It’s different strokes, as women share diverse menopausal experiences
By Kate Halim
Even though menopause is a stage women go through as they get older, a lot of women shy away from talking about how they feel during menopause. Some women don’t like talking about experiencing menopause because it makes them feel old. Others don’t like talking about it because it makes them feel different.
Menopause is a point in time 12 months after a woman’s last period. The years leading up to that point, when women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes, or other symptoms, are called the menopausal transition or perimenopause.
The menopausal transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55. It usually lasts about seven years but can be as long as 14 years. The duration can depend on lifestyle factors such as smoking, the age it begins, and race and ethnicity.
At 48, Joy Oladokun said that she had been experiencing abnormal night sweats for a few months now. She added that sometimes, she would wake up in the early hours of the morning covered in sweat which makes her uncomfortable. Oladokun noted that discovering she was experiencing menopause made her feel old.
Talking about her symptoms, she said; “I also found that I was much more tired than usual. The extreme fatigue was similar to the tiredness I experienced when I was pregnant. I had brain fog and found it really hard to concentrate on simple tasks. I became slower at work, taking my time to do things that I could easily do in the past.”
According to Oladokun, the first time she experienced her first hot flash, she was cooking and it happened out of the blue. She revealed that all of a sudden, she became hot and was sweating profusely in her well-ventilated kitchen on the island. “One thing I noticed before I had my hot flash was that I was impatient, angry and irritable with my family and friends. It wasn’t intentional but it was as if I had developed a short temper over time and my loved ones were complaining about my recent attitude towards them.
The mother of three said that even though she is working together with her doctor to alleviate some of her menopause symptoms, she doesn’t like the fact that most elderly women who have gone down the same road shy away from talking to younger women about their menopausal experiences so that they can learn a thing or two about how to prepare for this period.
Lucy Nzekwe, a businesswoman said that before she experienced menopause three years ago, she didn’t really know much about the subject. The 52-year-old widow said she thought that menopause was a period in a woman’s life when they get hot flashes and become moody all the time. She said she didn’t know that there can be some positive aspects to experiencing menopause.
“I’m surprised about how freeing it feels. I care less about what others think of me. I have a new respect for what my body is capable of, as it transforms into what it needs to become for the coming years. I’m also surprised at how some of the women I know willingly open up about their own experience when I share the symptom relief that works for me”, she said.
Shedding light on how she handles menopause symptoms, Nzekwe revealed that she struggles with irregular periods, night sweats and trouble sleeping. She added that she is working with a good gynaecologist who is helping her manage her symptoms well. “For the sleep and night sweats issue, I limit how I consume foods that are hard to digest. I consume alcohol before 9 p.m. I also do meditation and stay away from the TV, laptop and phone when I am ready to sleep. These steps help me fall asleep faster. I also make sure to sleep in a well-ventilated room to avoid waking up many times during the night to wipe away sweat.”
Oladunni Oyedeji recalled the moment she realised she was menopausal because she wasn’t happy about the drastic changes taking place in her body. “I remember that I became irritable whenever my husband wanted to have sex with me. I would snap at him for no reason. I would raise my voice at my children over little things. I couldn’t explain what was happening to me but I knew something wasn’t right,” she said.
At 54, Oyedeji told Saturday Sun that when she realised that what she was experiencing was menopause, she burst out laughing even though she wasn’t happy about some of the things changing in her body. She noted that one thing she doesn’t like about this stage of her life is how some women pretend about it and refuse to talk about the subject even when they are with other women who are willing to share their experiences.
“Right now, I have made peace with my new body but I still don’t know why I have to go through so much stress because my monthly period wants to stop. Sometimes, I feel like asking God why he created women this way to go through a lot of changes in their bodies. We go through puberty, start seeing our monthly period, experience body changes during pregnancy and afterwards. Then menopause is the final straw.”
Oyedeji said she has taken it upon herself to talk to women in her church about menopause and how their body changes is not an attack from the devil but a natural phase their bodies have to go through depending on their ages. “I speak to women everywhere about how their lives shouldn’t end because of menopause. I create a space to support women and also create an environment where they can share their experiences without fear of being judged. I believe life is just getting started when you reach menopause, and the more of us who show up and speak about it, the less scary it will be for all of us and for the young women coming behind,” she said.
Fifty-year-old Uduak Edem said she knew something was wrong when she started breaking down at work for no reason. She stated that the first time it happened; a colleague asked her if she was suffering from a mental breakdown and she said no. “I work in the hospitality business and work with over thirty staff who I manage but somehow, I started getting too emotional and overlooking some of their bad behaviour at work.”
Edem told Saturday Sun that while the menopause experience differs from woman to woman, some women have it worse than others if they suffer from endometriosis or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). She added that she is vocal about her body changes because women don’t have to be ashamed of going through something natural.
She said: “I am very vocal about my menopause experience and my treatment. I remember suffering from night-time anxiety and having irregular heartbeats sometimes. Somebody told me that I have dried up from the inside because I shared my menopause experience with some women. I didn’t react to what she said even though it hurt me. I just shook my head and walked away. It is sad that some women are suffering in silence because they don’t want to be shamed if they reveal that they are menopausal.”
Edem revealed that one thing experiencing menopause taught her was the importance of taking care of her body, both internally and externally. She said that she watches the types of foods she eats, exercises thrice a week and uses some beauty products to take care of her skin so that she can look and feel better.
“I noticed that my skin became very dry when I hit menopause. I had to incorporate hydrating cosmetic products into my beauty regimen. I use some serums on my face. I use retinol to help with the appearance of wrinkles. I use moisturizers and body oils a lot these days to keep my skin hydrated. I nourish my skin with good beauty products and eat a balanced diet to care for my insides. Contrary to what some women say about this stage of life, I feel more beautiful now. I exercise, lift weights, do yoga and meditation. I also dance every Sunday to keep my spirits up,” she added.
Faith Anokwu said she is embarrassed to tell people that she has hit menopause. Anokwu who owns a pure water company in Lagos confessed that this period of her life makes her feel like a different person. The mother of two confessed that looking at her body in the mirror these days makes her sad because she has added weight in her belly area.
According to Anokwu, “In my twenties and thirties, I didn’t pay much attention to keeping fit because I have a fast body metabolism. For as long as I can remember, I have been a slim person. Not even when I became pregnant and gave birth to my children did I gain weight. But today, at almost 50, I have a protruding tummy because of menopause.”
Talking about her menopause symptoms, Anokwu said: “I sweat a lot at night. The fatigue was hard to deal with. I get tired doing simple things that I did with ease in the past. I also developed a heightened sense of smell and couldn’t stand some fragrances as well as bad odours. I also suffered short-term memory issues, especially with people’s names and the dates of my loved ones’ birthdays. Some days, I suffer from panic attacks. It is not easy but I am doing my best to stay sane.”