***Be Warned: I am going to be very honest in this post about menopause, periods and other Women’s Issues. And Hygge. I’m going to be very honest about Hygge.***
For as long as I can remember, my Mum’s best advice to me was that there are no constants about being a woman. Just when you think you’re used to your life or your body (especially your body) something happens and the whole life changes. Change is as inevitable as death and taxes.
From being a little girl, to puberty hitting like a ton of hormonal bricks, to young adulthood and work, through marriage, motherhood, returning to work and on. I don’t think I’ve spent more than seven years in a stable state without something changing about either my life or my body. I’ve coped with PMT, endometriosis, textbook perfect pregnancies, heavy periods, feeling inadequate, feeling like a superwoman, feeling loved, feeling hated. I’ve coped (because I am the age that felt they had to) with having periods so heavy they bled through several pads a day at senior school, when asking to visit the loo mid lesson was not allowed, so I’ve sat and felt the blood leak out. I’ve changed the sheets daily during period week to wash the excess from the night time away. I’ve just been there and done it, right? There is no fixed point for a woman that you point at and go ‘This is me when I’m normal’. There is no normal.
And I’m on the move again.
I suppose I knew something had shifted around six years ago, when I was 46 and stood up for myself in a situation when previously I might have just faded to grey and put up with it. I said no, and got a taste for being in control of my life, for how I was received in the world. Self-confidence is a wonderful thing. Looking back, I think that was the start of my shift. Oestrogen is known as the happy hormone that makes you want to please others. Evolutionary-wise, oestrogen and its biddability is what helps a woman create a strong bond with her mate, or whoever is looking after the kids with her so that she’s not taking care of them alone. When it starts to drop, events that you would have shrugged off or just accepted become beyond the pale. You learn to say no. You develop gumption. My oestrogen dropping, and the start of what was probably my peri-menopausal period heralded a time of not taking no as a serious option, let alone the final answer.
Like I say, this was six years ago. Seriously, the run up can start that many years before. But you mark it down as a weird moment and move on.
Well, over the past two years I have dealt with little niggles and ill-at-ease feelings, with twinges in my pelvic region, with itchy lower bits and lost words, moments of madness when I lose my temper or feel so helpless.One blind thing after another. I thought I was falling apart physically and mentally. I worried about my mental health in 2019, and then decided that life is not a flat walk along a pier by the seaside, but a hillside stroll along the clifftops. There are ups and downs. Get used to it. Get on with it.
And then last week I visited the doctor for the second/third time already this year. It was intermittent spotting, which shouldn’t really happen with a mirena coil like the ones I have had fitted for over 14 years due to heavy periods. It followed on from vaginal itching, the week before, and heart palpitations the week before that.
And, for whatever reason, I actually sat down the day after I saw the doctor and started googling ‘menopause’. Symptoms of menopause, to be specific. There are loads, and by the time I had nodded yes to the fourth or fifth one I was pretty sure that, at 52, I am in the middle of The Change. The fact that either I or the doctor should have connected the dots before now is neither here nor there. Apparently a rather large percentage of women get their symptoms each treated individually… for depression, anxiety, angina, indigestion problems…. before someone else points out or they realise that these are all connected and all natural symptoms. There is no automatic collective or publicised information made bleeding obvious to women that menopause happens and that it is both natural and a Good Thing. Imagine being 80 and still having babies. Quite.
And, due to family medical history and an inbuilt distrust of long term medical treatment I would like my menopause to be as natural as possible. I’m trying to avoid HRT at all if possible and for as long as I can if not possible.
So, I’ve been looking for advice on having a natural menopause. On embracing the change, on trasitioning into my third age, on growing old with grace and gusto. And, unsurprisingly, hygge is absolutely going to be a part of that.
I know this post is a bit like the birth plans hospitals have you write before you give birth (or did, when I was a birthing parent) You plan for a natural birth, with a tens machine when the contractions start or perhaps some gas and air to help you breathe through them. Or you plan a water birth with a pool, or a home birth, a nice, relaxed experience with candles, ice cubes wrapped in a silk hanky and Brandenburg Concerto wafting over the speaker. Yeah, right, By the end you’re screaming for the painkiller whether it’s pure heroin or not: who cares? Your husband/partner’s hand has marks where you’ve dug your nails in deep enough to draw blood just to make him suffer and the silk hanky is ripped to shreds because it was either that or strangle whoever said ‘Just breathe through the pain…’ one more time.
Come back in five years time, and we’ll see how the plan’s worked out. Anything less than HRT is a win for me. HRT? That’ll be a win, too, as long as I feel and look good. Not thin, not young, but smiling and relaxed. That’s my aim. A relaxed transition to old hag, crone or witch. I could be either on any one day or all at once on the right day. I’d prefer wise woman, learned elder or Grandmother to the Tribe….
And I start, as I always start, with a trip to the library and the bookstore. To read up on other women’s journeys, to read any literature on handling this well without murdering anyone, and on natural ways to help me out. So far it’s all very hygge: self-care, relaxation, rituals to encourage acceptance, exercise and rest. So far so good.
I have a variety of new books to read; Living Well Through the Menopause is my current read. I’ll let you know what it says. It’s based on using CBT to handle the change as much as possible. I’m a natural optimist, so CBT suits me well and drags me, kicking and screaming, out of SAD every springtime.
I’ll probably do another post on the readable books I’ve picked up, enjoyed and found use in, but I’m finding podcasts are another source of the elder wisdom that would, in the past, have been passed on by Granny in the Corner or Mrs Fanackerpan down the street who had issues with her *down theres* and ran off with the window cleaner to join the commune in India. Sam Baker’s The Shift, in particular, is one I listen to often. Women, over 40, talking about how their self-perception and society’s perception of them changes after 40. At 52, I am late to this game.
So currently the most hygge things I do at the moment are make a great big mug of chai, snuggle down in my comfy chair next to the window (cool if I need it to be, shawl-wrapped if I’m chilly) with one earbud in and half a brain alert to the goings on of the family I am still very much in the middle of, and listen to women who have been there, done this and got the medal. Either the podcast entertains me while I crochet, or I read a book and make plans for what I need to think about next. An extra set of sheets to change mid-week instead of just weekly, making sure my notebook is always at hand for braindumping rather than risk forgetting, a list of books, actions, advice that people have given me. Of course I have a page for mood-boosting hygge in my notebook, as well as a page for places to go/people to see when I’m free. Heck, I even have a page planning for what I need to take with me when we downsize to a smaller house. I’m planning that far in advance.
And, yes, I am going to aim to enjoy the experience. To hygge my way through it with my family, my friends and the new people I will meet as a result. I will appreciate fully the fact that many women in the past never lived long enough or were well enough to go through the menopause. I will fully enjoy the idea that, of the mammals on Earth, humans go with killer whales and narwhals in having a menopause. I’ve seen the clip with killer whales on the hunt and I’m happy to be twinned with them. Clever, community minded and completely badass.
Badass woman. That’s the compliment I want you to pay me. That when my rollercoaster of hormones settles again, I am a badass woman happy to help because I want to, not because I feel obliged to.
Today’s header is by Annie Spratt on Unsplash. I chose it because I liked the message. Like Jenny Eclair’s quote up above, this is the start of a brand new adventure, and I’m ready. From now onwards, the commitments I keep in my life are the ones I choose to keep; the steps I take are the ones I choose to take; and the adventure I have is the one I choose to have (even if I choose never to hike the Appalachian Trail or go white water rafting down the Amazon: I’ve been to Ikea and driven along the M62 at rush hour. Those adventures hold no fear for me) May that be true for all of us.
All my blogs, Facebook groups and other social media content is free to enjoy and ad free as far as possible.
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.