Menopause — it's a beginning

Published 1.20.2020: Why isn't menopause discussed more often? And why is it most often presented as an ending, rather than also a beginning.

Menopause (or more precisely peri-menopause, but I and most of the women I know just say menopause— and when my peri-menopause started the nurse who informed me of the test result said I was "menopausing," not that I was in peri-menopause) may finally be entering the conversation. From here on I will use the term menopause to encompass the entire process, because it is a process. Prior to reaching the 12 month menstruation cessation, the medical definition of menopause, a whole host of other changes occurs. It's not just the end of menstruation.

Menopause and peri-menopause are a huge portion of a woman's life, but there is very little discussion of it, even in the doctor's office. Aside from the nurse (not the doctor) asking me if I was interested in taking hormones (I was not), no other hints of help was offered for dealing with it. No one listed the possible changes associated with the (entirely natural) hormonal shift I was experiencing.
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Photo by the author taken in Albuquerque in 2003 — Why balloons? Because the only (free) stock images at for menopause were wilted flowers or women alone. Neither of which is suitable in my (not so humble) view. Menopause needn't be a sad ending, it can be a new beginning.
I knew about hot flashes, but not the hair loss or heart palpitations that can accompany menopause. Nor am I alone. My current gynecologist (who I met near the end of my menopause after we moved cross country) told me of a patient who'd experienced heart palpitations and, rather than telling herself it was just the hormones, ran to a cardiologist who then was determined to find a cause for them. Fortunately for me the palpitations were only a symptom for a short period, but I had realized by then that the answer to most of my physical issues was "hormones."

This includes the significant digestive disruption I've experienced over the 15 years.

This NPR article was the inspiration for this piece. Driving into my offline business, I heard the radio piece associated with this series, which focused mostly on menopause for women with mental health concerns. That's not (well that wasn't) me, but I was happy to hear the story and that the process of menopause was even being discussed.

I've written about my menopause experience before, though not recently. It began much earlier than I expected and lasted much longer than I expected. However, I never saw it as the "end of my womanhood" — a phrase I've read in conjunction with menopause.

Hell, most of the reasons for the development of hormones to delay menopause occurred because males determined that the (very natural part of aging that is) menopause is to be delayed or even avoided because of the physical and mental changes that come with menopause.

Aging is not a disease. I wonder if some of the depression that can accompany menopause isn't exacerbated by the notion that menopause is an end to youth rather than a new beginning. AS ALWAYS, PLEASE NOTE: I am not any kind of a medical professional, and nothing read here is in any way advice.

If the symptoms that can accompany menopause were discussed more often and openly, women would know what to expect, and could plan ways to mitigate them. For me that included carrying cold or ice water with me, having a soy shake in the morning and dressing in layers. All three were strategies to mitigate hot flashes.

I never did figure out what to do about the hair loss, though taking a vitamin D supplement seems to have helped (the vitamin D helped my nails too). Menopause is something every woman, if she survives on this plane of existence for long enough will experience. If the experience was discussed openly and forthrightly, women might be better prepared for the shifts.

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