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“It’s a natural phase in life”

Tracie Aylmer is a human rights advocate who believes in respect for all, and has written many articles about the injustice being dealt to asylum seekers and to Indigenous Australians. But her fight for justice is not the only fight Tracie has on her hands. Here she courageously opens up tell us about this fight – a fight on a personal level that many find a taboo to reveal.

Going through early menopause can be a shock, not just for the person involved but for everyone around them.

I had started noticing symptoms early last year, which started with the hot flushes. All of a sudden sweat would drip from me for about a minute, then just as suddenly it would all stop and I’d be left freezing cold from how wet I was. This symptom lasted several months, and would come when least expected. At the time, I thought nothing of it, as I was busy.

Then the other symptoms started appearing – the lack of concentration, the tiredness, the lack of energy no matter what I did, the itching like there were a million ants crawling under my skin, and the sensitivity. Other physiological changes occurred too, but I won’t be adding those symptoms as it tends to be confronting to men in particular.

People started shying away from me. They thought I was going through some kind of severe mental illness. People no longer wanted to talk to me. They left rooms when I came in. They saw there was something wrong, but I ended up being an elephant in the room. If they think I hadn’t noticed, I hope by this article that they think again. I noticed.

The past few months in particular have been quite hell. The symptoms had come in waves, and decided to magnify themselves considerably.

During these times I was unemployable. I had to leave all volunteer work, and trying to find paid employment has been impossible. The symptoms were that severe. And of course no one wanted to have a chat about it to me. People were telling me I should see a therapist, but I kept saying that I wasn’t going through any kind of mental illness, so of course I wasn’t going to see a therapist. Why should I? There was nothing mentally wrong with me. They showed signs that they didn’t believe me.

Friends became really concerned for me. They continually asked if I was OK. Of course, I was struggling. Then my housemate asked me if I was going through menopause.

Everything then clicked into place.

Every woman goes through menopause. Not one woman is immune from it. It’s the change of life, just like men have their ‘midlife crisis’ where they need to re-evaluate their lives for the next path in life. It’s a natural phase in life.

The severity of menopause depends upon each individual woman. For me, I had surgery in July 2011, plus my family is prone to more severe symptoms. Surgery, mental illness, and family history amongst other reasons could give more severe symptoms for some women. Other women may not suffer so badly, but she will still go through it. Early menopause is more likely to occur with family history as well.

Doctors can also be a pain. Male doctors are more prone to gaslight women going through menopausal symptoms, telling them ‘it’s all in their head’. This can be particularly if the blood test shows something slightly different to being affected by severe symptoms.

Eating foods high in phyto-estrogen can give a different result to what’s expected. Taking natural estrogen will also show that a woman would have estrogen in her body, when in fact she doesn’t. A male doctor won’t be able to see or understand this, and will assume that a woman has a severe mental illness rather than be going through menopause. This is particularly if it’s early.

Menopause can also happen at any time through a woman’s life. The average woman goes through it at around their early 50s. Some women go through it earlier (20s, 30s or 40s) and a few women can go through it later. There needs to be more education in relation to this. The symptoms obviously need to be explained to everyone so women can feel a little more nurtured than what this society is at present willing to accept.

Understanding the symptoms are important for everyone, and not just the woman going through it. Women are crucial to society. Without women, there wouldn’t be the future of society. As we are crucial and worthwhile, so are our hormones. It is therefore a given that everyone needs to understand what menopausal symptoms are, so they can help a woman deal with it, instead of leaving her to it, particularly if the symptoms are severe.

Right now, I am taking natural estrogen. It’s working, but of course it’s a temporary fix. I will need to go on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) as quickly as possible. My energy levels are back to what I distantly recall I used to have. I can now (finally) concentrate on completing tasks. I am starting to feel like my old self again, before my estrogen decided to dramatically deplete within my body. I now can have time to reconsider my path in life, and unfortunately I will have to leave some parts of my old life behind. People have a habit of not believing a person when they are going through severe menopausal symptoms. It’s something that should be expected. I only hope that others will be kinder to them when they go through it, than they were with me.

My friends were the kindness that I love. To them, I can only thank them for being there for me when I needed them most.


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  1. babyjewels10

    Thanks for talking about this in a public place. You are not alone. I went through this for 7 long, tortuous years with these symptoms and more, including unemployment. At my lowest ebb, when I was convinced I had early onset Alzheimers, it began receding and it’s been receding for 8 years. I still have hot flushes, but they have been the least of my problems. Not an ounce of help from the medical profession, though I gave up on them early. Not everyone breezes through menopause. I know it can be easy, but for some, it’s pure hell.

  2. Tracie

    Thank you for your comment babyjewels10. We need to inform people, so we don’t feel so alone.

    The natural estrogen can be bought over the counter at chemists. It took a few days, but now I’m feeling so much better. The hot flushes (I think) have gone. The best part is I don’t feel like I’m in a fog when exercising. I have been desperate to exercise, but it had felt like my heart was going into overload whenever I tried. Now, I don’t feel like I’m being weighed down while exercising.

    If people say that to get past menopause one must start exercising, for some women that’s not the answer. We need a little push of estrogen. I have heard that there is a chance of heart problems without the help. That appears to be correct.

  3. susan

    Tracie, I can assure you that going through menopause late and having a super long perimenopause is also horrendous. Anyone who falls outside the medical “normal” had better be prepared to filter advice and be their own advocate.

  4. Tracie

    Why isn’t there a ‘like’ button for this website?

    You are so right Susan. The thing is, many women fall outside the medical ‘normal’. It’s why it’s so crucial to bring it up. I told a friend today that it’s 2016. This society should know better by now.

  5. Tracie

    Also, there are many men commenting on AIMN articles. Why aren’t any men commenting on this? It’s not that scary a topic…

  6. silkworm

    People suffering from ME/CFS also face the stigma of having ignorant doctors telling them it is all in their head.

  7. Tracie

    I acknowledge your suffering silkworm. I understand slowly there is more education about the topic, and hope with much more education that people are much more empathising.

    I believe everyone has had the lived experience of menopause, whether directly or vicariously. Everyone’s mother has gone through it, so men can talk about it, and offer support or empathy. This shouldn’t be a taboo topic just for women.

    So please, do give your thoughts on it Vote Labor. Anything. I would love to hear it from both a male and female perspective. This is something that not even women talk about, but considering how it affects everyone, people should.

  8. Kizhmet

    I went through menopause in my early 40s. So did my sister. Perimenopausal for five years. Then menopause for another seven. Depression. Fatigue. Sweats. Lethargy. Emotional roller coaster. Inability to focus or concentrate. The worst is the sense of isolation. You’re absolutely right Tracie – menopause is not taboo but a fact of life for women and it deserves to see the light of day.

  9. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Thanks Tracie,

    for bringing this normal life occurrence out into discussion. It is nothing for women to be ashamed of and if any women are suffering such bad side effects, as have been identified, then medicare should cover access to any estrogen or other pharmaceutical remedies.

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