When it comes to living in a society that still considers menopause and aging to be rather taboo topics, maneuvering menopause anywhere can be challenging. Still, we understand that the going through this stage of life can be even more complicated and isolating for women experiencing it while living abroad. For that reason, we’ve reached out to Jane Ordaz, “The Menopausal Expat,” to share her insights on what the experience has been like for her and what the rest of us can do to be informed, prepare for ourselves, and support others.
Jane is not only the founder of The Menopausal Expat, she is also a licensed practitioner of Adapt and Succeed Abroad, a programme for those navigating the challenges of a global life, as well as a member of the Expat Coach Coalition, made up of an awesome group of international coaches and facilitators with first hand knowledge of the emotional roller coaster of a new life. Overall, Jane’s mission is to help globally mobile women make the most of an international life AND their menopause, so she offers numerous services and resources to do just that.
We’re sure that her personal insights in this article will serve as an invaluable resource, but we encourage you to check out what she’s doing on Instagram account. Without further ado, here’s what Jane had to share with us…
Buckle up, buy some comfy undies, and get ready for menopause
What the F is this!
I won’t lie, this last month or two has been tough. I lost my funny bone and my sense of optimism, and I felt absolutely defeated. I’m writing this during the process of re-surfacing. World Menopause Awareness Month has given me that push!
Menopause, and aging, come along and you start to notice you don’t feel the same anymore. If they were a girl band there’d be the Symptom Sisters, a lead singer dragging you through a lyrical hell of blood, sweat and tears. But it’s not just the menopause that’s in that band, it’s our sense of self as we age, and existing in cultures that often don’t value age.
For me, the menopause was shocking. I turned into a cross between a rottweiler chewing a bee and a hermit crab. I was 49, and had recently moved to Mexico. I almost shrink writing this with retrospective wisdom, but I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do: I took a leap of faith and moved with my partner and son. I went with a spirit of adventure, curious to live in the country I’d so often visited, excited to make new friends and see new places. As to what I’d do, no idea, nada, but I did have an intuitive belief I’d find something.
After a while I wasn’t doing any of those things, how come? The shine wore off too soon, literally within 6 months. I felt low, shy, fatigued, anxious, pissed off with everything, hot and sweaty, and lost. Honestly I felt like I’d been pulled threw a hedge backwards and landed in hell. I felt broken.
Then I remembered my mum, carrying a handkerchief to dab the sweat from her eyebrows catching it before it dripped into her eyes. She’d wipe the back of her neck, put the handkerchief away and we’d say, “you’re always sweaty and hot mum.” She never told me what was happening. F@*K it’s MENOPAUSE!
Here’s some takeaways from these last few years
Talk about it! (and don’t be apologetic)
I started to read to learn to understand what was happening to me and to also read other women’s experiences. I stopped hiding, started being open and honest.
We know finding friends in a new place is really important, but I’ll admit it at the time it didn’t always go too well, there’s a huge taboo around menopause, I’ll say I didn’t always win friends!
Neither did my lack of social filters (I’m standing firm on this being a menopause symptom but others might tell you different!) I got so tired of people asking me what my husband did, that I started to say, “OMG he’s so boring let’s talk about us!”
The good news is that I am still friends with those who didn’t walk away from the subject!
You don’t have to reinvent yourself
Identity is a question we often grapple when you live outside of your own culture: what is my identity in relation to this country add to this having your foundations rocked by menopause. My big bingo moment with this was realising that yes I’ll change, and grow but fundamentally I’m a bloody robust woman, with a ton of skills, a strong set of values and a life time history of survival. I know who I am. The question really was how can I be that person here?
That question changed everything for me. And from it The Menopausal Expat was born.
Find a community
I had no idea how much silence existed around menopause, I’m still surprised as I spend my entire life talking about nothing else! When I realised no community existed for expats who are experiencing perimenopause and menopause I created one.
The Menopausal Expats is there to facilitate us supporting each other, to provide information and access to experts in living a global menopause. We can’t stop this train arriving at the platform, nor can we opt out of getting on, but we can influence what the destination looks like. Hearing each others stories helps us to understand we are not alone.
As a coach I help women to answer the question “Where the f@*k do I start?” With so many aspects happening all at the same time it’s not unusual to feel like “a rabbit in headlights” and really not know where to begin.
And if you’re not there yet?
Be the generation that knows! There are ways you can prepare (obviously you don’t want to spend your whole life working towards menopause – even though your hormones are).
Firstly, start learning about menopause now, so you know what is going to happen: be that a blog, a web page, or a book – Dr. Jen Gunter is brilliant.
Secondly, ask your friends and family about their experiences, really, you can learn from them.
Finally, get used to putting yourself first: looking after you. It’s so important because if you can look after you before and during menopause you will so much better for it.
Jane Ordaz is The Menopausal Expat, Coach and licensed practitioner of Adapt and Succeed.
Thank you so much to Jane for this thoughtful resource! If you are interested in learning more about maneuvering menopause abroad, Jane is actually hosting an online event called The Menopause Café on October 16, 2021. Click here for more details.