How ‘The Change’ affects a woman’s life
I’m going through The Change, as is popularly said. Personally, I cannot help wondering what I am supposed to change into. In my 50-something years old life I have gone from infancy to toddler, from toddler to child, from child into adolescence, from adolescence into young adult, from young adult into a woman (not sure what the age limit is on that) and now, from a woman into … an old crone?
Here, in this tiny country where I live, people (marketeers?) like to come up with new names for different population groups. Since we have been experiencing a ‘Silver Wave’ in this country for a while now, a word has been invented to indicate the ‘new’, fit elderly: ‘vitalo’ (yes, really) while my age group is commonly known as ‘50-Plus’. I don’t care much for all these names. I don’t need them to make light of the natural process of ageing. I don’t need them to define me.
Still, this change into Old-Cronehood is not much to look forward to, as Mother Nature in her infinite sense of irony has seen fit to burden the ageing woman with a number of annoying symptoms for which there is no cure.
After a lifetime of servitude, The Change presents the ageing women with some rather wry gifts, such as there are:
- approx. 10 kg. extra weight
- a weird and spectacularly inopportune redistribution of body fat
- sagging— especially in the face
- hot flashes and night sweats
- arrhythmia and shortness of breath
- irregular menstruation
- unexpected bleeding (called ‘spotting’ — are you kidding me?!)
- aching joints
- swollen ankles
- muscle cramps
- sleepless nights
- mood swings (duh!)
…all quite unattractive but then there are:
- weirdly round and perky breasts
- either an appetite for sex or
- loss of libido
… and this is just me.
I’ll just let this sink in.
I’m quite sure that women reading this will go “Yes!” in recognition but from men I would expect a revered silence. And that would be only fair. Because with all due respect, most of you guys have no idea.
True enough, men as well go through a phase (popularly called ‘Penopause’) where there is a shift in their hormonal balance (testosterone levels decrease) but this happens very gradually and is nothing as life-altering, dramatic and not seldom devastating as the female Change, where — in a nutshell — oestrogen decreases and testosterone increases. It sounds like such a small thing, but the effects are quite dramatic.
Because of the fluctuation in hormone levels, our internal thermostat is off, resulting in sudden heat attacks (for want of a better word). These happen in the night as well (‘night sweats’), making a good night’s sleep next to impossible (if the muscle cramps didn’t already keep you up). Since a human body is very sensitive to temperature changes, the same wonky thermostat causes all kinds of other symptoms, as mentioned above. In addition, the female body is giving up the no longer needed childbearing function and is cleaning house. To put it mildly.
Mentioned symptoms are annoying at least, and debilitating at worst, depending on the woman. The Change is hugely personal and different for every woman. It is a period in a woman’s life that can last up to 10 years. Quite a price to pay for the ‘gift’ of childbearing, if you ask me (especially when you never asked for that gift — but that’s another story). Or, if you adhere to the theory that woman was fashioned out of man’s rib, that was shoddy work — to say the least.
What about women who — for whatever reason — remained childless? They too will go through The Change — every possibility of reproduction definitely and radically erased (accompanied by mentioned symptoms). Personally, I don’t find that fair at all. I made a choice not to use my childbearing “gift” for reasons of my own (that’s another story) so I feel I should be exempt from all these physical discomforts. Unfortunately, there are no exceptions. The Change comes to every woman, whatever her story may be.
Now don’t get me wrong (please). This publication is not meant as a place to endlessly gripe and moan about The Change. There are plenty of places for that already. Plus, I am hardly an expert — either on femininity or health. There are plenty of others who are. I am just little old me (with the emphasis on ‘old’, these days) struggling to come to terms with what is generally known as The Change. I just happen to be a writer, so I deal with this as I do with everything else in my life: by writing about it.
If, perchance, I happen to write something you can relate to, than yay me. But all I can do is to tell my story. I do not presume to have any answers and in matters of health I cannot stress enough that you consult a medical professional. That I do not is a matter of personal choice.
The Change is serious. It affects every woman sooner or later and yet there is still too little helpful information available (although it is getting better). It is not yet being taken completely serious by either the medical or corporate world (although it is getting better).
Having said that, I hope you’ll enjoy my ramblings on The Change. Though I don’t mean to make light of something so fundamental, I do believe in treating the subject with a sense of humour, because well, let’s face it, what are we left with?
I hope you will find something either relatable or amusing here.
This post was originally published on Medium in my publication The Changing Blog on November 17, 2019.