If you've found that depression has come along with menopause, you have lots of company. Estimates on the number of women who report feeling depressed in the menopausal years range from 11 to 33 percent, but the numbers may be even higher. Many women may not report their depression or seek help for it but instead try to tough it out. We may feel embarrassed of being depressed, thinking that we have no real serious life issues or crises that merit depression and that we are therefore not entitled to feel the way we do. Remember, none of us have to adapt to a state of tedium.
Hormones can strongly influence these feelings of depression. But, it can be difficult to sort out how much of the blues is due to hormones declining, and how much is the result of life changes that tend to come fast and hard during menopause.
Menopause was once discreetly referred to as "the change of life," usually in a lowered tone and generally not in mixed company. Remember that "going through the change" doesn't necessarily have to be all about hot flashes or feeling wistful for times gone by. In my book, "End Your Menopause Misery," I suggest that we all take stock of our personal and professional relationships. Which support your happiness and which impede it? Deciding to move on or limit your interaction with people who don't bring anything positive to your life doesn't have to involve confrontation or acrimony -- it means that we make the choice to emphasize the people and things that boost our spirits and make us feel good. Take the time to write down the names of people who are welcome in your life. I did, and I realized that some of the people from my past weren't on the list. That's okay. As we move through this part of our lives, we have the opportunity to be more discerning in who we choose to interact with. And that's a good thing.
We can spend valuable time and energy fighting what we're feeling or trying to run from sadness, regret or anxiety. Accepting a feeling doesn't mean it will be there forever. But there may be times when the antidote to stress or despondency is telling yourself that you're going to live with it for a specific amount of time. You decide how long that will be -- the next hour, afternoon, or day -- and then you're going to either set it aside as something that can't be changed or something you'll face again when you're ready.
Another idea: get outside to lift your spirits. Instead of a coffee or lunch date, make a walk date and pick a new venue, a different lake, beach or trail where you can walk and talk. Try the opposite of a power walk occasionally -- change the pace and move more deliberately so you can listen, smell, touch and observe what's around you. Maya Angelou said, "Bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song." Go outside and replenish your well as you listen to birdsong, feel the sun pour in, hear the wind rustle or the rain fall and breathe in the scent of the water or flowers.
Not all mood changes in midlife need to disquiet us. We can also feel grateful that the uncertainty and insecurity we may have felt as younger women now gives way to a more reflective and discerning way of regarding the world, and a certain sageness in viewing ourselves. Our wisdom -- some hard earned, some gently and slowly acquired over time -- can be trusted to serve us well as we experience menopause.
Founder of Full Circle Women's Health in Colorado, Stephanie Bender has significantly contributed to a much larger understanding of women's health through her books, lectures and television appearances. Her most recent book is, "End Your Menopause Misery." You can post a comment or read more about Stephanie on her website, by clicking here. You can also follow her on Facebook by clicking here.