Writing Through Menopausal Brain Fog

writing through the menopause

Every woman aged between 40 and 60 will experience some symptoms of menopause. TJ FREDRICKSON shares her journey and some strategies that help alleviate her most challenging symptom – brain fog.

I’ve lived an interesting and exciting life. I’ve been married (twice), brought up some well-rounded kids, lived in two countries and travelled. I successfully fulfilled my childhood dream of working in the animal industry, becoming a zookeeper and then a veterinary nurse. My passion for words had me writing about my world and experiences at every opportunity. I have always prided myself on my ability to bend and flex with the constant changes life threw at me. Except for one: menopausal brain fog.

My early years of writing

From as young as seven, I enjoyed writing, and I read everything I could get my hands on. I wrote my first story when I was ten and won a short story competition as a teenager. In my adult years, I wrote for newspapers as well as travel and fitness magazines. I completed short courses, ran workshops and loved how I could cleverly construct sentences that people wanted to read.

How menopausal brain fog impacted my writer’s mind

In my mid-forties, my brain began behaving strangely. Frustration led to fear as I struggled to project coherent words onto paper. Ideas and thought processes darted into my temporal lobe, only to vanish like falling stars and escape my grasp. For years, I thought I was going crazy. My attention span grew shorter, and my memory went from the size of an elephant to that of a goldfish.

The memory blanks and hazy brain fog led to feelings of inadequacy, which shattered my confidence and self-esteem. I even found myself convinced I was following my grandmother’s path towards Alzheimer’s disease.

Then, a friend, a kind and gentle soul, changed my world with eight beautiful words: ‘You’re not going crazy. It’s probably just menopause.’

What?! My mind was blown. I had never considered menopause! I made an appointment with my doctor. We had a chat; she took some blood, and within days I had the verdict. I was well and truly on the menopausal train.

I had the basic knowledge of a woman’s midlife journey, but I needed to know more. I read books on menopause, listened to podcasts led by hormonal experts and reflected on my symptoms. I quickly learned that jumping clear of this rocky menopausal ride was not an option. My mission was to clear the brain fog and reacquaint myself with the witty, sharp and clever brain I used to know.

Here are five things I’ve learned that help alleviate my brain fog:

  • Focus on sleep. Managing the daily grind on little sleep is challenging, but with menopause in the mix, I spiral out of control. I’ve developed a nightly routine that helps me calm my brain, switch off for the night and invoke the slumber I desperately need.
  • Do physical exercise. I walk my dog, work out at the gym or do yoga daily. The fresh air and increased blood flow give me clarity and a significant portion of ‘zen’.
  • Play brain games. I do a find-a-word or sudoku daily and time myself to keep focused. It’s fun, nerdy and an opportunity to feel productive when I’m not smashing out the perfect dialogue.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption. I love a nice glass of red wine with dinner or a cool glass of beer after mowing the lawn. However, it disagrees with my hormonal brain. Studies have shown that the effects of alcohol walk hand in hand with menopausal brain fog and memory loss. I indulge, but I plan ahead. I choose not to write the day after a drink or two. I know how my brain manages alcohol, and I won’t ask it to produce 500 words when it’s busy wearing the fuzzy post-alcohol cloak.
  • Make good food choices. A nutrient-rich diet that is low in sugar and processed foods can help balance hormones during menopause. I watch what I eat, but I still enjoy food.
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Read more:

How To Improve Your Writing in Three Easy Steps

Stumbling Blocks That Can Be Good For Writers

Dealing with Writers Block with Helen Brain

I have learned to love my evolving menopausal body and to work side-by-side with the periodic memory and brain fog. Accepting my extraordinary menopausal brain is key. It won’t last forever. In the meantime, I will keep practising my art of writing, because succumbing to the fog is not an option.

About the Author

TJ has been published in Coast & Country, Trail Runner New Zealand & Australia and Dogs Life. She has lived in Australia and New Zealand and is passionate about fitness, travelling, nature, wildlife and photography. TJ is a successful locum veterinary nurse who often fills the gaps in short-staffed hospitals when she’s not writing. She may also be found walking nature paths with her canine sidekick or at an airport waiting for the next plane.

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