The first menopause book I bought when I first started into perimenopause languished on the shelf for a couple of years. It was…Ginormous. Gargantuan. Encyclopedic. Just lifting it was too much effort to expend in my then fragile state. Besides, I boggled at the commitment I’d be undertaking to read its 500 or so pages.
So I left it in the bookcase as a placeholder.
When I finally managed to garner enough fortitude to tackle it, I found it pretty good. Yes, I know, damning with faint praise. Still, it was a decent treatise about the change with some great stories from real women going through it. The author wasn’t shy about sharing her own journey of menopause and subsequent divorce.
Here’s where she lost me (and many of the Venuses). She posited that many of the emotional symptoms were caused by unresolved life issues; problems unattended to prior to the Big M. Indeed, she recounts her own story and that of other women to back up her premise.
While that is an authentic experience for many women, it is not the only one. A number of us in the original Menopause Goddess group had worked hard to resolve life and relationship issues and were pretty happy, content, satisfied when the Change hit. Wham. End of equanimity. Enter emotional maelstrom. Out of nowhere. For no freaking reason other than the soon to be ubiquitous “it’s hormonal.”
Christiane Northrup MD makes a really important point in her book: any important life issues that you have not dealt with prior to The Big M are going to loom larger than any elephants in the living room. You will be compelled to notice them.
However, sometimes there is no large unresolved issue to be dealt with. It just feels that way. The Big M can make you so uncomfortable in your own skin that you feel like shaking everything up: work, relationship, friendships, where you live, you name it.
So how do we know? How do we know if we actually have an unresolved life issue; if we need to make major changes before we move ahead with our second Act, or if we are just caught in the tornado effect of the Change?
Good question. One that each woman will have to answer for herself eventually. But, one thing the Venuses have learned over the years of meeting, sharing, learning, and growing together. And this is the most important advice we can give regarding any and all aspects of Menopause.
TAKE IT SLOW.
Feed your soul and your spirit in gentle, caring ways without major upheaval. Elsewise, you may end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
We live in a “Do something” world. This is our time to slow down and contemplate. Sure, try new things. Always wanted to be an artist? Don’t quit your day job just yet. Explore art. Make things. Do it just for you. If it grows into something more (like a new career) great! If now, you have a nurturing passionette to fill yourself up to overflowing. Not a bad deal.
Mortality, that other “M” word that overtakes the Scrabble center squares at this time of life, steamrolls us with urgency, too. Not only are we feeling emotionally jittery, depressed, anxious and pissed off; we suddenly feel the press of time.
If not now when? When will I travel the world, become a famous chef, move to the country, find my soulmate? While the Venuses would be the first to say, “You go, girlfriend. Follow your dreams and live boldly,” we’d first say this: take it easy. Wait til you start to come out the other side of Menopause. Yes, you’re mortal but there likely is time.
Imagine making huge life decisions at fifteen, in the maelstrom of puberty. Sheesh, we’d never let our kids do that. When in the midst of the hormonal sh*tstorm, they are rarely able to make those choices. Things change in a heartbeat.
Well, Menopause isn’t much different. Except it’s bigger, kind of like puberty to the 10th power. And we have driver’s licenses. And responsibilities. And we think we know better, because we are adults and have life experience. Hormones The great equalizer.
So go ahead, reevaluate your life. Dream your biggest dreams. Imagine who you would like to become. And then, do nothing for awhile. If hormones are causing turmoil, it will calm in a year or two. If there really IS a life issue that you need to address in a big Change, it will still be there. we guarantee it. You can work on it then.
For now, go slow, go safe, go inward. And most of all, go with girlfriends. They will keep you sane, and hopefully keep you from making any big life moves that you’ll regret.
Great blog post. I liked the part about would we let a 15 year old make major life decisions. Ha I think not! Words to my inner 15 year old – hold off there big girl 🙂
I guess I had many life ISSUES to deal with the Big M hit—tho I’m not sure when it actually HIT as a not my brightest decision of a total hysterectomy happened at 48. Now, at 56, I’m hoping the life issues part has gone by the wayside (tho hot flashes still exisit as I slowly go off the estrogen since the surgery). 5 yrs. is a long time for all my unresolved life issues to surface and work thru—I’m so greatful for my homeopathic MD, hubby, girlfriends (all met since the life issue part came to be!), but mostly, I’m so very greatful for finding yoga and meditation. Without those 2 things, I would not be writing this right now, and THAT is NOT and understatement. Did I make alot of major life decisions? You bet I did! Some of the best decisions I’ve ever made! But all of them, every last one, was guided by a much Higher Power than myself thanks to yoga and meditation.
Girlfriends are key to our survival. They don’t judge, will let you cry for no reason and are always up for a glass of wine. I love my girlfriends.
girlfriend, another great blog!, lots of insight, I too, was where I wanted to be and was very happy, until the “big M” and started to question almost every aspect of my life, only the find (with the help of the other goddess) that the hormonal changes are so huge that up is down and down is up, until you can a hold of what is happening to you and make sense of the “big M”. Mahalo for sharing
Hmm – good to reflect back upon time although, like child birth, the memory does fade in regards to “non-pleasantries.” What did John Prine say? “Photographs record the laughs of the good times between the bad, happy sailors dancing on a sinking ship.” All the more reason to bring it up from time to time.
Just prior to and at the onset of the Big M, I was at a turning point in my career. I loved what I was doing, loved my family dynamics and had great girlfriends with whom I could laugh and share the hormonal craziness.
HOWEVER – I was finding it harder and harder to ignore negative people, could no longer keep my feelings inside while “playing the game” and had a very low tolerance level for BS. My male boss at the time was very helpful in reminding me that my hormones must be playing havoc with my behavior. How kind and observant.
Because I had the support of the Venuses, I did take it slowly and turned inward prior to making any major life decisions. What I found was that while the mood swings would spin one way and another, the gnawing unrest about the type of environment in which I wanted to spend my time did not. After two years of debating pros and cons, I did make a decision to leave my work establishment and start my own business with people I enjoyed being with. It was the best decision I could have made and it seems that everything else has followed suite.
Okay – lengthy dissertation, but you asked.
Perfect for me. Thanks for the article. I am new to this whole deal and now know that I’m not alone. I’m not crazy. When I feel like my inside is on fire, when I wake up crying in the middle of the night, etc. Damn wish I would have dealt with the issues in my bag before the big “M word. For someone that never takes it slow…this is going to be one helluva ride. Thanks Theresa!!!
Yes another 47 year old here. Doubting it all. Tears and feeling overwhelmed.
No hot flushes but first Period missed this month. I have had 6 months career break from my high power management job. Had to get out too much stress! Now… Due Back … And I’ve realised I don’t want it. Doesn’t make me happy. This time in my life I crave dog walks … Girlfriends… My boys and not being in at 40-55 hour job anymore. So I’m running. Will find a little local job where I can re invent the new Nichola as I go deeper into the Big M!
It’s a difficult time. It’s got me questioning all aspects of my world. Still am. So one has to go… The job.
Dear Nichola, this is a terrible and wonderful time. Stay tuned as we explore not only menopause but what comes next. We (the original goddesses) have all been there. I swear it will get better – just take it slow and easy and you will create a new life. Most important is the support of other women going through the same thing. Hugs, Lynette
I’m 53 years old and still in perimenopause. I thought I was on my way to menopause but my body changed its mind after four months. I am experiencing severe depression (I had it at post partum too). Can’t shake it and no meds have helped so far.)
I have no other goddesses. No one that I know is having any issues. If they are they aren’t talking about it. If they did ( I have some elderly friends) they aren’t talking about it either.
I thought this would be such a great time in life. Never imagined it would turn to such a nightmare. I have a wonderful husband, and a grown son. I adore them.
I don’t know what to do but continue to live one day at a time. It appears that even if this is hormone related, in part or whole, that I have years of symptoms to endure.
I’m going to assume that some of what you write about can occur during perimenopause as well. Anxiety and intrusive thoughts. That’s where things started going off the rails for me. Sigh.
This post resonated with me as it seems that everyone thinks this is the most wonderful time. I want it to be. I had many plans for the future. Now I live day to dsy and pray that some day my hormones will settle and I’ll find myself again.
Otherwise, I guess I’m just delusional.
Nope, Mel. You are not delusional. I always say that menopause will set you free, but first it will really mess you up! Have you considered a temporary course of HRT? Or are you already taking it? It might be an option. Yes, all these symptoms occur with perimenopause with some women rather than menopause itself. I took HRT to “get over the hump”. And the best remedy is other women: put creating your own goddess group in the search box on the blog to find out how. When the pause slammed my girlfriend and I, no one talked about it til we got a bunch of women of like age together – it saved us, I swear. Try it – worst case, you have a nice time with some girlfriends. Best case, you can share support and ideas for coping. Let us know how it goes.