Recently, we explored the range of emotional and mental symptoms that often go along with an early menopause diagnosis.
We looked at practical ways of coping with this new reality and the feelings of sadness and hopelessness women often feel when confronted with menopause before they expected it.
In this follow-up piece we will identify ways of finding personal acceptance and seeking effective support mechanisms that work for you. This article will also touch on strategies that may help you regain control of your life after the shock of premature menopause.
Afterall, it is understandably difficult not to feel shortchanged when faced with this major change in your life.
Anger: “This Isn’t Fair”
Other women your age can have children and you can’t. Other women your age aren’t faced with the consequences of having a reproductive system that has essentially stopped working. They don’t have to come to grips with concerns about aging, debates about hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and thoughts of osteoporosis and heart disease.
“It’s just not fair!” you want to scream sometimes. And honestly, it isn’t fair. Some people may tell you to get past that feeling by remembering others who are less fortunate than you, but while that may help a bit, you still have that deep-down feeling of having been cheated.
To make matters worse, many of the physical symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, insomnia, and night sweats, help feed the fire of your anger. You’re often exhausted, which makes you jumpier, which, in turn, makes it easier for you to get angry and stressed out.
Oddly enough, though, the anger you may be feeling can be a very positive force — a healing force for you. Often you’ll find that the anger, the feeling of being cheated or shortchanged, occurs after you’ve gone through a period of grieving. Instead of sinking into a mire of depression, you find yourself lashing out instead. This is common and very healthy. It’s a natural step on the road to acceptance of your premature menopause.
The problem is that you may sometimes turn that anger you feel about premature menopause against other people or other situations that have nothing to do with menopause. Many women find themselves yelling at their children or starting fights with their husbands, and up feeling even worse once the anger has passed. Instead of the rage they felt, they’re consumed with guilt and consider themselves bad mothers or wives.
I was in the store today, and it seemed as if there were babies everywhere I looked. I saw this woman with the cutest baby, about six months old. She was holding and cuddling him. Everyone else was smiling at them. I couldn’t. I didn’t even want to look. It made me feel like my body had betrayed me.
— Anne, age 37
While it is understandable to feel guilty about taking your anger out on someone who has nothing to do with it, do recognize that the emotional upheaval you are going through is the cause. You’re not “bad” for reacting badly to an inherently difficult situation; you’re just stressed out.
Some women turn their anger about premature menopause into anger at themselves: “I should have had a child earlier,” “I should have lived healthier,” “I should have guessed what was happening.”
There are hundreds of ways you can blame yourself, but none of these thought patterns are helpful or accurate. I know how tempting it can be to do this, but dwelling on these “should-haves” can only make you feel worse. Premature menopause isn’t your fault. It’s something that happened to you, something you couldn’t prevent.
If you notice that the anger you feel is getting the upper hand of your life, you can work through it in some different ways:
Take time out when you feel the anger building
If you know that you’re ready to blow up, stop and cool off. Try deep breathing, just sitting quietly, or anything else that helps you cycle down the rage.
Destress yourself as much as possible
Stress and tension can lead to frayed nerves and anger. Try some stress-busters such as yoga, meditation, or exercise. Or again, take time for yourself by doing an activity you enjoy.
Be open with your loved ones
If you fly off the handle at your husband, children, or friends for no real reason, explain that your anger was misdirected. Honesty to yourself and others can heal the hurt caused by your anger. Be as frank as possible.
Explain that you were wrong and that you need them to understand that you are going a difficult period in your life. Consider showing them this website if it helps aid in their understanding of the issues you’re going through.
Give yourself a break
As with depression, if there is a certain person or situation that makes you get stressed or angry, try to distance yourself.
Give yourself a break, literally, by getting away from the person or situation that is setting you off, even if it’s just for a little while. If you find that you’re blowing up more at your children, see if someone else can watch them for a little while.
Channel your anger into other activities
When you find yourself overwhelmed with anger, use that energy to do something else: exercise, garden, or read. Indeed, do anything to defuse that hot feeling into calmness.
Finally, don’t beat yourself up for losing your temper
Adding guilt or self-loathing to everything that you’re dealing with won’t help you cope. Remember that your anger is a natural reaction to a bad situation and that with time it will pass.
Feeling Powerless: How to Regain Control
I felt like I was going insane. I had hundreds of hot flashes each day, so bad that my clothes would be drenched. I would cry for no reason at all. Sometimes, I’d be furious for no reason — I’d find myself yelling at my daughter and then I’d feel so bad about it. It was a nightmare. I didn’t feel like myself. And I didn’t like the person I had become.
— Celia, age 26
One of the most disconcerting aspects of premature menopause is the feeling of being out of control. Your body is going bonkers, and you’re stuck going along for the ride whether you want to or not. And, worse, you can’t do a thing about it.
Well, actually, you can. While you can’t reverse premature menopause, you can fight back against that “out of control” feeling by taking charge of your body and your mind. It is a way of being active, of seizing power when you feel the most powerless.
Regaining control of your body and mind allows you to regain control of your life. It is a way of making premature menopause only one aspect of your life, not the be-all and end-all that it often seems to be, especially at the beginning.
Learn as much as you can about your condition, so you can take an active role in treating it
This, to me, is one of the most positive and empowering acts a woman in premature menopause can do for herself. The more you know about what is happening to your body, the more you can be involved in the whole treatment process, both with your doctor and by yourself.
Also, when you know the whys and hows of premature menopause, you can better understand why you feel the way you do, and figure out how to cope better. Fear of the unknown is one of the most potent fears we can have. By making premature menopause a known quantity, you can reduce the fear and powerlessness it may create in you.
Take positive actions about your lifestyle
Often, dealing with premature menopause can be the jump-start you need to push you into a new, healthier lifestyle: begin eating better, follow a good exercise program, quit smoking, start taking vitamins.
These are all positive moves you can make that will not only help your body in handling menopausal symptoms and consequences but also help your psyche.
By doing something positive — actually, just by doing something — you are taking charge of the situation and turning it into an opportunity for you to improve yourself by paying attention to your health as you may not have before.
Give yourself a chance for small victories
Feeling in control is often a matter of feeling victorious, feeling that you’ve conquered something, no matter how small. Set small goals for yourself so you can be sure you’ll meet them.
For example, if you’ve put on weight since premature menopause, decide that through diet and exercise you want to lose a pound in a week or two. Or if you are starting an exercise program, you can decide to begin with 15 minutes of exercise a day four days a week.
By setting small, workable goals, you can ensure yourself small victories and enjoy the feeling of having made a positive, take-charge move.
Rid yourself of stress
Premature menopause in and of itself is a stressful condition to deal with, physically and emotionally. So the more you eliminate stress from your life, the better able you are to take charge of your situation.
Listen to your body and begin to pick up on the signs it sends you about stress. If you notice that you’re having problems sleeping or are suffering from indigestion or fatigue, chances are your body is telling you that it’s stressing out and you need to take the time to relax.
Try relaxation techniques for both your body and mind
Yoga, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, tai chi and the like are great ways of calming your mind and relaxing (sometimes even toning) your body.
Get The Support You Need
Getting support from others is a vital component of overcoming this difficult stage in your life, whether it’s your husband, your family or friends, or a more formal support group of other women in the same situation.
Because premature menopause wreaks such havoc on you physically and emotionally, it’s important to vent sometimes, to find people you trust who you can talk to, unload on, and just draw comfort from.
My friends are all going through so much negative stuff and so we all try to be a welcome and understanding ear to each other. Spouse problems, teenage children problems, our premenopause problems, etc.
My mom is the only person who understands everything I’ve been through, including the premenopausal things, and has been my ultimate support system.
— Bryana, age 38
Virtually all the women I have spoken with who are going through premature menopause said that talking out their concerns, worries, and fears was a great help in adjusting to this change in their lives.
Possibly one of the best ways of coping with the emotional fallout of early menopause and maintaining a sense of calm once you’ve passed through the worst of the transition is to join a support group of women who are experiencing the same things and can truly understand what exactly you are going through.
Finding women who have “been there/done that” has been of help. It always makes you feel better when someone says “I know what you mean” and you know that they mean it.
— Steph, age 28
Many women do find specialized support groups a great way of connecting and sharing their experience with other women going through early menopause. For a lot of women, it is the first time since diagnosis that they begin to feel less alone.
You can ask questions, share experiences, and discuss feelings with others going through the same challenges. In many ways, these groups can be a venue for openness and honesty in an environment where you know you’ll find understanding.
While you may confide in friends and family, other women in premature menopause are in tune with you; they’re going through the same ups and downs as you are. They have many of the same fears and are fighting the same battles with their bodies and emotions. Most importantly, you start to realize that you aren’t alone. There are other women out there like you.
How can you find a support group?
If you’re fortunate, you may be able to locate an in-person meeting in your area for women in premature menopause whether naturally, through surgery, or due to cancer treatments.
Infertility sites such as INCIID (the International Council on Infertility Information Database) are often a good place to find other women in premature menopause. If you’re in premature menopause due to surgery, there are numerous support groups tailored to women who’ve had oophorectomies or hysterectomies.
National Infertility associations often have local offices and maintain programs and support groups for women. One of the largest of these is Resolve, which has both a national headquarters and local branches across the country.
Here are some further places to look:
- The EarlyMenopause.com Community — our own group intended specifically for women going through premature menopause.
- HysterSisters — a fantastic support option for those who’ve entered early menopause due to hysterectomy.
- The Daisy Network — this long-established UK support network offers advice, support, and a members-only online support group.
- Resolve — the National Infertility Association is a great place to find support groups for women suffering from infertility related problems. Many individuals here have also been through premature menopause.