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How To Cope With Menopause In Your 40s & 50s (FOR MATURE READERS)

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Menopausal stage has been described as a that moment in a woman’s life when menstruation diminishes and ceases, usually between the ages of 42 and 50
There are many
obvious reasons why growing old was never going to be easy for me — among them
the creaking joints and crows’ feet, the chances missed and choices not taken.
But the main
reason I approached ageing with trepidation is that I never had a role model
for how it should and could be.
My own mother
loathed the ageing process. Coloured by our culture which fetishes the cult of
youth above all else, she encouraged me to dread the passage of time.

Not for one
instant would I imagine there could be positives to growing older. In her
youth, Mum was ravishingly beautiful.
She found the
loss of her beauty in her 50s traumatic. And it was the menopause in particular
which proved a horrible time for her.
I think she felt
it was at this point that men who had paid her so much attention during her
younger life didn’t give her so much as a second glance any more.
Personally, I
don’t have beauty as an excuse; I have never been beautiful. My disappointment
on turning 50 was of a different nature.
Nonetheless,
like my mother before me, I found the menopause to be a searing experience.
When I was 51, I wrote an article about The Change. At the time, my hormonal
confusion was at its height.
I had aching muscles,
insomnia, hot flushes, mood swings and heart palpitations — a different symptom
for every day of the week.
Eager for
corroboration, I started talking to other women at the same life stage.
‘One of the
biggest gains of coming through the menopause is finding oneself again’
Some breezed
happily through the whole thing, but many shared with me the multiple
challenges and conflicts with which mid-life and the menopause can slap you in
the face.
The resulting
article excited more response than anything I have written in 30 years of
journalism. My conclusion was that at 50, women are up against it.
Work, family,
relationships — it all feels like one giant squeeze. Our adolescent children
are demanding, and so are our geriatric parents, who are living longer.
If we are
married, the strain of coupledom can be overwhelming.
If there is one
thing that can be said with confidence of the menopause, it is this: it forces
you into strange and unnerving territory where nothing feels the same any more,
whether it is your own body, or your connection to the people and the world
around you.
It is a cauldron
of change.
Back then, in a
state of ‘hormonal agitation’ — as my acupuncturist put it (I’d say ‘mad as a
March hare’) — I could never have imagined things would change again, that the
dark tunnel of mid-life would open into a landscape of infinite and new
possibilities.
My menopause
lasted five years — from the first rumblings of unease at 49 to the climax of
hormonal disruption at 51, followed by a gradual waning of symptoms through my
early 50s as the inner storm subsided.
Now 55, it is
just over a year since my last period — the official marker of a completed
menopause — and I feel something that is unfamiliar and somewhat unexpected.
I am
experiencing a profound sense of wellbeing.
Now come to
think of it, when I did my research for my last article about the menopause, it
was always the older women who were the most inspiring — because they were so
much more positive. It’s only now that I realise why.
My friend Carole,
65, summed it up like this when she told me: ‘One of the biggest gains of
coming through the menopause is finding oneself again.’
‘Menopause
knocks a woman’s self-confidence, since notions of sexuality seem bound up with
fecundity and youth’
It’s something I
would have shrugged off before, but now I know exactly what she means.
So many years of
a woman’s life are spent treading the wheel of duty — as a daughter,
girlfriend, wife, mother and worker — all bound in by the monthly cycle of
hormonal ebb and flow, that post-menopause gives a new and enormous sense of
freedom.
Another friend
in her mid-50s remarked: ‘Life without periods is so expansive.
‘You have so
much more time because you never lose your energy or your days to
menstruation.’ And that’s the thing, the most obvious — essential — marker of
contentment is a physical one.
It feels as if
my body is my own again, after being on loan for years to the weird processes
of puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
I have never
been a pill-popper or addicted to anything more than a large and refreshing
glass of white wine in the evening.
But the sudden,
drastic dip in oestrogen which comes at mid-life felt like withdrawal from a
powerful drug — and five years of cold turkey is no picnic: dry mouth and dry
eyes, a suddenly accelerated heartbeat, a body temperature flushing high then
swooping low.
I’d have a rush
of feeling good followed by a tidal wave of gloom and irritation, and endless
sleepless nights. In short, it was no fun. No fun at all. Four years on, it is
different now.
I am under no
illusions here: I have the body of a 55-year-old, with all the creases, sags,
bumps and crinkles that entails.
But it is also a
contented body. I lost weight during the menopause: I grew thin and tired.
Now I have
curves again — around the bosom, belly and hips, and there is a sense of
strength returning, a kind of sly and sensual delight in being who I am. My
sleep is better, and there are no more hot sweats.
My appetite is
lusty, for good food and strong drink.
I am back at
yoga class — I avoided it when my joints ached with what the GP described as
‘menopausal arthralgia’.
My eyes are not
as dry, and my hair has stopped falling out by the combful. The dental
abscesses, a sure sign of a depleted immune system, have gone.
A new sense of
balance has put a spring in my step — a kind of subtle but palpable inner
radiance. I may look no different, but I feel better, and that’s what counts.
This must be
what the anthropologist Margaret Mead called ‘post-menopausal zest’. Whatever it
is, I like it.
‘Wherever you
look, there are older women brimming with zest and good humour, busy making
waves in the world’
When I was
pregnant, something strange happened to my brain: A life-long book lover, I
stopped reading.
Then at
menopause, I had absolutely no appetite for books.
I must have the
kind of brain that resents hormonal interference. Now that I am flushed clean
of oestrogen and progesterone, I read like a woman possessed.
My capacity for
new learning is prodigious. I am studying Hungarian, meditation, yoga and
singing, and I have stopped the teaching work which leeched my energy to
concentrate on what I love best: reading and writing.
A mid-life
crisis forces you to consider your world, and, if you have any sense, make it
fit you better, rather than the other way round. Considerations of success and
failure are far less crucial than when I was young. Happiness — and solvency –—
is what counts now.
As for matters
of the heart, things did not turn out the way I expected. I met my husband in
my 30s and was with him for 15 years, ten of them consumed by the cancer that
killed him. Since then, I have been on my own.
Menopause knocks
a woman’s self-confidence, since notions of sexuality seem bound up with
fecundity and youth.
But I have
discovered, to my delight, that there is a rich sensuality to being an older
woman.
I feel a renewed
and earthy pleasure in the sights, tastes and sounds around me, and in the
deepening friendships which sustain me.
If a new partner
comes along, I will be happy.
If not, I will
be happy too.
My duties of
care are over for now: both my parents are dead and my daughter, at nearly 20,
is fully-fledged.
It’s time for
me.
And these days,
it is not hard to find examples of successful older women. In politics there is
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is 64, and German chancellor Angela
Merkel, 57.
In showbusiness
there is Oscar-winner Meryl Streep, who is radiant at 62; Helen Mirren, a sexy
66; and national treasure Judi Dench, still twinkling at 77.
Wherever you
look, there are older women brimming with zest and good humour, busy making
waves in the world.
I do not believe
women become invisible after 50. Far from it.
The sense of
stability and self-awareness that arrives after the menopause is powerful, for
the individual and for the culture to which a woman belongs.
As for me, I
feel a great sense of optimism, and I’m full of energy and merriment. It is
something like being young again, but with a few more wrinkles .?.?. and a lot
less worry.
A guest post from Barney Bardsley



@citypulse_ng
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Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis is a communicator, Journalist, blogger, business coach and, of course, a prolific writer. He has Dip (Journalism) and B.A. (History & International Relations) from the Lagos State University (LASU). The self-effacing young man has worked for national, regional and local newspapers. He had worked with THISDAY covered community news for ISLAND NEWS and corresponded with P.M. NEWS (evening tabloid). Presently, he is the editor of CITYPULSE MEDIA and senior correspondent of PHARMANEWS, West Africa foremost health and pharmaceutical journal.

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