The ‘big M’ – more taboo subjects #changethechange


It’s taken me a while to get my blogging mojo back. I’ve not been great you see; back in late November I was struggling with staying well – diabetes related – and had a couple of weeks where I am sure most normal people wouldn’t have worked. But I soldiered on. You see for decades that is what I have done. I have, in the Cooper family way, ‘Just got on with it’. What I find, at 51, is that it’s not quite as easy as it used to be. This has all been coupled with something else that has really been worrying me. I just can’t remember things like I used to. These two things together gave me a real sense of being out of control. Why did I feel so tired? I mean, so tired I felt like I could sleep anywhere. Why couldn’t I seem to remember one day to the next, let alone what I had promised to do, nor people’s names? Why didn’t I feel on-top of my game?? I finally think I know what is going on (and before someone jumps in and gives me wise advice of course I will be seeing my lovely Dr R in due course)  I think it’s one of those taboo subjects that no one talks about – the Menopause. After I started to feel a bit better in December I was lucky to go out with my friends, all a similar age to me, from book club, for our pre-Christmas ‘do’. They are all my age contemporaries – a GP, nurse, laboratory scientist, careers advisor, hairdresser and housewife come chef. I love them all. I decided to confess how I was feeling. I am so glad I did. ???????????????????????????We had a feisty conversation about aging and memory, about being tired, not sleeping, hot flushes and cold night sweats. It seems I am not the only one. One of my friends described her memory symptoms so vividly that I immediately started to feel better. There followed a long debate about the pros and cons of HRT. I definitely came away feeling more normal and much, much more optimistic. Since then, having had the conversation, I feel so much better and am actively doing things that help me to feel good. I know that is obvious but sometimes I just don’t do it! tabooIt led me to think about why on earth no one has ever even broached the subject of the menopause and diabetes. In fact no one ever seems to talk openly about the menopause…. It just seems to be jokey comments and a nod and a wink. Is this another taboo subject? The ‘big M’?? I looked online and of course the ‘big M’ does affect diabetes – it’s obvious. If you search online it says so; the ‘Big M’ can make you hypoglycaemic or maybe hyperglycaemic or maybe just a bit unpredictably dodgy…. And of course if sleep eludes you that has a habit of messing everything up too. If you wake up feeling a bit sweaty then is that hypo sweaty or just a sweaty episode? Well of course you just don’t know without testing and testing and testing. Ah, the ‘big M’! The other thing I found was that although again we don’t talk much about it, the ‘Big M’ can affect memory and it seems to be well reported by women, even if it never seems to be discussed openly. I found various pieces of information but this is the most insightful – a healthtalk resource where women talk about their experience – worth a look. menopauseYou need to understand, I don’t do this sort of messing around in my life! I ‘just get on with it’ and I don’t want to think that the ‘big M’ is getting in my way. Information about what is probably happening to me, along with the shared conversation with my lovely friends, made me feel better. I suppose it’s just another thing like Diabetes, a new visitor in my life, the ‘big M’. My experience over the last month just reinforced for me how important open conversations are and the importance of good quality information. I just wish someone had told me about the ‘big M’ before now. Oh, and I forgot to talk about weight didn’t I?!!? Oh forget that. Lets ignore that! I feel better now and on top of things again. I really wish these were not conversations that make me feel slightly uncomfortable, after all the ‘big M’ happens to many, many people. Why is it that it feels so taboo?

Post script: This blog led me to a group of wonderful women who are determined to change the conversations we have about Menopause and the evidence we have for care about menopause.  To find out more search #changethechange on Twitter

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Hen Replacement Therapy HRT – thank you June Girvin 🙂

anne 25

Who knew? Me 25 years ago 🙂 No ‘big M’ here 😀

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11 thoughts on “The ‘big M’ – more taboo subjects #changethechange

  1. I suspect you could write a book on the impact of menopause on individual women and on society at large, and I suspect a few people have. There’s certainly a few reasons why it might be taboo.

    Firstly, it’s to do with reproductive health. Teenage girls are often mortified by their first period (from what I gather). ‘TRU LADZ’ have panic attacks when they look up from their phone at the supermarket to find they’re on the feminine care aisle. We’re conditioned when young in this country to feel weirdly ashamed of anything remotely connected to reproduction, and menopause is the technical end of the ability to reproduce, hence weird shame.

    I guess it probably reflects the ingrained misogyny in society as well. You know – oh, you can’t have any more babies now the hot flushes have kicked in, therefore you have no purpose – and it’s bollocks. We thankfully live in an age where 20% of us will live to see 100 and being a woman is no longer defined simply by motherhood, but every so often little remnants of the past come lurching into view like horrible archaic monstrous tentacle-like things. Ugh.

    I’m glad you’re feeling more normal about it! Excellent blog, btw 🙂

  2. I agree Sean, another excellent blog from Anniecoops:-) I’m sorry to read you’ve not been feeling so great though.
    I expect many will take the prompt and empowering message to do their own research for high quality information and have the ‘conversation’.
    It’s through messages like this where I get my inspiration to keep asking the right questions, thank you 😄

  3. Dear Annie, you have such an amazing talent for telling the real story. Oh how I can empathise with you, been there, done it and got the T shirt – so to speak. It amazes me that as you enter woman hood you are reminded by others that you are becoming a woman, but as you enter the Big M no one tells you what to be prepared for, all the symptoms you describe along with new hair growth and you scream every morning you look in the mirror!!! (Am I turning into my father?)
    Anyway, I am so pleased to hear you were able to talk – a reminder that we are never alone!
    Also great to hear you are feeling better. Keep up with the blogs.
    Wishing you a very successful 2015. X

  4. Annie, I sympathise so much……I drive my family crazy with stuff I can’t remember…..and my remote heating app on my phone is wearing out due to the amount of times I either turn the heating up ..or down, maybe both in the same 5 minute spell.
    As my mother keeps saying “this too shall pass”
    Love reading your blogs, hope you feel better soon.

  5. On the button as ever Anne. There is discussion between myself and my contemporaries of the hot flushes and night sweats however I personally find the memory loss and vacant periods far more troubling. As a health professional this can be very inconvenient and potentially hazardous!. I had no idea of the impact of the big M and over 5years on how long it’s effects would be felt. Take care be well

  6. Hi Annie, I can certainly recognise much of what you are saying. When you don’t feel like a fifty year old you sort of forget that menopause is looming and when you have a condition such as diabetes as we do it’s easy to assume everything is related to that when it’s not. Glad you are feeling better.

  7. HI Annie
    I’m so glad you have your blogging mojo back and what a great subject to come back on. I was 50 last year and whilst I don’t have the added complications that you have to deal with, much of what you say rings loud and true for me. Like you, I expect to continue just the way I always have, I do not ‘believe’ in going sick (yes that is ridiculous but anyone who trained in the early 80’s will know what I mean, better to spread your germs round as many people as possible and take twice the time to recover than blot your sick record) . I do not like the fact that my hips ache when I sit for too long, I am annoyed with myself for sleeping through most of my annual leave when I wanted to be studying and I am fed up of living on soup and crackers for two weeks and weighing exactly the same at the end (yes, I know that’s a rubbish way to diet) and I feel really mean that I am constantly sneaking the thermostat down and leaving my family freezing rather than face another hot melt in the kitchen. These things are frustrating but not frightening. You said out loud what I am frightened and that’s the memory loss. Friends of the same age mention it, laugh about even. But their’s is different isn’t it? Mine is real, I am convinced. Possibly the first sign of a slow decline towards dementia. I stand in rooms wondering what I have gone in for. I search in my mind for people I know really well names. Twice this week I have searched for my car in a car park with absolutely no idea where it was. On one of the occasions I had parked it just 20 minutes before. It lasted long enough for me to start thinking that I would have to walk home and explain that I had lost the car. In my head runs the background banner of 1 in 6 will get dementia. I have so completely ignored the Big M (it ain’t happening here sister) that I have failed to understand it’s symptoms or consider it’s impact on me. Maybe I am on the long-march to severe memory loss but maybe I am just going through what millions of other women are experiencing. Which might explain why there are so many women of a certain age walking round supermarket car parks squinting at number plates and clicking their key fobs to see if there car is nearby!
    Annie, thanks as always for sharing. The ‘it that shall not be named’ is out in open and we need to talk about it. The menopause is a strange place to be and I am so glad I am not alone in it. Take care and stay well, Julie

  8. Oh gosh, I feel so humbled by all of the lovely comments on my blog. I am encouraged by all of you. Thank you.
    I honestly can’t tell you how much my memory was worrying me. I was thinking about it all the time. Hubby said I was distant, pre-occupied probably good description, too.
    So, now that I’ve opened up I feel so much better.
    My strategy is resilience and lists. Paperchase are unlikely to go out of business. And thank god for remote car opening and flashing lights, although Meadowhall car parks are very merge 😳

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  10. Spot on Annie. We love a list at Menopause UK. Great to be in touch with you. Crazy, isn’t it, that we don’t talk to each other more about menopause?

    A fact for you: 1 woman in 3 in the UK is going through or has already reached the menopause. That’s 13 million women. Imagine if we all started talking!

    We’re campaigning to ‘change the change’. Your lovely readers might like to pop by and see what we’re up to at http://www.menopauseuk.org

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