Menopause Mythbusting: The Truth About The Big M

The Big M Wisdom © lynette sheppard

I clicked on a tweet (on Twitter) the other day promising to answer our questions about menopause. And got the same old rhetoric that I’ve read countless times in books, in articles, on websites. Finally, I gotta comment and reanswer each question as a true menopause goddess. I’m tired of the B.S. I’m not picking on any one site or author (which is why I won’t include the link to this particular Q & A article.) I’m addressing all of them that put this kind of information out for women. Below are their questions and answers in plain text, my answer is in bold. And I do mean BOLD!

The info started with:
Are you or a loved one approaching the time of life many women fear — menopause? If so, you probably have questions about this sensitive subject.

Well, we didn’t, I’m sorry to say. We didn’t know it would be so momentous. So it caught us completely by surprise (read mind-numbing shock). But once it started? You bet your sweet bippy we had questions! And we sure wanted answers!

Here are 6 answers to help you go through menopause as comfortably as possible:

Oh Goody. Let’s hear them.

1. Why is menopause a puzzling time of life?

Before reaching the change of life, many women don’t know what to expect. That can be scary! There are horror stories floating around that can make women unnecessarily apprehensive, but you need to know that menopause is a normal part of your journey through life.

Oh sweetie. Menopause IS a freaking horror story. For most women who haven’t started immediately with hormones anyway.
Of course, it’s NORMAL. Puberty and childbirth are NORMAL, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions are NORMAL, but that doesn’t make them any easier to take. Especially if we don’t know what is coming!!

2. At about what age does menopause begin?
Most women cease having periods between the ages of 45 to 55. However, menopause can be induced earlier by surgery.

Yeah, well perimenopause can start years earlier. And for many women the symptoms start or are the worst in perimenopause. So you’d better amend those ages. And let me say that I talk to women in their sixties still dealing with it, so 55 sounds like a nice cutoff but it just ain’t always so. So the answer to this question? Whenever it wants to!

3. What are some of the symptoms?

During the early stages of menopause, called perimenopause, a woman’s menstrual cycle becomes irregular. When menopause has been completed, a woman no longer has periods at all. One of the most widespread symptoms of menopause is hot flashes and a high percentage of menopausal women have them. Some women experience feelings of depression while they are going through menopause and mood swings can accompany the change of life.

There is so much understatement here that I almost don’t know where to begin. Let me start with hot flashes. Widespread symptom? High percentage have them? Allow me to explain. Hot flashes are not short private vacations in the tropics. Because vacations are enjoyable. Think of the worst flu fever you’ve ever had – now quadruple it. And you’re not even close to how bad it is.

Depression and mood swings? We have more ups and downs than Six Flags. Tire commercials can move us to tears and the sound of the refrigerator or our cat breathing can piss us off. And again, none of the fun.

4. What about hair loss during and after menopause?

Hair loss sometimes occurs to some women with the aging process. This is one of the most distressing side effects of menopause. However, there are a lot of women who don’t lose their hair during this transitional period in their lives. Some women have higher levels of the hormones that cause hair thinning. If you are experiencing hair loss, you should check with your doctor about treatment options.

Having been one of the “some women”, I can tell you that yes that losing your hair is distressing. As in I was afraid I would be bald soon!   It’s actually terrifying.

As for checking with my doctor about treatment options? I consulted with more than one physician. They were less helpful than the DMV and ten times as expensive. Like us, they have no experience with menopause that hasn’t been squelched by immediate hormone therapy. If I had to depend on them, I’d still be freaking out. Or bald. Or both. (For more info, search hair loss here on the blog. Or write me.)

5. Are there any special nutrition recommendations for women going through menopause?

You might want to consider adding soy products to your diet to assist your estrogen levels. Be sure to get enough vitamin A to help your skin and hair to be as healthy as possible. Health food stores offer a variety of herbal extracts to help with menopausal symptoms.

Hmmmmmm special nutrition recommendations. Other than you can’t eat anything every again without gaining weight? Oh yeah, soy is one of the top food allergens, and can interfere with thyroid function. Since everything you eat turns to fat, might as well make chocolate your main food group. And wine. Lots of wine.

6. What medical help is available while you’re going through menopause?

Your doctor may prescribe treatment options to help lessen disturbing side effects of the change of life.

A combination of estrogen and progestin may be recommended by your doctor — if you don’t have a history of breast cancer in your family. There are treatments to help you if you are suffering from hot flashes that disturb your sleep and other symptoms as well

Or s/he might prescribe antidepressants, the latest “magic” cure for The Big M. I highly recommend holistic or complementary physicians/nurse practitioners who look at the whole person and don’t start with either HRT (hormone replacement therapy) or antidepressants as the first (sometimes only) approach. Check out Holistic Medical Association or Women In Balance to find a practitioner near you.

Although cessation of menstruation can be a puzzling time dreaded by many women, there are a number of advantages to this period of your life’s story. It’s a new chapter opening before you! You will probably be able to enjoy greater freedom than ever before to pursue interests you could not pursue before because of family responsibilities. Why not investigate new opportunities and challenges in this new chapter of your life!

While this is true, it doesn’t compute when we are in the beginning or worst stages of The Big M. There are few things worse than perky, upbeat proclamations about how this is the best time of our lives. Eventually it may be. (It certainly is for the goddesses.) But we went through a few RIDICULOUS years before we came out the other side feeling whole again. Different, but whole. Menopause. It will set you free but it will really mess with you first.

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15 Responses to Menopause Mythbusting: The Truth About The Big M

  1. rae May 11, 2010 at 4:25 pm #

    lynette, wow, am I glad you can articulate what we are and have gone thur, without , may I say help from the “experts”. I can not emphasize the help that our little group of goddess gave to each other, we laughed, we cried, we shared and we help each other thru the transition. Everyone of us had our own unique experience and just having someone listening helped us. Realizing that you are not crazy and not imagining the things that was happening to your body. (oh,mygodi’mloosingmyhair!!!!!) mahalo,rae

  2. Jeffrey May 11, 2010 at 7:11 pm #

    Very informative article, and important questions that were answered. My wife has reached the age of menopause and has had some symptoms that have been overpowering, like hot flashes and lack of sleep, but she has began exercising a lot more and has seen a bit of a difference. I wanted to know if a woman has stayed active throughout her life is there a way to go through menopause with symptoms barely apparent?

  3. Holly May 12, 2010 at 6:14 am #

    Nobody can really explain to you the range of emotions you’ll feel once menopause begins. My favorite is when a man is the expert and wants to explain hormones to women that are stuck in one of the most challenging times of their lives. Thanks for your terrific insight.

  4. Anne May 12, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    Oh Baby! Do I detect a plummeting of hormones. Your bold and outspoken comments so remind me of somebody we both know well! Remember all the anger issues I had? I’m smiling as I write this in spite of remembering how much we all suffered over several years: the insomnia, the wild mood swings, the homicidal (seldom suicidal) impulses especially towards our dear life partners, the irritability, the complete inability to ever suffer fools ever again, the triple whammy of so many life transitions at the same time(empty nest, rebellious teens, aging, sick & dying parents, changing careers, grad school, lagging libido, male menopause). I can smile and laugh now, only bec/ my antidepressant has helped so much. Yes, there IS better living through chemistry. I might be on HRT still, if I hadn’t been forced to go off w/ my high blood pressure and allergy to the patch adhesives. That said, I feel good now. Hope you get through this physical stuff. I still have hot flashes but they aren’t too bad. I usually rip off a layer of clothes & open the door. You have been a wonderful guiding light for all, Lynette. Thanks for book and blog.

  5. Betty Zahler May 12, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    Menopause is as Lynette Says, a normal part of the life cycle. Actually, when we dwell on the big M. it seems to dominate our very existance. What i did was “go with the flow”. It made my life easier and happier as well.

  6. Lynette Sheppard May 12, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    Thanks for your comments, goddesses.
    Okay, maybe I picked the wrong month to give up hormones. And maybe the hormone drop is causing the effect that I’m suffering fools less gladly than ever. But I have thought about saying this stuff for a while, so I’m glad that the rant just spilled out finally. And on the upside? I’m feeling pretty great, even with my hormone decrease. (Although maybe I should ask my sweetie how he feels I am lately, ha ha.)

  7. Jeffrey May 17, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    Holly,

    I may not know what women go through during menopause, but I have recently been going through andropause with a noticeable decrease in my energy levels. I am waiting for my saliva and blood test results, which should be ready any time this week, to see what I should do next. I will keep you posted and maybe you can give me some advice during my challenging time.

  8. Jeffrey May 19, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    I got my results and my testosterone levels were somewhat out of range, not bad and some of things that come with “old” age. Anyway I made my initial appointment, so lets see what actions I should take.

  9. Donna Walters November 16, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    It is amazing to find out that many women do not know that menopause can be a choice. What puberty giveth, menopause taketh away. Estrogen is needed for EVERY receptor in a woman’s body. How can a woman be healthy without it? She can’t !! I have taken estrogen for 32 years, am approaching the age of 64, and have the appearance and health of a woman in her mid-4o’s. I have maintained my hormones and thus have maintained my health, appearance and youthful attitude. See http://www.menopausefree.org and http://www.estrogen challenge for photo and information.

    Donna Walters
    Author, Estrogen Revisited
    Founder, Estrogen Challenge.

  10. Loriann Gill March 31, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    thank you for sharing your views on the Big M. I have cried myself to sleep more nights than I care to admit over the “issues” with menopause, especially in the area of hair loss and low libido. Also, I have found no help whatsoever from medical doctors, and I’m at a point where I want to go far, far away to an island and live out the rest of my days alone so I don’t have to have the constant reminder I’m no longer a good wife, lover, etc. Honestly, I am ready to pack my bags not because I don’t love my husband to pieces, but because I feel to bad about myself. I mean, who wants to look at a balding, raging wife, with bouts of depression…no man should have to deal with those things when there are so many younger women out there who aren’t going through these “symptoms”. If you have any feedback, help, advice, etc., I would appreciate it more than you can know. Thank you.

  11. mieke November 27, 2012 at 7:59 am #

    I am a little shocked by the negativity… It must be meant to be funny, but as I was looking for a menopause goddess as a positive approach to menopause, learning how to embrace it and make the best of it, this does not really feel like help.

  12. Mia February 17, 2013 at 6:27 am #

    You know what doesn’t feel like help to me? All the patronising menopause articles clogging up the web. The author of this site got it right. The tone of the experts treats menopausal women like idiots, like they just need some pleasant platitudes. I love that the author says it how it is. A relief.

  13. LynetteSh February 20, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Thank you so much, Mia! I too got fed up with the platitudes and lack of empathy. Which is why I wrote this little rant. I felt a lot better. Menopause – definitely not for the faint of heart.

  14. Kenner November 29, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    I agree with Betty and Meike…it is a normal part of life…anything we anticipate with utter dread will most likely not be a good experience…do we coach our children entering puberty this way? We encourage them to embrace this profound change of life. We should do the same for women. deal with the issues of course …but reinforce the fact that it is normal and will pass.

  15. LynetteSh December 6, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    Absolutely – the best thing about even the worst of Menopause is that it is NORMAL and it is temporary. The problem is for many women when the symptoms are so overwhelming and unexpected, they believe something is seriously wrong. Shining a light on even the worst of it will allow us to accept all the changes and even laugh through them.

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