Women have been conditioned to believe that menopause is something to be changed, something to eradicate, something to avoid. No wonder we begin this period of life change full of dread.

The first thing you understand about menopause is that your doctor has no clear map to provide you for the journey. In fact, your doctor sometimes knows less than you. Sure, you have heard about hot flashes, they seem to dominate the actual medical knowledge you receive. As the months and years pass, you will likely seek information about weight gain, sleep, vaginal dryness, and weak libido. Multi-tasking, something you once did effortlessly, becomes more challenging.

Change is not overnight, but one month you have periods, and the next you do not. The months multiply and many of us think, ‘good riddance.’ At first, sex might be more enjoyable and our drive increases. You may even feel a sense of freedom and excitement.

My frustration, however, has grown. Frustration with the lack of medical research that is female-centered. I did not want a pill for my hot flashes, I wanted information. I wanted my doctor to sit down with me and instead of hitting me with all the dangers the coming years might bring, talk to me about the things I might face. Menopause seemed to bring a host of problems first and foremost.

There was an impending sense of doom, a feeling that I had just reached the beginning of the end.

Combine that with media and the subliminal messaging surrounding aging and I rebelled. Screw that, I thought. I’m not going down that path.

But, of course, I did.

I wonder if we all do. Many women I have had the joy of meeting and speaking candidly with, seem to follow a similar path of transition from ‘what the hell’ to self love, strong voice and truth.

So if you are well below 50, but curious, listen up. Maybe you can avoid some of the pitfalls that those of us beyond you experienced.

I meet them all the time, women who have just hit 50 or are just below 55 who proclaim loudly that they feel they are defying age and don’t understand what the noise is about. They feel great and are frankly annoyed when the subject of age comes up. These women believe that they will not be ‘like that.’ No menopausal belly, changes in their physical fitness, and hell no, they won’t use hormones.

I understand because I felt that way too. I believed I would be different from all the women who went before me.

But you know something? I’m not. And this awareness, though initially dismaying, was key. I began to listen and watch women when out and their conversations stopped scaring and began soothing me.

I was not alone! I was just like everyone else!

The more I observed and listened, the more I understood what a mess we are in, but the mess was not due to menopause. The mess was due to how our culture expects us to age and what was expected of us. We have absorbed this messaging.

Slowly, I began to connect with other women, through photo shoots and beginning friendships and while all the women I meet are unique, most share one common characteristic. We all ask ourselves, “Am I okay just the way I am?”

Yes. Yes we are.

Check out this article from 2014:

“But starting in the 1960s, the list of reasons that women were advised to take hormones began to grow. In 1966, the book Feminine Forever became a best seller with its claim that “menopause is completely preventable.” The book’s author, Robert A. Wilson, wrote that because the estrogen level in a woman’s body dropped after menopause, postmenopausal women who didn’t receive treatment were no longer truly female. Wilson traveled the country, lecturing on this topic and promising that with the help of estrogen therapy, “Every woman alive today has the option to remain feminine forever.”

Two things struck me when I discovered this quote. One is obvious, the author equates menopause to a loss of femininity. The other is that the author is a man.

Women have been conditioned to believe that menopause is something to be changed, something to eradicate, something to avoid. No wonder we begin this period of life change full of dread.

There are alternative views, of course, but sometimes you have to search hard to find them.

What if menopause is actually the gateway to superpower? Maybe menopause brings as a gift, the treasure of self value, self love and a distancing of ourselves from our exterior and a turning inward? There is an opportunity for us to come back to ourselves, once we stop twisting and turning to avoid the real and true reach of our post child bearing years.

I so believe this to be true, though like many of you, I had to walk through the fire first.

We will each find something that burns us and it will not be the same.

Modern medicine continues to be lacking in answers. If you search for ‘women over 50,’ the internet is rich in 60 year old women posing in bikini’s or who promote increased intensity in fitness or anything else you might want to find that will not make you feel okay the way you are.

Ladies behind me: You will experience change, there is no way around that. Love yourself and be tender as you enter these changes. Love the women who went before you and learn to accept them as they are because this will help you accept yourself.

What we need to do is advocate for ourselves. Create loving and accepting community. Stop wasting time pushing against the mountain.

Move forward, not backward.

The month of March will focus on menopause, how it affects us and include resources that might provide more information for each of us to make our own decisions.