100% of women will experience menopause, some naturally, some surgically, some chemically and some (me!) all three. Some will glide through it with few or no symptoms, others (me) will have a lot. Yet, generally speaking, we don't talk about it.
For women who are ministers, there is an additional, if unspoken factor, thankfully not present in my congregation, which is that, theological objections aside, menstruation, childbearing and menopause each render women unsuitable for the pastoral roll. Afterall, a minister who gets moody or broody or whatever is (evidently) no use. Unless you are a woman who happens to experience some of the same things, in which case it might be remarkable helpful.
So I was pleased last night when BBC2 Scotland aired a programme called "The Insiders' Guide to the Menopause" available here until 16th March 2017.
I was plunged into effective menopause in 2010 by chemotherapy, which was then maintained by Tamoxifen. In 2016 surgical menopause was added and, as my GP observed, you are about the right age now. So a quadrauple whammy really. Over the last year the menopausal symptoms have continued to get worse, so much so that I recently described myself to my breast consultant as 'a menopausal monster'. He, being the amazingly supportive man he is, went to great lengths to normalise this even saying, "we did this to you", and talking about the importance of quality, as well as quantity, of life.
For women who have had breast cancer, the options for treating menopausal symptoms are very limited, and GPs tend to opt for low doses of antipdepressants as these (allegedly) reduce flushing and help even out mood swings. A week ago, my own GP prescribed a low dose of citalopram and I'm waiting to see if it is going to work for me... at the moment I have a lot of physical side effects and no obvious benefit (unless having almost no emotions is better than being irritable and snappy, not entirely convinced!) but we'll see.
I suppose then, there's a double taboo going on here - menopause and antidepressants...
So, true my open and honest, stubborn self, I've chosen to "out" myself as someone for whom menopause is difficult and long lasting (six and a half years an counting... at least another four to go) in the hope that, just maybe, someone who reads this will be reassured that she is not mad or bad, that it is quite normal and natural to feel like this, and that there is help out there.
For anyone who is experiencing menopause, there's a good website called menopause matters
For any brave men who have read this far - thank you, just by doing so you are helping your partners, colleagues and friends.