Menopausal Rage: It’s a thing

stress management Aug 31, 2022
An angry emoji

Did any of you catch the brilliant and funny McSweeney’s article titled, “Thank you for calling the perimenopause hotline where our hold times are completely unpredictable.” by Kathryn Baecht? A friend texted me the link and I laughed until I had tears streaming down my cheeks.

The article goes through some common FAQs among which is the following:

Q: What is the average age for perimenopause?
The average age for perimenopause is whatever age you happen to be when you google any of the following:

What age perimenopause?
Skipped period start of menopause?
Why do I have free floating rage?

Additionally, you may have started perimenopause if you call your mother or any older woman in your life to ask her what a hot flash feels like.

Hahahaha. As my husband and I often say to each other, “It’s funny because it’s true!”

All laughing aside, if menopausal rage makes it into a satirical article about perimenopause on a very popular website, then it’s a thing. So why are we not talking about it? One theory (among several): we’re tired of being dismissed when we do talk about it.

There is nothing more patronizing than feeling really powerful, big feelings (like rage) and having those feelings dismissed as just "hormones”. Or having everyone else feel compassion for the people who have to live with the menopausal woman, rather than have compassion for the women herself, who is clearly in distress. So let’s change the script and talk about menopausal rage in a way that is validating, compassionate, constructive, and helpful.

Psychotherapist Dr. Becky Kennedy recently published a podcast episode on “Mom Rage” and the advice given in the podcast episode is 100% relevant to menopausal rage as well.

Dr. Becky, along with guest psychotherapist Dr. Anna Mathur, teach their listeners that rage is a sign of unmet needs and this definition makes so. much. sense.

For most of us, disruptive perimenopause symptoms come when we’re already mentally, physically, and emotionally maxed out. And then suddenly we’re dealing with hot flashes, insomnia, brain fog and incontinence all while watching our body change (seemingly overnight) and it’s no wonder many of us experience feelings of “free floating rage”.

Being a woman is hard, full stop.

Being a woman who is also going through menopause can induce a whole lot of big feelings, including rage.

In her book, “Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger”, author Soraya Chemaly reinforces this idea that rage is a sign of unmet needs. Chemaly writes,

“One of the top three reasons women report getting angry is the lack of reciprocity in relationships. They feel taken for granted, uncared for, unloved, even as they’re providing care to parents, to children, to spouses, to friends, to coworkers, to neighbors, whoever it may be.

Being exhausted and fed up at the same time accumulates. I think a lot of the rage people feel is because for the entirety of their lives their needs were not being addressed or met fairly. But now, with the added stresses and exhaustion of this physical transition, the situation is not tenable. This - a lack of reciprocal care and attention - is not about hormones.”

So what’s a girl to do with all this rage?

Dr. Anna Mathur recommends pausing frequently to ask yourself two important questions:

1. What am I feeling?

2. What do I need?

These two questions give you an opportunity to acknowledge your unmet needs and to follow up with appropriate action.

Maybe that action is taking a few deep breaths in the moment. Maybe it’s finding a qualified doctor to talk about Menopause Hormone Therapy to relieve hot flashes. Maybe it’s setting clear boundaries with friends, family and coworkers. Maybe it’s starting therapy. Maybe it’s implementing the Fairplay Method. Or maybe it’s finally letting go of unrealistic cultural expectations and deciding to be unapologetic about your limitations as a human being.

Whatever is triggering your rage, reframing that rage as a tool for recognizing unmet needs can transform the way you look at it, and allow you to use it for your good and for the good of all those who need you.

Sending you so much love, compassion and understanding. Truly, my heart is so full of admiration and support for all of you.

xo, Rebecca

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