Menopause – The Second Adolescence?
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Irritable all the Time? You’re not Going Crazy: Menopause is like a Second Adolescence
Going through menopause is like going through a second adolescence, in so many ways. If you’re feeling irritable, anxious about body changes, and anticipating what’s next in life for you, then you’re not alone. Most women experience all of these symptoms during the menopause years, and it may be an all to familiar reminder of your teenage years (but thankfully with decades of wisdom to help carry you through).
This post talks about common physical and emotional menopause symptoms, as well as discussion on how to cope with the changes menopause brings.
Common Physical Menopause Symptoms:
- Irregular Periods (might be extra long, short, or long time in between periods)
- Low libido
- Painful sex
- Increased anxiety about your body
- Hot flashes
- Sleep disturbances
- Poor concentration & memory
- Urinary incontinence
Common Emotional Menopause Symptoms:
- Irritable, seemingly all the time
- Pervasive thoughts about what’s next for you in life
- Decreased overall well-being
- Trouble multitasking
- Desire to be alone
And most of these symptoms either sneak up slowly, or come on so rapidly, that it’s surprising when they hit, often leaving women wondering “what’s wrong with me??”. But here’s the truth: absolutely nothing is wrong with you. Menopause affects all women differently, but having some, or all, of these symptoms is completely normal.
Not only do hormones affect all of these changes, menopause also comes at a time of life when many other major events are happening. For example, women in their 40s and 50s are likely also experiencing:
- The most intensive professional years
- Supporting aging parents
- Renegotiating a relationship after many years together
- Raising a small child following infertility treatments
- Children growing into teen years, and/or launching into adulthood
- Being an empty nester for the first time
- Looking ahead to the second half of life, and wondering what’s next
Any one of these major life events adds stress to life, but putting them all together and adding menopause on top of it all is a cocktail recipe for some serious stress. It’s no wonder that many women report feeling depressed and anxious and that marriages unravel during these years. It’s a season of life that’s fraught with change. But with the right support you can navigate these changes an come out on the other side ready to face what’s next in life.
How to Cope with Menopause Changes
Do you ever look back to your teen years and think “I wish I had known then what I know now”? Imagine how those years would have been different if you had had the wisdom that you do now, or at the very least, a mentor or guide to support you as you go through the tumult of the teen years. That’s what therapy is during the menopause years: a trusted guide and safe place to explore all you’re experiencing and how you may want to change your life.
Relationships are the Secret to Coping
Whether you decide to be part of 1-1 therapy, finding trusted relationships with people experiencing similar life stages is critical to coping well. That can come in the form of friends and friend groups, or relatives who have experienced what you’re experiencing.
But perhaps your close friends haven’t gone through menopause yet, or maybe they experienced it very differently. Then you may want to find another group of people you can trust who are going through what you’re going through.
Relationships are the Core of Therapy
As a therapist for women navigating the changes that menopause brings, my goal is to create a relationship with the client built on safety and trust. The crux of quality therapy is a safe relationship, and no matter what other therapeutic principles I may use, relationship is always at the center.
Women often come into my office wanting to explore what the next half of their life will bring. They want to discuss what life looks like now that their children are grown and they have reached a place of financial stability.
Should they change careers? Move somewhere they’ve always wanted to live? Get divorced? Get remarried?
Most women come to me with these questions, and many more like them…but without any idea how to answer them. And that’s because after so many years attending to everyone else’s needs they have buried the parts of them that can honestly assess what they truly want.
So we discover it.
Therapy during Menopause: A Safe Place to Explore
Once we’ve established a safe relationship, the office becomes a place for women to practice new ways of living before taking them out into the real world.
A phrase we use in this profession encapsulates the core of this emotional safety: unconditional positive regard.
It means that no matter what you need to say, tell us, or explore, you can trust that you are liked. Any possible avenue you might explore (except for harming yourself or others) is fair game. And I consider that my greatest honor: to provide a sense of immeasurable emotional safety for clients so that they can overcome any shame they might have. Being someone to witness your struggle, without judgement opens the door for you to explore and ‘try on’ possibilities.
Overcoming False Negative Beliefs
As part of the therapeutic practice, I work with women to uncover what I call their “false negative beliefs”. This means unearthing what women believe about themselves that simply isn’t true, and that is damaging to their sense of self. For example, women may think, “I’m not loveable”, or “I have to give up myself to be loved”.
And often women have lived decades with this belief underlying much of what they think and do, to the detriment of their wellbeing.
So in therapy, I’ll work to find instances in their lives to prove the positive. Through discussing life experiences we’ll discover that these negative beliefs truly are false, and replace them with positive beliefs.
Wouldn’t that have been amazing to have during our true adolescence? As this time is one of such turbulent change for women, emotionally and physically, therapy can provide a safe place to navigate the bridge between what has been and what’s next in life.
When to Seek Therapeutic Support
If you’re experiencing the negative effects from menopause that are disrupting your daily functioning, sense of self, or relationships, then therapy may be a good option for you to explore positive coping methods.
To book an appointment, or inquire about services, go here.