Six years ago, I started Menopause Chicks on a mission to “crack open the conversation” on one of life’s most natural phases—yet under-discussed; a topic laden with myths, misconceptions, stereotypes, fear and shame. I found people were more willing to discuss sex and religion over perimenopause or menopause. This led me to discover the word “mokita” (from Papua New Guinea) which means: “the truth we all know but choose not to speak of.” Sex, religion and menopause are all examples of mokitas.
So is money. And that leads to my overwhelming concern for women, and women’s health.
Navigating women’s midlife health is expensive. And no one seems to be addressing the fact that professional support for hormone health is only available to women who have the financial means or extended health coverage. It’s an uncomfortable truth.
Midlife women are making limited health decisions due to limited access to quality information and resources.
Women with provincial health coverage can get prescriptions for anti-depressants, but can’t always access the best support for hormone imbalance or mental health.
It’s a health injustice that if it was happening to our children or pets, we’d be the first to step up and do something.
Let’s do something.
Let’s create a fund for women to access the care of naturopaths, hormone balance experts, pelvic floor specialists and counsellors.
Sometimes we act like the system is too big to change. I say: we ARE the system.
Our first financial bursary from this new fund will be presented on July 12 at MokitaWoman.com
During the first part of my own perimenopause journey, I spent well over $10K trying to navigate my own health journey. From the book store to my doctor’s office; naturopath, hormone testing and high quality supplements for adrenal support and sleep; to counseling, acupuncture, yoga, hormone therapy, a pelvic floor physiotherapist and a wonderful hormone balance expert. I was running a business, a household, raising two young children and taking care of my mother who was staying with us indefinitely and showing signs of dementia. I had my own little world to hold up and I was determined to find a solution to my anxiety, depression, brain fog and sleep deprivation.
At the time, my extended health benefits covered $500/year for naturopath, acupuncture and counseling visits. (Our plan recently changed and we now have $100/year for the same services!) For some women, the additional expense is a no-brainer. For too many woman—those with limited resources/limited health benefits—this kind of spend is simply not feasible.
Too many women in our country are making limited health decisions, due to limited resources.Yes, they can go to their GPs and yes, in most cases, they can get prescriptions for birth control pills, sleeping pills and Prozac. But those are not solutions for hormone imbalance.
I believe all doctors are excellent at sharing what they know. I also know all doctors are not hormone experts. One of the mantras we have at Menopause Chicks is: “get informed and choose the journey that’s right for you.” We do not want women to fire their GPs; we need our GPs! So we coach women how to prepare for their appointments, tell their story, partner with their doctor to hopefully get what they need. Sometimes it works. A large percentage of the time, it’s frustrating because we continue to send midlife women to the hardware store for milk, and all they come back with is a bucket of nails.
“I just returned from an appointment with my doctor to discuss my hot flashes. He told me to start anti-depressants so my husband won’t be affected by my mood swings.”
“I was so happy when my new doctor started talking to me about perimenopause. When I told him hot flashes were disrupting my quality of life, he handed me a prescription for anti-seizure medication. But I don’t have epilepsy!”
“I had a full hysterectomy. When I asked my doctor what I had learned here about hormone support, he told me to “ride it out” & “wait & see” how I felt in a few months. I wonder what he would say if I removed the spark plugs from his car and then told him to “ride it out.”
It’s 2019. It’s really late in the day for women to still hear things like “you’re too young for menopause,” “you just have to get through it” or “it’s part of being a woman—suck it up.”
This is why I am worried about women. I’m worried about women feeling they don’t have choices. I’m worried about women suffering in silence. I’m worried about how women’s hormone balance experiences might be affecting their family, career, relationships and self-esteem. I’m worried women are compromising their quality of life. I’m worried about women’s quality of life down the road—and the glaring statistics we face around osteoporosis, heart disease and dementia.
It’s time to shorten the distance between two points—between women and the health care professionals who specialize in hormone health.
Pure Pharmacy & Menopause Chicks have joined forces to create the MOKITA FUND for Women. And we are inviting health care professionals to join us! Our vision is that by creating exclusive social media and PR opportunities with our health care professionals, and sharing your work with our engaged audience, we can also create a bursary-style fund for women who find themselves making limited health decisions due to limited resources. Then, a few times a year, we will award gift certificates to women from our waitlist to work with the health care/hormone balance professional of their choice in their geographical area. The number of gift certificates awarded will depend on participation/size of the fund.
This is a pilot project with the potential to change the model of women’s midlife health. It’s fueled by our shared passion for women’s health, radical generosity and YOU. We can’t wait to share this exciting announcement on stage July 12 at MokitaWoman.com! Please join us!
“Some say the system is too big to change. I say: WE ARE the SYSTEM.”
UPDATE: We are announcing our first recipient July 12. Please check back the week of July 15 for more details about how you can contribute to the new MOKITA Fund for Women.
P.S. In Papua New Guinea, health is measured by mokitas: the more mokitas there are, the worse the health of the tribe will be. Knowing that mokitas can do a lot of damage if not addressed, tribal leaders reach out and address any uncomfortable truths in order to improve the health of their people. Think about how, together, we can elevate the health of our tribe by addressing the mokitas of perimenopause, menopause and women’s hormone health.
As you can imagine, whenever a member posts something about challenges with weight—it always brings out comments from people who may or may NOT be the best “experts” to hand out weight management tips on the internet. I mean, seriously, we are all different. And I’m pleased to hear something like the Keto diet worked for you, but think about it–there’s no way that’s the magic wand for everyone. If you’ve followed our work for awhile, you know by now, there is no magic wand.
As a community moderator, it’s challenging because I want to meet women where they are, I want to foster a paradigm of body positivity and I want women to love themselves at every size. We also know that weight and obesity are warnings for women wanting to ward off chronic health concerns, such as heart disease, diabetes or to be kinder to their joints.
It’s this reason that—rather than avoid the topic of weight management (as I confess, I may have been doing), I decided to address it head on with Cathy McCann of McCann Nutrition.
Menopause Chicks: What is weight gain around the time of perimenopause and menopause?
Cathy McCann, McCann Nutrition: There is a natural amount of weight gain women can expect in perimenopause and menopause. During stage one of perimenopause, your progesterone begins to fluctuate and drop. Towards menopause—which is on average, around the age of 52—your estrogen starts to drop off. That’s when your body starts to look for other sources of estrogen in your body, other than from your ovaries. Our adrenals is one sources (watch our last conversation on adrenal health in perimenopause here.) Another source for making estrogen is in our fat cells.
It’s perfectly normal to put on a little bit of weight during this time. I tell women to expect 5-10 pounds over your best, natural weight. We have to say goodbye to the notion that you can weigh what you weighed when you were 20 or 25, and learn to love your body for what it is now. Being healthy at this age is your number one priority.
Menopause Chicks: Now we’ve talked about what weight gain in midlife is. Now let’s talk about what it is not.
Cathy: Most women fall into one of three groups. Group one is women who have been struggling with excess weight (30 pounds or more) their whole lives. Group two is women who were always active, thin and had a fast metabolism, who are now challenged extra weight. Group three is women who have an underlying health condition, such as a nutritional issue, insulin resistance, issues with liver, stress, hormone imbalances (like excess cortisol) or other issues causing inflammation. It’s very important for this group to look for the root cause, and not “blame” menopause.
Cathy and I go on to have a deeper conversation about body positivity, being strong and healthy, resisting the impact of media and how we, as modern women, can reframe our thinking and embracing every bit of this amazing phase of our lives. Cathy also includes her thoughts around fear of change, and tips for taking the first steps to making some healthy changes in your life. Have a listen here:
A popular topic: Weight Management - YouTube
Cathy’s Final Thoughts:
Your body is different now.
It’s okay to ask for support.
The healthiest thing you can do—both physically & mentally—is to accept and embrace change, and be grateful your body has carried you this far. Be sure to give it the attention and nutrition it needs, and it will take care of you for a long time.
2/3 of women experience hot flashes in their final year of perimenopause (the 12 months leading up to menopause/the first 12 months of no consecutive periods) Source: Cemcor.org
On average, these hot flashes/night sweats continue for 2 years. Source: Cemcor.org
10-20% of women experience some hot flashes up to 5 years post menopause. Source: Cemcor.org
Of course, these numbers are broad, there are always anomalies and these numbers still include women who choose to receive treatment. Also, Asian women experience fewer hot flashes than caucasean women. (Source: Cemcor.org
The feeling of a hot flash is very individual and different for every woman. It can be very mild or severe and be accompanied by redness and perspiration, increased heart rate, tingling in hands, a “skin crawling” sensation or nausea. Source: Christine Northrup, MD
Besides hormonal fluctuations, external factors can influence the intensity and duration of a woman’s hot flashes. Things like anxiety, tension, diet in high sugar and refined carbohydrates, coffee, excess weight, smoking and prescriptions can all contribute to hot flashes Source: Christine Northrup, MD
Researchers don’t completely understand the mechanism behind hot flashes and night sweats. And although many hot flash management solutions are marketed to women, the phenomenon of unpredictable and frequently uncomfortable heat surges as estradiol levels start to decline during the perimenopause-to-menopause journey continues to be a hot (excuse the pun) topic for researchers. Source: Dr. Sara Gottfried
Clinical research network, LMC Manna Research, is currently conducting a clinical trial on hot flashes and looking to recruit participants. If you live in the Greater Toronto area, you may be interested in exploring this opportunity. And if you live elsewhere in Canada, LMC Manna Research has a number of sites across the country. You can find out more, and apply at ImprovingHealth.ca
Hot flashes and night sweats are a common recipe for disrupted sleep and unhappy women in perimenpause and menopause. You are not meant to suffer. Get informed and choose the journey that’s right for you!
If hot flashes are impacting the quality of life, there is no trophy for “sucking it up.” If your sleep is disrupted, or your hot flashes are disrupting your work life or affecting your ability to exercise and participate in joyful activities, speak with your health care provider about a viable solution that is right for you! There are hormonal solutions and non-hormonal solutions with good success rates and what you choose is a personal decision to make after an informed conversation with your health team.
Dr. Christiane Northrup, Author of The Wisdom of Menopause:
Hormone therapy (when following the guidelines set by the North American Menopause Society: complete an individualized risk assessment, start within 10 years of menopause, under the age of 60) is 95% effective
The placebo effect is up to 30% effective. That’s when you take something or engage in an activity that you believe is going to help you, and it actually does.
Your physician might also talk to you about other prescriptions that have, what is referred to as, “off label” benefits. This means it is a drug intended for one purpose, that also works to reduce hot flashes. These include anti-depressants, blood pressure medications, and birth control pills. I advise women to take these medications if they are depressed, have high blood pressure or need birth control, but NOT for the management of hot flashes. That is not treating the root cause and similar to the engine light coming on in your car and you deciding to cover it up with duct tape!
Studies show meditation & relaxation techniques can reduce hot flashes in 90% of women. This is because meditation lowers stress hormone levels.
Many women also find relief by paying attention to, and improving their diets.
Dr. Sara Gottfried, Author, The Hormone Cure
Paced breathing. Breathe deeply for 20 minutes/day with a 5 second inhale, a 10 second hold and a 5 second exhale. Dr. Gottfried admits she does this while driving which is not what the researchers intended, but she is a working mom who multi-tasks!
Acupuncture, Vitamin E, Pollen Extract and Rhubard have all proven to reduce hot flashes in clinical trials
Dr. Jerilynn Prior, Founder, CEMCOR.org
Oral micronized progesterone (Prometrium®) which is bio-identical to your ovary’s own progesterone. It is available as 100 mg round capsules that look like beige salmon eggs. They are made with peanut oil to increase absorption and therefore those allergic to peanuts or other nuts should avoid them. Progesterone should be taken just before going to bed because the oral medication has a side effect (excellent one!) of causing drowsiness. It may also cause some dizziness for the first 2-3 hours after first taking it. This is not a serious side effect and shouldn’t worry you—just lie down and go peacefully to sleep.
Dr. Prior also recommends non-hormonal alternatives including Vitamin E, relaxation techniques and paced breathing, and warns women to be careful what is being marketed to women in the form of over-the-counter solutions as they often contain fillers or not enough of a particular under-studied ingredient to make a difference. She also confirms, as a researcher, hot flashes, night sweats, perimenopause and menopause are all areas of women’s health that continue to be dreadfully under-researched and under-financed.
Participating in women’s health research is one way to address and improve your own health. It is also a way to learn more about your body, and contribute to the greater good. You’ll be helping researchers gain an increased understanding for how to treat women now, as well as future generations.
If you are interested in volunteering for clinical trials, visit ImprovingHealth.ca to review opportunities currently being conducted by LMC Manna Research.
At what age do you start thinking about your heart health? On what date do you suddenly wake up and say to yourself “Gee, I ought to think about stroke prevention.”
The truth is, for most of us, there is no alarm that goes off to signal “today is the day.”
What women need to know and remember is this–it is never too early to learn about and practice a heart-healthy lifestyle and there are important proactive steps we can all take to reduce our risk:
If you smoke, QUIT.
Know your blood pressure: the best way to monitor blood pressure is “unwitnessed” which means away from your doctor’s office. Use a cuff at home or at your local pharmacy.
Lower your stress level: can’t stress this one enough. There is no trophy at the end of the day for the woman who “sucks it up.” Prioritize your health today. Engage in activities that bring you joy. Practice mindfulness–either on the mat or for a walk in nature. It doesn’t matter what you choose to lower your stress; what matters is that you practice consistently.
Discuss cholesterol & triglycerides with your doctor
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women.
1 in 4 die of heart disease
Only 54% of women recognize that heart disease is the #1 killer (spread the word!)
Women experience different symptoms than men during a heart attack–most often describing sharp, burning chest and pain in the neck, jaw, throat, abdomen or back. Women may also experience nausea/stomach pain, fatigue and profuse sweating
Protect your heart by not smoking, managing cholesterol and other health conditions such as diabetes and obesity, getting enough physical activity, managing stress and reducing sodium in your diet. Get screening tests for any potential heart disease or stroke risk factors (such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes), especially if you have a family history.
This is my dear friend Dr. Sue Buchan, a family physician. My book, MOKITA, is dedicated to her. I was sitting in her backyard last week and she was telling me—in addition to women needing to know their blood pressure (because high blood pressure has no symptoms) that the best thing you can do is self-monitor. You get better, more accurate results if you take your blood pressure “unwitnessed” in the drug store or at home on a consistent basis. Know your numbers!
Remember: Carrots are natural. Carrot cake is not.
But that doesn’t mean carrot cake is a bad thing. It simply means it is made by humans.
Over recent years, the word natural has been contorted by marketers and a billion dollar natural food & drink industry. In some cases, it has been used to imply natural is good and made by humans is bad.
Women will ask “What can I take that’s natural?”
What they are most often really asking is “What can I take that is not a prescription/not an anti-depressant/not an artificially-made hormone?”
It’s a good question. The best thing we can all do is pay close attention to how we eat, move, sleep and manage stress.
The next best thing we can do is supplement with what our body needs. That might be Vitamin B, C, definitely D; it might be omega 3, magnesium or iron.
Regardless of whether or not the plastic bottle says “natural” on the front—you are taking something made by humans—that your body is potentially craving. For example, Vitamin D from the sun is natural. Vitamin D from a bottle is not natural. But it is still a very good thing.
When our hormones are out of balance, when our cortisol is out of whack, when our thyroid is high or low—all of those things are signs from our body that is needs something. For some women, changes to how they eat, move, sleep and manage stress are enough to do the trick. For other women, supplementing with required vitamins and supplements do the trick. And for other women (me), deciding on a protocol of hormone therapy is the journey that is best. Rather than questioning one approach over the other, it is more of one-and-then-the-other—like a pyramid approach.
And some essential hormones, for the first half of our lives, are made naturally by our bodies. We are the first generation to reach age 50 and have 50 more years to plan for. Therefore, choosing to supplement with hormones (not made by your body) might be part of your health plan.
Carrots are natural. Carrot cake is not. Hormones made by your body are natural. Hormones prescribed by your health care professional are not natural. Both can still be a very good thing.
We are cracking open conversations on what matters most to women and their midlife health. In this episode, we connect with Dr. Leila Sahabi of DrLeilaSahabi.com to talk about FIBROIDS.
Conversations about fibroids come up frequently in the Menopause Chicks Private Online Community. Many women learn they have fibroids from their family doctor or gynaecologist and are eager to learn what options are available. Listen in to my conversation with Dr. Leila and find out more about:
what are fibroids?
how does a woman know she has fibroids?
what options are available for treating fibroids?
are some women more likely to get fibroids?
do fibroids go away after menopause?
and, why Dr. Leila is not surprised when a woman has fibroids?
Here is the interview + some highlights from what I learned by talking with Dr. Leila:
Facts on Fibroids | Menopause Chicks - YouTube
What are fibroids?
Fibroids are non-cancerous growths of the uterus. They are common, treatable when detected early and don’t always require medication or surgery.
How does a woman know if she has fibroids?
A common misconception is that fibroids come with pain or heavy bleeding. While that may be true in some cases, women may also have fibroids without symptoms. Fibroids are often silent growths within the uterus. Some women learn they have fibroids by accident, through a routine check-up or via ultrasound. Other women experience lower abdominal pain, abdominal pressure, constipation, irregular bleeding, heavier bleeding, spotting or breakthrough bleeding without any pattern. [If these are your experiences, do consult with your doctor/health care professional immediately.]
Dr. Leila recommends a baseline ultrasound for women around the age of 40. This will help provide you and your health care professional with a picture of your uterus, what has always been there, and what is new. The baseline is helpful for comparison if you suddenly develop fibroids a few years down the road.
What options are available for treating fibroids?
Another common assumption is that fibroids will lead to medication and surgery. Many women seek Dr. Leila’s advice, as a doctor of naturopathic medicine, in order to weigh all their options. Dr. Leila is on a mission to inform all women that fibroids are related to declining progesterone or progesterone deficiency. When a woman doesn’t have enough progesterone, estrogen acts like a growth factor. In this interview, Dr. Leila describes a case study which revealed how her patient had signs of progesterone deficiency most of her life. Once discovered, her fibroids could be treated appropriately.
Are some women more likely to develop fibroids over others?
While it’s true that many women may have fibroids and not even know it, there are some factors that indicate whether a woman is more likely to develop fibroids over others. They are:
if a woman has never been pregnant
if she started menstruating earlier than average
African-American women are also more likely to develop fibroids
Will fibroids go away after menopause?
This is the question Dr. Leila gets asked the most. Often, gynaecologists will suggest a watch-and-wait approach to fibroids. This is an option if the fibroids are not disrupting the woman’s quality of life. Sometimes fibroids do shrink after menopause–it depends on their size and how/if they are embedded in the uterus.
And, finally, why is Dr. Leila not surprised when a women develops fibroids?
Fibroids are a symptom of low progesterone. Listen to our interview and find out:
why Dr Leila is not surprised when a woman develops fibroids (13:00 mark)
my “ah-ha” moment from this interview: what if fibroids are actually a gift and why we can thank fibroids (15:00 mark)
Questions about hormone therapy come up frequently in the Menopause Chicks Private Online Community.
It’s common for women who might be experiencing things like brain fog, low libido, vaginal dryness, headaches, anxiety, depression, hot flashes/night sweats and even dry skin or hair loss—to investigate hormone therapy and the different modes of delivery available.
Recently, we have heard about pellet therapy from a number of women in our community—some who have regained quality of life as a result of pellet therapy, some who heard about pellet therapy from their physicians, and others who are curious and beginning to be proactive with their midlife health. So, we sat down with the owner of Sottopelle Therapy so we can all learn more.
Tune into my conversation with CarolAnn Tutera—and be sure to stay on to the 18 minute mark, as CarolAnn talks about hormone changes in men too!
Pellet Hormone Therapy: What is it & why would a woman choose it - YouTube
What is pellet therapy?
Pellet therapy is an innovative way of delivering hormone therapy. By inserting pellets (about the size of a grain of rice) under the skin, this precision delivery method transports a customized dose of hormones through the blood stream, around the clock.
Why might a woman choose pellet therapy?
Pellet therapy has been around for more than 70 years
It’s a viable way for women to avoid the hormone roller coaster
Delivering hormone therapy via pellets ensures that the prescribed dose is absorbed into a woman’s blood stream; the most reliable delivery method available as pills, patches and creams can be deemed inconvenient and inconsistent. With pellet therapy, there’s nothing to remember. Each treatment is tailored to suit the individual needs of the woman rather than a one-size-fits all or guesswork approach. It contains low-does estradiol and testosterone that release slowly for three to six months and includes regular monitoring and adjustments when your body needs it.
Because the treatment is customized to each individual, doctors who administer pellet therapy are not merely treating symptoms but they treat the whole person. In addition, women will often choose pellet therapy because they are interested in quality of life NOW, and keen to invest in their longevity and vitality down the road—by protecting their cognitive health, preventing osteoporosis—as well as simply replenishing what their bodies need.
What options are available for men?
Men are frequently pleased when their partners/wives choose pellet therapy as they recognize how effectively it restores her quality of life. But men are also advocates of pellet therapy for their own health too—for similar reasons as women. You see, as a rule, men don’t experience the drastic roller coaster of hormone fluctuation that women do (although some do!), they do have experiences in midlife such as fatigue, brain fog, low libido and anxiety and depression that can be addressed with personalized hormone therapy.
Where can I learn more?
CarolAnn Tutera is the owner of Sottopelle Therapy
The first step is a consultation. Sottopelle Therapy is available throughout the USA.
Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day in Canada — a chance for all of us to crack open the conversation on mental health, create a stigma-free society and to raise funds for critical mental health & wellness programs and services.
As I was pouring over all the great resource materials Bell has created, I couldn’t help but draw some obvious parallels between perimenopause & menopause (topics I talk about every day) and mental health (a topic I’m not afraid to discuss, yet one I tend to only crack open when absolutely necessary.)
7 ways navigating MENTAL HEALTH is like navigating MENOPAUSE:
BOTH MAKE US LIE: Cultural myths, generational stereotypes, stigma, fear of what people will think…whatever the reason, both mental health and menopause make us lie; they can make us say we’re “fine” when we are not.
BOTH NEED A RE-BRAND: Branding, if you don’t know, is typically defined as what others say about you when you are not in the room. It commonly refers to corporate brands but branding also refers to the “bad rap” or outdated reputations that continue to swirl around both mental health and menopause. If you say mental health or menopause, people often assume they know exactly what you are talking about–except, more often than not, they are drawing upon old myths, misconceptions, outdated images & information and stereotypes overdue for a re-brand.
BOTH ARE COMPLEX & SURROUNDED WITH PROMISES OF CAUSES AND CURES: What if we replaced words like “cause” and “cure” with “manage” or “navigate”? Rather than continue to mask and suppress, what if we were to start recognizing the mental health journey and the perimenopause-to-menopause journey as OPPORTUNITIES to stop and figure out what’s up in life; opportunities to enhance how well we eat, move and sleep; opportunities to introduce new or more stress management protocols; opportunities to practice more self love?
BOTH ARE MISUNDERSTOOD: Depression is not the same as sadness. And menopause is not equal to suffering.
BOTH ARE PART OF THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE: Society often wants to compartmentalize, as in “She has a mental illness” and “She does not.” What if we reframe this so that mental health is a spectrum rather than an isolated circumstance? Not withstanding clinical diagnosis, for many, it’s more like a dial that gets turned up or turned down at various points in our lives. What if we repositioned it as part of the human experience–something everyone needs to know about, know how to talk about and most importantly, know how to navigate–for themselves, and for their loved ones. The same is true for the perimenopause-to-menopause journey.
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL, THE EXPERIENCE IS UNIQUE FOR EVERYONE + THERE IS A MAGIC WAND: If I’ve learned anything over these past few years managing the Menopause Chicks community, it’s that there are a million combinations of what’s right, wrong, works, doesn’t work, but the one common ground where we all seem to land is how good it feels to be validated. Feeling understood and validated is the magic–be it mental health, menopause or any other situation that calls for compassion.
REACHING OUT IS THE OPPOSITE OF STIGMA: As Prince Harry said, “I just needed someone to listen.” If we truly want to irradiate the stigma associated with mental health and menopause, more of us need to reach out. As we’ve learned with the Menopause Chicks Private Online Community, reaching out for help, or just a caring ear, moves us away from naiveness, avoidance and suppressing what is real. And it moves us closer to awareness, education, compassion, understanding and conversation.
My fantasy conversation where I finally talk openly and with ease about my own challenges with hormone-related anxiety, depression and brain fog. In my mind, the conversation goes like this:
ME: Want to see inside my backpack?
Him: Sure, come sit down and let me have a look.
ME: (loosening the straps, rolling the pack from my back to the front and letting it hit the floor with a surprisingly loud thud…) There.
Him: Wow, whatcha got in there? It sounds like it’s really heavy.
ME: It is.
Him: I’m curious to know what’s inside. Mind if I ask you a few questions?
ME: Sure. Please do.
Him: Do you carry that around with you all day?
ME: Yes. And I sleep with it too.
Him: How long have you been carrying this backpack?
ME: About 10 years or so. I work really hard to camouflage it. It’s rare for anyone to even notice it.
Him: Why don’t you want anyone to see your backpack?
ME: That’s a great question. Thanks for asking. I wasn’t comfortable showing off my backpack at first, but now I’m getting more comfortable showing it to people. They can even look inside if they want. It’s just that in my experience, it sometimes make others uncomfortable when I start telling them what’s inside. Like they don’t want to hear it. Or even, that it changes their perception of me.
Him: Wow! I’m trying to imagine how that must make you feel.
ME: Well, to be honest, it can be exhausting. This backpack is old. It’s heavy. It drains my energy and it often gets in the way of me concentrating and doing all the things I love to do. And it makes me very tired. Yes, I have moments when I forget it’s there (maybe because I’ve been carrying it for so long), but I also have other times when it becomes so heavy, it pinches my shoulders and makes other parts of my body ache too. It really feels like it’s taking a toll on me. Perhaps it’s time to unpack and reorganize what’s inside.
Him: I’m listening. I didn’t realize all you’re carrying or how much you are struggling or how the weight of this backpack is impacting your life. I want you to know you are not alone in this. You may be the one carrying the heavy backpack, but I’m here to do whatever I can to help you lighten the load.
Of course, that conversation has never really happened. It is a fictitious scenario because there is no backpack, or rather, the backpack is another word for depression, anxiety and brain fog. I believe everyone is carrying around an invisible backpack of one kind or another. I believe it’s part of the human experience, and mental health affects us all.
Google says depression is a sad woman holding her head in her hands.
Today, I challenge all of us to rethink our perceptions of what mental health (or illness) is and looks like. Google may tell us it’s a dark picture of a woman looking sad and holding her head in her hands.
I’m here to tell you it may also look like a smiling, high-functioning, responsible adult. Everyone you meet today is carrying something — something we can not see — it’s part of the human experience.
Let’s not let past stigmas and stereotypes dictate or prevent us from recognizing what people may be carrying and validating it.
If you need some words today, try: “I hear you” or “I see you and “you are not alone.”
Re-sharing this post that I wrote in September before the launch of MOKITA: How to navigate perimenopause with confidence & ease: TinyUrl.com/MokitaAtChapters
Today is #BellLetsTalk Day in Canada. We are not saying you need to talk about #mentalhealth #midlifehealth and #womenshealth. We ARE saying that it’s OKAY to talk to talk about.
Sharing the chapter that took me the longest to write. It’s called “My Invisible Backpack.”
MOKITA is designed to empower you to navigate perimenopause-to-menopause & beyond with confidence and ease.
Part one is my narrative and a guide that will save you from having to read 30 books and scour the internet for days.
Part two is all about getting informed and building your own midlife health team to support you on your journey. I invited 13 women’s health professionals who not only share my passion for education, but they share their expertise, information on what it is like to work with their modality and relatable case studies that will help you decide on the journey that is right for you.
You will learn from a physician, naturopath, doctor of natural medicine, life coach, meditation teacher, registered dietitian, pharmacist, registered acupuncturist, pelvic floor expert, hormone balance expert, cannabis advocate, energy healer, chiropractor, and me, your very own women’s health advocate and menopause chick.
MOKITA: How to navigate perimenopause with confidence and ease is a passion project and like perimenopause, the journey was not 100% smooth and included a couple of speed bumps and detours along the way. For example, when I embarked on this project, I could have not predicted there was going to be a CHAPTER 7. I explain my reoccurring anxiety, depression and mental illness diagnosis in chapter 7 titled My Invisible Backpack (I believe everyone has one!) and in this video:
Between the Pages of MOKiTA: Chapter 7 “My Invisible backpack”