I got my first period on Earth Day in 1990 — that’s 30 years of menstruation and counting. I felt equally proud and ashamed. Somehow, in my pubescent mind, I thought my monthly visits from Aunt Flow meant the boys would flock to me like the cool, pretty girls on my favorite sitcoms. Yet, it was also a private thing, and the details intimidated me. Either way, it was a milestone and I cherished it as such.
As the years unfolded, there were anxious times when I hoped I would get it and exciting times when I desperately hoped I wouldn’t. It brought cramps and moodiness and yes, insatiable cravings for chocolate. Many a man has pissed me off by asking, is it that time of the month? And usually, it is — though I would never admit it. My period became just a part of me, my life, my body, and I didn’t give it much thought.
That is until my sister entered perimenopause and began to voice how she was emotionally struggling to accept her new reality — not to mention the night sweats, moodiness, fatigue, and headaches.
Menopause has always felt far away for me, but I am learning that it sneaks up on you like the most unexpected storm. While I have not yet experienced this transition of life, I have been through my fair share of challenges, and I know that talking — and listening — both have powerful healing properties.
So, I reached out to women and asked them to tell me about their menopause experiences. Here are some of the things that caught them off guard and what they learned:
The Heat of the Night
“Growing up in a beauty salon, I often overheard women discussing … menopause, which they referred to as ‘going thru the change.’ Once, I heard them discussing another customer [whose] … night sweats and flashes [were] driving her crazy and mood swings [were] driving her husband crazy!’ [This made me fearful of menopause, but] other than night sweats, where it felt as if heat from my body was exiting through my head, I had few other symptoms. I do remember the first time I threw off my night gown and bed linens and my husband thought he was about to get lucky before discovering it wasn’t my reason for stripping! I would have told my younger self not to fear ‘the change’ because everyone is different. And much like millions of other women experiencing it, this too would pass.” – Carol, 70, Georgia
A Change of Heart
“Last year was my first year with no period. The worst part for me was that I had crazy heart palpitations that were eventually diagnosed as atrial fibrillation. I set out to do some reading about menopausal hormone fluctuations. Guess what? Heart palpitations are common. Reading ‘The Wisdom of Menopause : Creating Physical and Emotional Health During the Change’ (Buy on Amazon, $18.69) changed my whole mindset about menopause. The author, an OBGYN, talked about how it is the most wonderful and creative time in a woman’s life and that even brain chemistry changes. It is often the reason why you see women in their fifties suddenly take on a different job, maybe even get divorced, or begin a new career or challenge themselves to something they’ve never done before. I began to look at menopause as this beautiful time in my life and I’m embracing every change.” – Leslie, 56, Ohio
The Emotional Roller Coaster
“The most challenging part of menopause for me was the changing emotions. Feeling perfectly fine and then having sudden feelings of sadness, unhappiness and depression; waking in the night and crying for no reason; feeling like my husband and boys would be better off without me around and just wanting to go off and be alone. I have always suffered with anxiety, but these feelings and emotions were very different from what I experienced with anxiety. They just seem to take hold of you.” – 48, UK
The Libido Effect
“My menopause journey began about a year ago when my body started changing — sleepless nights have become my new normal. My hair and skin (everywhere!) are dry. I spontaneously sweat even when I am not moving. I have always thought of myself as resilient, but the stresses of a pandemic layered on top of the changes of menopause are testing my limits.
By connecting with other women, whether in person or online, and hearing their stories, I learned that they were traveling a similar journey. Sharing stories with about our own menopause experiences can help to demystify the changes that are happening in our bodies. I believe that all women deserve support when it comes to taking care of ourselves, but getting the information and support for menopause can be challenging. It was through my own experience that I found Kindra, eventually joining as the CEO. Women need educational resources, superior products, and community touch points to support them through this journey. ” – Catherine, 49, California