- Menopause has its challenges, but you can demand the kind of life you deserve.
- Women with menopause share their experiences and how they have dealt with hormonal changes.
- "... post-menopausally, women appropriately start to consider their needs as most important," says an expert.
Menopause has its hormonal challenges, but you can demand the kind of life you deserve.
From unsafe drivers to absurd dinner party behaviour, Susan Jarvis, 55, has had little tolerance for fools since entering perimenopause.
"In the past, I wouldn't say or do anything, but now I have a volcano inside me. That volcano frequently erupts with hot passion and a quick-to-fire WTF response when I run into a wall of stupidity," she laughs.
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She credits the unique melting pot of hormones and societal shifts for her new-found pluck.
"Our hormones drive us to procreate and nurture, so I do believe that once our main ovary hormones are finished, we have the freedom to move into a new zone of being a wise person and a support for younger generations," Susan says.
But she doesn't think hormones are responsible for all of it. "It's also got to do with the fact that I'm not responsible for anyone except myself. There is real freedom in that."
To her, menopause is a superpower that has prompted her to run events discussing sexuality for women over 50 and launch her own business, The Spicy Boudoir, which sells pleasure products for over 50s and people with disabilities.
"Menopause can be a big catalyst for change," she says. "[We are] reassessing and re-evaluating everything in our lives, and we're getting rid of what doesn't work for us."
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Author and comedian Kathy Lette, 63, believes our post-menopausal hormone balance needs a re-brand.
"Once you're through the menopause, your oestrogen levels drop – which is your caring, sharing hormone – and your testosterone comes up," she tells Australian Story. "So, for the first time ever, you get a little bit more bolshie, a little bit more selfish, a little bit more like a bloke, actually, and you put yourself first."
Kathy is challenging the rest of us to embrace this new-found fire to demand what we deserve.
"Menopause is awful, but once you get through that, it's the best time of a woman's life. No one talks about this," she adds. "I would say to women, 'You've put yourself second your whole life. This is the time for you."
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Women's ageing health expert Professor Cassandra Szoeke contributes to the Benefit Pocket app's Be Mpowered menopause cause and says it could be the change in the testosterone-to-oestrogen ratio behind some post-menopause behaviour changes.
Make the most of your rage.
"Hormones are really complicated, and we're only just starting to understand them," she explains. "Traditionally, it has been known that elements of aggression and competitiveness are associated with testosterone, so a balance shift could result in differences in the way people behave. Research [also] shows that behaving in a competitive way actually makes you produce more testosterone," Szoeke says.
"At the same time, many women in their 50s and beyond are no longer content simply caregiving. We've had a big cultural shift over the past decade, which means the compliant passive women that might have represented a high proportion of the female population previously are less passive and compliant.
"Just because we were nice doesn't mean we were happy," Szoeke adds.
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A BRAVE NEW WORLD
The extraordinary thing about post-menopausal women today is that we are one of the few generations to have ever lived through this particular life stage.
"If you go back to the early 1900s, the median life expectancy for women was around 55, so there was virtually no one living in post-menopause," Szoeke says.
"Now, all of a sudden, we're spending a third of our lives in post-menopause, and [scientists and doctors] are still playing catch-up."
But whether it's hormones or circumstance fuelling our rage fire, Dr Liz Farrell, medical director of Jean Hailes for Women's Health Clinics, is calling on women to make the most of these life-changing years and start looking after number one.
"The menopause is a time of passage," she says. "[Women] have spent their life caring, working, supporting and being responsible for others. Post-menopausally, women appropriately start to consider their needs as most important.
"Think about the things that you would like to do, [and] remember the times you said, 'If only I could..."