The Art of the Menopause

CSM vases display

How would you visually represent your experience of the menopause? Imagine bringing physical form to its multiple aspects: the physical, emotional, and cultural. Second year BA Ceramic Design students at Central Saint Martins have been engaged with this challenge. Their rather beautiful answers will be on exhibit at 2017’s British Ceramics Biennial this autumn.

With Reclaiming The Menopause Managing Director Eileen Bellot acting as an advisor and resource, the students joined a menopause-focused Facebook page to begin a dialogue. They posted a lengthy questionnaire asking about individual women’s experience and what advice they might give to women yet to enter this phase of life–advice they wish someone had given them.

Working with this feedback, the students undertook an exploration of themes: the colours of autumn (as the menopause is described as autumnal,) classically “feminine” shapes, and means of passing information from one generation to the next. Each step of the design process was fully considered and informed. The students’ evolving conversation, early sketches, concepts and progress notes can be found on their blog Mud Movement.

The result is sixty-six vessels presented as heirlooms meant to be passed down through generations of women.  Each contains a scroll to both collect and disseminate advice and stories about the menopause.

A selection of the work produced through the collaboration will be exhibited at World of Wedgwood in Stoke on Trent for the duration of the 2017’s British Ceramics Biennial (23rd Sept – 5th November). Emma Lacey will be giving a short presentation at the Ceramics and it’s Dimensions Congress on 5th October.  The theme of the Congress is ‘Can Ceramics Make a difference?’

You can also get the opportunity to view some of these vessels at our coming Menopause Awareness event on 2nd Oct 5.30-8pm. Refreshment & Massage sessions available

To find out more and book your free ticket follow the link https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/menopause-awareness-event-tickets-37914151247

Eileen and CSM students
Eileen Bellot and CSM students
CSM vases
The vessels

 

 

Do Orcas Have Hot Flashes?

In a recent issue of The Lenny Letter (source of the headline and image above) writer Ferris Jabr reports on emerging science exploring whether other mammals undergo the menopause and, if so, what is its evolutionary advantage?

Why, in non-human animals, would a lifespan that extends beyond reproductive years matter? Researchers think it’s all down to matriarchy. And grandmothers. If the survival of the species (defense, food, teaching survival skills. etc.) depends on females, mothers of the very young can’t do it all. They’re too busy. And here’s where post-reproductive members of the group are invaluable.

Of course, it’s all more complex than this synopsis, check out the article for more in depth reporting.

Menopause is not so much an ending as it is a rebellious beginning — the unfolding of a new chapter in life inked with the requisite wisdom to keep entire societies alive and thriving.

The Lenny Letter overall is a great resource. Delivered via email twice a week, it features feminist writers on a range of subjects: health, culture, art, politics, horoscopes, empowerment, and humour. It’s American-based, but publishes international authors. For information on a free subscription, check them out here.

Your thoughts? Can you relate to killer whales? Please comment here and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

 

Image credit: Jenny Smith for The Lenny Letter

Sex & Menopause

During transition through the menopause sex can sometimes be the last thing on some women’s minds. For others they say that menopause has in fact raised their libido, especially for those who are happy to be free of the worry of using contraception.
Vaginal dryness, tiredness, hot flushes, lowered self esteem and low libido are just some of the reasons why women lose interest in sex. As one women told us “Why would I want someone else’s hot body on top of me when I can’t cope with my own heat!’

Through the peer support groups and educational workshops we run, sex comes up again and again. On our educational workshops we are happy to have Cabby Laffy, (Director of The Centre for Psychosexual Health & author of Love Sex), as part of our team. We also partner up with SH! Women’s Sex Emporium to give women the opportunity to explore being in a sex shop and to get the chance to ask some of those questions that might otherwise be left unanswered. SH! were the first women’s sex shop to be established in the UK in 1992 and their mission is to inspire every woman to embrace her true sexual self. They really are a female positive space, welcoming of all women and have recently been doing sex education sessions in schools. Renee and her team have a great way of putting women at ease.

So, if you have missed the opportunity to join us on one of our trips to SH! Or want to come again here is the info below. We will be exploring women’s sexuality and arousal in the context of menopause :

Visit to SH! Women’s Sex Emporium

Sh_wDate: 22.6.17
Time 6.30pm
Address: 57 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6PB.
Nearest Tube Old St or Liverpool St
Bus Routes: 26, 35, 55, 67, 149, 242, 243

If you would rather come along as part of a group meet us outside the Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, London EC1V 9LT, between 6-6.15pm.

Please let us know if you will be joining us by emailing menopause@handsinc.co.uk

A New Page with Many Resources

 

There are many resources available to women going through the menopause. We’ve created a new Resources page listing books, websites, blogs, Facebook pages and more.confused-and-young-30426e87f307615e5b571ae50591e15b

Here you’ll find information from many angles: self-care, mental health, sexuality, physical changes, and women sharing experiences.

Have a look and have a chat. Either in comments below, on our Facebook page or both. Are there additional resources you’d like to see listed? If you’ve tried one of the resources listed, how was your experience?

Is 20 too Young to Learn about the Menopause?

Personally I had never thought about menopause at all, after all I just turned twenty! So how does a twenty year old end up going to a menopause session exactly? Well, I am actually studying abroad and as part of  this experience I have to do a service learning placement, and I luckily happened to be placed with Hands Inc.

So back to the story, I did not know what to expect when I arrived at the location, but I was open and determined to learn as much as possible. So on that Monday I went to observe the Hands Inc menopause project. I had noticed last December that my mother was having symptoms of the menopause. She never told me exactly what they were but I noticed the insomnia and  what I now  know as is called hot flushes.

During the session I was able to interact with the women who are currently experiencing menopause. During the session there were many questions and gaps in knowledge about what was happening to them during this part of their lives. I learnt just how little information even the woman who were going through  the menopause, knew.  I found this shocking, but not surprising as it is a taboo subject in our society .

I mean think about it, I don’t even think that menopause was once mentioned in my biology books, which is crazy because it is a criteria that should fall under biology! The women were able to share some of their symptoms which all range from insomnia to hot flushes, and dizziness. They were able to openly speak about some of the remedies they use to cope with their symptoms. Some such as tea, meditation, and just the mere fact of acknowledging that menopause was taking place in their body.

One of the activities the instructor had the ladies do was recounting their most pivotal and important changes that had occurred to their body. They all mostly started with their menstruation, then the birth or loss of children, then some also spoke of diseases they had acquired or other strains their body had encountered in their lives. But finally reaching the point of menopause. The instructor told me that this portion might be emotional due to the nature of the women actually putting into perspective their whole life and the reality that the odds that they will be able to conceive a child are very slim, as they were at the end of their fertility cycle. It was a very emotional activity but a very important one as it does make them think and put many aspects of their life before them. The instructor was correct, there were some women who realised that the possibility of becoming a mother was not likely to happen. Some who realised just how much strain their body had endured after giving birth. It was interesting to see just how these women, although going through different things, were in the same stage of their life. There was something so nostalgic and inspiring all at once.

I also noticed something that I had never really given much thought to before. Women were sharing how they had previously perceived menopause as negative  because society is consistently telling  and showing them that youth is what is appealing and not the older women. Through the sessions they were learning to accept this stage in their life and embrace the lack of a menstrual flow and being able to have sex at any time of the month without worrying about conceiving.

This experience put many things into perspective but the most pivotal was the need for more sessions like these in which woman are communicating about this. Also bringing awareness to this important subject, as every woman will go through this sooner or later. I always say it is better to know than to go into something blind.

By,  Jacqueline Beltran- Hands Inc. Intern

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Menopause Research

We are really excited to share that we have been awarded funding from London Borough of Hackney Public Health Team to carry out some research around the menopause. . The funding will enable us to test whether women who receive psychosocial support, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapies), and education will show a significant association with positive attitudes towards menopause, reduced severity of symptoms and better levels of resilience when managing menopausal transition.

We are going to start running a 12 week Menopause programme in September to test out our methodology and are excited to also be working with City & Hackney CCG and Hackney Learning Trust who are part funding the programme.

We have started to doing outreach to gather information and here is some samples of what people have to say about our project:

‘I really don’t know what to do I have exhausted all options with my GP. HRT is not suitable for me because of my health condition. I’m really glad to hear about this project’ Female aged 50
‘My husband keeps asking me what’s the matter and its causing tension. But if I don’t know what’s happening with my body how can I explain it to anyone else?’ Female aged 53
‘I am so pleased to see awareness around menopause improving. It is such a neglected area.’ GP
‘Well done on pursuing women’s issues and managing the event so well’ GP

Our workshops will start 19th September and run for 12 weeks in Hackney. The sessions are in the evening to allow working women to take part. We will also be doing outreach around the borough to target women around menopausal age to complete our survey.
We are also keen to have volunteers to help us with getting women to complete the survey questionnaire so if you want to be part of this great project please get in touch.

To find out more about our programme visit our Events & Courses page or contact Eileen at handsinc@handsinc.co.uk

How I Used My Voice to Affect Change.

Change ahead warning sign

This week Fiona Gaye tells her story about how the lack of adequate support from her GP, with the menopausal symptoms she was experiencing, empowered her to get involved with her local Patient Participation Group to help affect change to local services.

It started one Sunday morning with an uncontrollable flooding, unquenchable thirst, dizziness and cold sweats. After that, bad bouts of insomnia, mood swings depression, a feeling of worthlessness, listlessness and fatigue, leaving me feeling as if I was having a semi nervous breakdown. All I wanted to do was lay on the settee for a year and a half. On a bad day I could not drive because I felt clumsy and uncoordinated, anxious and shaky, and somehow I just knew that something was very, very wrong.
Continue reading How I Used My Voice to Affect Change.