Menopause Like You’ve Never Seen ItAug 12, 2021
A picture—or in this case 128 pages of illustrations—is worth hundreds of thousands of words.
By Selene Yeager
A lot of books, articles, and stories about menopause cross our desks here at Feisty Menopause headquarters. Most have great advice for managing your symptoms and navigating what can be a challenging and confusing passage in life. But none have stuck with us quite like Menopause: A Comic Treatment, which is an anthology of graphic novel-style stories about all the phases of menopause.
The editor, MK Czerwiec, went into menopause after suffering a series of losses, including that of her elderly mother and aunt, both of whom she’d spent years caring for. The hot flashes, weight gain, palpitations, sudden bouts of sadness, swollen feet, anxiety, tingling hands, and agitation blindsided her during her grief. To cope, she turned to her passion—comics. Czerwiec, who is also an RN, co-runs GraphicMedicine.org, a website devoted to the intersection of comics and health and has been making comics under the pseudonym Comic Nurse since 2000.
There was just one problem: the comics she found were, in her words, “not very helpful, and sometimes they were even hurtful.” They were critical, often harsh, and judgmental, painting menopausal women as difficult and burdensome. (Probably not surprising, given what we know about how mainstream popular culture has traditionally treated menopausal women.) So, she decided to take matters into her own creative hands and call on her Graphic Medicine community, comic idols, and colleagues to craft stories that represent menopause in all of its facets from a woman’s point of view.
The results are raw, sometimes jarring, honest, authentic, poignant, funny, heartfelt, bawdy, deeply thought-provoking, and most definitely feisty.
It’s one thing to read about hot flashes and vaginal dryness. To hear a clinician describe how you might experience brain fog, anxiety, or painful sex or have changes in body composition. To know logically that there are literally dozens of symptoms that may come raining down on you seemingly out of nowhere on a random Tuesday afternoon. It’s a whole other thing to see women draw what that all actually feels like from their mind’s eye.
Menopause: A Comic Treatment pulls no punches and pulls many “taboo” subjects like kinky sex and masturbation out of the shadows and into vivid imagery. It takes head-on feelings of invisibility and loss while also giving a voice to the power that comes with reaching an age where you have way fewer fucks to give.
One of the highlights is Mimi Pond’s “When the Menopause Carnival Comes to Town,” which follows a mother and daughter through attractions like the Hormone Scrambler, the Mood Swing, and a Freak Show, which includes “The Woman Who Asked for a Raise and Got It!”
This book may not be for everyone. But I’m sure glad it exists. It epitomizes what we’re trying to do here at Feisty Menopause and Hit Play Not Pause—talk about menopause openly and honestly and with heart and, often, humor. To share our stories and our authentic selves, so others won’t feel alone no matter what they’re going through. If you’d like illustrations to go with all these words, this collection might be for you.
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