Menopause

Suddenly, Menopause: Dealing With the Psychological Impact

It is also crucial that your address your psychological symptoms directly. Even when the source of depression is clear, after a while it can settle in and “take on a life of its own,” and cannot be conquered without professional help.

For one thing depression, left untreated, causes actual changes IN your brain chemistry. The flow of neurotransmitters is literally impeded by long-term mood swings. While there is significant evidence that this impact can cause depression, it has also been found that it is a result as well.

The good news is that psychotherapy can help: the physiological markers of depression, such as neurotransmitters, have been shown to improve with the help of talk therapy. The addition of a low-dose antidepressant can speed that process.

My advice is that you give psychotherapy alone a trial, and if your symptoms do not abate quickly enough, consider consulting a psychopharmacologist as well, as Dr. Pat suggested. A good therapist will usually know several that she can refer you to.

And do not underestimate the impact a support group can have. Just finding others who can appreciate and understand your experience is quite therapeutic. Group support can also lead to new friendships. You have probably felt isolated from other new mothers who are not coping with this major adjustment at the same time as they are getting used to their new babies. Having friends who understand how different your experience is may be a great relief to you.

This is relevant to my final suggestion: find a way to educate your husband. Perhaps if he were able to understand better the major challenges you have been facing, he would be less impatient with you. “Recruiting” him back to your side would be a big help in general. Not only would it ease the marital tension, having his support would help you regain your energy so that you could get back on track with your health, your job, and all the other areas that have been effected by this crisis.

If necessary, find a counselor that the two of you can talk to together, or bring your husband in for some sessions with your therapist. The more he can understand your experience, the more he will be able to empathize and support you. On a daily level, keep avenues of communication open so that he can learn about your experience—too often we expect our husbands to support us “because if he loved me he would he would understand how I feel.”

That’s not true—your husband needs your help if he is to know how to help you. You are undergoing a uniquely female experience, one that men have no equivalent for. Impotence may come close to some of the aspects of menopause, but just imagine if men had to endure the impact of loss of some their sex organs—it would be a national crisis! That’s what you have been wrestling with, all alone, and it’s time you got the support you need.

Sincerely,

Cecilia M. Ford

 

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