World Menopause Day: Finding Support that Works for You
Menopause is a significant transition, which physical, emotional and psychological symptoms
Therapist Louise Herbert explains the importance of treating your menopause in a way that honours your unique experience
We have counsellors and therapists who specialise in menopause – find yours here
Monday 18th October 2021 is World Menopause Day, and thanks to some high-profile media campaigns, menopause is now being discussed far more openly in the UK. So that being the case, why do so many of us who go through menopause still have so little knowledge of the common symptoms and how they may affect us?
Menopause is a natural process, caused by the depletion of the hormone oestrogen. Beginning with the perimenopausal stage, it can continue to significantly impact us, physically and psychologically for a number of years.
Menopause symptoms can include the more commonly recognised hot flushes and disrupted sleep, but there are many other symptoms which include brain fog, fatigue, muscle aches, dry eyes, hair loss, weight gain, pelvic floor weakness, vaginal atrophy (dryness), loss of libido, depression and anxiety.
The impact of menopause
Menopause is often something we deal with silently; we find it difficult to share our experiences with our employers and colleagues and with our family and friends, often because we feel we 'should be able to cope'.
As we go through menopause, we can develop a lack of confidence in our ability to remember things and to be able to think with clarity. We can feel more emotional, tired, and stressed, and we can become overwhelmed just simply trying to keep up with work and life as we used to.
Feeling this way can lead to significant life changes, such as leaving jobs that we previously enjoyed but which now feel too challenging, or in which we fear we are no longer seen as competent.
If we do decide to seek support, often, our first port of call is our GP. Sadly, it is still the case that presenting to your GP with brain fog, fatigue, anxiety or depression, can result in a prescription for an anti-depressant, whereas a more useful outcome could be a conversation around whether you may be menopausal and whether or not you would benefit from a referral to a menopause specialist.
It seems that many GPs and medical professionals are still not receiving adequate training around menopause. The British Menopause Society (BMS) seeks to redress this knowledge gap through educating and informing healthcare professionals. They have a list of GPs and consultants on their website who have a special interest in menopause and who have completed extra training.
Let’s talk about menopause
Menopause can often coincide with other life stressors such as caring for elderly parents, bereavements and relationship issues, difficulties that can lead to us seek therapy.
When I meet a new client who is also going through menopause, I will talk about what it means for them, their symptoms, and the current support or treatment they may be having. We will discuss how they feel menopause is affecting them both physically and psychologically, for example, ageing, sexuality and loss of fertility and their grief surrounding this. We may explore the shame around experiencing the physical symptoms in public or at work. There may be guilt around relationship issues that have arisen due to loss of libido.
Clients can report that ‘they no longer feel like themselves’. Through therapeutic conversations, we can look at the changes they want to make and the solutions they seek, to cope with menopause more effectively alongside the other life stressors they may be experiencing.
Taking ownership of your menopause
Part of our discussion will be around what further support the client feels they may need, whether that is via their GP, or a menopause specialist or a more holistic route.
When we experience not being heard or that our feelings are not being understood, we can be left feeling marginalised and isolated. Exploring menopause in therapy can lead to us feeling more confident talking to our partners, our family and our colleagues about what is really going on for us.
Opening up a conversation can also enable others around us to share their menopause stories too. Sharing and learning from each other’s individual menopause experiences, can create a network of support and knowledge.
Our menopause is unique, and taking ownership of our treatment and care, can feel empowering and positive, and therapy can be a part of this.