Irish Independent Health and Living Supplement
Edel Coffey attended the Press launch of My Second Spring at Noshington on 16 October and then followed up with an interview and photo session with Aisling Grimley. Her 2 page article was featured in the Irish Independent Health Supplement on 11 November.
EDEL COFFEY – 11 NOVEMBER 2013
THE word menopause strikes fear into the hearts of most women. It's a grey area for a lot of us. We know there are hot flushes, bad tempers and forgetfulness.
We know it's the end of our fertility, but also a liberation from the monthly cycle that has likely punctuated our lives for decades.
Menopause is something that affects 100pc of women. So why are so many of us so unprepared for it?
Aisling Grimley, founder of the website My Second Spring (www.mysecondspring.ie), is an advertisement for healthy menopause. She is 49 years old and looks 10 years younger. She is fit and healthy and is determined to take a positive, proactive approach towards menopause.
"A lot of us can't even say the word. I had missed three periods and couldn't figure out what was going on. I thought I was pregnant, which was very scary, and I was so relieved that I wasn't I think I just thought, bring on the next phase."
She set up My Second Spring.ie because she felt there was very little information online for Irish women.
She had been at home for 13 years, raising her four daughters, and was looking for a project that would use her skills (she previously had a career in PR and has a degree in homeopathy).
"I was very surprised there wasn't a site already," says Aisling.
In her quest for information, she came across a few sites in the UK but found them a little po-faced.
"Some of the information was very dreary. I saw a link on fashion and I thought that looks optimistic, but the tips it offered were: 'wear block colours', 'wear elasticated waists', 'use jewellery to distract the eye'. I thought, okay, so we should put a paper bag over our heads and disappear? It's a really depressing idea."
The name second spring was something Aisling came across many years ago in a book on Chinese medicine. It's how the Chinese refer to menopause, and they view it as a time of renewal.
"I had always stored that in the back of my mind. Over there it's a really positive thing, it's seen as a new beginning."
The average age for menopause in Ireland is 50, but there are a full four to eight years before that, the perimenopause, where the symptoms of menopause begin and can play havoc with your life, from hot flushes to anxiety and insomnia, loss of libido and weight gain.
Lifestyle plays a huge part in a healthy menopause.
"The one thing that makes menopause difficult is that we're living in a very stressful way," says Aisling.
"Our bodies know what they're supposed to do – our adrenal glands take over producing some oestrogen on behalf of our ovaries, and they also deal with cortisol and stress hormones.
"So if your adrenal glands are not in great nick, it might be more difficult for them to take over the ovaries' job."
Getting information is key to dealing with the challenging symptoms.
"When women have a framework or notion of what's going on, that can be really helpful.
"A lot of women are misdiagnosed with depression or anxiety and are put on medication. Not everyone wants to take HRT. And while 10pc of women do need medication, most women don't."
The psychological aspect of menopause is often underestimated. Hormone imbalances can lead to loss of interest in sex, which in turn can cause relationship problems as well as emotional issues of confidence and self-esteem.
Add to this the fact that the menopause often coincides with raising teenagers and looking after elderly parents, and you have a recipe for a very stressful situation.
In her article on My Second Spring.ie, psychotherapist Weisim Ho, says a woman "has to face the death of her fertility, the loss of her youth and accept she is no longer able to attract the attention she once did".
"However, if she is able to come to terms with these changes she may be able to face the future with more acceptance and calm, and perhaps even view this as a transition into another chapter of her life, one that could bring greater personal freedom and rewards in its own way."
"It is a difficult thing to accept," says Aisling.
"I think we're all in denial about it. It's like, if you smoke and you think you'll be okay but other people will die. It's a shock to realise your body is changing, but this happens to 100pc of women.
"It's just the other end of adolescence. For me it's going to be easier if you embrace it. I think we can spring into it, if we decide to."
She is aware that some women's experience of menopause is far more extreme than others.
"It's easy to say embrace your menopause, and I don't want to trivialise the experience because some women are driven to suicide by it.
"You can think you're going mad sometimes because you start forgetting things. A lot of women think they're getting Alzheimer's.
"Then there's the loss of confidence, a loss of libido, some women have hot flushes all the time, but if you can try and understand where it's coming from, that this is just a phase where your hormones are shifting and it's not permanent, it can keep it from getting bigger and bigger in our heads."
Aisling says her aim with the website is simply to provide information so women can find solutions that work for them.
"Sometimes, I don't think we make fully informed decisions about our health.
"I know in the past I have handed over complete control to doctors, particularly with having babies, but with my fourth daughter I managed to get into my own head and had a home birth in one and half hours.
"By the age of 50, a lot of us have more self-reliance."
She is hoping, too, that women will be inspired to rediscover themselves and view menopause like the Chinese do, as a new beginning.
"I would like to show women that it's not time to wind yourself up.
"A huge number of women have only made their mark later in life or have only made their big moves after the age of 50.
"You can't think, this is it, it's over. We're only halfway there! You could be doing all sorts of things," she adds.
The Irish Independent did a very useful and comprehensive feature on the menopause in November 2015.