The over-riding story about the pre-menopause and then the menopause is that it is a grim phase of a woman’s life. That can be true and certainly there are many symptoms that are a right royal pain in the erse.
I have written a great deal about the symptoms, many which can be frustrating and debilitating. However, I am coming to realise that there are some good outcomes of the menopause.
I confess it has taken me a while to realise that there are any benefits. I have not enjoyed a lot about the last few years in terms of mental and physical well-being, but I do believe most things have a silver lining.
12 benefits of the menopause
Perhaps “benefits” is too strong a word but let’s see what you think.
1 A new sense of sisterhood
I have long felt that women are great at supporting each other. This is not to say that I do not have men in my life – and a loving husband – to listen and advise, but when it comes to sympathy and empathy, women are the best.
I enjoyed the support through pregnancy and the early child-rearing years and also at various stages of motherhood.
Now I am feeling the love again. It is my female friends – and many women I have talked to and met in recent years – that have offered such a strong sense of womanhood through the menopause. It’s an “in this together” sisterhood.
This experience has been truly heart warming and through the menopause I have deepened friendships and made new connections and friends.
2 A new pet topic
As a journalist, I have enjoyed writing on topics and subjects close to my heart. Over the last 20 years, these have mainly focused on fitness, adventure and travel. I still like writing on these topics but now I have a new hot topic.
I have been open about my peri and menopause and I have written about it and shared my thoughts and experiences on radio etc. Now I am being asked to write about this new hot topic as part of my freelance work. This is good for business – and it has also kept my work interesting and motivating.
3 New knowledge
I like to be learning about new things and I prefer to be informed about issues, including my own health. If something doesn’t feel right or does not add up, I’ll head off and find out more about it so I can work out what I think or feel.
I am a problem solver and a finder of solutions.
When I started feeling a long list of strange symptoms in my early to mid 40s, I tried to work out why they were happening to me. I looked on-line, sought medical help and asked friends.
I discovered that many symptoms were related to my hormones. I had no idea that oestrogen and progesterone depletion could cause so many mental and physical ailments.
I have enjoyed learning more about my body and being able to pass on my knowledge to others in the same situation.
4 A new boldness
Those who know me through life and work will know I am the sort of person who has been afraid to talk about my feelings and personal experiences. However, I never imagined I would be out there, writing and talking about the menopause. In fact, if you had suggested this 15 years ago I would have cringed!
Now I am open and frank about it. I feel bold enough to talk about the menopause and the issues with men and women, strangers and on public forums. I like that the menopause has made me bold on a topic that until recently had been rather taboo.
5 A new level playing field
I confess I thought I would sail through the menopause without issues. I though that being fit and healthy (and also slim) would somehow protect me from the worst of the symptoms. I had never really suffered with menstruation issues and I thought this would be the same with the menopause. I thought, smugly, that my hormones were more stable than other people’s.
To be honest, I have no idea why I thought this. Hormones are tricky buggers and they can wreak havoc whatever you current bill of health and regardless of pretty much everything.
I do think that being physically active and talking about emotions is helpful in the face of hormones that go up and down like a rollercoaster but, in fact, the menopause affects everyone in different ways and there is not a great deal you can do about this in the run-up.
I have realised that the menopause is a leveller of women from all backgrounds, different circumstances, fitness levels etc. No one is better than the other at “getting through”.
6 Laughter in the face of it all
I could see nothing to laugh about when it came to the menopause. But then I was invited to join the Totes Merry Peri Facebook group. Amid all the tough times and horrors of this phase of life, there are many times I have laughed out loud.
I have not laughed at women, rather with them. It is a fantastic place to share how you feel and to realise you are not alone in feeling so bloody weird.
And, of course, laugher is such a good tonic to do when you feel low.
7 A greater control
The menopause makes you think a lot about how you feel. It has caused me to assess my hormones in greater depth and to work out whether I can help to control them better.
I don’t want to be a horrible person to live with or a difficult friend or colleague. I have learned tha I can take greater control of how I feel and act.
I decided to take HRT around three years ago and that was in reaction to physical symptoms I felt were too difficult to cope with, such as leg cramps and migraines. Now I know that the HRT is helpful for controlling many more symptoms, including those that have affected me mentally.
I have the choice to take HRT or not and I am aware of the risks. Above all, I feel like I have greater control over my hormones than I have done in the past decade.
8 I have learned to value myself differently
At times, through the menopause, I have felt awful. I have not liked myself and I have doubted I ever would again. But I have found a kind of acceptance.
I am not as young looking, nor am I as fit, slim or sharp-brained. But I like the more mature person that I have become. I think I am more thoughtful and reflective. I am kinder to myself both mentally and physically.
I do not have to be the first, the fastest, or someone who is always doing things. I even give myself a day off sport when I do not feel like it, or I stop mid-walk or run to look around and enjoy the moment.
And, overall, I feel lucky to be alive and still enjoying a good life and career. I do my best not to reflect on how I looked or felt when I was younger, or what I was capable of, but rather what I like and enjoy now.
Dare I saw it, I feel more content in my 50s than ever before.
9 I can forgive myself
I used to be a person who never missed a deadline or forgot a birthday or a special something. Now I forget things all the time. Sometimes, I even forget to look at my diary.
Instead of being upset or frustrated with myself I tell people why I have forgotten. I tell them that it’s probably my #menopausememory. (Actually, a male work client wrote back and told me he suffers with #manmemory and that made me feel a lot better.)
I can’t do a lot about my memory these days and while it dos make me feel annoyed with myself sometimes I am learning to forgive myself.
10 I can say no now
I used to be one of the people who always said yes. Yes, I can help. Yes, of course, I’ll be there, Yes, it’s no hassle. Now, if I feel something will stretch me too much or make me grumpy or tired, I say no. It’s a wonderful feeling of freedom and I am sure if has something to do with my new level of hormones.
Of course, I do still say yes to a lot of things but I don;t feel bad about saying no, too.
11 I do things now not later
It could be my age or maybe it’s a new knowledge that I have lived my healthier more active years pre-menopause. Anyway, I now feel a greater urgency to do the things I might well have put off if I was younger.
I want to travel more, try new things, enjoy more adventures and I want to do them sooner rather than later.
12 I feel lucky
While there have been times that the menopause has felt all-consuming and bloody, bloody awful, I am aware that there are other people in far less favourable situations. The menopause, above all, is not a terminal illness. This is not to say that how I feel isn’t real and woeful to me, but I am lucky.
I am lucky enough to have great friends and family. I am fortunate to have a writing outlet to share my good times and bad times. I have work and I work from home, which allows me to suffer when I need to without the constraints of an office and colleagues.
I feel lucky that I am “getting through”.
I hope this gives her people going through the peri or menopause the ability to see some benefits amid the quagmire of more wretched symptoms.