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  • Writer's pictureSIEW

Menopause : The Things That Women Don’t Talk About

I almost wanted to kill this article.  There was an uneasiness in me as I questioned if a personal and intimate topic like Menopause has a place in LinkedIn, a business and employment-focused social media platform.  Sharing this article makes me feel like I’m going into a fine dining restaurant in a T-shirt and shorts.  

Yet, I know there are many women in the workspace who are going through this transition and possibly enduring it in silence.  After all, this is not something that we would openly talk about with our team or clients right?  It is a topic that we would probably google and self-learn, and try to gel the information with what is really happening to us – all by ourselves.

And it is exactly this mindset that doesn’t serve us.

We can get the academic knowledge, yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it helps to make it any easier.  Honest and open sharings of experiences do.

The Real Danger 

My M journey “officially” (there is a pre-phase called Peri-menopause but that’s for another time) started a year ago, exposing me to a full suite of symptoms that make me succumb to the fact that I am menopausal and…aging… (sigh).  The initial phase was confusing and frightening.  I seriously thought that I am having some big health issues like cancer or something.   As it dawned on me that what I was going through is menopause, I started to read up. But guess what?  The more I read, the more disconnected I feel.

OK, I know that it is a “normal part of the aging process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive life”... but heck, I don’t feel NORMAL at all!.  Yes, I know that my irritable moods are due to my hormones changing…but that hardly makes me FEEL better. 🙁  

What’s worse, none of these things that I learn from Mr AI and Ms ChatGPT prepare me for the mental turmoil.   

And therein lies the real danger of menopause.  

A woman can sink into depression when going through menopause.

As I try to deal with my outward physical changes, I find myself darkening inside. Seeing my physical appearance change and experiencing body reactions that I have no control of was hard for me to accept.  Even now, going into the details of these physical symptoms makes me feel awkward.  But I’m sure if you are a woman going through this phase, you would have an idea of what these physical changes are and can relate to what I am talking about.  

What’s happening physically gives rise to a mixture of strong, negative emotions – fear, embarrassment, anger, sadness...  which all worked to break my mental health and brought me to the brink of depression.  And I didn’t like that version of me very much.  I began to feel guilty and upset with myself for morphing into this horrible person who is constantly tired and angry and sad.  You see the looping cycle?  And all this while, there is this pressure to “pull myself together” so I can continue to deal with the daily grinds of work and family.

Doctors say that it “happens” because menopausal women experience a dip in our estrogen and progesterone.  I take it as a reminder to discern that my hormones trigger all these emotions and there is nothing fundamentally wrong about me as a person.  It is not a sign of weakness or decline.     

I Am Not That Special After All

Yes, mighty me thought that I am “the Chosen One” to endure this tribulation of being a woman.  I carried around this secret, doing all I can to create the impression that I am totally functioning well as a young healthy human being.  After all, I see all these midlife women around me with beautiful skin and thick bushy hair and not a single drop of sweat on their face.  Zero sign of menopause.  

“Maybe they are so blessed, they don’t suffer from any symptoms.” I thought, fanning myself furiously with a piece of paper as I silently sat in a pool of sweat with the air-condition blasting in the room.

The truth, of course, is far from what I had thought.  Every woman at some point in time, inevitably has to go through this course of nature.  We simply, out of uncertainty and an inherited culture of taboos, didn’t know how to talk about it.  So many choose to keep mum.    Even more choose to camouflage their challenges and create an illusion of perfectness and wellness.

It was only until I allowed myself to be vulnerable and tell people in my life that I learned I am not that special after all.  Someone out there has walked this journey before me, another is on the same path as me.  There are some who cope better than me, there are some who have to be on medication because of health issues brought by menopause.  They assured me that I am not exactly in the best position, but neither am I in the worst.  They showed me that I have a tribe, be it online or offline.  

That is healing in itself.

Menopause Is A Pivotal Moment In Our Life

Menopause is a major life transition for women.  We often think of it as an inevitable biological change, and fail to acknowledge that it is a huge transition that involves not just physical but also emotional and psychological changes.  Really, why should we treat it any lightly than from other transitions like a career change or a new/lost relationship?  

Menopause is a life transition during which we have to learn to say goodbye to part of ourselves.  It is a time of loss (physically and emotionally), so it is no surprise that many of us go through the grief cycle.  And just like any other life transition, it can affect us and our lives, and even our loved ones, in a big way.

Recognising this allows us to embrace this stage of life with an open heart and mind, which helps to free up capacity for us to navigate this journey with strength.   Sure, we can choose to ignore it praying that it will “just go away”.  Or refuse to accept that the change is here to stay (at least for a few years for many of us) and do everything to avoid what may be helpful to us.  But all these will eventually lead to a vicious cycle of wallowing in self pity and getting stuck at where we are.

So if you haven’t yet, start asking yourself what do you need right now to take control of this challenge?

I am sure you can find many resources online, but I will share what has helped me personally:

  • Hear other women’s stories. Nothing beats that sense of solidarity and community, and knowing that I am not the only one.  There are ample sources of this – websites, podcasts, books, women’s groups, even our good old girlfriends.  Two of my personal favourites are:

  • Share my own story.  When we pluck up the courage to talk about what’s happening to us, it suddenly feels like it’s not that big a deal after all.  (Trust me, this is how I feel halfway through writing this article.)

  • Create a simple 2-minute pause throughout the day.  For me, this means getting up to walk to the kitchen for my water bottle.  I will take a sip and while I slowly let the water flow down into my throat, I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths.  This pause calms me, allowing me to get back to whatever I am doing with mental clarity and renewed energy.

  • Love myself fiercely.  I love myself enough to give me permission to spend time on myself.  Simple as they are, it is my mode of self care:

  • diffusing essential oils – Lavender & Cedarwood are best for bedtime; Wild Orange & Peppermint brings a sense of abundance while I’m working.

  • putting on an eye mask to help me relax and sleep better

  • drinking 1-2 litres of water everyday (remember that pool of sweat?  It’s dehydrating…) 

  • singing out real loud to the music while driving (if you see a woman driver singing and swaying in a car, you probably have met me.)

  • Ask for recommendations of resources.  You will be surprised by how much information our peers hoarded (because remember, many of them are quietly going through this phase too!).  Ask them how they are coping with their symptoms and I am sure someone will tell you about a certain supplement that they are taking to

  • alleviate the hot flashes or a stretching exercise to ease the joint pains.  

"Menopause is not a curse; it's a gateway to a new phase of life where women can embrace their true selves and thrive." ~ Dr. Sara Gottfried

To all my peers who are in the midst of this big life transition, I want you to hear from me: this may be one of the most difficult transitions you have gone through, but believe that you are strong enough to work through this.  And regardless of what changes due to menopause, you are as beautiful as you have always been.  

With lots of love, xoxo.

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