I write this for the women who are my age, the women going through or who have passed through the “Change of Life.” I apologize to the young women who may be freaked out by this article. You too will experience, endure and come through it with increased wisdom and empowerment. To quote Leonard Cohen: “I lift my glass to the awful truth which you can't reveal to the ears of youth”. So stop reading now if you are under 40 unless you want to know what it feels like to be that middle-aged woman who you probably avoid, judge or at least are grateful that you are not her. You will be.
The term “Women’s Health” is something I heard for many years but I had no idea what it meant until I became that age, when we as women are no longer fertile and our bodies seem to start betraying us. For me, things started prolapsing (women my age will understand this). Every part of my body started hurting, my internal temperature skyrocketed for no reason at all hours of the day and night (my family made fun of me when I had to stick my head out of the car like a dog in the middle of winter), I sweated and sprouted whiskers, I had mood swings worse than I had as a teenager (and I had teenagers at the time – what fun), I stopped sleeping, I had to rush to the bathroom if I felt the slightest urge to pee, I got rashes on my body, I became allergic to everything, my bones became brittle, I gained weight even though I was exercising, I became fearful and worried.
And I consider myself one of the lucky ones because there are women I know who have much more severe symptoms than I do. What is this cruel joke nature plays on women when we become middle aged? Haven’t we endured enough already? We gave up our bodies to carry babies, endured birth, acted as a walking dairy bar, tended to the needs of our young and our families (and often our own aging parents), sacrificed our own needs and identities, were rejected by our teens, were criticized for being “cranky” when our tolerance waned or we felt burnt out. It is a rough deal being a woman. I don’t know of a single man who could endure what we do and we do it without being acknowledged or for the most part, even respected.
“Menopause is a perfectly natural process. As family members and friends recognize that the symptoms are normal and natural, they can then treat the woman like she’s normal and natural rather than a crazy woman” (Pamela Boggs).
Even though it sounds like a nightmare, I love the age I am. Many women feel that after 50 is the best time of their lives. Why? Because we find liberation, we find our voice, we find our confidence, we find our identity, we stop worrying about what others think, and best of all we find each other and laugh at the ludicrousness of it all. It is important for women who are entering into this new age to have a network of friends or sisters who understand. If not yet - find them.
We need to hold each other up, unconditionally supporting each other without judgment or competition, understanding what each other is going through and sharing a good joke and maybe a bottle of wine. I have come to love this time of my life because I have been forced to surrender a lot of beliefs that don’t serve me and have found my heart. I have earned every bit of respect that I have, I like who I am, I am grateful for my wisdom and my capabilities, and I love the young people around me and always take the opportunity to breathe wind under their wings.
It is so important for women my age to reclaim their minds, their spirit, their voices and their bodies. Now is the time to take care of us. It is never too late to adjust our diets in order to consume foods that nurture our health rather than feed old addictions. It is never too late to start exercising in a way that feels good to our bodies and makes us feel stronger (without the intention of looking like we did when we were 20). It is never too late to reclaim our identities and wear the badge of honour: “Been there, done that, learned from it and am stronger for it.”
If I can empower one woman to learn to appreciate herself, and feel she is worth taking care of, then I feel I will have fulfilled my purpose. Read those books on caring for yourself at this age, listen to podcasts, find your inner wisdom (your place of calm), and love yourself.
From my heart to yours with blessings and encouragement.
Claire Nielsen is a health coach, author, public speaker and founder of www.elixirforlife.ca.