Menopause brings with it a number of losses
Today is World Menopause Day, and the theme is Continuing the Conversation. Menopause has really moved up the news agenda and we’ve all become a lot more conscious about what it means for women. Even still, it can be a very isolating time, where you feel you’re going through it alone, with nobody who understands.
While the menopause is a natural transition in our life, the symptoms can be severe and have a big impact, not only our everyday life but also the lives of those closest to us.
You might be wondering what grief has to do with the menopause, especially when grief tends to be associated with bereavement. However, feelings of grief can be linked to any kind of change or loss in our lives.
Menopause brings with it a number of losses, including health, fertility – especially if you’ve not been able to have children, youth, control over your body, what has been normal for you, and feeling a loss of attractiveness.
Another layer of loss can be experienced through a possible change in your relationship with your partner. Same sex relationships where one or both of you are both going through menopause at the same time, perhaps with different symptoms, can be hard, too.
Feelings of grief can easily be misdiagnosed as feelings of depression. It’s easy to see how when you look at the shared symptoms:
Loss of concentration
Anger, irritability, or frustration
No interest in activities you once enjoyed
Trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much
Feeling isolated and removing yourself from social activities
Undereating, overeating or craving unhealthy foods
Drinking too much
Anxiety, excessive worry, or guilt
Missing days or underperforming at work or school
Headache, tummy ache or muscle pain
Loss of self-confidence/worth
Loss of control over your body that used to behave in a fairly predictable way.
Significant emotional loss of feeling alone even with a loving family around you.
Loss of ‘drive’ and enthusiasm for life.
The problem with these closely aligned symptoms is when you talk to your GP, they can be mistaken for depression. Although grief and depression may both present similarly, they are different in important ways, and in most instances, grief doesn’t need medicating.
Depression may not have a direct cause. Although it can be triggered by a situation, it’s more of a chemical response in the brain. When levels of neurotransmitters (chemicals that help messages travel around the brain), and norepinephrine and serotonin (connected to mood) decrease, depression may occur. Your mood may remain consistently low for two weeks or more.
Grief is a direct response to loss. With grief, you may experience painful feelings in waves, perhaps mixed with good memories of the life you lead up until now. While you are grieving, you tend to maintain your feelings of self-worth.
Before heading to your GP, try talking about your feelings to someone you trust, who will just listen to how you’re feeling. Sometimes that acknowledgement of your feelings - both physically and mentally - can be the relief you need, rather than medication.
We’re all unique, as are our relationships with ourselves. Your feelings are justified. You also don’t need to be strong or hide your feelings, or be embarrassed. And please know you’re not alone. There is also professional help out there, such as talking therapy and menopause experts.