Last week we looked at ways to activate your brain and keep it young. But recent studies at UCLA indicate that women's brains may not function as well during the early stage of the menopause transition - women do not learn as well shortly before menopause as they do earlier or later. So if you are one of the 60% of women who notice that you have memory problems during your menopausal transition, take heart - your memory will come back once you are postmenopausal.
Menopause may bring many additional changes, emotional as well as physical. The meaning of "the change" may be different for each of you. For some, the aging process may signify the loss of physical beauty, even if you've not been overly concerned with looks before. Arleen loves the challenge of teaching and shares a close relationship with her husband and children. She participates as a volunteer in community activities. Even with her satisfaction with these roles, menopause is a reminder that she is getting older. "I hate looking in the mirror so I avoid it. I see things more magnified now with menopause – I look wrinkled, grayer, fatter and with a turkey neck. I hate it – looking old. I am constantly complaining about it."
It can bring the end of childbearing to the forefront even if you enjoy numerous other meaningful roles in your life. Sometimes the finality of the impossibility of pregnancy brings reductions in the amount of energy you want to invest in childrearing. Diane, who combines her career as a hairdresser with that of an involved parent, feels herself taking a step back from a daughter just entering her twenties. "I like not having a period. But it feels like the end of my motherhood thing. I feel that I’ve done a good job – she’s a good person and will turn out ok. So I am feeling some freedom."
You may also enjoy the freedom that comes from not being able to become pregnant again. Sue was frightened when she started missing her menstrual period. She thought that she might be pregnant with her fifth child. When she learned that her symptoms were the beginning of menopause, she remembers the moment. "I was relieved that’s all it was! Now I am more relaxed with intimacy because I am not worried about getting pregnant. I feel freer now to let myself experience my sexuality."
Menopause can also mark the beginning of thoughts about the finite nature of life, especially for Sandwiched Boomers. This can lead to fears about death or more motivation to accomplish goals. Janet is now thinking about changes she anticipates making in her life in the near future rather than the distant future. "Menopause pushes me to think about the future now and what I can look forward to. The years have passed too quickly. I realize if I want to accomplish things in life, I need to start now."
Has menopause changed your outlook on life? Karen, who has raised four children, has been able to cope with the issues of menopause because, "All of my life experience gives me a certain stability, understanding and strength in dealing with my aging. I don’t want to be a twenty-year old. I feel comfortable being fifty."
The realization that you have the freedom to 'wear purple' and be who you are without any need to please others can be invigorating. Carol, a teacher, is learning to trust herself and be who she is. "Now I have more authenticity – walking my walk, talking my talk – not needing to be so admired or wonderful at any price. There is some loss in coming off the pedestal but I can be selfish and a pain in the ass if I want."
What does menopause mean to you? What emotions are you feeling at the loss of your physical fertility? What does it feel like to know that some parts of your life are now over? What will you leave behind? How do these losses give you the freedom to move in new directions? How are your roles changing? What new opportunities are now opening for you? How will you pursue these? This would be a good time to reflect on your losses and on the new possibilities open to you.
Think about how you want to redefine your role. Click on the post title to take you to our website, www.HerMentorCenter.com where you can read one of our Stepping Stones newsletters. Let us hear from you. And tune in tomorrow when we'll give you some suggestions for coping with menopause.