By Mari Zhar Carvill
In 2019, my quest to understand menopause took an unexpected turn when a close couple we knew, friends of my husband and I, decided to separate. Although I firmly believe in respecting the privacy of other people’s marital matters, my curiosity got the better of me. I couldn’t help but wonder why, after almost two decades together, they each went their separate ways.
To shed light on the challenges their relationship was facing, I began sharing articles and links about menopause with the wife and husband, hoping that a deeper understanding might lead to reconciliation. It wasn’t just their marriage that worried me, though; their breakup ignited worries about my own relationship. Despite my strong faith in our community, their separation prompted me to further explore the field of menopause, a journey that began during the pandemic with an online hormone coaching course.
Menopause is a natural and inevitable phase in a woman’s life, but it is often stigmatized and ignored due to social misconceptions and lack of awareness. The cultural silence surrounding menopause may stem from outdated beliefs that associate it with aging and loss of femininity. Additionally, the discomfort associated with openly discussing menopausal symptoms can contribute to the stigma surrounding this important life transition, affecting women’s relationships and well-being.
During this research I discovered the stages of menopause. Perimenopause, meaning “around menopause,” usually begins in women between the ages of 40 and 44, characterized by changes in menstrual flow and cycle length. This transitional phase can present with mild, short-term symptoms for some women, while for others it can be a challenging rollercoaster ride with hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances and memory problems that often last for years, affecting various aspects of life. Every woman’s experience of menopause is unique.
Menopause: It’s not funny
Menopause often remains an unspoken topic, making meaningful conversations about it elusive for both men and women. But why does this silence persist? Many people often associate menopause with a negative image of women who are constantly irritable and old. A simple internet search for “pictures of menopause” gives pictures of women looking upset, sweaty and angry. However, in reality, this stereotype is not consistent with the experiences of most women. So why does this stereotype persist? This is probably because facing the inevitability of aging is something few people want to do. This fear of aging is a common concern of men and women. In addition, the beauty and fashion industries profit by idealizing youth, further reinforcing negative stereotypes associated with menopause, and putting additional pressure on women to maintain their youthful appearance.
I’ve heard about mood swings and jokes about grumpy older women, but I never understood the profound impact menopause has on a woman’s mental health.
Nadia Montenegro: “I was experiencing great stress—a simple remark or action could make me explode with rage. I was put in a very dark place—literally, emotionally, and mentally—even spiritually. I stopped to God and prayed. And at first, I couldn’t understand nor myself. For six months I couldn’t point out what was happening to me. Until I couldn’t take it anymore. There was a moment when I even wanted to jump out of the window of my daughter’s apartment. Then I begged my children to help me.”
Menopause: A Personal Journey
Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life, which usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. It marks a significant transition with a decrease in estrogen levels and cessation of ovarian follicle activity, which is often manifested as changes in the menstrual cycle.
However, the menopause experience is highly individual, with different changes in energy use, fat cell composition and weight control. Women may also notice differences in bone and heart health, body shape and composition, and general physical well-being.
Menopause brings a range of physical symptoms, including fatigue, night sweats, insomnia, hot flashes, memory problems and increased stress. In addition to the physical aspects, it can affect mental health, resulting in mood swings, irritability and even depression. These symptoms can resemble persistent premenstrual syndrome (PMS), potentially affecting people with pre-existing psychological problems. The menopause journey is a unique and deeply personal experience, which highlights the importance of understanding, support and self-esteem.
Agot Isidro: My hormones are still fluctuating and I occasionally have blue days. To deal with the problem, I use meditation and exercise to focus and pay more attention to my diet to give my body the best nutrition. I remind myself that this is a result of hormones, not who I am, and try to be gentle with myself.
Unlock the power of positivity on your menopause journey
Master your mind: Research suggests that a lack of positive thoughts can affect health more than negative ones.
A hug of laughter:Laughter is your ally; it strengthens bonds, strengthens your immune system and helps deal with the challenges of menopause.
Time is important to me: Prioritize self-care by exercising, eating well and relaxing. You are healthier without stress.
Nurture relationships: Stay socially connected for a longer and happier life.
Live in the present: Mindfulness keeps you anchored in the present, free from past regrets and future worries. Combine that with positivity and self-care for a fulfilling menopause journey.”
Menopause: uncovering the link with depression
Can menopause cause depression? Without a doubt, menopause triggers a cascade of transformations in your body, and some of these factors can contribute to depressive feelings. Hormonal fluctuations during menopause can disrupt mood stability leading to extreme changes in hormone levels. The discomfort of hot flashes often results in sleep disturbances, adding to the emotional challenges we face during this phase. Mood swings, anxiety and fear also play a significant role, subjecting you to rapid and intense mood swings, oscillating from laughter to tears in just a few minutes.
Yayo Aquila: “When someone said that the menopause experience would get better with time, I laughed at the thought. However, now that I’ve reached that stage, I can’t help but admit that she was absolutely right. Insomnia is a thing of the past, and my energy is limitless. Night sweats are a distant memory, replaced only by occasional flushes. I’ve also discovered a newfound confidence and a much stronger sense of self. Embracing self-care during this phase of life has been truly enjoyable.”
However, it is extremely important to remember that you are not going through this journey alone. Opening up and engaging in conversations with others who have faced similar challenges is key. I engaged in dialogue with a number of women, each of whom shared their own unique experiences, ranging from fear of losing their mind or the onset of early dementia to brave admissions of struggling with thoughts of self-harm. These remarkably resilient women take on family responsibilities, maintain careers and provide care for elderly relatives, all while navigating the turbulent waters of menopause. What’s more, I’ve had the privilege of meeting inspiring postmenopausal women who are not only surviving, but thriving and living their best lives. Their journeys give them the strength to understand that this phase will also pass.