THE MENOPAUSE YEARS: AN AWAKENING
BY KALI MUNRO, M.Ed., Psychotherapist, 2013
For a very long time, I associated menopause with an ending, a death, a time when women become mad and sad. It meant being barren, dried up, and old. My own mother became depressed at 51 and we were told in whispers that it was menopause. I was only 15 and already I feared menopause.
Looking for information online about menopause only confirmed my worse fears: dry vagina, depression, loss of sex drive, migraines, mood swings, hot flashes, weight gain, loss of sleep, crying jags, and rage to name just a few. Delightful.
But as I approached my fifties and entered my fifties, I began to think more reasonably. I had to! How could this be? How could a normal passage in women’s lives be so dreadful? This couldn’t be all there was to menopause.
I am now a 52 yr old woman entering the early stages of menopause. And having researched the physical/emotional symptoms to death and taking a plethora of natural supplements to obtain balance, eating well, being in therapy, and exercising, I am here to tell you that there is definitely much more to menopause than a shopping list of horrible symptoms. (*See below for the supplements that I have found helpful.)
There is no doubt that over the past year I experienced many of the symptoms associated with menopause and, for sure, it was no walk in the park. But through the help of my therapist, naturopath, and my own research and trial and error, I have found a balance that has eliminated or greatly curbed all of the symptoms. And having come out the other side while still approaching/entering menopause, I can tell you that there is so much more to menopause. There is something to look forward to in fact!
I am undergoing what can only be described as an opening, an awakening, a spiritual and energetic shift. It’s really quite stunning.
I feel more open, in a loving, energetic way, to myself and other people. I know things about myself and other people that I don’t know how I know. I can feel what is going on for people way more than ever before. I “know” what they’re thinking. I feel more alive energetically. More present. More in touch. More sensitive to my needs and other people’s needs. I feel more capable, grounded, and sure of myself.
And while this has been growing within me for years, an intense opening or profound shift occurred in the last few months corresponding with the commencement of hot flushes, and my period coming less frequently.
I experienced other symptoms for a year (migraines, emotional sensitivity, crushing fatigue, etc.), which I had mostly kept at bay by taking maca root, but the hot flushes were a turning point. They meant approaching menopause. After my initial panic – I’m OLD – and a flurry of research focusing on my physical symptoms came what I call my awakening.
At first, I felt like I needed and perhaps all I could do was to take care of myself. I felt so sensitive. I wanted nothing more than to go home, be alone, and do gentle things. I started meditating again, after years, and found great relief in it. This time I *wanted* to meditate. Before I felt like it was a good or healthy thing to do and that I benefited from it but I didn’t feel called to it in the way I do now.
I felt like I needed to go inward but not so much psychologically this time, as had been my path for a life time, but more so spiritually. I’d always been a spiritual person but this was different. I felt pulled toward it, like it was a need rather than a decision or choice. I felt like *I* was spirit. And while I had felt like this at different times in bits and pieces before, it didn’t have this quality, this intensity, and it wasn’t always present. Now I was feeling an energetic force moving through me and around me, and much of the time. And not because I set myself toward it either, although I was open, but because it came to me via the very transition I had so greatly feared.
In my forties, my doctor, in response to my anxiety about menopause, told me that in her experience women in her practice who fared best with menopause were physically active and had done their psychological work. Hmmm…that made sense and was encouraging given I’d done lots of therapy and was active and healthy. But I have to say that nothing quite prepared me for the crushing fatigue or the frequent and irrational irritation I felt toward my partner. I was healthy yet exhausted. I had done a lot of emotional work and I was irritated by so much! But what I discovered, besides needing a lot of different supplements to keep up my strength, I needed a new approach to life, to my emotional well being, and to spirit.
I had already been someone who “took care of myself” and who actively tried to lead a balanced life. But until I could open myself up to allow my inner depth to lead me (and, no, I don’t mean the inner child), I was off balance, tired, and irritable and that’s putting it mildly. Again, there are physical needs at this time that are different and need a different approach, for example, exercise is critical. But even with everything I was doing to be well, I still needed to embrace the many subtle and profound emotional and spiritual changes that were happening or my new found sensitivity would go sour.
And that’s the thing, menopause is a time of extraordinarily enhanced sensitivity and that can go one of two ways. It can go to feeling depressed, overwhelmed, irritable, moody, or it can go to feeling joyful, loving, ecstatic, spiritual, and at peace. It all depends on what we do with it and how we approach it. Having positive people in my life who kept saying menopause is natural and an important and welcome change helped a lot.
All of us need to take a look at our lives to ensure that our lives align with who we are and what we want and if you haven’t done it yet menopause will force it on you. And that’s a good thing! What makes you happy? What fulfills you? What are you doing for you? What calls you? These are some of menopause’s questions.
Many authors who write about menopause come this far and stop. They write about changing relationships, work/life balance, life after the kids, etc. but in my experience that’s only clearing the path to begin the deeper journey that menopause offers us. Menopause is a gift. It’s quite the opposite of the depressed and moody woman we have all heard about (although there can be lots to learn in that place too). It’s our time to really open up and to feel and embrace the sensitivity that is emerging in us. By being open to the menopause gift, we prevent it from turning in on us and becoming negative.
Holding our new found sensitivity with kindness and gentleness, allowing ourselves to truly focus on ourselves, and doing what we need to do, allows us to experience our heightened sensitivity from a place of love and joy rather than being overwhelmed by it. We need to actively embrace our sensitivity or it will over take us and become negative. It’s not easy to always know, feel, and sense as much as we do. It also means forgiving others more.
I think our increased clarity is one reason why we can feel so angry at times. We don’t like everything we see! It’s obvious to us what’s happening. Why doesn’t someone else see it? For me, it helped to understand that this was what was happening. When I understood that I had enhanced abilities to know things, it no longer meant that someone was being difficult, say, or if they were, they weren’t trying to be difficult. More importantly, it meant that I was becoming more attuned.
And with that added attunement came a choice. I realized that I could be mad and miserable, or I could be aware of how I felt, honour my experience, and connect with my growing capacity to love and be spirit. Understanding what is happening is key. Without that we can all feel tossed around by feelings and knowing things that we can’t explain. That can feel crazy! But we’re not. We’re tapping into a depth that when harnessed can be amazing, wise, strong, and beautiful.
*SUPPLEMENTS THAT I HAVE FOUND HELPFUL
I am not a doctor nor a natural health care practitioner. I am sharing the following information simply as information about the supplements that I personally have found helpful with my peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms:
Maca: emotional balancing, energy, sexual feelings, pms
Siberian Rhubarb: hot flashes, sexual feelings, emotional balancing
Ashwagandha: emotional balancing/grounding
Astragalus: immune system support, energy
California Poppy: emotionally calming/soothing, sleep
Vitamin E (all 8 types: 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols): split open a 400 IU capsule and apply to vaginal/clitoral areas, internally and externally, for dryness
Evening Primrose Oil: orally for breast tenderness
Sage: hot flashes
Calcium/Magnesium: calming, sleep
There are other supplements women have found helpful too (Black Cohosh for example) but due to my specific health issues I cannot take them. Everyone is different. Do your research to ensure the supplements do not conflict with your health issues or other medications or supplements you take and then experiment to find what works for you. Many natural supplements take time to take effect.