In 1998 I was forty-one years old. My mother and grandmother had both reached menopause by that age, but not me. Instead, I went on to give birth to another child two years later. What I didn’t realize at the time, however, is that the catalyst for her conception was perimenopause. I experienced what I now know to be a phantom period which had reset my menstrual cycle and viola–a child was born.
Now, listen, I’m an educated girl. I’ve been a voracious reader my entire life. I’m a good writer. I can debate politics, social issues, philosophy and the deeper meaning of life with the best of them. I graduated from college with a respectable GPA. I’ve been to graduate school, and I’ve never been accused of being vapid.
But, none of that mattered when I began to go through what I now call the hormonal ride from hell, aka, perimenopause. To say I was unprepared for what hit me is a massive understatement. In fact, few women are. But, hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings? That was the easy part. It was the transition and foray into full blown middle-age, menopause, and senior citizen status that really brought me to my knees.
Perimenopause Is Like Death
Things die when you enter perimenopause. Your ovaries stop producing eggs. You become infertile. You no longer have a life giving womb and your body changes in ways you never thought imaginable. But, the death and dying of perimenopause reaches much farther than just your physiology and biology.
It goes all the way down into your heart and soul, to the woman you thought you were and the life you had defined for yourself. That dies too. Of course, the truth is, we’re all dying. We’ve been dying since the day we were born. Yet, ironically enough, accepting that reality is what actually enables us to live. So it is with perimenopause.
Letting Go Gives Your Life Forward Motion
Letting go of the life and identity which has defined you for over forty years is not an easy proposition for anyone. It’s especially difficult for women who have been told by society they must remain youthful, beautiful, and fertile to be of value. The graying hair, bifocals, elastic waistbands and orthopedic footwear of middle-age is the stuff of our grandmothers. It also signals a coming invisibility that is very hard for many women to accept.
Yet, just as accepting death enables you to live, accepting the changes that come with menopause will also enable you to live. It will help you transition into a time of life that can be just as vibrant, just as fulfilling, and just as meaningful as the years before. Otherwise, you just might find yourself in a rudderless boat, going nowhere.
The Power of Acceptance
If you have had the pleasure of knowing someone who has lived to be age one hundred or more, you will find a common thread in all of their lives–the ability to accept loss.
In fact, the ability to accept loss and move forward has an enormous impact on the quality of our life, especially when it comes to physical health. There is no question that menopause embodies a loss and that loss needs to be accepted before we can transition into the next phase of our life.
Make no mistake about it, your ability or inability to accept the change of menopause will be the major determining factor in the quality of your life post-menopause. For the many women who do accept it, menopause is a time of rejuvenation.
No longer having to deal with a monthly menstrual cycle is very freeing. The clarity of thinking that middle age brings and the shift of priorities can be extremely satisfying as well. Many women choose to start a second career or even begin one for the first time in their life. Dreams that have been shelved a lifetime in order to take care of other people can now be taken out, dusted off and pursued with vigor.
It truly is about your attitude and how you choose to frame this time of your life. You can even call it “mind over menopause” if you want. I do, and it’s grand.