In my continuing effort to demystify and normalise talk around the topic of the menopause I interviewed two great friends, who are different in so many ways but very similar in one – they have both reached the age of 60. Both of them have attended my workshops and had different experiences whilst going through the menopause – so I thought it might be helpful for all of you out there to see what they said….
Would you say that you are now definitely through the menopause – do you feel a sense of relief or sadness that the reproductive stage of your life is now over ?
Ali : I had a very late pregnancies, which was only possible through IVF, which was successful (twice). So having been pregnant at the age of 49, I felt very very grateful to my body and how wonderful it can be – and I always knew that there was no chance of having another baby. No I would not say I was through the menopause, as I get massive flushes, but not as often, and generally am not as ‘level’ in my moods. It’s so hard to tell whether it’s hormonally based.
Aly : I am sure I’m through the menopause but I still get the occasional hot flush. I am glad to have moved on although I do miss my youth and non wrinkly skin, wish I’d known more about how quickly it loses its elasticity once your hormones have dropped off !! And energy I could do with more energy.
When you attended one of the menopause workshops did you get any surprises?
Ali : Yes – that HRT is much less of a blunt instrument than it was 25 years ago, and that GP’s are very ill informed – especially mine.
Aly : Yes lots, I didn’t know about all the different varieties of HRT, that vaginal dryness was common and easy to treat, libido I’m so pleased people are honest and I’m not alone.
Were there points highlighted which you wish you had known 10 years ago?
Ali : Yes – the access to HRT, and the fact that there are different ways of taking it, and also the use of testosterone – which I also learned about through a friend – but have little knowledge of how to access it.
Aly : Yes, you’re not alone, we seem to talk about it more now, unfortunately 10 years ago all of my friends were 10 years younger than me and not interested or not aware of what was round the corner. Everyone else I knew was the generation above that didn’t talk about it and just got on with it, which is how I was made to feel…. just get on with it. Even the GP didn’t know what to do and at that time HRT had a scare about breast cancer and they made you feel you were taking your life in your hands.. nobody had a good answer to all the mood swings or the hot flushes.. I was just told it was the time of life and it would soon pass…. they didn’t say it might take 10 years though.
Do you still get the odd random short term symptom, for example the odd hot flush ?
Ali : I get many odd, random symptoms! I have spoken to women who say the hot flushes carry on for years.
Aly : Yes still get the odd hot flush but it might be just once a week and for 2 minutes.
How do you cope with them?
Ali : Exercise is undoubtedly so good for your mental and physical health – when I get on with it – it really helps – but being outside (because it’s cooler) is just better too. Just being outside for 10 minutes can help lift the spirits, as hot flushes are tiresome at best, stop one sleeping, and really distressing at worst.
Aly : It doesn’t bother me as they are only small in comparison and I’m aware of what it is
Do you experience any of the long term symptoms of the menopause?
Ali : I have vaginal dryness, hairy chin, thickening waist.
Aly : Yes as in saggy skin, added flabby bits around the wait, stiff joints, dry vagina, no libido… that’s really horrid when you have no sex drive, I think for me that’s the worst as it makes you feel you’re not attractive or can’t be attractive if you know what I mean, I just wish out of everything that had not gone so soon as the knock on effect for yourself and relationship can be devastating, I wish I had known more about that maybe I could have been more prepared. Then there is forgetfulness, no concentration at times… God I could go on and on but I think that’s the worst.
How do you cope with them ?
Ali : Badly – I really find it a bit of a bore
Aly : I guess I just carry on and try to not let it get me down. Its a part of getting old and I think I could be so worse off, a few niggly things is okay and I guess the good thing is I’m not alone anymore, my friends are all catching me up and I see how they are coping and I don’t feel such a freak.
Being more informed do you feel more comfortable and confident talking to your GP?
Ali : I have given up on my Medical Practice – I have not yet found a decent doctor who I feel like talking to. Most of the time I have referred myself to medical herbalists – I have had good treatment from one, but herbs in general are very gentle and often take a long time to work
Aly : Only a woman GP but even so they are all young and not experiencing all this stuff so yet again they listen but have no compassion. I wish there was a unit that held clinics for menopause with specialist Dr’s who knew what they where talking about rather like the family planning.
Likewise do you now feel more confident to talk about the menopause amongst friends and relatives or do you still see it as a taboo topic?
Ali : It’s very mixed – I would not really talk about it to my brothers – although interestingly – my Mum told them I was having sleep deprivation and they had to be sympathetic. Most women who I know now are ok – but if someone says to you – they’re on HRT, it stops the conversation, as they’re usually fine!! So have not experienced the worst of the symptoms.
Aly : Yes I’m very happy to talk and maybe help others as I wish I’d had that connection.
Have you significantly changed anything to do with your lifestyle ?
Ali : I do try and get outside/walk on the beach. I try and have completely alcohol free weekdays – but that is very random, as I enjoy drinking socially, but it definitely makes the symptoms worse. Especially red wine.
Aly : No not changed my lifestyle too much. I think getting breast cancer gave me a kick up the bum to be more active and more creative with my time which in the end de stresses me. I can loose myself for hours in a room full of fabric and colours so all the stress stuff doesn’t exist. I try not to do too much as in pressure of deadlines or trying to fit everything in, I think calmness is a great healer especially when your hormones are all over the place.
Do you now feel ready for the next 60?!
Ali : Absolutely – the alternative does not tempt in the least!!
Aly : Next 60? I’m 62 and even though the symptoms have gone, I do wish I had been able to access a group like yours Ruth so I knew what to expect and the options available, even just to talk about it and discover you’re not alone.
I would like to say a huge thank you to these two ladies, not only for agreeing to answer the questions, but for both being so open and honest with their answers, I think you would agree that by their frankness it has to make anyone suffering from menopause symptoms reading this blog feel a sense of relief that they are most definitely not alone in experiencing their symptoms and that they are completely normal. They both very kindly let me reveal their ages, names and had their photos taken — I can quite honestly say that neither of you come across as 60 year olds, look like most people would envisage a 60 year old to look, or act as a 60 year old ! You both lead full and varied lives, what an inspiration and amazing role models you are— it gives me hope for the future years to come! Thank you
Some useful websites
* Testosterone : Question asked to Consultant Gynaecologist go to : http://letstalkmenopause.co.uk/wp-admin/post.php?post=498&action=edit