Why are perimenopause and menopause only spoken of in whispers between elderly women huddled in dark corners? It’s time to change the notion that the change of life is bad. Crossing the perimenopause threshold into menopause is a game charger for many women. No more monthly periods offer you much more freedom in life, but the journey to get there can be painful and should not be lonely.
By not talking about perimenopause and menopause, we’re leaving women in the dark. We should help them traverse this life-changing path, not avoid the topic because of some old taboo about menstruation.
Not so very long ago, perimenopause wasn’t even part of our vernacular. Women didn’t discuss menopause and what our bodies were going through. Rather, we whispered about "the Change" and wondered what we should expect. It was dark and unsavory. In some cases, it still is today, which leaves many women lonely and scared during perimenopause. Since women comprise 51% of the population, we can decide we’re not hiding it under the rug anymore.
It’s time to change the conversation, or lack thereof. Let’s shine a bright light on perimenopause and menopause so the young women following in our footsteps understand what is happening, why it’s not shameful, and how others can either help you or empathize with you. You shouldn’t have to face it alone.
How can we affect change?
Change is often difficult, especially when you’re trying to normalize something excluded from polite society. But it’s time for women to stand up and say, "Hey, this perimenopause thing I’m going through? Every woman goes through it in her own way, and not only is it okay, it’s totally natural!"
Change starts with the right expert, your doctor. Since medical school doesn't cover menopause in depth, find a doctor who has experience with a variety of women in perimenopause and post-menopause stages. You shouldn’t think twice about finding a doctor who understands what you’re going through, because you need expert support. If a provider makes you feel like what you’re experiencing isn’t anything to worry about, or worse, makes you feel like you’re a hypochondriac, it’s time to move on.
Arm yourself with as much information as possible so you know what to expect and what you can do about your symptoms. This website is a great place to start. Perimenopause is defined as "the period around menopause," which differs for each woman. Some women can start experiencing symptoms as much as 10 or 15 years before menopause, of which the average age is 51, while others can have mild, almost unnoticeable symptoms for a few months before menopause. There is no single way to get through perimenopause, so don’t listen when someone tells you it’s easy, nothing to it. And don’t let someone gaslight you.
Once you have your medical expert in place and have a good understanding of perimenopause and its symptoms, start conversations with the women in your life. Your friends, cousins, aunts, female co-workers, all are potential support persons and all may need to hear about your perimenopause experience to understand their own path.
Talking with your female support group, including your doctor, helps you understand the questions the people in your life might also have. Since perimenopause is nothing to be ashamed of, it might start as an awkward conversation, but it’s a necessary one. You want to raise awareness so men also know how to be compassionate to the women in their lives. Talking about menopause openly and honestly with everyone will help remove the stigma. Frank discussions are always best, including how the people around you can empathize with what women are going through.
Why is it important to discuss our feelings?
You may experience severe anxiety without a cause, and your doctor helps you understand it’s a symptom of menopause. You discuss with her what you can do, she might offer medication or homeopathic measures, and you leave feeling better, feeling heard.
What would happen if you didn’t discuss your feelings of anxiety? You would live in fear of everything and feel like you’re losing your mind. No one can sustain those emotions for long, nor should they try. Opening up a dialogue with others will help you see other women may experience the same troubling symptoms. Emotional support from the women in your life is powerful. You won’t be alone, trying to handle your feelings in the dark. And you can get help.
Discussing everything openly and honestly helps you make the best decision for your health and well-being. You’ll learn how to mitigate your symptoms and the right questions to ask to get the answers you need. Living in a vacuum will only prolong your suffering and potentially harm your quality of life.
Make sure you include younger women in your conversations. Talk to your daughters, nieces, your friends’ daughters, students, all the young women who need to be included in this conversation. We have the power to help them avoid the stigma by bringing perimenopause out in the open to normalize it.
In case you need a place to start check out Mojo Wellbeing’s Asterisk* Facebook supportive community of perimenopausal and menopausal women, for candid, open discussion of perimenopause and menopause.
Most women’s advice? Talk about perimenopause. Get educated. And find your support group. We can turn the taboo around the Change of Life on its head and show it for what it really is: a time to grow and become the strong, healthy women we’re meant to be. Menopause and perimenopause are life stages through which we transition. And once you’re past menopause, your life changes… in a good way.
Imagine an existence without periods. It’s freeing, ladies.