Why do they want women to be okay all the time?
“I just want to scream and scream. Why is it so difficult for the world to understand that menopause is a real problem? Why do they want us to be okay all the time? I have been asked to be okay during my menarche, during my pregnancy, during the postpartum depression and now the same expectation of me at 50. I am done, I just want to walk out of my office and my home,” Muthamma protested.
Many Indian women have entered the workforce with unprecedented choices and few models for guidance. Yet most workplaces are not yet ready for female employees. Awareness on menopause is lacking. Families are not empathetic towards women undergoing menopause, nor are the offices able to understand the mood swings. Most women continue suffering in silence and Muthamma is one among them.
My husband thinks I’m over-reacting
“I feel hopeless and unfit. I feel like I am standing on the broken shards of my life. I’ve paused at the moment, because I wish to know if I am heading right. I get the feeling that I have gone off the track in life. I am not able to talk to anyone. One day I sat my husband down to talk about what I was going through. I could not find the right words to tell him exactly what I was going through. I tried explaining what all I was going through in various areas of my life. There was no response from him. He thought I am over-reacting. He asked me to stop thinking so much. Finally he concluded that I am bringing the agony upon myself,” she continued.
Women have been listening to society’s message that they will be fine as long as they are nice, they work hard, do what they are told to do. Then they arrive at middle age and realise it may have been largely for nothing. Muthamma had this strong urge for self-evaluation. She wanted to review her goals in life and balance it with where she is in life now.
Self-reflection can be positive, because it can get Muthamma to eliminate those things that are no longer in sync with who she is today. But she is not sure if this is over evaluating.
Related reading: The marriage hit a crisis
My marriage is different too
“My marriage is falling apart. It is not what it used to be years back. We don’t connect anymore; our communication is poor these days. We live under the same roof but in different worlds. Rejin is too busy to sit and talk to me. I feel like leaving the marriage and moving out,” she went on.
Her self-evaluation is giving her a knee-jerk reaction and now she wants to take some time out to reflect on her failing marriage. Impulsive thinking and not considering the possible long-term ramifications of leaving her spouse could lead down a road of regret. At different stages in our lives, we have different priorities and we focus on them. As we change when those priorities need to change, we experience a period of reforming.
“I feel I am going crazy. I wake up in the middle of the night and spend the rest of the night thinking endlessly. Then I wait for it to be morning to get up and begin the day. The sleeplessness is making me lethargic right through the office hours. My husband thinks I am depressed,” complained Muthamma.
What is a midlife crisis?
Muthamma is not just going through menopause; she is going through a midlife crisis. The various emotions and feelings she is experiencing are collectively parts of a midlife crisis. The term “midlife crisis” was coined in a 1965 paper by Elliot Jaques, a Canadian psychoanalyst, who described how people entering middle age are confronted with the limitations of their life and their own mortality.
In simple layman’s language, this is a transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in middle-aged individuals, typically 45–64 years old. It is a psychological crisis brought about by several events that highlight a woman’s growing age and inevitable mortality. A midlife crisis could also occur due to not achieving life goals.
It is a psychological crisis brought about by several events that highlight a woman’s growing age and inevitable mortality. A midlife crisis could also occur due to not achieving life goals.
This could lead to many emotional disturbances, like depression, remorse and anxiety, or the desire to achieve youthfulness or make drastic changes to current lifestyle.
Going through a midlife change can be very challenging for a woman, because it may disrupt her entire existence. Thus Muthamma is feeling hopeless and worthless.
I’m questioning my career choices, too
“I am still career minded and wish to prove my worth. But I feel my entire system has slowed down and I can’t function like I used to function before. Looks like youth has left me for good. Maybe I should consider a career change and think of something different,” Muthamma began to doubt her professional abilities too.
She has begun questioning her career and her experiences. This is a very dreaded part of her life where she thinks that she is riding on a bike towards the horizon and a younger woman’s shadow is constantly following her. Once the self-identification starts to fall away, you can end up reassessing who you are as a professional. Muthamma now has more questions than answers, as she spends most of her waking hours questioning herself.
“I am 50 and now I know that time is running out. It is natural to remove those rose-coloured glasses at this age and see the nude reality; a bleak forecast ahead can lead to a descending spiral. It is as if something has slipped off me and I can’t figure out what it is. It is not a physical loss but a kind of emotional loss. Like the loss of a wish, the loss of my ambition. It is like a confrontation with reality and feels totally disappointing and unsettling,” she went on.
Related reading: How I lost my identity while I was busy building my husband’s life
I don’t have anyone to confide in
Muthamma was entangled in the nuances of this transition period. She was unable to help herself. She felt a complete destruction of her confidence.
“During the days of developing my career and balancing my joint family, I had kept my friends all on the back burner. I hardly spoke to my friends, I gave only guest appearances on social media, I didn’t take weekend outings or movie dates with friends. I did nothing to keep my youth flourishing. So now I have no one to talk to,” she told me, when I told her to talk to her friends.
Doing something outside of the typical routine that lights up is one solution to distract from the midlife crisis.
“The appearance of wrinkles on my face is appalling. That indicates the arrival of old age and there is nothing I can do naturally to stop these signs of ageing. I am not ready for these physical and emotional changes. Too much is happening at the same time,” Muthamma explained.
No sex, please, I’m not interested
“Sex is the last thing on my mind these days. I do not have interest as I feel it is no more romantic. Besides, physically I do not feel fit. I have read about endless depictions of the male midlife crisis, but very few written where a woman derails her previously comfortable life. There seems to be less time for women to indulge in midlife crisis solutions,” Muthamma pointed out.
She finds herself attacked from all sides by the transitions. Loss of youth, possible dreams, even the future are some of losses women feel. Importantly, there is also a sense of invisibility that women may experience, as women are mostly judged by their looks in their youth.
To all the women undergoing menopause and midlife crisis, tell yourself that it is okay to lose your equilibrium when others think your life should be smooth sailing. You are doing just fine. It is absolutely okay to question your life’s focus. It is okay to think you are unknown to yourself and seek your life’s purpose, rather than feeling aimless.
Midlife crisis is real; get support
Many women do not believe in the concept of a midlife crisis; they think it’s just a coinage of the modern era, which makes living through one all the more difficult. Remember, you need the support of friends and family. A midlife crisis may be the beginning of a turning point in personal, emotional, and financial stages in an adult’s life. Look out for the signs, and take steps to deal with the crisis accordingly.