I am curious to what I owe the umbrage that I feel towards going through menopause in my thirties which my peers will experience in their 50s.

Erol Ahmed

I first menstruated when I was 13 years old.

My periods which were more or less regular came to a halt when I was 31.

After seeing my own blood in the toilet for the first time, I approached my mother and told her in a kind of romantic tone that I love menstruating and will be more than happy to bleed all my life. Years later, when I told my mother, who had found these words strange back then, that I am going through early menopause, something inside her broke to pieces. The grandchild that she would never have, added a new one to those things which she finds peculiar about me. Seeing myself from her eyes, I was also hurt. I took offense at the child, which never occupied my thoughts, for not coming into the world, at my bones which are thinning, at those 20 healthy years of my life which are being stolen from me. My future, which harbors many possibilities, shrank a bit that day.

At first, I did not understand that I was going through menopause, and when I figured it out, using my workload as an excuse, I paid no heed to it. After six months, I accepted that I cannot ignore this situation any longer and decided to go and see a doctor. My marathon runner gynecologist told me that I was not going through menopause yet, but experiencing the perimenopausal period, and suggested that I get whatever remaining eggs I have frozen. The gynecologist repeated this suggestion over and over in the following physicals, paying not as much attention to the therapeutic options. I guess, the expectation was that I should value the possibility of a child which is nowhere to be seen more than myself. This doctor prescribed me birth control pills, which I later regretted for taking, and the endocrinologist, who used to charge 800 Turkish liras for a visit told me to quit physical exercise. I think this doctor finds it easier to ignore my slouching body and treat me as if I am an athlete. The gynecologist and the endocrinologist, whom I have informed about each other, advised me to go and see a psychiatrist. An impertinent manifestation of the wave which deems psychology as the source of everything.

After swallowing birth control pills for a year and a half, I realized that as someone who chases after topics about which I am partially informed, ranging from on epilepsy to fish farms, I have never gone through a book on menopause. Subsequently, I figured out that there are no comprehensive publications on menopause written in Turkish. Most of the books offer advice to the women who are going through menopause about what to eat or how to have a positive attitude. Thinking that at least he is a physician, I bought Mustafa Atasoy’s book Hormon: Menopoz Öncesi-Sonrası [Hormones: Before and After Menopause]. Although his style seems questionable at first sight, the book provided information about the causes of menopause in women’s bodies, hormone replacement therapy, the value of bioequivalent quality; actually, I learned from this book for the first time that I am going through menopause. Oddly enough, leaving aside all the women in my family and all my physician friends who are going through menopause, there are many women living with menopause in our feminist organizations. However, I do not remember any of them linking any of their physical complaints other than heat rush to menopause. It seems like in our discussions where we talk about bodies, reproduction and sexual politics, the turn of menopause never came. We have forced our youth to the common agenda, and women’s old age have remained an exotic topic mentioned in the incredible first chapter of Mina Urgan’s book, Bir Dinazorun Anıları [The Memoirs of a Dinosaur]. On the other hand, the gynecologists who withhold information or products about menopause or its myths have contributed to this darkness.

However, heat rush, which I thought is a must of menopause did not happen to me at all. But I felt that I was getting slower cognitively. My memory, on which I violently relied all those years working as a journalist, began to give errors that cut the ground out from under during everyday interactions. I was lost in words and places. Those who were listening began to correct my words involving numbers, and I gradually fended off numbers from my utterances.

Sexual desire also left my body. A rush in my head thus disappeared, but the conversations I have with my friends on matters of intimate relations gradually shaded off into a flounder resembling that experienced by a football player who, neither in the game or out of it, spends the match on the bench. As I was left out of the game, I realized that sexuality played an invisible but almost tangible role in the social scene of the streets. My efforts to say that I am not dead yet, remained as stories lacking desire.

Strangely enough, men who used to flirt suddenly stopped when they heard about the menopause. I have no complaints about figuring out another positive side to loving women, still, it was a surprise to witness men’s devotion to evolutionary selection in this way. As I read more on the subject, I saw how women by surviving menopause were resisting evolution. Leaving aside the humans, there are only two species of whales that go through menopause and keep on living even if they no longer reproduce.[1] According to our current knowledge, the rest of living creatures keep reproducing until they die.

Learning about this made me feel better; however, the idea of an old age ornate with thinning bones and increasing weight worries me. I am curious to what I owe the umbrage that I feel towards going through menopause in my thirties which my peers will experience in their 50s. When the turn of menopause never comes in our conversations, it takes great effort to get informed about menopause in everyday interactions. I also learned that besides genetics, psychological anxiety may also cause early menopause. Ayla Kurtuluş, who interviewed female inmates in Bakırköy Penitentiary for her MA thesis relates that early menopause is very common amongst young female inmates.

These were the thoughts passing through my mind as I read F.’s article “Korona Günlerimin Sürpriz Misafiri” [The Unexpected Visitor of My Corona Days] published on the website 5Harfliler [5Lettered]. Speaking about early menopause and even menopause about which almost no useful information circulates will clear the fog surrounding all of us.[2]

For the original in Turkish / Yazının Türkçesi için

Translator: İpek Tabur

Proof-reader: Müge Karahan

[1] Moerell, Virgina. “Study suggests surprising reason killer whales go through menopause”, Sciencemag, 12 January 2017. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/01/study-suggests-surprising-reason-killer-whales-go-through-menopause.

[2] I am grateful to my feminist friend Müge Yetener who supported me in this effort of mine to clear the fog.


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