Ditching Shame & Challenging Stigma in Menopause
In this episode, I dive deep into the whole issue of shame, specifically how it affects women during the menopause phase of life. I talk about the stigma attached to menopause and how it impacts us, both emotionally and psychologically. Through the conversation, I emphasize the need to break down these barriers, embrace the changes and challenges, and reach out for the right support, like from medical professionals and menopause support groups.
I stress the importance of understanding that it’s okay to seek help and that we shouldn’t blame ourselves for the physical and emotional changes we experience during this transition. Also, I talk about letting go of societal expectations and radical acceptance, and the need to reach out to others and seek professional support during this transformative phase.
Remember, it’s a tough journey, but accepting the moment as it is and seeking support can lead to an empowering and liberating experience in midlife and menopause.
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Full Episode Transcript
So on the podcast today, I want to talk about menopause and shame, menopause and the way menopause is still stigmatized,
how that holds us back, why that’s causing us a problem, and actually how we can free ourselves from that.
I think this is so, so important for all of us. As women in midlife, whether you’re in perimenopause or not yet, or whether you’re out the other side of menopause, this where we uncover
the conditioning around menopause that is connected to shame. We uncover that. We identify it and we. Just tell it to leave the room. When we do that, this stage of life for you can be so, so liberating. Join me for the next little while as we kick shame out the door.
Hey, so before we begin, I just want to let you know about my signature program, the Midlife Upgrade Course. It is a psychological roadmap for women in midlife. Whether you’re in perimenopause, menopause or beyond, this is the 8 week journey for you.
Because midlife and menopause is not just about the hot flushes, it is also about a Anxiety, low mood, lack of purpose, we don’t know where we’re headed, we feel overwhelmed so much more often, we feel under the heavy burden of stress, and we just feel stuck. This is the course that is going to give you the map to guide you out of that stuck place.
I am so thrilled with the results that women are getting from this eight week course and I am your biggest cheerleader on the journey. The course is a mix of weekly video and learning modules. and live calls on Zoom.
We are breaking barriers and reclaiming authentic, exciting lives through this course. Check out all the details on my website, meegancare. co. nz forward slash course.
Okay, so today we are going to talk all about shame and why that is such a problem when it comes to our experience. getting help with, living through and utilizing this stage of life being perimenopause and menopause, why does shame block us from actually getting the help that we need? So shame, we know.
Shame is different from guilt and so when I did my counseling study, we did a lot of work around shame. The shame that is intertwined with trauma, with inherited trauma, with prejudice, with gender and societal conditioning. And shame as it shows up differently to guilt. So guilt is that experience or knowing that I have done something wrong.
Shame is an experience, a perception that I am inherently wrong. So those are very different experiences, right? And we know that menopause has shroud of shame around it. As does menstruation. As does ageing. As does many aspects of being a woman. And we could talk about where that comes from, Why it’s still present with us.
Even though we might think that it has long since gone and we’re much more open about these things. I don’t think so. Menopause is still laughed at, mocked, not talked about, and certainly not talked about openly. As women, when we first come into perimenopause, it takes us quite a long time to come to terms with it, to be okay with it.
For many women, it’s a dreaded time of life, and not just because of the physical symptoms that show up. But because of what we think this stage of life means,
so these middle years, this time through perimenopause and menopause is still very much stigmatized. It still has very big aspects of shame. And we can look in the direction of how our Society and how our culture perceives aging. Because menopause is certainly a sign that we are at a particular stage of our life, right?
That aging is here, it’s starting to show up in our physical body. And if we look at how women in the past have been valued, it’s very much been around youth. Beauty has been perceived through the lens of youth, fertility, capacity to bear children, all the rest of it. And so when we come into menopause and we are now losing that capacity to bear children, whether or not we’ve had children is, you know, beside what I’m talking about.
Then we’re perceived as being dried up, washed out, old, hag, crone, all of those words. And notice what those words bring up in you. What do you notice as I say those words, right? And that gut feeling, that internal somatic experience that you have when I Say those words. Crone, hag, menopause.
What you feel inside yourself is not you. It’s our conditioning, right? It’s all of the beliefs and all of the shame has been with us for centuries, and obviously we are living modern lives. But somehow we’re dragging around the weight of shame, the weight of menopause and ageing being stigmatised.
It might be celebrated in small pockets of women, of rebellious, incredible, walk their own path women. But generally speaking, speaking, coming
into perimenopause is a, brings with it a deep internal struggle for us as women.
Now, because we have this shame,
this pattern of keeping it hidden, connected to menopause and aging,
there is this knowledge gap for us. Like I know when I came into perimenopause, and it was a lot earlier. Than I thought. So it was very, very early forties, which isn’t super early.
I had no idea. I had no idea about menopause. I thought it was gonna hit me when I was 50. I certainly didn’t know that it was a 10 year journey or potentially a 10 year or longer journey. Not for every woman, but in my experience it has.
And I thought it was this event where my period stopped, and once that was over, I was postmenopausal, and I had all these assumptions about what that meant.
And until I found out that I was perimenopausal and then postmenopausal in quick succession, I too carried with me all of the negative connotations that we’ve just been talking about around menopause. That it meant that I was getting old. That it meant that I was turning into the old crone.
That it meant that I was past my prime. All of that. Bullshit,
that is grounded, that is steeped in
the patriarchal view of women. That doesn’t serve us. So we can see how this keeps us so trapped. Because if we have this shame around menopause, then it becomes more difficult for us to reach out and ask for help, get education, get the help that we need. We might spend the beginning stages of it trying to kind of fix things, to fix ourselves, to make it all go away.
I think I did, in my case, rather than how can I support myself to live really well for this next stage of my life. Because once we enter into perimenopause, we’re not going to go back to who we were when we come out the other side and we’re postmenopausal. We’re not going to be that person we were prior and that is a good thing.
That’s a fantastic thing because there is so much good that opens up for us as we go through that menopausal journey, right? The work of Dr. Lou Anne Brizendine suggests Her hypothesis is, and her book speaks to this entirely, that our brain, who we are, psychologically upgrades as we go through menopause.
That has been my experience, and I had no idea about that. that before I entered into perimenopause.
And so we might start our perimenopausal journey trying to minimize the symptoms, not so much from a place of, how can I feel most vibrant, most well in my life, but trying to minimize the symptoms from, crap, does this mean that I’m getting old? Does this mean I’m past it? Whatever it is. Right? And so there’s this secrecy and this shame which is not serving us at all.
And whether we get help from natural methods, from herbal medicine, from acupuncture, whether we go down the HRT route, whether we do both. Or all, or different ones through different stages, which has certainly been something that’s been right for me.
If we’re doing it from that place of, I just want everything to go back to the way it was, it’s going to be a really difficult journey. And so the beginning stages, and for many of us, you know, a lot of the way through this journey of menopause and midlife, We are coming to grips with the fact that we are in this stage of life, that things are changing.
And I see this a lot as women, where we are trying to get back to who we were five years ago, ten years ago.
And the bad news is, we’re never going to be able to do that. That’s just not going to be possible for us. And the good news is You’re growing into the next version of yourself. And that’s a really exciting thing It can be really exciting and I don’t want to be all Rainbows and unicorns and say it’s all amazing because it’s not right for many of us.
There’s very difficult symptoms that we have to manage or get support with.
But this is the thing, these symptoms can be managed for the most part, whether it’s lifestyle changes or as I said, natural medicine or body identical or HRT. There’s ways to support your body. The big piece for me is that we can’t expect to go, well, I’m just gonna do all these shitty things to my body.
Too much coffee, too much alcohol, way too much junk food. I’m not gonna exercise in a way that my body needs right now, and then I’m gonna layer on what I hope to be the fit. For my problems and just demand that it works, right? Sometimes, very often we need to make lifestyle changes. Women in perimenopause have a different, and for many of us.
A worse tolerance for alcohol, so you just won’t be able to handle it in the way that you could before. Your liver’s doing a massive, big job dealing with all the hormonal fluctuations.
And I know this is hard for many of us because we don’t want things. To change and why should it? And it’s not fear. It’s true, it’s not fear, but this is the way it is and this is what is arising for you in your life right now. And so the faster I came to being able to accept that, and I wasn’t always happy about it.
And I wasn’t happy about all of. The aspects, but the faster I got to a place where I could accept that this is what’s going on, the faster I could adapt and then open up to the promise of this time of life, of this stage of life.
Now, just because. Menopause is a natural progression through time for our body.
It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t get support for it, right? There are many things that happen with our body that are natural, that we want to get support for, that we should get support for, medically. And so, yes. Menopause is a natural experience for us as women,
but I don’t think that we should be suffering and struggling with it in secrecy and in a hidden way.
If you’re not getting the support that you need from your medical practitioner, then reach out and find another one. There are many Menopause support groups online now. They can be a wealth of information. Sometimes we need to filter it because there’s a lot going on in there, but it can be a really, really good way to educate yourself.
I think that the, the time of. Research into menopause is very, we’re very young in that regard.
So in terms of opening up the conversation around menopause, we’re on the edge of that wave as women. And that’s exciting, but it also means that the, the really great interventions for the symptoms that show up for us, they’re still coming, right? There’s, there’s still a lot of research to be done.
Because let’s face it, women just. have not been a priority
in medical research until more recently, when the playing fields have evened out. It’s only recently in New Zealand that body identical HRT is now fully funded by the government. So we don’t have to pay for that anymore. We used to. But if you’re going down the natural path. You are paying, generally, a lot of money to get that support that you need, and fantastic if you can, you should, you know, go for it, absolutely, but there’s a lot of women that can’t do that.
So I think it’s so great that we have that support in the Body Identical HRT.
So we’ve come a long way. With speaking about menopause and we’ve got a long, long way to go, right? Just the fact that when we hear those words, we have our own bodily reaction to them. You know, is your system like opening and going, yes! Or is it closing and going, get me away from here. Tells us. So much.
It, it speaks a very, very long story. But none of that is your fault. That is just the conditioning that we’ve grown up in. And so if you notice that in yourself, also know that that has come from women being undervalued, from our patriarchal society, and it is not all of who you are. And that’s why these conversations are so, so important because we’re breaking down those barriers.
You know, so is there any part of you that still notices shame, stigma, secrecy, oh I’m not enough? Oh, this means I’m aging. I don’t want to share this with people. I noticed that I didn’t want to talk about menopause in front of men for a while when I was first coming into it. And there were many, many layers of reasoning as to why that was the case.
And that really showed me how stigmatized menopause still is for us as women and why it’s so important that we have these conversations that break down those barriers.
So we know that through perimenopause, psychologically, emotionally, it’s a very bumpy ride for many of us, me included. So I hear these two different schools of thought, right? On the one hand, I’ve heard some coaches and helping professionals say, Do you know what?
Period menopause is the most amazing time to reset your life. If you want to separate from your partner, separate from your partner. If you want to completely change your life, completely change your life. And then I have heard the other school of thought where we’re advised. Do not make any big decisions when you’re in perimenopause.
So which is it? What are we to do? And very often when we’re at this stage of life, we’re feeling really trapped, really exhausted, really stuck in the mud of life and, and just want to get out. And so of course, we think about these things. Well, what can I change? What is not working? Where is the most friction in my life?
And, how on earth can I change that? I’m not sure there’s a hard and fast rule, to be honest, because there are some relationships which have not been serving women for, for both partners, for many, many years. And it’s only when we come into menopause where our caretaking uh, the caretaking hormones of estrogen are lowering, so we’re not So driven to look after others, we become more driven to to take care of ourself or to put ourselves forward.
We might have less tolerance for the crap that shows up in some relationships, right? And so then for some women, midlife is a prime time to say, you know what, this relationship isn’t working for me anymore, and I need to find my way out of it. And for other women, there will still be the irritation, there will still be the difficulty, there will still be the loss of libido, but there’ll be the foundations in the relationship which are still strong.
And this is where education is so important, right, because So if all of those symptoms are going on, but I know that I’m in perimenopause or menopause and I can understand because I’ve been educated that irritability, mood changes depression, anxiety, low libido, low sex drive. We’re all part of the perimenopausal picture.
If I understand that, then I might be less inclined to blame my partner and blame my relationship and seek the support that I need as I go through this stage of life. So this again, is where shame and secrecy. See, cause us so many problems and why it’s so important to open the conversation up. Because if we understand that psychological, mental health, emotional issues go hand in hand with perimenopause and midlife, and even if you’ve had no issues with it before, they still could arise.
In perimenopause, if I know that inside of myself, then I’m less inclined to make rash decisions about my relationship. And then I’ll jump back onto the other side and say, and it can be a really powerful time of life where a woman says, do you know what? This has not been working for me for the last five years, 10 years.
I have not been happy and I have been suffering and I’m realizing how short my life, how short all of our lives. are And I’m going to make a change for me and then that can be a powerful place as well.
And then finally, I think we can’t talk about shame without talking about sex and desire and sex drive and how much that changes. This is understanding that yes, this is something that happens and it can happen pretty quickly and It can feel like really out of our control because It’s physiologically based.
If we understand that that is part of menopause and we can move the shame to the side, then we can start to have conversations with our partners, right? Who this, of course, affects. We can have conversations with our GP, with our medical professional. Because there is support that we can get for loss of desire.
That can be supported. through particular hormones,
but this is where we need to have the education and the understanding. Oh, this is a really typical symptom of menopause. It doesn’t mean that anything has gone wrong. It doesn’t mean that my relationship has dried up. This is just a normal symptom of menopause and on the one hand, there is some support that I can get for myself.
On the other side of things, maybe there’s some long held trauma around sex and intimacy that I need to work through or could work through that might open things up again. Another piece that you might add in there is that maybe my communication with my partner really could do with some improvement. We need to start talking about these things.
When shame is present, it’s very hard to talk about things. When we connect with others and talk about the problems, the issues that we have, shame starts to lighten and dissolve and is not able to be in the room.
And I think I’ll end with
whatever is going on with you, for you, whatever symptoms you’re experiencing in midlife and perimenopause, whether it’s to do with your physical health, your mental health, a loss of desire, challenges in your relationship,
this is not your fault and it does not inherently reflect on your value as a person. You haven’t done things wrong throughout your life to get here. And I believe we need to understand how much shame is keeping us from getting the help that we need. Shame, secrecy,
how much menopause has been stigmatized, keeps us from getting the support, reaching out, having the conversations that we need to have.
So we didn’t create this and we shouldn’t be loading on another layer of shame onto ourselves, or guilt, or I’m not good enough, all of those things that we beat ourselves up with. Let’s not do that. But also this is what it is. This is here now. And this is the reality of your experience in this moment.
And it won’t last forever. It won’t be here forever. This is not a steady decline. This a transitional phase of your life where you are going from one stage and one experience of yourself and you’re moving into being
a woman at a different stage of life.
And so, whilst we want to put the shame to the side, and tell it to leave the room, there is also, there’s also no point for us to try and hang on to the way we used to be. So there’s a practice right here of radical acceptance that is required for us to be able to step into this. Transition through perimenopause and menopause and open up to this next stage of our life, which
can be an incredibly powerful, creative, dynamic stage of life. But we kind of need to let go to be able to leap to the next stage. From one branch to the other, we need to let go of that branch to be able to jump to the next one.
And that takes radical acceptance of what is. It’s not easy. It’s not something we’re taught and It’s not something that is templated to us, but it is one of the most liberating things we can do. This experience in this moment is who I am and what is arising for me and I’m going to accept it just as it is and I’m going to open up the conversation and I’m going to Call in that support.
That, to me, is our task in midlife, in perimenopause. You don’t have to do it alone. In fact, please, please don’t do it alone. Reach out to other women in your life. Reach out to helping professionals that are educated and that are up to date on supporting menopausal women, because the data and science has changed and we can get way more support now. And it’s only going to get better and better.
Hey, thanks for joining me on the podcast. Just really appreciate you. If you enjoyed the podcast, share it with a friend so we can keep breaking down those barriers and check out my course where we just go so much deeper than I can ever do on a podcast over an eight week period. The midlife upgrade course is a blend of video and learning modules.
And weekly live calls where you will discover a road map for psychological freedom in midlife. Check out all the details on my website. I really, really would love to have you join the course. Meegancare. co. nz forward slash course.