At the Devoted and Disgruntled meeting earlier this year in Bristol, I was part of a discussion called by Stella Duffy which intersected with a session I called on artistic life after 50. In Stella’s session about helping white, middle-class, straight, able-bodied cis males understand their status as a minority not the norm, we lighted upon the subject of how Nordic female politicians have codes and signals amongst themselves to help them overcome the male habits of speaking over women, women apologising and being self-deprecatory etc. …
This morning, I found myself in a conversation about the interior monologues that go on in the female brain at the point of menopause – and oh how it’s costing me to write this because I am scared to own up to it- how many hours we lose in anxiety about our effectiveness.
Just at the point where the world is telling us like never before that what we are doing is important, is inspiring, is having an effect, our interior monologue is pulling us down. And it’s cyclical. I know this because alongside the diary my migraine doctor is asking me to keep, I am noting the other variations of what is going on in my psyche and my soma. (I knew about insomnia, pain, irregular bleeds, headaches etc but I didn’t know about the self-doubt and worse that could come too).
And like Impostor Syndrome, we’re not talking about it. We don’t want to look as weak as we sometimes feel. We are at the height of our powers, we want to enjoy that. So we aren’t talking about it. We’re not talking about it because we’ve been told since puberty that hormones aren’t to be talked about.
We hide our period pain and our menopause misery because if we admit to them, we play into the hands of the people who say we’re not as good – and if we admit to them we’re demanding “special” treatment. (Most people identifying as female experience this, it’s not unusual and it’s there’s nothing special about it).
This morning when we did speak and see each other – it was like reaching through the mirror.
Yes me too.
And whilst there’s this mental tinnitus drowning out all other channels, we retire for a spell to wait it out and when we come back the world has moved on and we’re invisible. Our voices silenced or strident because we didn’t talk about it.
So this morning, we said we must talk about it – and I’m starting now.
I hope other people will join in the conversation because 51% of the population will experience a degree of this – and other 49% will know someone who does. I don’t want another reason for people to mock or pity me about my age. I’m doing well, fit, strong, I’m busy, I’m breaking new ground. Every day, I get a message or a shout out to say, that what I’m doing matters but it’s against this grinding mental tinnitus of negativity which sometimes makes normal interaction a massive struggle. I feel both better and worse to know that this is happening all over.
The people in this conversation this morning agreed that we must be each other’s mirror like the Nordic female politicians. When we can’t see that we’re achieving, that we’re in demand, that we are in command of our subject, that one slip up doesn’t negate 20 triumphs, we must call out to each other, be each other’s reflection, tell each other what we can’t always see for ourselves.
It isn’t forever and we don’t have to hide.
Edited on 22nd April 2017 – I’vet just seen this article from The Pool. 10 women you’ve heard of speaking out. I thought it was worth sharing.
Edited on 4th May 2017 – this article now also doing the rounds. I’ve actually taken on quite a lot of this before seeing the post and am very comfortable with letting myself age visibly.
P.S. At the Women’s Equality Party conference in November 2016, we adopted Women’s Health as our 7th objective. It’s time WE started talking about what we need.