Getting a medical diagnosis can actually be a huge relief.
I know it may seem counter-intuitive.
Saying “I have cancer,” “I have Parkinson’s,” or “I have depression” definitely doesn’t belong in the same realm as being relieved.
Or maybe it does.
When was the last time you saw a GoFundMe for “gradually progressive neurologic symptoms for 20 years that numerous physicians in many different specialties still don’t understand”?
When did you form a Team Lucy 5K Run with matching “Running for Lucy” T-shirts and baseball caps to honor “10 years of a mystery illness causing weight loss, fatigue, memory changes, and diminished functioning”?
When was there a hospital bell-ringing (completed last day of chemo) or first responder high-five line-up (survived a stroke), or office lunch fundraiser (leg fracture after a ski accident) for “chronic pain of unknown cause”?
In a world of social media campaigns, having a diagnosis matters.
Unfortunately, the impact of a lack of diagnosis reaches far and wide too.
Close family and friends are often at a loss as to how to be of support. In fact, it can be wearing on them to be available long-term when they don’t fully understand why their support is needed.
Colleagues and coworkers are at a disadvantage, too, as mystery medical journeys are often private and without transparency.
In the medical arena, it can be even worse. Not having a clear-cut diagnosis means more challenging evaluations with most medical professionals.
There is nothing more demoralizing than being asked to “start from the beginning” when symptoms began many years ago. Or, conversely, not being asked at all.
The examples are many.
OK, you know where I’m going with all this.
While menopause is a diagnosis, it is neither a disease nor an illness. Like so many other conditions, menopausal symptoms can impact a wide array of life experiences, from the personal and medical to the occupational and societal.
We still have much to learn about acceptance of menopausal symptoms as being “just as important” as other diagnoses. For those who experience chronic sleep deprivation, brain fog, mood changes, metabolic shifts, and fatigue (just to name a few), mindfulness often becomes a welcome but singular path.
Let’s harness the power of the diagnosis with respect to perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
Ring a bell for 12 months without a period?
GoFundMe for brain fog?
5K for sleep disruption?
I’ll see you at the BBQ for midlife changes.
Susan J. Baumgaertel is an internal medicine physician.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com