Image credit: Young Hearts Photography
Growing up I don’t recall menopause being something my mother told me about, other than her naming the colour purple as ‘menopausal mauve’. I’m not sure if that was because purple tended to be the colour women started to wear once they became menopausal or if it related to the colour that older women once dyed their hair. Either way, whenever I consider buying purple clothes (rare I have to say), that’s what I think: Will I be wearing menopausal mauve?
OK. So now you know. I don’t wear purple.
Often, menopause is correlated with hot flushes – a sense of being on fire. That’s not my story.
My menopausal story is migraines.
Headaches have not been a big part of my life. Until menopause I hadn’t experienced a migraine. Since menopause, I’ve lost count of the number of migraines I’ve suffered. Menopause is like that – there’s before, then there’s after.
I recall attending a business lunch a few years ago. I held it together for the lunch, then promptly left to find a toilet where I could throw up with my head pounding like it was about to explode. I found my way to a lounge in the foyer of the tall building in which I found myself and called my husband. I could barely walk or talk. I could share numerous other stories like this one.
That’s my downside of menopause.
Then there’s the upside.
Since menopause I’ve felt and found renewed confidence and freedom. I’m 53 and I can, with absolute certainty say, I’ve never once said … “Wouldn’t it be great to be X years old again?”
I started my business when I was 50. I’m far less concerned about what others think about me. My children are older and more independent. This fact alone gives me more time to turn my energies elsewhere. I feel like ‘now’ is my time and I have years in front of me to recreate my life, what I do, and how I’ll contribute to the world – beyond my husband and children. I confidently adapt physical exercise – I’ve practiced yoga for 20 years and have been able to do most postures easily. Now? My knees aren’t great so I adapt according to what suits me – even if that means doing a different posture to the rest of the class. Fitting in and adapting myself to suit everyone else is less important. Things have to suit me too!
The good news is, I know I’m not alone.
Through my work I’ve spoken with numerous women in their 50s and 60s. Consistently I hear a similar story – increased confidence and greater freedom. It’s not like there aren’t some concerns. Of course these exist – generally associated with finances and work. Women are definitely at a disadvantage on both fronts. Invariably we take time out of the workforce to care for children. This single decision impacts our earning capacity when we do return to work and our superannuation balances. The pay inequities associated with those professions dominated by women (e.g. teaching, nursing, childcare etc.) are well-known.1 Invariably, women are often the carers for our ageing parents.2 In fact, those of us with dependent children AND older parents are called ‘the sandwich generation’.3 So, what do these things have to do with women and me being on fire – particularly as I don’t have hot flushes?
Because I believe women in their 50s are on fire – for many, physically; and for us all, metaphorically. And whilst Alicia Keys didn’t write her song Girl on Fire for menopausal women, it could be our inspiration. It’s our time. It’s important we own it. It’s vital we share it – with each other and the world. Importantly, we must talk about our menopause experience: our ideas, our concerns, our hopes, and our dreams. Then? We must support each other.
There are often times when my daughter will be shy or modest about her achievements. When this happens I encourage her to own her strengths and her ability. She doesn’t need to be boastful, just confident and proud. I remind her that she has a responsibility to do this as an example to other young women. It’s O.K. to do great things, let others know, and have a level of self-doubt about what she might be able to do in the future. It’s not arrogant or egotistical. It’s a simple fact and her truth in that moment.
I suggest it’s the same for women as we enter menopause, have the experience, and come out the other side. Menopause is a time for change - on all levels. By recreating our life we have the opportunity to defy age stereotypes and challenge ageism. Move beyond the corny images and do life differently.
Let’s grasp it girls – with both hands: for us, for our daughters and future generations.
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