Conversations on a train: Menopause

There are some topics that are taboo for public discussion. Some are sensible taboos, others are not, and some are changing their status. Menopause being one of the latter. Coming home on the train the other afternoon I managed to embarrass my teenager (yay!) by having a conversation about the symptoms and treatments of menopause. I find it interesting, given what teenagers post on social media, that a normal function could cause her to want to curl up and die. But that is a topic for another day.

How it happened: I was sitting on the train when I began having a rather warm, and importantly, not hot, flush (the Chinese Medicine is starting to work!!) and grabbed the fan from my handbag. I started fanning, only to have my teenager nudge me and sotto voce tell me that it was disturbing the woman I was sitting next to. I turned to look at the woman, who had clearly heard, and she said, “I just stopped doing what you are doing.” I was quite taken aback as she looked the same age as me. I am convinced I am too young, 48, to be undergoing menopuase. I asked her how long it had lasted and she said seven years. She had finally given in and taken HRT. Her symptoms were so severe that I felt a twinge of guilt about my whingeing and whining of late. My sister, who is similar in appearance to the woman, also suffers greatly and I jokingly said it must be a blond haired blue eyed curse to suffer so much. At this point another woman leaned into the conversation and said, in a friendly manner, “I can assure you it isn’t.”

With dark olive skin and brown eyes she was no doubt correct. The three of us all smiled at each other and it was as though an instant bond formed. The type of bond that can only exist amongst people who have experienced the same thing. I asked if she was still having menopause symptoms and how long they had been going for. Like the woman next to me she didn’t look “old” or “menopausal”. I was really surprised to learn that she had started before she was 50 and now in her 60s was still experiencing symptoms. I said a quick prayer to any god that might be lurking around that I wouldn’t experience them for that long.

It was interesting to note the amount of women surreptitiously listening in to our conversation but too shy to participate. Clearly we three women are pioneers of public discussion. We discussed different complementary medicines, the pros and cons of HRT, Doctors opinions on complementary treatments (overwhelmingly negative, despite medical disasters like HRT with its proven links to ovarian cancer), and finally we discussed the impact on careers. One of the women experienced such a huge level of fatigue that she, like me, had requested a part time role, and her work place would not accommodate it and so, like me, she had no alternative than to resign. Such limited thinking.

It was a really refreshing conversation, and I learnt a lot. I was disappointed when my station arrived that it had to end. I regret not giving my contact details to the women so we might share some more. I would really love to start a group, physical or virtual, for women that provides a safe space to learn and laugh about symptoms, share experiences, celebrate or lament  the support or lack of support offered by family and friends, and what treatments have cured, or minimised, or provided some relief.

If anyone is interested I would be happy to be an admin for a closed Facebook group. Or I might just start a page and try my hand at developing some dedicated menopause memes to add some humour to our day. Feel free to comment here or contact me via my Facebook page if you are interested in a group or a page, or have a bit of artistic meme flair…Or some funny and not so funny stories to share, or links that helped you.