Midlife - tackling ageing and menopause at the same time
“In midlife, just when I could see the horizon and felt ready to take off and focus more on myself, it hit me. Menopause. From one day to another I didn’t recognize myself anymore.”
For some women, midlife can be challenging, with a lot of pondering about one's existence and the meaning of life. For others, it can be a relief. If you have kids they might be getting more independent, and you could actually feel more self-confident with aging. If you are a woman, you might need to tackle menopause at the same time. Transitioning into menopause often starts in midlife, and it can come with a lot of surprises.
Your journey into menopause can feel like it starts with a bam, but maybe you were not aware of the early signs.
So, here you are, in your midlife busy with your life. Feeling you finally have more time to focus on things that make you feel good. Keeping the family together is less straining, everyone finally seems to be able to take care of themselves. You are in a good place at work, you feel confident and strong. You have time to eat more healthily, you work out and you are enjoying your social life. Bam, one day just before going into an important meeting you are soaked in sweat from one second to another. “What is happening to me?” you wonder.
“I didn’t really understand what was going on until I got my first hot flash”
For many women, hot flushes are the first visible sign that they are now going into a new phase in life. It can come suddenly, as a total surprise but in many cases, women in retrospect say that they have had symptoms before, but they were not aware of the link to menopause.
“Now when I look back at it, I can see that things started to change several years before this point. I remember that all of a sudden I could come into a meeting at work with no idea what we were supposed to talk about. Sometimes I didn’t even remember the name of the people in the room. Somehow I managed to deal with it by for example suggesting we should do a presentation round or something. I just thought I was stressed out.”
Brain fog or memory lapses are also common signs of menopause, but it can be hard to understand that this can be an effect of the hormonal changes that naturally happen when transitioning into menopause. Mental symptoms that can occur during this phase in life are not talked about as much and can be harder to link to menopause.
Hormonal changes during menopause can make you act in a way you never have before
“I’ve always been this very calm and friendly person, most of the time very understanding and generous. But then one day out of nowhere I just snapped at my partner. Now, I can laugh about it, but then it was deadly serious. He had put the milk on the third shelf in the fridge instead of the second where we normally put it and I got crazy. I have almost never felt such rage before, I grabbed the milk and threw it in the zink screaming at him. I think both of us thought I was going crazy. After that I started to get really annoyed at my colleagues, even really angry sometimes, but most of the time I could handle it by walking away. I was actually scared of myself, and I just didn’t understand what was going on.”
“I suddenly thought people around me were idiots, but I didn’t understand why”
Women we talked to describe not just feeling irritable, but having burst out of pure rage at times. Some say they feel like they hate everyone around them. A scary feeling if you don’t know this is common during your menopausal transition.
Aging, fertility, and grief.
There are so many things happening at this stage in life that are not just linked to menopause, but to aging itself. It’s a fact that your hormone levels start to drop around 40, making your fertility go down. For many women, this can lead to questioning femininity and feelings of sadness and grief.
“I didn’t really mind aging, but then it hit me, I might not be fertile anymore. Even though I didn’t want any more kids, I felt grief”.
One woman shares her thoughts on this: “I feel really sad about entering menopause, that I will not be fertile anymore. I know I don’t want any more kids, but it is very hard for me to accept that my body decides for me. And it’s not just about having kids or not, to me fertility is about life energy, health, identity - who will I be now?”.
The stories of menopause are also stories about all of a sudden having to face a new version of you - but that can also be a good thing
Many women attest that aging and midlife can come with positive things as well, even if they have to tackle menopause at the same time. “I can also see the positives, I feel a lot stronger mentally, I have increased self-confidence. I also feel more selfish, and closer to myself. Actually, I don’t really give a sh*t about what people think anymore”.
Menopause literally means the "end of monthly cycles", from the Greek word pausis ("pause") and mēn ("month"). But, it doesn’t mean the end of life. It can be the starting point of something new.