Is There Life After Menopause?
A reader shared with me recently the grief and emotional struggles she is experiencing as she comes to terms with the fact that she is no longer (at least in her mind) an attractive, desirable woman, since she began to go through perimenopause.
Having walked that road, I know exactly how she feels, and the kinds of questions she is likely asking herself about this profound, mid-life transition called menopause. I mean, let’s face it. You’ve spent 40-something years defining and cultivating a life and personal identity, only to have it obliterated all to hell and back by hot flashes, mood swings, and night sweats.
And that’s just the short list.
But life transitions aren’t easy for anybody. I have a 22 year old son who often laments the loss of his carefree childhood as he is now dealing with grown-up realities like expensive car repairs, health insurance costs, college loan debt, and just the day-to-day, non-sexy, no-fun decisions, grown-ups have to make every day of their life.
I don’t have the heart to tell him that just when he gets this part of his life figured out, it changes all over again.
I think what makes the menopause transition so difficult for women is that we are beginning to face the reality of our own mortality. Sure, we talk about our sagging breasts, our lagging libido, and feeling so old when we start going through perimenopause and menopause. But, what we really mean, is that we realize we are closer to death and dying than we’ve ever been before - and it’s scary. It’s sobering. It’s existential.
But, there’s a funny thing about facing death and dying. It makes you realize how much you should live.
Perhaps that is why many women become so fierce once they reach menopause. They realize without equivocation that the number of years they have left on this earth are ticking down fast, and if they don’t get on with living them they are gone.
The thing I personally love about menopause is that it forces your hand. There’s no place to run, no place to hide. You’re past middle-age and you’re facing down death whether you like it or not. It’s crunch time. Yes, it’s uncomfortable and difficult. Sometimes it’s damn well excruciating. But it’s a crossroad of life, and you get to choose the road you’re going to walk.
I don’t know about you, but I find that rather empowering. I can’t control the fact that I’m dying. But I can control how I live. I don’t have to “go gentle into that good night” so I won’t. I don’t know that I want to “rage, rage, against the dying of the light” either. I had enough of raging and mood swings during perimenopause, thank you very much.
I would much rather just “live like I am dying.” Because we all are, menopause sisters. We all are.
Magnolia Miller is a certified healthcare consumer advocate in women's health and a women's freelance health writer and blogger at The Perimenopause Blog.