I have been a therapist for nearly 30 years, and I specialise in menopause. I’m a facilitator, a writer, a podcaster, an artist, and clearly somebody with a very short attention span and a bounteous imagination.
Mostly what I do is I mentor, 1-1, people who are in menopause, usually those who are interested in personal growth and who want to really use menopause as an opportunity to understand themselves and really kind of take on the possibilities for growth that perimenopause and menopause has so they can be their best self. I run groups and facilitate workshops as well.
The book is called ‘Second Spring: the self-care guide to menopause’. It’s a bit like ‘The Artist’s Way’. Julia Cameron spoke about creativity and that it doesn’t tell you what to do because there are lots and lots of people and lots and lots of books out there that will give you chapter and verse about what you must do.
What it offers you are routes of inquiry, journaling prompts, thoughts and ideas, and processes to quieten the noisiness of our minds and our environment so that we can access our own wisdom from inside.
So, it’s a very different view from the mainstream one in that it offers the possibility that we’re not broken, that the female body is not broken, and when we get to menopause and then all hell breaks loose. It’s much more that it’s our environment (meaning our culture), the environmental toxins that are hormone disruptors, the food that we are eating, and our beliefs about ourselves that cause the trouble.
It offers a psychological map to help you navigate through it. It’s a seasonal map, so it’s very intuitive and easy to understand. There are audio downloads, there are charts, there are endless possibilities, so you can pick and mix what works for you.
Yes, there isn’t really much like this around. I think there will be many more coming because we are just arriving at the point where we’re talking about this stuff. Somebody in their mid-forties, a decade ago, maybe wouldn’t have heard of the word ‘Perimenopause’ at all, and now we do, and we are starting to understand more about what happens within ourselves. But one of the difficulties is that the awareness comes along with a cultural baggage of fear.
Somehow, because we’ve reached this point in our lives where ‘we are broken’ and that we should sort of hold back ageing at all costs, you only have to go into boots and look at the cosmetic counters to see that anti-ageing is a thing, but why wouldn’t you want to age? The alternative is death. If you are not going to age, what are you going to do?
So, the reason that I wrote it was because I heard this level of fear and confusion because it simply doesn’t make sense to be told to take a pill to make everything alright, because HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is a subtle process. Different brands and different strengths and doses suit different people, and many people will choose not to go that route for a number of reasons, but whether you take HRT or not, you’re going to need a guide to help you sooth your nervous system, rest, and be kinder to yourself because that is what ageing requires.
If we overextended ourselves in our 20s and worked really hard to get where we are, and many of us have, and then we overextended ourselves again in our 30s and we are really working hard and we’re really pushing it, and many of us are, and we continue that into our 40s until we are depleted, then what do you think is going to happen the rest of our lives if we’re lucky enough to live until we are 80 or 90? We are depleting our resources and that is not a popular message. Something has to change. We need to use our energy more wisely and operate in our lives in a different way if we are to have a healthy, nourishing, creative, vibrant post menopause.
I think the 40’s are a natural time for reflection. To explain, I am going to use a seasonal analogy. If we take our spring and summer time from our first period through our teens and 20’s, it is a time when we want to discover who we are and prove to the world who we are. Our energy goes out into the world, and we want to see our spirit manifested in work, in achieving projects, or babies, all of it at the same time! When we come into our 40’s, it is more of an autumnal time. This has requirements of reflection, and we start to see what is not working in our lives; we see the negativity in our lives; and we feel the urgency in which it needs to change and also how hard that is.
When people come to me in their 40’s and ask, “What do I do?” It is really simple things like taking more time for reflection, and that could be going for a walk and thinking about where you are at and what is working and not working, or it could be with a therapist, or it could be with your journal. There are thousands of different ways to do this. But in general, being more reflective, curious about what changes you would like to make, to slow down and to find places you can rest in your life.
Everybody says to me, “I have no time to rest!”. Yes, I understand that we all feel this pressure, but rest can be many different things. We can do that in many different ways. Lots of us are back in the office now and it can be sitting for an extra 2 minutes when you have gone to the loo and taking a bit more time out just to breathe, or if you are at home with toddlers, locking the loo door for a bit, delegating just for a moment, or taking a walk round the block instead of a tea break. Rest means different things to different people. We already know the sort of activities that quiet our minds and that is the sort of thing we should be bringing in our 40’s and 50’s.
This is such a good topic because it is exactly where we meet all this difficulty and shame. We feel there is ageism. It is a reality that older women lose their jobs and find it hard to find re-employment because of the beliefs about ageing.
So, the best advice I came across was to “Name it and own it.” Along the lines of “I’m quite forgetful now and this is because I’m in perimenopause.” The theory being that it is much better to be transparent about what’s happening to you because that will lower the charge within the team and if you don’t disclose people will suspect that something weird is happening.
The other thing is to insist that the company looks at their menopause policy if they have one, and if they don’t, to initiate that. There are loads of great examples that you can look at that can give you a structure you can suggest to your company. All the Unions have really great advice. Channel 4 has made their menopause policy public as a standard, so you can go look at that.
What really helps is for everybody throughout all layers of the company to be educated. So if you talk to your line manager who understands what is happening, then you are able to negotiate different hours. If you have sleep issues, and many of us do, then you can start later. I would navigate your own hours so that you are able to do the tasks you need to.
Yes, I do. It really comes down to that there are more sources of information about menopause. 5 years ago, when there was a menopause story, I was sort of jumping up and down and running around my office getting really excited, and now it is everyday there is some news story. So there is more information, it is more familiar, and more companies are putting more things in place.
This is antidotal. I don’t have the research about this, but talking to a worker community lead project of menopause support, the number of disciplinaries plumet because the people who are suffering difficult symptoms can say, “I am suffering this symptom” and it becomes a health issue rather than an unexplained absence. Just talking together in the forums and within that company, there is just a huge amount of support, acceptance, and information being exchanged.
But there is always more to do!
At all good book shops!