Friday, 30 December 2011
mean moody menopause!
The article below is my latest one from my self help book... hurrah I'm writing it again. It's a bit of a long read. But if it's relevant to you it might be helpful
This is for women of a certain age.
The age of knowing you're getting older, but still feeling young inside. The place where your body conspires against you to start making you aware of the passing of time. In other words, the dreaded menopause.
So we all know without doubt that we are going to suffer endless hot flushes, were going to dry up like old prunes and that we are going to be past any useful life...... Right!
Er, no actually.
Of course the first two of those things may happen. Some women will have full blown horrid flushes, others at the other end of the spectrum may perspire gently. There is no way of knowing what your lot is going to be.
But I'm not really writing this about the physical manifestations of the menopause, more, I want to write about the emotional stuff we go through, cause till it happened to me I didn't know half the stuff that I was going to feel which came along to bite me on the butt.
However before discussing what we go through at the end of our reproductive lives, we need to look at what happened in puberty....
I know it's a long time ago, but stick with it here.
There we were toddling along happily in our childhoods playing with our teddies and dolls. Enjoying being with our parents, being happy with our lot in life. When seemingly out of the blue, suddenly overnight we are turned into aliens from another planet.
I mean, what did our parents know about anything anymore? Who were those wondrous creatures called boys, why would we want to play with childish things, when we could have crushes on our latest pin ups? Why was suddenly that song SO IMPORTANT, that we had to listen to it over and over again as we felt the world was against us? And then just as suddenly we felt like small children again when there was nothing better than a hug from Mum or Dad. Till the next wave of hormones kicked in and the whole emotional cycle started again.
We as the adolescent girls weren't really aware of these patterns, it was just everyone else around us who were pulling their hair out at our behaviour. Which for any of you who have had daughters will be able to identify with.
What tended to get focused on coming to terms with our monthly bleed and any subsequent pain associated with that time. Everyone around us just tried to keep their heads down the week before when we were pre-menstrual!
And this is true of the menopause, the focus is on the physical again; the flushes, dryness, the wrinkles. If as much money was spent on helping women deal with the emotional fallout of the menopause, as there is on face creams the world would be a lot easier for women going through it!
So many women come to see me feeling they are going mad at this time. They don't understand why their emotional behaviour is so out of control, why they are so angry, why they are so forgetful, why they are so lonely, and most of all, why they are filled with so much self hate.
And until women reach this stage and go through it, it remains a huge secret. Possibly because most GPs are male or young women, so they either won't or haven't gone through it, and they only know about what the literature says, the physical symptoms and not about the emotional stuff.
I admit before I'd gone through it, I wouldn't as a therapist have had any idea that the collection of symptoms a women might bring to counselling could as simply be explained as the menopause. I would, and no doubt did, make a lot of heavy weather about what was going on for them.
Nowadays before I pronounce about some long hiding childhood issue being the cause of the current misery I will check the woman's menstrual history against her age. Obviously I won't use this with all female clients as that would be unprofessional, if there are, of course, other issues that need addressing.
But if the woman reports any of the above symptoms I always take great pleasure in letting them know they are not going mad, but that their bodies are just doing what they first did at the start of their reproductive life. But that they probably weren't aware then to the same extent that they are now aware of their feelings. As the world then was such an exciting place, that they probably hadn't had much time for introspection in the way that they are having now towards the end of the reproductive cycle.
And this is also easily explained, young women are on the cusp of their future,life flows in front of of them in an unknown stream. They have expectations of their futures and dreams of what they will become. Menopausal women, are generally frightened of the future, of feeling useless without their kids to care for, or the difficulty of getting to know their partners without the excuse of the children being the only thing to talk about. Of a future when only old age beckons and regrets of missed opportunities are more frequent than dreams of the future.
So this is much more a time of introspection than youth could ever be. And women being women take it out on themselves, rather on people around them, so get hooked into it being their fault.
And what we women need to learn is that it like puberty is just a stage we are going through, and as such has an ending. That the ending is only the end of the menopause, not of life, and that what follows is likely to be one of the best times of their lives.
It is a time women start to give to themselves emotionally. To allow themselves to have needs and to decide that those needs are as important as anyone elses needs and to therefore look after themselves.
Women are traditionally selfless in their care of others and the great thing I think about being post menopausal is learning that actually MYself matters, and that can be the outcome of getting to be a wise old crone. Rather than hooking into being a failure because we don't look (or hopefully act) like 18 year olds anymore. And that old age should be prized as a place of independence and joy in the simple things of life itself.
And once we as women know this about ourselves, and that the stage has just got to be got through, and if it can be accepted as just a stage, then a lot of the anxiety attached to that feeling of madness or self hate or whatever can fall away. And it can be hopefully seen as the start of the next adventure in life rather than the end of a women's useful life.