a fairly hefty price.

I came away from one so ranty I did a tweet thread about it:

It got me thinking about how there are certain stock phrases that come up time and time again that should instantly flag warning signs about the information given.

And I’ve declared war on them. No more being nice and kind and polite while women-in-need are being sold false dreams and advice. If you say one of these, I’m calling you up on it:

I had a natural menopause

This always makes me sigh. Most of the time it’s used in the way “natural birth” is used – as a way to browbeat other women for not being as clean and virtuous as the speaker.

The majority of menopauses (menopausii???) are natural. It’s a natural occurrence that we can’t stop. As a friend says: “Menopause is not optional.”

And I say “the majority” because the only ones that could possibly be classified as “not natural” are surgical or chemical menopause, when they are the result of a medical treatment. But even then, what your body goes through is a perfectly natural reaction to the hormonal change.

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Not using HRT doesn’t make you a better person

As for how you treat this, I see very little difference between opting for the chemicals in HRT or opting for the chemicals in phytoestrogen foods. If it helps you and isn’t harming you, then go for the treatment that works for you. It’s not cheating or taking the easy route by having HRT.

And PS: Don’t you find there is such a humble brag with people who say: “My hair used to be in a terrible state before I took WonderSupplement and now look at it…”?

And PPS: I hate to break it to you, natural guys, but supplements often contain artificial ingredients or synthesised plant-derived ingredients.

You’re missing this supplement…

I went down the rabbit hole of taking loads of vitamins and supplements recently. It’s easy to get sucked in when you hear of someone finding the magic pill that ended all their woes. Plus don’t all these experts talk about how nutrition can help you through menopause? Surely that’s what I was doing?

Then I looked closer and realised they weren’t talking about supplementing a bad diet, but changing it to include foods rich in the missing nutrients.

Doh!

So now, after talking to Dr David Barnish about skincare, I take MSM (organic sulphur) for my skin, hair and nails and I take a CoQ10 multivitamin for energy after chatting to registered nutritional therapist Clare Shepherd (my Pausitivity pal!).

That’s it. Anything else I may be lacking in – and magnesium is one that can help with my restless legs syndrome – I’m going to get by adding it to my diet.

Clare Shepherd: Lifestyle and nutrition tips to help manage menopause symptoms

There are roles for supplements in our diet, but please, do your homework first. Don’t follow any suggestion purely because someone says they are passionate about helping other women. Find out what qualifications the person has and/or that the information they are giving you has scientific backing behind it.

For what it’s worth, I’ve never spoken to an expert who has said, with complete assurance, that I’m missing something. An expert will usually say: “It sounds as if you could be missing…” or: “Have you tried…?” because they know that until they have a thorough understanding of the situation, it could be many different things.

Osteoporosis is a menopause symptom

First rule of 50Sense: Ignore anyone who says osteoporosis is a menopause symptom. Second rule… yeah, you know how it goes.

Let’s look at the facts: a symptom is a physical or mental change in your body that shows you have an illness, injury or a condition. Osteoporosis is a condition in itself that weakens bones and has its own sets of symptoms. Plus it affects men, children and younger women.

It is not – in no way whatsoever – a menopause symptom. It is completely and utterly different.

Yes, it is more a risk for perimenopausal and post-menopausal women because of the impact of falling oestrogen levels on our bone density.

But while your menopause symptoms will go away with time or treatment, osteoporosis is for life.

Positive thinking stopped me getting any symptoms

Yes, I heard this.

Firstly, one in four women will experience no menopause symptoms. That’s a fair number. So unless you know for definite that you are not one of those women, you can’t know if the lifestyle you’re promoting was the reason. Anecdote is not a synonym of data.

And secondly, no amount of positive thinking can stop depression, or anxiety, or the feeling that you want it all to end. It is insulting to even suggest that all we need to do is look on the bright side or put a bit of lippie on and we can cure our ails big and small.

I find this a particularly female attitude – that women should be happy and positive and never complain. How many of us have been told to “Cheer up, love, it’s not that bad” or to “look on the bright side”? It’s not feminine to complain and so we don’t. As a result, our concerns and difficulties, such as menopause, remain hidden and overlooked.

What is particularly toxic, however, is that it subconsciously puts the blame on the person experiencing the symptoms, as if they’re just not positive enough to stop all this happening. I know when I’ve had those awful days, it’s been too easy to blame myself…

Of course we should try and be positive and look for ways to make ourselves feel better, whether that’s a walk outside, a nice bath or making an appointment with the doctor. And of course we should make time for self-care. When I’m having a bad day, my red lipstick is my warpaint and my hair and outfit my battle armour. It makes a huge difference to how I feel.

But when I’m having a really bad day, I can’t even wash my face, let alone brush my hair. Or teeth, sometimes. And positive thinking won’t stop that symptom, not in a million miles.

And finally…

I know that these words are coming from a good place; that most people truly do want to help others and they’re giving advice from their hearts. And I know that women gain from the sense of community and from being able to talk about what they’re going through.

And nor am I advocating a purely medical approach to menopause. Lifestyle plays a huge part in our menopause transition and women throughout the centuries have got by without HRT. While many of them will have suffered symptoms, I also think our modern lifestyle has a role to play in making symptoms worse, certainly when it comes to stress levels. We need a holistic approach, treating body, mind and spirit.

However, menopause is a lifestage, not a lifestyle, which is what it is fast being seen as. Brands are bringing out menopause ranges, for example, and women being told they can buy a better menopause. It’s being seen as something light and fluffy, all vagina-scented candles and motivational quotes and happy smiles.

Which means it is never going to be given the respect it deserves and desperate women are going to continue to struggle to get help without paying through the nose.

So do your research and find out about the person you’re taking advice from. There are some amazing menopause coaches and experts out there who are trained to help, whether you’re after a medical route or not.

Check if they belong to the BMS or the IMS and what qualifications they have – something that says they have more than just a “passion” for helping. And if someone tells you you need to take something, read up about it first and find out if it really is the right thing for you. An expert will go through the pros and cons and explain why they are recommending something so you understand.

Yes, it’s a little longer and yes, you may have to try several treatments until you find the one that works.

But aren’t you worth it?

What do you think? Am I right to declare war? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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