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Midlife and Menopause

Personal Stories of Menopause and Midlife


"I decided that I needed to care for myself."

Yvonne Atwell

I knew very little about what the menopausal experience would be like or how it might influence one's mind and body. Information was sketchy at best and none specific to Black women.  I gained weight almost overnight and my eating habits also changed. I wanted sweet foods, yet sugar made me tired and lazy.

There were times I thought, what is wrong with me?  I felt so confused. The day I put the iron in the fridge and the milk in the linen closet was the day I sat down and cried, thinking I must be losing my mind. I remember speaking to my sister about this. She laughed and said the same thing had happened to her early in her menopause experience. Talking to my sister helped ease some of the stress I was feeling. I was on my own, working three part-time jobs and trying to raise a teenage daughter. I didn't have time to worry about what was happening to my mind and body.

I knew that I had to somehow find a way to care for myself, because as a Black woman I didn't trust the system to know about me or my race.  My doctor suggested that I go on HRT [hormone replacement therapy] because the hot flashes kept me awake at night. I knew enough about HRT not to trust that this was the best solution for me. Besides, my doctor had no information on the effects of HRT on Black women.

At some point I made a concerted effort to design and develop my own health plan. I decided that I needed to care for myself and spend as little time with a doctor as possible. My plan consisted of meditation, reading everything I could find on menopause and Black women, changing my eating habits, joining a fitness club, and finding a program that would help me develop my inner strength through positive thinking and awareness.

It has been 10 years since I entered menopause and I have no regrets about my decisions to take care of my own physical and mental health. I still attend the doctor on a regular basis. I still weigh the pros and cons of her advice and decide if the information she is giving me is what I need or if I should consider other options.

Presently I feel that I'm in better physical and mental health than at any other time of my life. I still get night hot flashes, but they are no longer severe. Most of the time I feel happy and blessed to be well, to enjoy my three daughters and my two grandchildren. I feel I am experiencing a place of empowerment and self-control unlike any other time in my life.

Excerpted from Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause, © 2006, Boston Women's Health Book Collective.

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