Menopause. How does that word make you feel? If you’re a man, the chances are you’ve already clicked away and stopped reading, if you’re a woman, it might well be making you feel uncomfortable, or filling you with a sense of nervous dread. We’re keen to break the taboo and tell as many women’s stories of menopause as we can. Here, Shona Knowles shares her experience with us.
While menopause is a very natural phase of any woman’s life, unfortunately in this modern world of over-sharing where very few subjects are off-bounds, the one subject that we should all talk openly and share information about remains fairly taboo.
The real problem is that by not talking about menopause, women often don’t know how to cope when that time of their life arrives, and as a result, often fall into depression – compounded by a sense of isolation.
One of our London-based Shona Knowles, 49, says that after tackling menopause head on she has been able to tackle menopausal symptoms and is happily welcoming in a new phase of her life: “To be honest menopause seemed to me as though it was something that was always years away,” Shona tells Lumity.
“When it became clear that it arrived I was shocked and upset and it caught me completely off guard. I cried when I had my first proper hot flush and then came a phase of mourning.
“Although I have never even wanted kids, I was sad that I could no longer have them and it somehow felt as though I had reached old age and I was no longer attractive or fertile. I feel silly now admitting that, but honestly it was how I felt at the time and it illustrates how badly my emotions and moods were all over the place.
“I now realise that those feelings of sadness are completely normal, but instead of talking about them I kept them hidden. A lot of my friends are a few years younger than me and whenever I tried to raise the subject during girly lunches they’d look vaguely horrified and quickly talk about something else.
Shona says that sleeping became very hard, she was able to fall asleep, but would often wake up at 4am and stay awake unable to sleep again until morning.
She remembers: “My mood was very dark and at work I often felt as though everything was hopeless and as if my life had no meaning and I was simply existing on a day to day basis, waiting for the time of day to come when I could hide under the bedcovers at 9pm and go to sleep.
“I was finding it hard to think clearly and I had permanent brain-fog – forgetting to reply to important emails or putting off simple tasks at home.”
Finally, Shona’s female boss took her to one side and asked her if she was coping with life or if anything was wrong:
“My boss, who is a really lovely, but is a very no-nonsense and strong woman, finally took me to one side and asked me what was going on,” Shona says. “I burst into tears and told her honestly how I was feeling and she told me that she had been though exactly the same thing six years beforehand and now, in her fifties, she was happy and settled – thanks to her doctor’s help.
“She gave me a week off work to rest and get myself together on the condition that I went to see her gynaecologist, as well as trying traditional therapy – to get a handle on any depression and anxiety I was feeling about the changes my body was going through.
“A wave of relief flooded over me, taking positive action and making those appointments with experts immediately made me feel more in control of my life than I had done in months, and it was so lovely to feel as though I had several people on my side, who understood, and better yet – felt that I was going through something which could be easily managed with the right tools.
“I threw myself into reading up on the menopause and concentrated on healing and treating my physical and emotional symptoms: My new gynaecologist put me on a very low dose of bioidentical hormones which seemed to lift my mood and clear my brain fog and depression within days. Talking to a therapist cleared up years of issues that I had been burying since my twenties and not really dealing with.
“I also joined a gym to help generate some natural, feel good endorphins.
“Whilst I was making those changes I decided to give my diet an overhaul and eat lots of fish and fresh vegetables, and I stopped picking up a ready meal for one and a bottle of wine on my way home from work and instead went for a swim or a steam in the evenings.
“As each week flew by I felt better and my moods completely levelled out. The sense of hopelessness has long gone and although I have the odd hot flush, I have worked out that mine are almost always triggered by stress so I have learned some easy self-hypnosis type tools for stress management and I distract myself until it has passed.
“I don’t know why I panicked about menopause so much initially, I’ve started dating again and am enjoying myself – all in all, life is pretty fantastic.”
Have you coped with the symptoms of menopause? Let’s break the taboo, leave a comment below.