Monday, 4 February 2019

A No Kidding menopause: Some final thoughts

My menopause series was not meant to be comprehensive, as far better writers have covered this issue. I know it is prompting others to share their experiences (see Bamberlambs’ post here), and I am thrilled about that. Starting the conversation has been important.

I rambled on with another post or two in draft only, and in the end, I don’t think that they say anything significant. I know there were things I didn’t really touch on, so maybe I’ll just wrap them up here:

Hormones and our emotions

I mentioned the hormonal changes post-hysterectomy that threw my emotions out of kilter, plunging me into full menopausal-symptom mode. The power of these emotions was surprising. Even though there is very obviously a chemical reason for them – given that now I am on HRT I am back on an even keel – this is still a taboo subject. Taboo because it is a mental health issue, taboo because it is a women’s issue surrounding menopause (literally the ending of menstruation, which is doubly taboo), and taboo because it is a women’s issue. It infuriates me.

Like PMS, men don’t understand it. I fully expect a study come out denying the existence of emotional fluctuations due to hormones around menopause, as there was around PMS. My husband, who was incredibly supportive during my pregnancy losses and the time of grief that followed the end of our family-building efforts, did not understand this. (Though his patience was, once again, exemplary. Most of the time.) I think many men have always struggled to differentiate between what might be a genuine reaction and what they can dismiss as “hormonal” reactions (ie, those that they think can be ignored). I knew when my hormones were distorting my emotions. And I knew when they weren't. He didn't. So once I had begun taking HRT and it was doing what it was supposed to do, if we were having an argument, or if I was upset at something, he would ask if I had taken my pills, implying that I was being over-emotional and irrational. (Sound familiar? Ever hear men suggest that women who are angry are suffering from PMS?) That infuriated me more than whatever we were arguing about in the first place. Don’t worry, he pretty soon learnt not to do that!

This dismissal of women’s views happens in the wider societal contexts too. The idea that our ideas, comments, complaints etc are irrelevant and trivial because they are hormonal and therefore “unstable” has been around for centuries, probably millennia. Likewise, women’s medical issues and pain have been and are still devalued and treated differently. All I can say is that in a one-on-one basis, I find it exasperating, and on a societal basis, even more enraging. And yes, I took my HRT this morning!

The Crone Age

I have real discomfort with this terminology, and have always disliked of the implication I am now in the “crone” age. I know that it really just refers to a third stage in the life of a woman, but I find it hard to reconcile with its many other, derogatory connotations. However, in just one search from writing those two sentences, I have learned new things. I’ve learned that the word “crone” actually comes from the word “crown” and refers instead to the crowning wisdom we reach in our post-menopausal years. Okay, I like that. I particularly like the definitions along the lines of a “woman with valuable experience, sound judgement, and wisdom.” This is more reflective of how I actually feel about myself now. (No, I’m not modest!)

But I have to say that I don’t feel that this has come on post-menopause. No, it is a result of my No Kidding life, of battling infertility, of accepting my No Kidding childless life, of working with many women during this time, and of learning from others. Most importantly, it is from learning more about who I am, what I value, and who I want to be.

Still, please, couldn’t we find a better term than “crone?”

6 comments:

  1. Oooh, I like the idea that "crone" is for "crowning wisdom." I actually barf a little when I see the "maiden, mother, crone" figures, because it sucks for all those who got left out of the middle. Do I go straight from maiden to crone then? Also, even with the definition, there's really no good connotation with the word "crone." All I think about is the Evil Queen in Snow White as the gnarled old witch with the poisoned apple. So appealing.

    Also, totally with you on how women's hormones and emotions are trivialized -- even "hysteria" comes from this, and there's a lot of "oh, is she on the rag" and whatnot jokes. Grrr. I wouldn't do well with someone asking me if I'd taken my HRT pills. :) (Which aren't necessary...yet.) Bryce sometimes enhances an argument by asking me if I'm hungry, which is sort of code for "you must be hungry because you are being SO bitchy right now," and while there is definitely a link between hunger and bitchiness for me, pointing it out is no good! :)

    I appreciate your menopause series, as someone who will be enjoying all the glories sooner than later. I appreciate the sneak peek!

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  2. Love that you discovered crone = crown. That's much better than research I did years ago that came up with "carrion!" https://lavenderluz.com/2008/04/crone-2.html

    It's so helpful that you're talking about menopause and opening up a conversation. While we now do a decent job of preparing young women for menarche, we still neglect to prepare older women for the other end of this stage. Time to end the taboo.

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  3. I just read this article and thought it was very interesting in relation to menopause and mental health.
    https://www.thecut.com/2018/12/is-estrogen-the-key-to-understanding-womens-mental-health.html?fbclid=IwAR2zF6hYg12hbj8ElTp72XoHFMHIsIcggnFJzvHlepqvvqKwv5bZe6rB2Ag

    And then I saw this today - also very interesting!

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/feb/04/womens-brains-are-four-years-younger-than-mens-study-finds

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  4. Yeah I remember when I'd have an argument with hubby and he would ask if my period was due because I used to get more irritable just beforehand. Him asking that used to make me extra mad! It came across as a way of invalidating my feelings as just being down to hormones.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your experience with menopause here on the blog. I still have a few years to go, but I do find it helpful to hear from others what could lie ahead.

    I had to look up what "crone" means - it does not sound very nice indeed. I would pick "crown", too ;-).

    Sunday greetings from Switzerland!

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  6. I've never liked "crone" either, although it's nice to know its origins were positive. It seems to be one of those trendy terms some women have been tossing around lately... trying to "reclaim" it in a positive way, I suppose. I think it still has quite a way to go, though...!

    Anyway, thanks (again!) for a great series of posts!

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