Menopause, Mental Health and Motherhood
In her recent article, "Women Have Been Misled About Menopause" in the New York Times, Susan Dominus restarts the conversation about the impact of menopause on women's physical and emotional health.
In a culture that can be dismissive, even cruel, when women open up about their emotional experiences, mental health during menopause is rarely talked about. Even more rare is a discourse on how symptoms of menopause impact mothers.
In addition to the physical symptoms of menopause we’ve all seen detailed on sitcoms and in comedy routines, a decrease in estrogen in the body during menopause can result in symptoms of depression and anxiety. Who wouldn’t feel depressed, anxious, or angry when struggling with symptoms like hot flashes, brain fog, sleep disruptions, weight gain and low libido?
If you’re not sleeping, you can’t find the words to express yourself, you’re dripping sweat at random times throughout the day and sex no longer feels like the release it once was, life is going to feel pretty crappy.
This is on top of the grind of parenthood. Perhaps your kindergartener has decided she is only eating white food and your teen just crashed the car. Oh, and you’ve just barely survived another round of layoffs at work and your spouse isn’t around as much because they’ve become their parent’s primary caretaker.
It’s hard enough to keep it together on a normal day and now your hormones are on a rollercoaster and your mood is in full swing. How are you supposed to get through this with your sanity intact?
Have Self-Compassion Do your best to extend deep understanding and love to yourself throughout this journey. Go above and beyond to treat yourself well. Surround yourself with people that will listen, commiserate, and let you vent and curse when needed. You did nothing to unleash the raging hormones that are wreaking havoc on your body and mind. You don’t want to feel depressed, angry or anxious; you don’t want to look like you’ve run a 10k by 10am each morning. You want to feel more in control and sometimes that feels impossible. You’re doing the best you can.
Contact your doctor Set up an appointment with your PCP to discuss menopause and your physical and mental health. Be honest about the impact your symptoms are having on your day-to-day life and ask for help. You don’t deserve to suffer.
Talk about it If you’re open to it, talk openly with friends and loved ones about the changes you’re going through, the impact they are having on your mental health and any struggles or growth opportunities you’ve identified because of this process. Talk to your kids about your experience in a developmentally appropriate way. Opening up about your experience normalizes this process and gives the people that love you a chance to support you. Push back against society’s expectation that you blame yourself for not being perfect and that you suffer in silence.
Ask for help Whether it’s help at home, help at work or help managing the day-to-day and parenting, there are times when we can’t handle it all on our own. Reconsider your routines and your schedule; be willing to turn over tasks and responsibilities that feel too hard right now.
Get support for your mental health If you’re struggling to manage symptoms of depression, anxiety, overwhelm, anger, rage or disconnect during menopause (or any other time), reach out for help. In my practice I help women and mothers create more joy, connection, and balance in their lives. The symptoms of menopause can overwhelm the best of us and I can help you reconnect to yourself and get more of what you want out of life.
Schedule a free 20-minute consultation to discuss how I can support you today.
Michelle Deely, MFT specializes in helping burned out moms find relief. Michelle offers in-person therapy in San Francisco and online therapy to clients throughout California, Nevada and Florida.