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Stop the Negative Thoughts About Aging and Menopause

What would happen if we paid more attention to the positive news about aging, menopause and sexuality? First you’d have to search around to find those headlines. Most of what we read about sex after a certain age is primarily negative. It’s sort of a doom and gloom picture. The newest pharmaceutical ads on television depict sex after menopause as painful. The prominent headlines and blog posts talk about how awful sex is for older women. I hear from women all the time who think sex is no longer worth it—and I wonder what’s behind those statements. It’s hard to feel vibrant, sexual, or even relevant, as an older woman if all you hear are negative messages.

As a society, we thrive on the negative. Those stories get top billing. Feel-good stories rarely open the nightly news. There is little money to be made in telling sweet, warm and positive stories.
Stop the Negative Thoughts About Aging and Menopause

The aging of the boomer generation has spawned a marketing frenzy as everyone tries to capitalize on our fears about growing old. The drug companies and the cosmetics industry are the worst. The goal is to make us feel scared, inadequate, inconsequential and a little depressed. They create messages designed to fuel our insecurities. We buy into those negative messages and feel bad about ourselves.

It saddens and angers me when I see scare tactics used on aging women. Menopause gets the most attention.I see it every time I turn on cable television or look at a women’s magazine. I see it in my Facebook groups when women start sharing their horror stories to someone who is entering the perimenopausal phase.

Yes, menopause can create havoc for some women. Many of us handle this change of life easily.  My transition was mild. I wasn’t chatting with others going through menopause so I wasn’t hearing all the terrible things I should expect. No one was wagging a finger in my face telling me I’d become a desert ‘down there’ and would never want sex again. Maybe the absence of all that negative chatter allowed me to enter that phase naturally and without fear? I’ve handled crises far worse than hot flashes and night sweats. Haven’t most of us?

Much of how we approach life depends on our emotional makeup. Do we fear the worst or laugh in the face of danger? Do we approach things with dread and anticipation or are we open to experiencing life fully, taking it all in stride? Practicing positive thinking, gratitude journals or rituals, and living intentionally can be useful tools for coping with concerns about aging and menopause.

When we buy into certain stories and beliefs we tend to shape our lives to mesh with those beliefs. Even when it doesn’t fit our reality. And, it’s so simple to talk ourselves into a negative place. Let’s remember that we have choices about everything we approach in life.

So the next time someone finds out you’re menopausal and starts going on about dryness or painful sex, debilitating hot flashes, moods, etc. think about what these ‘truths’.

  • No one really knows what you’re experiencing; we can sympathize, but we can’t put ourselves in your shoes.
  • Every one of us is unique. Our menopausal journey will be similarly unique. There are a range of symptoms—you may or may not experience any of them.
  • Menopause is a stage of life—it’s not a disease.
  • There are workarounds for many of the things that plague women. Some are common sense and simple to implement; others may call for more problem-solving, even medical attention.
  • Every ending provides the opening for a new beginning.

Do yourself a favor—be open to possibilities. The possibility that aging has many benefits. Think about the positives of a life free of menstruation. Imagine an expanded definition of sex that would satisfy you on several levels. See yourself as a vibrant woman with much to offer the world. Let yourself ease into aging and adopt a sense of curiosity. Walk away when some 20-something model is advertising anti-aging cream. Remember, the ads you see in the media are designed to sell you something you don’t really need—they’re created by profit-makers. None of these people care about how you view yourself or whether you’re celebrating life—they just want your money.

This all sounds simple enough and yet, it’s not. If you want to change your approach to aging you will have to shut out those voices. You will need to get up each day remembering the good in your life, your purpose and the dreams you’re constantly creating. This isn’t the end of the road—we’ve got a ways to go yet.

midlife-boulevard-columnist

Walker Thornton

We are delighted to have Walker Thornton as our Women’s Sexual Health columnist. After working for over 10 years in the field of sexual violence against women, Walker is now enjoying a new career as a freelance writer, public speaker, and sex educator with an emphasis on midlife women. Her blog, <a>WalkerThornton.com </a> was ranked #5 by Kinkly.com in their top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes of 2014. You can connect with her on <a>Facebook </a> and <a href="http://twitter.com/WalkerThornton">Twitter</a> For questions about sexual health, write her at [email protected]

Lori

Saturday 13th of February 2016

Great article. I'm afraid I'm someone who knew little about menopause until I read a ton of horror stories on the internet. I'm trying hard not to allow myself to continue reading so much garbage. It does take a toll on the psyche and make you feel worse about your symptoms.

Walker Thornton

Sunday 14th of February 2016

Yep! There are good resources out there, look for researched/documented articles. Look at the North American Menopause Society, menopause.org. Try to avoid articles and websites where it's clear that the authors are being paid to endorse pharmaceuticals--there is an inherent bias there. Some women choose and/or need medications but I think often we're persuaded that we do, when in reality we don't! We need to strive for a balance between being optimistic, viewing this as a natural process of aging and staying informed. Thanks for reading and commenting--hope things go smoothly for you.

Terri

Tuesday 9th of June 2015

Dear Walker,

Thank you for such positive words on menopause. I am 53 and believe I am in the end stages of peri-menopause. The estrogen spikes are crazy, but the creativity that comes with them is amazing. I find I can be somewhat testy with my husband in one breath and then spilling out the eight ideas I had in the next breath. I call it riding the wild estrogen. I am not always successful, but I try to use the energy from the night sweats and hot flashes to burn out whatever is in me that is no longer part of who I am - letting the heat flow out. I have found a peace that I didn't have before and am kinder and gentler with my body. Thanks again for such good thoughts. Wishing you a peaceful day.

Walker Thornton

Tuesday 9th of June 2015

I love that idea of riding the wave and tapping into the energy of the transformation. Thank you a million times over for this.

Ramona

Monday 8th of June 2015

I think the most telling line of this post for me was, "My transition was mild." I have a wonderful life, happy marriage, great kid,etc., and despite my best attitude, menopause is a hell hole that I struggle to climb out of daily. There is nothing trivial about night sweats. They rob me of precious restorative sleep and make my days begin tired. Society mocks the sweaty older woman, and I cringe each time I feel one coming, seeing that look in my client's eyes as we both ignore my sudden change in appearance.

Your advice is a bit hollow for me. Sex is painful, and not enjoyable, and I long for the days before my body deserted me. Whistling don't worry, be happy, is not the advice I need.

Walker Thornton

Tuesday 9th of June 2015

Ramona, I'm sorry that this hit you at a time when your struggles are so hard. I know you are not alone; I've heard others talk about the challenges they've faced. There's nothing I can offer you that won't feel more frustrating-thank you for sharing your experience.

KCLAnderson (Karen)

Monday 8th of June 2015

Hell yes!! While it's not always comfortable (either emotionally or physically), the menopause process is an amazing one to go through. I am grateful that I GET to go through it, hot flashes, mood swings, and all!

Walker Thornton

Tuesday 9th of June 2015

Karen, I love that attitude.

Sandra

Monday 8th of June 2015

And along with the "alleged" signs and symptoms of menopause come those who point out everything you're going through, physically or mentally, and blame it on the fact that "you're probably entering menopause." I don't need to know this. I kinda just want it to be a surprise. Nothing scares me about the stories, but I don't need anyone deciding for me that I'm entering this stage of my life. Great article. Next time I have a hot flash I'll think of this :)

Walker Thornton

Monday 8th of June 2015

Sandra! Yes, it's the difference between making our own decisions or letting others' feed us their stories. That blame is on menopause is the 'elder' version of pms-and I think it does women a disservice to imply that we're bitchy and at the mercy of our hormones. Thank you for your thoughts on this and may things go smoothly. I made it through unscathed and am having a great time, which includes the best sex I've had in another other decade. (in case you wanted to know. Ha Ha!)

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