100% of those females will go through the menopause.
So why do we know so little about it? Why does it remain a conversational taboo?
Even amongst women we don’t speak about it openly enough, let alone talking to the men in our lives. Heaven forbid!
Yet every one of those 100% of women will have a male in their lives – a partner, a husband, a brother, a son, a boss, a colleague, a friend – who will be as confused about what is happening to the woman they care about as the woman herself feels.
That’s why I am on a mission to put the ‘men’ back into the menopause by taking them with us on our journey.
It has to be a long-term plan, though. Like any social taboo, it’s not going to change overnight; we all have to be prepared to dig in and stay the course in creating an environment where there is greater understanding and less embarrassment.
Because, let’s face it, it’s embarrassment that stops us speaking about it. You say the word “menopause” in front of most guys and they are like a rat up a drainpipe! If you want to get rid of them, it’s almost guaranteed to clear a room.
I felt that embarrassment so keenly when I learnt about my menopause.
I was about 19. Yes, I was still a teenager when my body ‘failed’ me and my menopause began. I use the word fail because that’s how I felt when I was finally diagnosed at 32. At the time, I was trying – unsuccessfully – for a baby.
The years I had spent going backwards and forwards to various GPs, with horrific periods and other symptoms, had never once yielded a conversation about the possibility of menopause, let alone tests for it.
What the benefit of hindsight allowed me to realise was that the menopause had been nowhere in my thinking. I knew practically nothing about something that was certain to happen to me. That seems insane when I think about it now. I was in no way prepared or informed about it – so no wonder I couldn’t recognise the signs in my own body. I had no clue what they were!
Then, when I did know, I was totally lost and confused. Also ashamed. Goodness, was I ashamed. I felt like I had no-one to talk to, despite my loving family and amazing circle of friends. Why? Because no-one I knew could relate to what I was going through in coping with both my diagnosis and the resultant childlessness that had suddenly been thrust upon me. Yet, more than that, it wasn’t a topic that got spoken about anywhere in my life. It had been touched upon briefly when my mum went through hers – which, ironically, turned out to be at the same time I was going through mine – but even then it barely got mentioned. This was partly because her symptoms were (thankfully) less severe than many, but mostly because it just wasn’t something that got talked about. And we were an open family.
So when I went through my experience, I felt totally isolated. So I shoved down my feelings and just soldiered on. In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”. That decision came back and bit me hard several years later when other grief in my life surfaced the devastation my menopause had caused me.
Therein lies the truth – far from just a physical change, the menopause is an emotional upheaval. That is a significant part of what we need to ensure women are better prepared for and able to discuss with those around them.
It’s important to also put into context that when the menopause happens at the average age of 51, it can coincide with children leaving home and elderly parents needing greater support; it can already be a challenging time in life. We need to be overtly supporting women.
So, where is the best place to start breaking down those barriers and ‘normalising’ the menopause conversation?
I firmly believe that it is at school. Bear with me here.
Children are so much more open to learning, perceive less reasons to be embarrassed and are, let’s be honest, more accepting and less judgy.
When we start talking to children about their bodies, about sex education and tell them about the 3Ps – puberty, periods and pregnancy – we need to also explain what happens at the other end of that cycle of life. They need to see the whole picture, not just a part.
If we put the menopause on the mental map of our children, they will view it as part of life. A natural thing. I want to see the day when children are comfortably asking their elders questions about the menopause.
Only then will we take away the fear, phobias and embarrassment – surely we all want that for our kids?
Carolyn Hobdey is the author of ‘All The Twats I Met Along The Way’ and founder of the Redefining SELFISH community. She lived a life of shame and blame so is now passionate about pioneering new ways of thinking to ensure we live without guilt and regrets. As CEO of MayDey Ltd, Carolyn is a regular speaker and media commentator on issues of toxic relationships, self-esteem, women’s health (including the menopause), selfishness, narcissism and many other imperative, topical women’s issues.
With over 20 years spent as an award-winning Human Resources professional in some of the world’s largest employers, Carolyn earned a seat at the boardroom table leading internationally recognisable brands. En route, she gained a Masters in Lean Operations at Cardiff University where she was the first HR specialist to undertake the course and became the winner of the inaugural Sir Julian Hodge Prize for Logistics, Operations & Manufacturing.
Carolyn lives in Harrogate and enjoys boxing, dancing and socialising with friends.