Serving in the U.S. military has long been a battleground for women. It was one marked with ignorance as well as unequal and unfair treatment, but the bravery of women has persevered.
When the Women's Armed Services Integration Act was signed into law in 1948, it was touted as ensuring women's equality in the armed forces. But even with the law, women were prohibited from flying aircrafts or serving on ships engaged in combat. Women could not make up more than 2 percent of any branch of the armed services, and promotions for women were severely limited, according to the Women In Military Service for America Memorial Foundation.
In a National Public Radio interview, Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, USAF, Ret., said members of the congressional committees were concerned that women under consideration for being made admirals or generals would be susceptible to making "irrational decisions." Why? Because these women would likely be in menopause by their time of promotion. Can you imagine?
Luckily, women did not let ignorance hold them back from their true potential within the armed forces' ranks. They fought and continue to fight against misinformation -- and they are winning. Today, women represent 14.5 percent of all military personnel, with more than 213,000 women on active duty in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. What's more, an additional 190,000 serve in the Reserves and National Guards, according to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation. Now naval ships are even tearing out urinals to accommodate women, according to the Naval Base San Diego. In 2008, when Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody was named the first female four-star general, 57 women held the rank of general or admiral, including five lieutenant generals or vice admirals, according to CNN.
Most recently, on January 24, 2013, the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff announced immediate rescission of the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule, which restricted women from fighting on the frontlines and holding combat roles, according to the Naval Base San Diego. Since September 11, 2001, 152 women deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait have lost their lives in the War on Terrorism, according to the Base.
Sooner or later, every woman will be deployed to menopause, a battleground that is still fraught with ignorance and misinformation. Too many women suffer through perimenopause and menopause, scared to speak up and feeling like they have to power through on their own. It's time for women to fight the ignorance -- and taboos -- surrounding menopause. The tools and information needed to command our destinies throughout menopause are available to us. We just have to reach out and put them to good use.
Here are my five steps for safe deployment to menopause:
1. Don't wait. As women, we often feel that we have to be the rocks and foundations of our families, and that to admit hardships or challenges is to admit failure. That could not be further from the truth! Recognizing that we need help when we need it, like during perimenopause and menopause, is the first and most important step in finding hormone happiness and feeling at home in our own bodies.
2. Find a menopause specialist. Most women believe that their gynecologist, with whom they've trusted their reproductive health for decades, is the same person who should advise them and guide them through perimenopause and menopause. However, that's often not the case. To understand the changes your body is going through, and to find the best course of treatment for you, you need to have a partner who is trained in menopause healthcare and has a passion for helping women during this time. To find a perimenopause and menopause specialist near you, consult my menopause doctor directory, ask your gynecologist or primary care physician for a referral, or ask the women in your life who is helping them to find hormone happiness.
3. Chart your menopause symptoms. Once you're in the doctor's office it's too late to start thinking about your symptoms. Instead, track the symptoms that you are experiencing for at least two weeks prior to your first appointment with your menopause specialist. To help track your symptoms, sign up for my free Menopause Mondays Newsletter and receive my Menopause Symptoms Chart via email. Each day, chart the frequency, duration, and severity of your symptoms. Doing this every day at the same time will help keep you from forgetting them. After all, poor memory is a symptom of menopause!
4. Know your menopause test numbers. Understanding exactly what is going on inside your body can enable your specialist to create an individualized program to help you achieve hormone happiness. Talk to your menopause specialist about receiving a complete hormone blood panel and any other hormone tests related to the treatment of your symptoms. Remember that appropriate tests and exact treatment strategies vary for every one of us and all options should discussed with your specialist.
5. Stay on your menopause path. By now we know what has or has not worked. With the guidance of our specialists, we are better able to choose the next and best available treatment options. It is important to constantly listen to your body, monitor your symptoms, and keep an open dialogue and relationship with your menopause specialist. Our bodies are constantly changing, and we must stay attuned to those changes for continued hormone happiness.
As women, we have long fought ignorance in order to take command over our destinies. I salute the women of the armed forces who have made so much progress in demonstrating the scope of their potential to the world. These women are proof that women are strong, capable, and powerful forces of change in society. They deserve our gratitude and also our commitment to help them forward in their missions. All of us, whether civilian, military, or part of a military family, still have work to do on the home front: our bodies. So let's join forces to finally beat the ignorance that surrounds perimenopause and menopause! In this battle, we are all in the trenches together.
Sooner or later, every woman will be deployed to perimenopause and menopause! In the battle of menopause, we're all in the trenches together. On May 10, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, I had the honor of speaking to military families at the Naval Base San Diego (NBSD) about perimenopause and menopause. With the assistance of They Serve 2, a non-profit dedicated to supporting military service families, I was able to donate copies of my first book, "Shmirshky: think inside the box" to spouses of servicemen, servicewomen, and civilians in military support positions. I am honored to help do my part in supporting these women and their families who sacrifice so much for our country. It was a wonderful day and a great privilege for me.
Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!
Party in person! On Monday, June 3 from 5pm to 7pm, grab some girlfriends and head to Burlap Restaurant in Del Mar, California, for the launch of Menopause Mondays Live; brought to you by Ellen and Burlap. Click here to RSVP.
Let's hang out! Join Ellen the first Monday of every month for her Menopause Mondays Google Hangouts: Where the Sisterhood helps the Sisterhood. You can ask Ellen your menopause questions at this free online event! Details here -->
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Ellen Dolgen is an outspoken women's health and wellness advocate, menopause awareness expert, author, and speaker.
After struggling through the silence that surrounds menopause, Ellen resolved to help women reach out and end the confusion, embarrassment and less-than-lovely symptoms that come with "the change." Her passion to be a "sister" to all women fueled Ellen's book, Shmirshky: The Pursuit of Hormone Happiness. As a result of her women's wellness journey, and in response to the overwhelming thirst of her ever-expanding audience for empowering information, Ellen's weekly blog, Menopause Mondays™ was born.
Menopause Mondays™ allows Ellen an expansive platform from which she broadens her discussion of menopause, women's health and life as a menopausal (and fabulous!) woman. Her weekly Menopause News Flash provides a one-stop shop for the latest menopause and women's health news and research, allowing women the access and know-how needed to take charge of their health and happiness. In addition to Ellen's ever-growing social media presence, EllenDolgen.com has fast become "the place" on the web for informative and entertaining women's menopause and wellness engagement. In 2012 EllenDolgen.com was named first on the list of the "Best Menopause Blogs" by Healthline. Ellen is also a regular contributor to over a dozen leading women's health blogs.
Her motto is: Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!