How can counselling help women going through menopause (which includes peri!)
Juggling children or teens, elderly parents, perhaps navigating the tribulations of a long term relationship… and to top it all, your body is going through its own journey of change. Just great! It’s no wonder you might feel like you don’t know whether you’re coming or going!
Counselling can be a place to put a stake in the ground where not much ground feels solid in everyday life. Clients often say to me that the counselling room (or the online room of zoom) creates a stopping place, a place to pause and be when everything else around can feel out of control. This in itself, a regular marker where you can stop and spend time airing the linen of life can be extremely helpful as you transition through this time in your life where your body is experiencing perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms.
Not so long ago, women used to mutter under their breath ‘she’s going through the change’ – the whole thing was shameful and embarrassing. Nowadays, thankfully, it is becoming much more mainstream to talk about menopause. I talk about it with my friends regularly, and we support each other in sharing how each of our journeys are going. Even though I paint a picture of support in saying this, ultimately, we each go through the journey alone – each of our bodies responds differently and uniquely to this phase. Friends might recommend their type of HRT that has proved wonderful for them, only for you to find that it doesn’t fit for you. Another might ‘sail’ through menopause, leaving you wondering why you’re experiencing it like a boat in the middle of an endless storm!
Why counselling for something that’s about my body?
One might conclude that because menopause is a ‘biological phenomenon’, it requires only ‘biological support’ in the form of doctor’s appointments and prescriptions to treat symptoms. But menopause isn’t just a ‘biological event’ – it is a transitional phase, a psychological event. Not only may there be biological mental health symptoms that arise such as anxiety, brain fog, depression – the phase can have an impact on our ability to work, manage juggling life, wanting sex etc. Counselling can act like a decompression chamber, where you can take time to slowly release some of the pressures around you in a safe environment of understanding and non-judgement.
The ongoing shame of the changing body
Ultimately, the menopause phase signifies the fact that your body is changing and ageing; and in our culture, youth is fetishized and ageing is a shaming experience. So we may purport to ‘be ok’ in the company of friends chatting about our menopauses, but deep down it may feel like an isolating, disorientating and debilitating experience. The counselling space can give you the time to acknowledge and even honour what your body is going through; a place where you can learn to be gentle with yourself and perhaps come to a place of acceptance and surrender to the process. This can sometimes be easier to do in the company of a trusted other than alone.
What has Van Gogh got to do with menopause?
How do we feel in the throes of that change? Van Gogh saw beauty in that decay and he captured something so essential that we know about life – everything changes and nothing remains the same. Our bodies are constantly getting older moment by moment, but menopause brings that into sharp focus in ways we have no control over. It is not as if we choose when to have menopause – it chooses when to have us! Much like going through puberty, we are ‘hit by it’ and there’s no avoiding it. And it comes at a time when we may also be juggling children/long term relationship issues and elderly parents. What a combination! Tricky waters such as this can sometimes be helped by creating havens of safety, a respite and a place to breathe to have a break from the onslaught of it all. Watching TV, reading a book, having a bath, playing a game on your phone – these all help. Sometimes counselling can help as well, a regular moment where you can really be met and understood in what you’re going through can also be a haven.
I find it really beautiful to discover that Van Gogh saw beauty in the loss of bloom. I wonder how we can together find a new relationship with our ‘loss of bloom’. There is never death without birth, and the counselling room can be a place to discover what new life will come out of this once in a life transition.
Choosing the right counsellor to work with is a really important part of the process, so take your time and explore the different styles of therapy for coping with your menopause and make contact with a few counsellors to talk with them about how they can help you.
Did you know about the app you can use to track your menopausal symptoms, and that you can use this tool to help with conversations with your GP? You might like to give Balance a try.