Shirley Weir - When The Power Goes Out

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1) You've created Menopause Chicks - empowering women to take charge of their life change. Did you create this because you felt powerless during menopause? 

I created MenopauseChicks.com from my own experience in perimenopause. And yes, the mission of Menopause Chicks is to provide a platform for women to get informed, to become their own best health advocates, and to connect with professionals who can support them on their journey.

You see, menopause is just one day. It’s the 12 month anniversary of your last period. But there is a phase of life…sometimes 5 to 15 years leading up to menopause…when our hormones begin to fluctuate. This phase is called perimenopause. Perimenopause is a relatively new term only invented in the 1990s, so chances are, when you hear the phrase “going through menopause” from your mom, grandma, or even some doctors, they actually mean “going through perimenopause.” 

Perimenopause can include experiences ranging from mildly annoying and disruptive, through to turning your world upside down. For example, I experienced brain fog that seriously affected my ability to work and sometimes affected my ability to hold my cool. There was also chronic sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression and changes to my period that I was not expecting.

You know how a storm can blow up suddenly causing the power to go out? That’s what perimenopause did to me. I was looking after my kids and a business and a busy household and not looking after myself and my power went out. 

But it wasn’t all about what was happening to my body. It was the shock I had when I genuinely tried to learn about perimenopause by talking with friends (“Not there yet,” or “please don’t post anything about menopause on my facebook page,” they’d say) or from “Dr. Google,” the bookstore and even my own doctor. What I found was either people didn’t want to talk about perimenopause and menopause, or the information was confusing and conflicting. I launched Menopause Chicks as a way to crack open the conversation.

2) Did going through menopause make you feel more powerful or less powerful? 

Both. To me, power equals choice. Power means having the choice to think about things differently so I can choose to react differently. For example, I don’t get to choose how or when I get a hot flash, but I do get to choose how I react. That’s powerful. And that’s how I am trying to teach myself to flip my perspective on a lot of things these days.

So in the early days of perimenopause, I felt powerless because I was scared. I was scared because I didn’t have the knowledge or information. I wasn’t prepared. And what I found was that some media and advertisers thrive on our sense of powerlessness as they present their solutions like it is our only answer. Within our health care system, this power paradigm also exists. It infers that people who have questions (patients) are powerless and those with answers (health professionals) are powerful. As I continued to research perimenopause and menopause, I decided I wanted to try to shake this paradigm up. 

What if we stop talking ONLY about the negatives and celebrate the positives too? What if we learned to be proactive in our midlife health? What if we could teach women the questions to ask so they could become their own best health advocates? And then, what if those empowered women empowered others? Would this mean that my daughter wouldn’t have to grow up in a world that treats menopause as taboo?

3) When have you felt the most powerful during life's journey? 

2016 is my power year! On new year’s eve last year, I laid in the bathtub and looked down at my body and I thanked it. I thanked it for allowing me to have two healthy, amazing children. I thanked it for carrying me this far on my journey and told it I was looking forward to the second half. Then I made a list of all the things I wanted to do in 2016, and having the honour to crack open the menopause conversation on the TedX stage was on that list! And finally, knowing that I was going to reach menopause in 2016, I also committed to having a party to mark the occasion. That was powerful! I celebrated a milestone that I hope, one day, all women will embrace, look forward to and plan a party around!

Blog Post: Nicole Parmar