Dear Goddess of Perimenopause,
I sincerely apologize for scoffing at your existence when I was in my twenties and rolled my eyes every time my mother (who came head-to-head with you at that time) complained about the symptoms you gave her. What can I say? I was young and obnoxiously righteous about how I was ‘leading a healthy lifestyle’ so I would never have ‘those problems’ when I was in my 40’s. Let’s just say I now see the error of my ways and Goddess of Perimenopause, I humbly sit crumpled at your feet asking that you forgive me for not getting the exact nature of your power in my younger years.
And I am here to say that you- Goddess of Perimenopause (now GOP for the rest of this treatise)- are indeed real and may I say, are one seriously tough woman to reckon with. In fact, at this moment in time, I am honestly afraid of you and the commands you seem to scream at me these days.
*Sidenote for those of you reading this who have yet to be visited by this particular Goddess- listen up girlfriends- because you may someday be face-to-face with her and she is one seriously tough chic. I’m hoping that by writing this, I can give you some wisdom on dealing with her. I’m afraid I’m at the very beginning stages of negotiating my relationship with her, so I might only have one or two pearls at the moment- but I’ll keep working on it and get back to you as I continue to wise up in this area…
Just to induce a bit of sympathy from you, my dear readers, here is a brief list of just a few of the perimenopausal symptoms I have been struck with over the past two years:
Extreme bouts of irritability and rage
This was my first major symptom that made me question my sanity beginning a couple of years ago. Erroneously, being a therapist, I Googled it to death and finally decided that I must have “misophonia”- because all-of-a-sudden, I could hear my husband chewing whenever we shared a meal and it sounded like it was over a megaphone. I would get extremely irritated and tell him how loud he was chewing (FYI, I don’t recommend doing this as it’s not good for a harmonious relationship) and would sometimes have to leave the room.
Turns out that it wasn’t just my husband’s ‘loud’ chewing that made me extremely irritable- it could be ANYTHING, ANYBODY or being ANYWHERE. I started to get irritated by seemingly random things and experiences and found myself muttering swear words under my breath more than I care to admit.
I’m sure you’ve heard pregnant women joke about “baby brain” and I haven’t been a mother so I can’t compare this, but I’m guessing it’s very similar. Over the past couple of years, I have found myself forgetting the simplest of words and phrases and no matter how hard I try in the moment, I cannot recall them. Also, my memory is most definitely not what it used to be. I’ll literally go from one room to the next to get something and within five seconds, have completely forgotten what I was supposed to get.
Racing Heart and Panic
Many of you know that I have major anxiety and work really hard to manage it. But what’s hit me lately feels totally different. It feels purely physical in nature. These days, I am often stopped dead in my tracks with major heart palpitations which strike at the strangest times- often when I am in a relaxed state or sleeping. At such times, there are often accompanying thoughts of fear and dread and my face often goes white and I feel numbness in my hands and feet. Not fun.
Now I’ve always been someone who has been given the gift of experiencing a wide variety of mood states and adolescence was particularly exciting in this regard. And I am no stranger to the monthly visitor PMS, who is another Goddess to be reckoned with. But the Goddess of PMS’ visits are usually short yet intense (kind of like relatives who live nearby and visit often- you see them regularly but then you get breaks so you endure it gracefully). But when the Goddess of Perimenopause gives you mood swings, she’s brought four suitcases and moved right in with you for what could be several years. Yup- she’s here for a while so I’d best learn how to make peace with her from the beginning.
When a sweet twenty-something asks me what Perimenopause is like, I usually say this:
It’s like having the worst PMS you’ve ever had but ALL THE TIME.
Then I feel bad because they look all freaked out and I know it’s not helpful to scare the next generation about the experience of midlife. Especially since I pride myself on empowering women; not putting the fear of God into them. As I say, I am currently a work in progress in this particular area.
Sorry, I’ve digressed. Back to my letter to GOP…
But, alas, I am not all doom and gloom dear GOP, for I have found an angel I am certain will get me through this dark and scary time. Her name is Dr. Christiane Northrup and thank you to ALL the goddesses out there for bringing her to the females of this planet. This amazingly brilliant, and hilarious Gynecologist and women’s health expert got me through my twenties and thirties with this fabulous book: Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing. The sagely wise and knowledgeable Ms. Northrup eased my fears about all the goings-on of my female reproductive system twenty plus years ago and gently reminded me that women are marvelous, beautiful, and wise creatures who intuitively know what they need- all they need learn is how to listen deeply- to their bodies, hearts, and spirits and they will be divinely guided. That book was my “Woman Bible” in a big phase of my life which included multiple changes and upheavals- physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Thank Goddess that the wonderful Ms. Northrup continued her research, hands-on work, and writing to guide me, and the rest of us, through peri/menopause, and beyond in an uplifting, empowering, and spiritually-enriching way. My new “Woman Bible” is: The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health During the Change. If you haven’t read it yet and are struggling with any of the multiple symptoms of peri/menopause, you must run out and buy yourself a copy. And while you’re at it, pick this one up too: The Secret Pleasures of Menopause. I promise you will not be disappointed. My favourite take-aways so far from reading these two books are:
- Perimenopause is hugely powerful and transformative- if we choose to let it be. Northrup likens it to ‘being in labour’- it’s long, excruciating, scary, and painful- but when it’s over, we ‘give birth’ to a new and better version of ourselves and when we look back on the experience, we see that it was all worth it.
- Peri/menopause is normal and natural and a rite of passage we women go through and is not a ‘disease’ as it’s viewed under the prevailing medical model. It’s also not to be feared. Instead, we need to educate ourselves about this powerful time of transition and use it as a springboard for incredibly powerful change and growth.
- Our new ‘uppity’ attitude isn’t a bad thing- it’s a sign that we’re no longer willing to put up with crap in order to maintain social harmony. Often, for the first time in our lives, we start saying what we mean and not caring so much whether others like our opinions. There can be great freedom in this discovery. Often, we learn to use that two-letter word we used to avoid at all costs- NO. I’m learning that saying no can be extremely beneficial to everyone involved in many situations we find ourselves in.
- The best anti-ageing regime is this: TO FIND WHAT GIVES US PLEASURE AND DO IT AS OFTEN AS WE CAN. This was most definitely a foreign concept to me but I’m starting to warm up to it. I find I’m doing a lot more yoga, meditating, and taking walks in nature- all activities which bring me great pleasure. I’m also noticing I’m doing less of the following because they don’t bring me pleasure: hanging out with people who make me feel bad, attending events out of duty and obligation, and doing activities with ‘an open mind’ when I know inside I don’t enjoy them in the first place.
I’m definitely at the beginning stages of this journey and am learning a lot which can oftentimes feel overwhelming. But I vow to you, dear readers, that I will do my darndest to use this phase of my life as an opportunity for great emotional and spiritual growth and pass onto you and the wonderful women I work with all of the wonderful discoveries I make along the way. I really believe that there are countless treasures to be found by going through the discomfort that comes along with the territory. And many of you know that our greatest gains are experienced when we work through our discomfort and resist the urge to ‘bolt’. As one of my lovely clients told me lately, that takes “big ovaries”. I agree!
I also have this book by Dr. Northrup sitting on my shelf which I can’t wait to read: Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being. So if you haven’t done so already, please raise a toast with me to this fabulous woman and send her endless gratitude for all of the work she’s done and is doing to help us navigate womanhood in an empowering and enriching way.
Also, if you have any wisdom to share with me and my readers about having gone through peri/menopause, we’d love to hear them! You can send them anonymously and I will share them in upcoming newsletters and post them on my blog so that other women can be helped through this huge transition by their spiritual sisters in cyberspace. Email me your stories and tips to: estherATestherkane.com