INXS- The Stairs is Katharina Johansson’s favourite song. You can also read the Swedish version of this interview here.
Can you introduce yourself?
— My name is Katharina Johansson. I’m 56 years old. I worked for a daily newspaper for 33 years. One of my roles there was editor for a youth editorial office. Now I work for the railway department and run a small company which produces books.
You wrote the book, “It goes over”, among other works. What is that book about?
— In 2004 I wrote a book about puberty. A woman in my neighbourhood asked “Can you write a book about old ladies as well !?” At that time, I could not relate to it because I was only 40, but the idea stayed with me. Ten years later, the time was right, so I joined Malin Clausson, journalist, and Lisa Thanner, photographer. We quickly agreed that the subject would be menopause because we discovered that it was undesirable to talk about and that there was very little information available. The book would represent ordinary women with different cultural backgrounds, not celebrities, talking about their problems, so people could relate to them and get tips and advice.
How did you & you come up with the idea of writing a book about menopause?
— We discovered that it was a topic barely talked about; there was even less to read about it. We wanted to de-dramatize the subject; it actually is entirely natural! All three of us, Malin, Lisa and I were on our way to this phase of life, and we were very interested in what could happen.
Menopause. What are we passing through?
— Haha, it was at first a kind of mantra about the project, a working name. But it fit so well. The potential “problems” that menopause can cause, such as sweating, mood swings, and so on, will eventually pass. The book would also give “hope” and bring light.
You interviewed many people, men, and women, on this topic. How did you find them?
— There were women (and men) among our acquaintances’ acquaintances. They were all so courageous. We noticed at our first meetings that most people had an incredible need to talk about it. Everyone gave so much of themselves; we were so impressed and grateful for their courage and how much they contributed. The book is truly theirs!
You interviewed men of very different ages. Interesting. What did these men know about the subject?
— Most men are affected by women around them, a colleague, partner, or mother. But very few have knowledge of what happens in the body and why. Most don’t even know that they have a menopause of their own, andropause, which occurs in the 60s. Very interesting.
Was there any difference in the men’s age and their level of knowledge about menopause?
— I do not think so. It was more affected by who lived in a family where they had had very open communication.
You also interviewed women at a younger age. Interesting. What is their insight about the topic? How much do they know about it, or is their insight mostly related to myths?
— There were many wise thoughts, but most of them also think of menopause as an old lady sweating and being angry. This image is mainly received through film and television. Several of them are calling for more education at school.
What is the common thread for those who have reached menopause? Is there any common thread there?
— Maturity! Most of the people we talked to who were in or going through menopause came out more grounded and safer on the other side. They dared to speak out and had better self-esteem, despite their possible inconveniences. “I feel that way myself; I feel much better now after menopause than right before.”
What did you find out about menopause through these interviews?
— Well, a bit like the previous answer. Even though menopause can be a challenging period in life, you often come out strengthened by it. We also found that it is hard to get help; the information in healthcare is almost non-existent.
Why do you think there is so little spotlight on menopause?
— It is not a “beautiful” period in life. In our society it is unattractive to age; there is no place for bingo wings and hot flushes. We go from being a woman who is fertile and sexy to a sweaty and whiny old lady. Or do we?? We did not feel that; we felt the strength of these women, of ourselves. In many other cultures, aging is something beautiful; we wanted to take note of that. We are beautiful!
Do you have any tips on how women can handle & accept what happens to them during menopause?
— Listen to your body and try to review your lifestyle. Many testify that the discomfort decreases drastically with exercise, less alcohol, no smoking, etc. Start there, but do not be afraid to seek help from a gynecologist. We do not take a stand for or against hormone treatment, estrogen. Ask your mother if she’s still alive. If she had it, you will most likely get it. If you are unsure of your stage, ask to take an FHS test at the gynecologist/doctor to measure your egg reserves.
Where can one seek gatherings / help to get support around this topic, for women who have come there in their life journey?
— Talk to your friends / colleagues / family. Many people have a pent-up needs to talk about it. If you want to read our book, it is available as a free pdf at http://www.tredroppar.com. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are not feeling well, there is help available.
PS. The name of our company, Three drops, came while we were working on the menopause book: blood, sweat and tears!
By the way, I have now updated my vibration of the week.
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