Judy Barouch shares her story about menopause, and what it really feels like.
Who would have thought, menopause (over)sharing by 40-something Gen X-ers, is now A Thing. As a bemused Baby Boomer, I can’t decide if this is liberating or simply feeding the beast.
Like our monthly menstrual periods, menopause was something we BBs endured in silence, mindful that admitting to the coyly named “Change of Life” might make us appear less capable, less dependable in our working lives.
The most we allowed ourselves? A conspiratorial moan with a trustworthy, same-age friend… or our mums. My mother was less than encouraging, delighting in informing me that her friend Lily still suffered the dreaded hot flushes throughout her ‘70s. Thanks, Mum.
I still shudder at the recollection of the time I scored an audience with the formidable editor of a magazine to which I very much wanted to contribute. Psyched-up in my carefully- curated designer jeans and stripey jumper combo, the dialogue was getting off to a good start when Code Red: that tell-tale heat began rising up from my chest, along my neck and then, most embarrassingly, burning bright across both cheeks. Without missing a beat, Formidable Ed intoned wryly: “Best not to wear turtleneck sweaters during these years,” and with that, the discussion continued.
All so different to the current zeitgeist, where out-and-proud menopause monologues take to the socials along with Facebook self-help groups and podcasts all laying bare the hormonal hell of menopause and peri menopause (that twilight zone sometimes even beginning in the ‘30s, that precedes the denouement of the last period).
Debilitating symptoms are unashamedly catalogued, each one lauded as a badge of honour: daytime hot flushes plus throw-off-your-sheets- even- in- winter night sweats (check); heavy, prolonged, clot-forming periods alternating with zilch periods for weeks on end (check); sleeplessness (check); batshit-crazy mood-swings (check) and then, the Big Dry. Dryness and itchiness of the skin (bad); pain, redness and scratchiness in the eyes (super bad) and the final indignity: raw, sandpaper-like genitals (The.Very.Worst).
And just like that, the loss of libido follows. (Men-o-pause – curious word, apt if your partner is male, just saying.) A survey of 601 women last November/December by the Menopause Experts Group – a UK-based educational menopause “community” — reported that three quarters of the women (75%) said that menopause made sex less pleasurable while one in six (17%) noted it had become “unbearable” resulting in a quarter of them (27%) giving up on sex entirely.
For those who testified to having had sex around twice a week pre-menopause, this dropped dramatically to only twice a year during menopause.
On reflection, given these disheartening statistics, I’m pleased that these new-breed, self-assured hormone warriors are no longer wary about airing what was once secret women’s business. Unconcerned their revelations might weird others out, and stigmatise their bodies as ageing, by trading info and helpful tips, presumably the journey becomes less lonely.
As for me, that kick-ass jumper is ready to come out of retirement as I near the relief of the finale (unless I’m unlucky, like long-suffering Lily).
Postscript: I did score that gig with the magazine, hot flushes notwithstanding.