We’ve all heard the term “midlife crisis” used around a person’s 50th birthday, but what Stacy London didn’t realize until she hit that age is that the phrase bypasses (or at the very least, skims over) the world-shaking transition that is menopause.
“At around 47, when I started to experience a difference in my career, difference in my physical appearance, difference in my mood, difference in my financial situation, I started to think, ‘Oh, my God, is this a midlife crisis?’” the former What Not to Wear host, now 54, recently told People. “And frankly, I didn’t know anything about menopause. I didn’t know anything about hormonal fluctuation, and I didn’t know how it affected all parts of the body.”
Menopause, a stage that marks the end of a person’s period, can trigger all sorts of symptoms, not just the hot flashes and vaginal dryness that make punch lines in movies. According to the Office on Women’s Health, it can also lead to trouble sleeping, brain fog, urinary problems, and emotional ups and downs. “[The symptoms] also feel scary when it’s about mood, rage, anxiety, dread, depression,” London added. “When all of those things happen around the same time or you don’t know that they’re connected to each other, it can feel like a deluge of things are going wrong.”
It can be confusing too. “I remember saying to my therapist, ‘I think I have early Alzheimer’s,’ and she was like, ‘Well, you probably have brain fog,’” London told Alloy, a menopause solutions company, in June. “It’s not just understanding what’s going on with your hormones so that you can take care of yourself physically. There is a huge mental health component here, which for me was essential to understand. Not understanding it really led to a crisis of confidence.”
London’s mission is to make sure people know “it’s not wrong for any of these things to happen.” In the US, most people experience menopause by age 52, and its arrival doesn’t have to be a crisis at all. “It’s that we have to connect the dots in order to understand what is happening to us—because any one of those symptoms by themselves is very easy to brush aside and dismiss,” she stressed.
She added that the grind of everyday life tends to compound these struggles, so it’s important to speak with a doctor to help you navigate potential treatments like hormone therapy. “We need to rid menopause of stigma and shame and fear, and it is a very natural transition that we have sort of almost villainized in our society,” London said. “It is something that we need to learn to accept and sort of shift our perspective around so that we can really have great tools to manage it and see what happens on the other side of it.”