Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

Women in menopause experience a wide variety of symptoms, in a wide variety of intensity, ranging from mild, to debilitating. Yet, for the vast majority of us, we don't talk about what we are going through. We suffer in silence. A quick search on the impact of menopause in the workplace reveals shocking numbers of women who miss work because of menopause, or consider leaving their job altogether.

Maybe you are one of these women. 

Recently, there seems to be a light at the end of the long meno-tunnel. Finally!  We are starting to come out of the shadow and using our voice, along the lines of “Yeah, I am in menopause, so what?”

And as we do, we start looking at the people around us, and at ways to bring them on board that fun cruise we have embarked on.

Our bosses need to know.

Our partners need to know.

Our kids need to know.

But the reality is, pinpointing exactly when our symptoms began is not so easy. "I remember, December 4th, at 1pm. T'was a rainy day. . ." is not the story we hear from women we speak to. 

Sure, we can all think back to when our period got wonky, or when hot flushes became a thing. But what about the months, possibly years before that, when subtle changes had already started, unbeknown to us? We don't wake up one morning thinking, “That’s it, I am in peri-menopause”, we don't grow a second head, turn green, or start speaking in tongues. And even though menopause can feel like being hit by a train, we sometimes only realize it once we have been flattened to the ground. Didn't feel the tracks shaking. . .  Didn't hear the train rumbling. . .  So, the question remains: how can we talk about what is afflicting us, when we don't even know that it is? 

I specifically remember one day at my house. We were at the dinner table, arguing about one thing or another (that’s not unusual, with teens who are strong believers  in the exact opposite values I hold, just because!) One of my children looked at me, and said “Why are you always in a bad mood?” It floored me. I went in my bedroom and started crying, because … You know . . . That’s what you do when kids' truth punches you in the guts. Why was I always in a bad mood? 

Was I always in a bad mood? 

Was I depressed? Wrong? The worst mother in the world?

I hugged my boy, and promised to do better, I would be nicer, I would keep my remarks in check, my bad mood at the door, because surely, I was guilty as charged.

At the time, I was 47, and looking back on these days, I now know that I had started peri-menopause. My sleep was ever so slightly worse, but not so bad it was obvious, I was not feeling as comfortable in my body, but no huge gain weight, or hot flushes to blame.

Knowing what I know now, I wished I had sat down my kids, and said “Oh I’ll tell you why I am always in a bad mood – Let’s talk menopause!” I could have started the conversation there and then. I should have. But I couldn’t. I didn’t even know myself.

If I was given a do-over, I would be more proactive about menopause awareness in my family, regardless of whether I feel any symptoms.  Because one thing for sure, no matter our age, ethnicity, creed, social background, or job, at some point, it’s coming! So why not start the conversation early?

“No , mommy is not going to die yet, she is just going to go through menopause” 

Okay, maybe not that early . . . 

“Doesn’t matter how young you are, you will go through menopause as well – no, I am not trying to be mean!”

We should have these discussions, so we all prepared for the fun ride ahead. But we would also welcome a little help from society at large. Like in the UK, where menopause is now part of the school curriculum, and companies are starting to develop protocols for menopausal employees. I applaud this acknowledgement that menopause doesn't just affect us, but everyone around us, and that this is a chat we all need to have, not just women. You go, UK!

As for the rest of the world, what the fuck are we waiting for?

 Menopausely yours,

Nadege

 PS: Just for the records, I am not guilty of mood swings. I never had a mood swing in my life. Ever!