We know that there’s a lot of mystery around the experience of perimenopause and menopause – and we say, no more. To help you feel less alone (and more a part of a very large community of people going through these experiences), we present to you our Menopause Spotlight series, where we interview someone willing to share their story.
For our first profile, we chose Anya Wolfenden, the Director of Personal Care and Innovation at Life-flo.
Tell us a little about your background.
I design and formulate natural health and beauty products for Life-flo and other similar brands. I was a holistic educator, intuitive massage therapist, public relations and communications director, and brand manager for the Heritage Store. I’ve been a wellness and food columnist, a features writer for numerous publications, and an editor for a lifestyles magazine. I balance daily gratitude by walking in nature, making tinctures, hydrosols, and massage oils, cherishing time with my family, and with creative writing. I’m a lifelong student of sustainable sourcing, traditional healing modalities, plant wisdom, and ethnobotany.
How would you describe menopause in your own words?
Menopause is the end stage of the physiological process of fertility. It is also the stage where a woman becomes more of an elder, teacher/guide/entrepreneur, as she expands her identity out in the world in addition to the (possible) role of mother. Dr. Christiane Northrup’s books on women’s health have done a great job of educating me.
Why do you think menopause is such a taboo subject still, in an era where transparency and visibility into health are so important?
I personally have never seen any aspect of women’s health as taboo. However, it is due to our emphasis on youth culture in comparison to other cultures that celebrate and/or honor all stages of a woman’s life. I hope that women’s physicality/body stages/wellness will be openly discussed between generations.
What do you see as being someone’s emotional connection to this period of their life?
It depends on the woman and her relationship with her body and her female family. Women are information seeking, about symptoms, complaints, and treatments. Most want to be done with the transition as soon as possible and are impatient about the less comfortable symptoms.
Can you share a little about your experience going through menopause?
I found hot flashes fascinating, internal power surges brought on by these minuscule hormones—wow! What the body does to regulate itself is wild. I also found the mood and impatience thing to be a kind of permission not to take any mess from people who were being inhumane or unkind. That was kind of fun: to be more outspoken and bold because my hormones lead me to be brave.
It’s sad that there isn’t more curiosity and celebration of these stages in general. I loved Joan Borysenko, PhD.’s take on this stage (A Woman's Book of Life: The Biology, Psychology, and Spirituality of the Feminine Life Cycle) when she described the genesis of the butterfly from the caterpillar heating up and transfiguring in that cocoon. How within that stage they create new eyes and wings for their next stage of life. I also felt that was what we did, as women.
What was something about this time that surprised you?
That the irregularity of menses stops and starts for months at a time.
Did anything humorous or joyful happen during this time? A relatable story or anecdote?
Two months after my last menses, our youngest daughter got her first period on my mother’s 70th birthday, our 3 generations at 15, 50, and 70 celebrated this delightful connection of start, finish, and elder celebrations.
Describe a positive and a negative aspect of this time period.
A positive was the cathartic initiation feeling about the transition as I changed from having a cycle to letting it go and becoming the next phase of self.
A negative I guess would be the sadness that I would never birth children again. Even though I was complete on that front with our two wonderful daughters, it was still a body function sadness, or loss.
What is a piece of advice you would give yourself at that time, with the wisdom you have now?
Look into using bioidentical “natural” hormones to support the transition afterwards, as well as the phytoestrogen creams and herbs that you successfully used.