Ending the Stigma Around Menopause Across Generations
My mum never talked to me about her difficult experience of menopause, she struggled in silence.
So I never knew what to expect, and I never got to be there for her when she was struggling with menopause symptoms either.
I didn’t know how old she was when she went through it – I’ve often wondered if we were around the same age, but I’ll never know, since she passed away 8 years ago.
In this episode I explore (and rant a bit) why it’s so important to open up the menopause conversation!
We’re dismantling generational stigma and shame as we acknowledge 📣 World Menopause Day on October 18!
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Full Episode Transcript
Hey friends, welcome to the podcast. October 18 is World Menopause Day, and this episode is going to be released on October 18.
And there’s a lot being said about menopause that I’m reading online, that I’m seeing in my socials. The conversations are really opening up and I think it goes beyond just women in our age group that are going through perimenopause, menopause, midlife. It is such an important piece that we’re opening the conversation and it, and, you know, the fact that it is World Menopause Day really got me to thinking about what is the, the legacy that we grew up in around menopause, around menstrual cycles, around being a 2023 and it
In my experience anyway, this is the first time that I’ve seen so much conversation opening up around the world, but also very importantly in New Zealand, where I live and where many of you do live. you know, opening up the conversation around menopause. And it did get me to thinking about my mum’s experience, my mother’s experience of menopause.
And, she’s passed on now about eight years ago. And so I can’t ask her about it. when she did die I hadn’t had that conversation with her because I was just, I think, realizing that I was in perimenopause, and it was very early days, and so I didn’t talk to her about the things that I really wished I had been able to ask her, and the things I wanted to ask her about.
Were things like, how old were you when you started perimenopause? When you went through menopause, and what was that like for you? And did you talk to your friends about it? Did you talk to your doctor about it? Did you go it alone? What were the symptoms like for you? And looking back, I remember a time really distinctly where my mother went through a difficult phase where she was getting a lot of headaches.
where she spent a lot of time in her bedroom. She spent a lot of time unwell during the day and there was nothing diagnosed. There was nothing, you know, that she could say or that she did say, I’m sick with this. So during that time, she spent a lot of time unwell and struggling. She was incredibly irritable.
So I didn’t live at home then I had left home. I’m not sure if I had my own children or not. I haven’t got the timeline quite clear in my head. But I remember going home and there was so much tension in the air and none of us children lived at home by that stage. But I remember mum talking to me a lot about my lovely stepdad and how difficult things were between them and seeing her, seeing them together, she was incredibly Just seemed incredibly unhappy and short tempered and snapping at him and they had this tension and conflict between them and I remember thinking, gosh, what is going on?
Are they going to separate? Are they, you know, are they at the end of their relationship? They weren’t. They stayed together. But when I look back at that time. I suspect, highly suspect, that she was going through perimenopause and coming into menopause. And so much wasn’t talked about then, in my experience anyway.
Your experience might have been different but my mother was open to talking about menstrual cycles, about pregnancy, about a lot of things. But never menopause. And I don’t think that it was ever mentioned in my, you know, when I was around her. And I think about how isolating that might have been. Now she probably, perhaps, did have conversations with her close friends, but I know at that stage of life.
Whenever that was for her, HRT wasn’t common and the safe body identical form of HRT certainly wasn’t around then. So what, you know, what on earth did, did she do? What on earth? I vaguely remember her talking about some women being on HRT but that it wasn’t ideal. And I really saw my mother suffer through that time and I, it being World Menopause Day coming up very soon, I have been reflecting on the struggle that our mothers went through with menopause and probably different to our struggle because we know that health and well being has changed.
But what I’m really getting at here is the level of hiddenness and probably shame. At the very least, not being able to be open about being menopause, being menopausal. And I, I do remember that women were seen as, so I was a young woman then, I remember women going through menopause. It was seen as being kind of gross, kind of something you
definitely didn’t talk about, and it was kind of this big judgment of, oh, she’s going through menopause. Like, it was this kind of gross, is the only word I can think of, thing that women went through. And it was best that you bloody well didn’t talk about it. You certainly didn’t talk about your symptoms.
You tried to keep it hidden, and you just kept going. one foot in front of the other. So I imagine the struggle that women of my mother’s generation went through then and I am grateful for, you know, what they did to start to bring it out in the open and certainly in the last particularly the last couple of years, but you know, the last five years, it has started to be a much more open conversation.
I think there is so much stigma that is still to be lifted. off of our experience of menopause as women and our, you know, our value as women in midlife. And I, I think the way that we do that is to have more and more open and honest conversations, and not just with women, but with men as well, with all genders.
I did a talk at a local tech with With my colleague, Nicola Douglas, who’s a TCM acupuncturist and she works with women’s health and wellness through all stages of their life. And so she talks about the the more physical stuff and her lens of supporting women through TCM, traditional Chinese medicine and natural therapies.
And then I talk about the psychology of menopause and midlife. And the opportunity that is there for us as women. And what I loved and it was that are employees that are coming along to this talk. And there was a number of men that came to the talk and really open and they were really available for the discussion. You know, they were asking questions, they were, I thought, giving really empathic comments and, you know, Trying to understand what women go through.
And how much is that needed in our workplace, right? There’s been a health survey that came out in Australia recently,
and there is a, a statement in it, I haven’t had time to have a really good look at it, but there’s a statement in it that the Menno Doctor team, who are a New Zealand based that specialise in working with menopausal women, and they have highlighted this statement which I think definitely warrants our attention and it’s from this National Women’s Health Survey that happened in Australia and I’m guessing it’s part of the summary and it says, we need to avoid catastrophizing or specialing menopause.
And there’s a lot to say about that, I believe anyway, because You can’t go from having something being so hidden and so taboo and so kept away from our mainstream conversations, and I will go so far as to say, as being perceived as being shameful. You can’t go from that to suddenly saying in the next breath and we need to avoid catastrophizing or specialing menopause, because hang on a minute, menopause is only just starting to be talked about openly.
We’re only just starting to remove the stigma and For many women, shame that they feel around the symptoms that arise, that they shouldn’t be experiencing this and they need to hide them. Being open about this experience that women are going through is very needed at this time because it has been so stigmatized and hidden.
Because societally we grow in stages, this is the stage for us to open up about menopause to get those conversations on the table and there’s going to be a lot of conversations but if we jump from something being deemed as being so Oh, we’re catastrophizing about it, that is not helpful at all, we’re not there in any way yet.
We need to be having a number of years of being able to talk about this openly to remove the stigma for it to be able to sit alongside. Any other normal experience that a woman goes through, for example, pregnancy, and everything that goes along with that. There was another stat I read that 1 in 12 women in New Zealand, so this I believe was from the survey that Dr.
Linda Deer did, and she is the meno doctor based in New Zealand, that 1 in 12 women will quit their job, because of menopause. And what that is telling us is that women are not getting the support that they need because those are the women that it is so difficult for that they have to quit their job.
But what about all the other women that are experiencing symptoms that are just hanging on by their fingernails, right? And I get that as a woman who has gone through menopause. You know, at the beginning of my menopause journey, in perimenopause, I had the hot flushes and the insomnia, the irritability came first, and the fatigue.
And, I could manage it. I could manage it with the help of natural remedies. I spend a lot of time, money and energy on supporting my diet and lifestyle changes and natural remedies. And that worked for me in the beginning of, Of my menopause journey, but a few years down the track, while I was still in perimenopause or just gone through menopause, so it had been a year since my last period, I got to a stage where I was really, really struggling in my business and that’s such a hard thing for us as students.
As women, right, we have worked in our thirties and in our forties to build up our career or our business and then menopause hits and you’re, you’re hanging on by your fingernails or your fingertips and you’re making it work and you’re, in my experience, you know, taking lots of time to rest in the weekend.
It’s no wonder my personal life felt like it was falling down around my ears. Taking lots of time to rest in the weekend so that I can manage my clinical practice during the week. And two years ago, I just had to make a change. I was coping, barely, but I was needing to cancel clients sometimes because I had an experience of more migraines, which is really, really common.
And I had perimenopause and menopause, and it was my mother’s experience as well, and, and my nervous system was just like, this is too much. You need to take a break. You need to rest. And so I stepped away from a busy clinical practice and I made the best of it, for sure. I worked really hard to build a coaching practice and still in the health and wellness industry, still able to support all the amazing women in my community.
But I had to change how I did it, and when I reflect on that now, if my health and well being had been the same as it had been five years previous, I wouldn’t have done that. I wouldn’t have stepped away from that busy clinical practice that I really did enjoy so much. But because of what I was experiencing through menopause, I had to make a change, and that was really hard to do, and I had to start again, not from scratch, but I had to start again to support women in a different way, to show up in a way that I wasn’t having to have so many clinical contact hours, and that’s taken me a good couple of years to rebuild that.
And that is tough. And so I want to say to you as a woman, whatever stage of midlife you’re in, if you’re going through something similar that you feel like you’re Your tolerance for stress has lowered and your resilience isn’t where it was. And, you know, you’ve made the lifestyle changes. You’ve started lifting heavier weights, which is a good thing for us in midlife.
You’ve cut right back on alcohol. You’re looking after yourself with a really nourishing diet. You’re trying to get The rest and the sleep that you need, which is very difficult through menopause, right? If we’ve got that insomnia pattern happening, but it’s still not enough and you’re going to work and brain fog is such an issue for us as women.
And I remember that for my mother as well. And actually. Shame on me judging her for repeating herself, for forgetting what she said, for saying the same thing over and over again. I’ve seen myself do that when I’ve been going through different phases of menopause and being pulled up on it by my family, by my kids, by my partner.
And knowing that I judged my mother for it, and yet when I went through it, of course, I couldn’t control it. I wasn’t trying to do it. I wasn’t trying to forget what I said an hour ago and repeating the same story again, and then getting partway into the sentence and realizing that I’d actually said this before, but then finishing the sentence and then, you know how it goes, right?
So this is a common experience in menopause. And so back to the piece about, you know, wherever you’re at in your business or your career, and you’re trying to cope with this big life change that can span over a number of years, and you’ve worked really hard to get your career or your business, as well as supporting your family, if you have a family, to where it is, and then suddenly this massive wave of symptoms hit, and Actually for many of us it’s not sudden.
It creeps up and you’re a few years in and you’re, you’re sort of coping and then you’re a few years down the track and it’s like actually I’m not coping anymore. Because what might have worked for us at the start of perimenopause, might not work five or seven years down the track. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong, like you’ve got the lifestyle stuff wrong.
I want to be really clear about that. It can actually be more about the changing hormonal levels within your body, that you’re needing a different level of support now. And so, rounding back to International Menopause Day, and this importance, and the importance that we do talk about this, and, and that we, we’re not judged for it, and even if we are judged for it, that we Push that away and give space to it and know how important this conversation is because it is not something that has been talked about by our mother’s generation or our grandmother’s generation, that they struggled through it.
So let’s carry on having the conversations, please. We need to have more of them. I am on a mission to support. You, our community, to have more of these conversations, just because we’re having these conversations, we’re not making it a thing.
We’re not making it worse. We’re not inflaming it. We’re not reducing our resilience towards it. No way. What lens is being looked through to be saying that? To be saying we need to be avoiding, catastrophizing, or specialing. menopause. We actually need to have more conversations to open up the conversation, to reduce the stigma, to get it out in the open so that it is just a normal thing that you can be supported in your workplace, to take the time that you need for your environment to support the adaption.
As is needed when you’re going through menopause because so far up until now We’ve been doing as the individual We’ve been doing all the adapting and all the trying to make it okay and make it work while we’re crying on the inside and really struggling on the inside and So
That is my rant in favor of opening up the conversations that this is so needed that it’s going to take some time for the stigma to reduce around menopause. But what is going to do that is having more of these open conversations. So. Talk to your sisters, talk to your friends, talk to the people around you.
Encourage your workplace to get some kind of menopause support strategy in place. It is required. It should be there for us.
Let’s talk openly and loud and to as many people as we can about menopause, we will no longer hide it, not talk about it, try and make it go away. This is an experience that has, for some women,
pretty severe symptoms.
And the way for us to get that support on board is to open up the conversation around menopause, perimenopause, that broad arc of midlife. Because it is not something for many women that we move through in a matter of months. Most of us, it is an experience that lasts. a number of years and you deserve support around it.
You deserve to not have to suffer any more than you already are. Let’s open up the conversation.
Alright my friends, I hope that has been helpful, know that I’m with you. I appreciate every single one of you that shares the podcast with your community, with your friends, and because we’re getting the word out there, we’re making this information really accessible and let’s keep the conversation going.
Thanks for listening to the podcast. Really appreciate your presence here.
I want to let you know about my midlife upgrade course. We are starting the next round on the 30th of October. We’re enrolling now. It is a small group course. It is a psychological roadmap for midlife. Made just for you. I’ve had some really amazing feedback from the women that went through the pilot round.
They helped me refine the course and it is eight weeks of going from that place of overwhelmed and over it to really reclaiming your confidence, your courage. and you’re calm. It is something that I believe every woman in midlife needs to have access to so that you can be and feel supported.
on this journey through midlife. If you want to find out more about the course, there’s still a few spots available. Go to my website meegancare.co.nz forward slash course. Okay, lots of love and I’ll talk to you real soon. Bye for now.