PART ONE : CULTURAL FACTORS – why is the menopause viewed as a bad thing (troublesome symptoms aside…)
We women certainly get a bum deal when it comes to ageing. Not only are we committing a heinous crime by even making it past 40 in the eyes of the youth-obsessed media, we are also daring to demand that the medical profession pay attention to us and deliver us from the evils of the dreaded menopause. Only a few centuries ago, we were actually pretty lucky to live that long; most women, if they didn’t cop it during childbirth, snuffed it pretty soon after. We had the plague to contend with, grinding poverty and starvation as well as numerous other ailments that had no cure at the time. So, the experience of the menopause is a relatively new phenomenon. It is NOT an illness, despite having become
medicalized and demonized by the mainly male medical profession over the decades. Symptoms are distressing and real, there is no doubt about that. Women often don’t get the support they need from non-menopause sufferers or even from other menopause sufferers who are not suffering as badly as they are! Advice on the internet is plentiful and often extremely helpful. But – or so it would appear – there is no “cure” without risk, and we are told we either have to put up with it or risk various types of cancer. Has anyone ever tried herbal remedies and have they actually worked?
So, troublesome symptoms aside, why is menopause viewed as a bad thing? Why do so many of us struggle with this natural life-phase? Part of it is rooted in culture, and the expectations of what makes a woman worth taking up the space she exists in. We are taught from a young age (and this may apply more to older generations of women) that we are valued as mothers, and by our ability to attract a partner (especially a male partner). So, read that as being young! The loss of our childbearing years combined with grey hairs, wrinkles and a vagina in various stages of atrophy, can signify a loss of self-worth and self-esteem for many women. The anxiety created by this (in my humble opinion) really exacerbates the experience of symptoms, making them even more unbearable. We try hard to stay young, we buy into the idea that we can freeze our eggs and continue to have babies into our 50’s and 60’s. Our value has decimated in the eyes of society and ourselves – or has it? I want to shine a more optimistic light onto the perception and value of the older woman and demonstrate that – gulp – we CAN be valued for lots of other things too!! Not all women feel undervalued of course, but for those who have struggled with symptoms, lack of support, scare stories and an unsettling feeling of planned obsolescence, I have some good news. It is a crock of ****! You CAN feel better and cope better. In fact, you can cope far better that you ever imagined. More to follow in the next instalment….