On my other, more personal blog, I wrote briefly a little while ago about getting older and sharing some experiences with a couple of colleagues on Twitter. Since that conversation I joined with a group of other women – health care professionals, academics – to contribute to the Evidently Cochrane blog site for its week-long look at Menopause and the evidence and resources that are available to women experiencing it. I had a particularly bad menopause, and I agreed to write about my experience for the blog and you can read that here.
The responses to that blog have been interesting. Responses from readers of the blog have been overwhelmingly positive and welcoming, and quite often, grateful. One or two have been of the churlish ‘Menopause? It’s normal, get over it’ comments, I assume from women who had a ‘normal’ or ‘better than normal’ menopause and sailed through it. Lucky them and yah boo to their lack of empathy and understanding. But as I said, just one or two.
Responses from colleagues and friends to me writing the blog have been much more mixed. I had lots of encouragement, again lots of gratitude and congratulation for taking the risk, claims of bravery etc. but I also had responses ranging from exclamations of incredulity that I would want to discuss openly this very personal (taboo?) experience, to accusations of foolhardiness and a presumption that I might damage my reputation (what??). When I drew attention to the blog and to ‘Menopause Week’ with some colleagues there was quite a bit of embarrassed silence and nervous laughter. They were, as I said, interesting responses and probably related to the fact that very few women discuss menopause openly and even fewer talk about it in mixed gender company.
And that brings me back to the title of this blog. If you want to influence something, or change something, or get something into the mainstream so that it is explored and examined, then one of the first things you need to do is to start talking about it. Normalise it, break the taboo, bring it into the open. And sometimes that’s about taking a risk, using personal disclosure, finding common experience, starting the conversation and then committing to sustaining it – even if there is some discomfort. My menopause gave me a leadership opportunity. It’s probably the only positive thing about it and I embrace it! 🙂