We all know what menopause is, right? Say the word and everyone’s got the full picture in their heads already: old(er?) women with hot flushes. That’s all it is, right? Who, in 2022, needs a 300-page guide to something that happens – and has always happened – to half the human population?
Well, as Niki Bezzant establishes from the outset in her new book This Changes Everything: The honest guide to menopause and perimenopause, the answer is: all of us.
For something that’s so well-known, well-established, and essentially inevitable for every single woman (defined brilliantly within this context by Bezzant as “a shortcut for ‘people with ovaries or who have had ovaries’”, and thus including, for example, trans men and non-binary people), menopause nevertheless seems to be something that, here in 21st century New Zealand, is still surrounded by mystery, confusion, and is just one of those things we don’t really talk about; as one of Bezzant’s contributors concludes, “Nobody tells you a goddamn thing about menopause.”
This Changes Everything strives to address that and to instead inform, empower, and nurture women through this significant time of transition and counteract the fear, worry, unpleasant surprise, self-negativity, midnight doom-Googling, and snake-oil salesmen that pervade the current landscape for today’s (peri)menopausal woman.
Chapter by chapter, Bezzant takes you by the hand and walks you through “what’s happening – what you can do – what really works.” Some of the advice is general – eat healthy, exercise, be kind to yourself – and other sections are more specific – the endocrine system and various hormone therapies, hot flushes and night sweats, vulva and vagina issues – but it’s all there and, most importantly, it’s made accessible and relatable.
Each chapter ends with a bullet-point summary for easy reference, the book is packed full of handy topic-specific guides (even a two-page quick-guide for the blokes), and it is written specifically by, with, and for New Zealand women. The effect of this, beyond making the advice more applicable in terms of the available therapies, funding options, and travails of navigating our particular healthcare system, is vital.
This Changes Everything is made up of the voices of Aotearoa’s women, whether they be clinical experts, everyday women trying to muddle through, or high-profile Kiwis like Carol Hirschfeld or Robyn Malcolm, all tied together with Bezzant’s own authoritative yet familiar and chatty style, as the straight-talking friend who knows what she’s talking about and just wants the best for you.
The core message is that menopause is natural, it’s going to happen, it’s almost certainly going to be rough, and that, despite our fears and our society’s dim view of ageing, things can be pretty damn good on the other side. But, most importantly, there are things we can do to make it all easier. That starts with being able to talk about it openly and honestly and hopefully Bezzant’s new book helps open the door to that bright future that awaits.