Navigating Menopause: an alternative to Google articles
I wanted to write something about menopause and women reaching midlife, and how even now we are supposed to “stay in our box”. I read other posts about navigating menopause, and it started making me angry (surprise! Perimenopause!). They were all quite fluffy, about this being a “transformative stage” and “a new chapter”, as well as how to foster “more satisfying and supportive partnerships”, but what appeared to be lacking was the drive to fight against the status quo when it comes to society’s expectations and moving toward what they truly want.
So, here are my thoughts from my experience so far…
Perimenopause has turned my brain upside down and inside out. Less of a transformation, more of an unravelling. Everything that had seemed stable and constant is now seemingly shifting under my feet, and I don’t know where to hold for security. I am questioning everything, from my career to my parenting (which now is as a Mum to two grown-arsed men, both adults but with their own issues) to my marriage.
I have put 25 years into my career, and I do love my job and my colleagues, and am now coming to the completion of my Masters. However, looking ahead I am wondering whether this is what I want to do for another 20 years. Do I want to continue working all that time? As the main breadwinner for the household, I have felt until now that I don’t have a choice, but that has made me resentful. There are other things I want to do with my time. I want to travel. I want to rest. I’m so tired of being depended on and having to do what is right for everyone else.
I am very aware that changes in my hormones may be fuelling some of what I’m feeling - there’s the feeling detached from people we love as oxytocin levels decrease. There’s the feeling low and tearful, irritability, The Rage (oh my God, The Rage!) as well as the physical symptoms - hot flushes, headaches, lack of energy. On the other hand, all the articles I have looked at talk about lack of libido… If only! Mine appears to have gone the other way, and that is also fuelling my current feelings. How can you foster intimacy when you haven’t had sex or any kind of physical relationship for years? Being involuntarily celibate is one of the most difficult things I am having to navigate, and this feeds the cycle of feeling unwanted and detached, fuels feelings of not being good enough, and feeds into my body image issues (which have been life-long).
All the articles talk about communication with your partner, about talking things through and “navigating menopause together”. What happens when they’re seemingly not interested? Or when they become defensive whenever you try to share how you feel? It makes you not want to talk in the first place.
Approaching menopause feels like approaching a fork in the road. If I keep on the current path, I know the journey ahead, but I don’t know if I want to continue along that route. If I veer off, I will be driving blind, with no map or compass, and no idea where I’ll end up or how I’ll get there.
I see lots of posts about midlife being this liberating, empowering time where women can find their true voice and their true path. And for me that is partly true. It has certainly caused me to think about what I want going forward, but I still feel stuck. And it is easy to stay in the rut, because that’s what we’re conditioned to do - be the good girl, the good wife and mother. Put everyone else before yourself, make sure everyone else is happy. Don’t make too many demands as you’ll be seen as difficult. And we certainly can’t say we want sex, only sluts demand sex. We shouldn’t express a hunger for anything, as that is “unfeminine”, whether it be for success, equality, attention, affection, recognition. So how are we supposed to express our true desires?
One thing perimenopause is showing me is that I am not as healed as I thought I was, and I have a lot of shit still to work through. Writing my books was just the start of peeling back the layers, it seems, and there is still a way to go. So, if you want to read some articles about how navigating menopause is as easy as talking openly with your partner, expressing your feelings and having them support you with exercise and positive words, Google can help you there. If you want to share a raw and less fluffy journey, watch this space, and please do get in touch if anything resonates with you. I am sure it’s not just me.
With much love, as always,
Anna x x