Here you will find my personal menopause blog or diary. I record it here for a number of reasons.
It is a common experience for women, a natural transition from one phase of being to the next on the wheel of life.
It may be helpful to others to share this experience and it is certainly helpful to me to write about it.
Here you will experience my anxieties, anguish, challenges and evolution as I struggle with the impact on my day to day life and attempt to bring my spiritual energies to bear, to learn from it and grow with it.
It's a journey.
27 June 2016
The Coffee Factor
This is where I start writing my menopause blog but this is hardly the beginning of the story, in fact, menopause, including peri-menopause, has been going on for me over several years already. I do not intend to go into detail about the past here and now, although I will undoubtedly reflect on the past in the course of my dialogues.
Today, so far, at 9.56am, and I have been up since 7.30am, is a good day. Today I have started a coffee diary with the intention of a gradual withdrawal, for so many of the symptoms of caffeine are similar to those I seem to endure of menopause, and abstinence is the only way to discover what symptoms, if any, can be removed by this means.
How strange it seems now that, in March of last year, when asked by the neurologist about caffeine consumption I completely forgot to account for the regular coffees I enjoy at one barista café or another, during my lunch break from work. This indulgence gives me somewhere to sit and read in peace and contentment whilst essentially removing myself from the office environment, which is of paramount importance to my overall wellbeing. It’s that or go round the shops and spend money, and, during the Winter months (and to some extent during the other British seasons) it is the only way to sit comfortably out of the cold and wet weather (although, I could go to the library, but that’s down the other end of town from the office and it would take up a fair bit of reading time to get there and back, whereas the café is opposite the office door - and has coffee...).
Strangely, apart from this lunch-time habit, Tuesday to Friday (for I work from home on a Monday) I only drink caffeine-free teas or water the rest of the time, so it is with surprise that I discovered, upon being told to remove caffeine from my life, that giving up that one-a-day coffee was going to be so difficult. I realised I had a problem on the day I discovered that drinking a coffee was the only thing that got rid of my headache, unfortunately, it doesn’t always work. In a little over a year I have tried drinking caffeine-free tea in the café, not going to the café, but, most of the time my stance has been denial of the problem whilst consuming coffee with some vaguely guilty feelings. Most recently, I did give up coffee for two weeks, but one week of that I was off work. Not only did I endure headaches and other migraine symptoms every day of that time, but as soon as I returned to work and the vicinity of the café, by the end of the first week I was back on the coffee. So, this week I am keeping a base-line account of my coffee consumption with the intention of reducing by one coffee a week.
So, to the migraine. How shocking it is to me, even now, a year and a half on from the start of the migraine and its huge impact on my life, that migraine can be so distressing whilst at the same time be so little understood by others. I expect that may be partly because, as some use the word ‘flu’ when they mean ‘cold’, some may also use the word ‘migraine’ when they mean ‘headache’.
For me, migraine is so much more than a headache, indeed any headache I may endure is with certainty the least of it.
Migraine, for me, is dizziness to the point of loss of balance, it’s the impact on my vision to the point of not being able to focus on that which I gaze, worse, an inability to speak or even think, as though words were ‘removed’ by some dark art from my head and mouth (I can, at times, start a sentence only for it to tail off half way through with nothing in my head to help me finish it or even know what I was talking about). At these times I think of past endeavours to meditate zen-like, in the hope of emptying my mind of all thought and being a pure and empty vessel, the quest of lifetimes for many an Eastern aesthete, and here I am, achieving the very same, unbidden, but not necessarily with the peaceful accomplishment of the enlightened. I can, at times, feel a sort of physical pressure that prevents me from speaking at all, and then I have to really struggle against it if I really have to answer a question from somebody.
The worse symptom of all is the despair, complete, utter darkness, depths of dread, absence of hope. When I spoke to my work supervisor last week about being seized by this to the extent that I could not stay at work, she, completely understandably, asked if there was anything going on in my life that I was struggling with. It is so difficult for others to believe that such a symptom can come unbidden and completely contrary to my natural and ‘real’ disposition, which is, at best, one of contentment, optimism and at least the natural potential for general cheeriness. No, there really is nothing going on in my life to account for such a mood. “Really?” is the unspoken, doubting regard with which I am faced by others, who may find this difficult to understand. But it is true. Live in my body for just five minutes and you will know of the alien-like experience of this despair that marks it out as not ‘normal’ depression, nor a ‘natural’ reaction to circumstance, but some kind of chemical or alchemical internal, infernal imbalance brought about by hormones rearranging themselves within my body. The speed with which it comes and goes is a big clue. Most often it is a feeling that comes frequently throughout the day and night and lasts a number of seconds or a minute or two at most, sometimes strong or less so, sometimes filling my eyes with tears that rarely overflow. The longest it has ever lasted is ten days and last week it lasted three. I cannot find words to express the sheer loneliness of this experience, the sheer, profound, submitting bleakness that wraps and consumes me with its shroud-like embrace.
And yes, according to the neurologist all of this is the usual symptoms of migraine, migraine that came to me with menopause.
30 June 2016
Hot Flashes and Husbands with Sympathy Menopause
When my husband mentioned (again) last night that he suffers from menopause, like me, I knew I needed to get to the bottom of this unlikely assertion.
He had the nerve to say this when at lunch with a female friend of ours (who has completed the transition), and received the calm, controlled warning, “don’t…even…go…there!” I laughed and thought this would be his last word on the subject, but it is clearly not, so what’s he talking about?
He assured me that men do have the menopause too, “I’m sure I read it somewhere,” he says, “after all, it is called the men-opause.” We are in bed and he is throwing the duvet off and fanning himself with it. It's lucky I know he’s not completely serious.
So we decide to compare our experiences of a hot flash.
“Does yours feel as though there is a burning sun exploding in the small of your back, going supernova, causing a feeling like internal combustion, engulfing your legs, creating heat and prickling sweat throughout your body?” I ask him. It seems his hot flash does not feel like that, he just feels a bit hotter for a few brief moments.
Before my menstruation stopped I used to get hot in bed from time to time and throw off the duvet to cool down for a bit. I just had to stick a leg out for a few moments to regulate so I suspected this was not the famous hot flash or flush that women of a certain age talk about. I thought it was likely that when I had a proper hot flash I would know about it and there would be no doubt. I was right about that.
Pre-flash days I was also confused about what to call it, flash or flush. As soon as I had one I knew, it’s a flash. Flush is too delicate and sounds a bit like blush, so nope, that just does not cut it.
It’s a sudden flash of intense, fiery, burning heat, consuming the body and in my case focusing on the small of my back and upper legs. It has led me to an absolute belief in the existence of spontaneous human combustion. After months of brief flashes usually lasting up to a minute, maybe two, I have now experienced the same lasting up to thirty minutes, not so much a flash, that.
My hot flashes started in the winter when peeling off the duvet and exposing my whole body to the brisk winter night air brought instant relief. Hot flashes were, in the early days, a piece of cake compared to the nightmare that is migraine symptoms. But since the hot nights of summer and the emergence of hot flashes that last longer and happen as frequently as they now do, throughout night and day, well, it’s getting a bit wearing, to be honest.
I get the odd few in the evening before bed, when I’m on the computer or reading a book or watching TV, but they go mad when I get into bed. It varies, but they often occur every quarter or half an hour until I fall asleep. I’ve never been one to fall asleep easily, it takes anything from one to several hours. Once asleep, I ‘hot flash’ every hour throughout the night, it wakes me each time as I throw off the duvet and star-fish in the bed to ensure not a single thing touches my skin anywhere until it subsides, as contact with the tiniest bit of sheet or a limb is unbearable and keeps the heat going. At about 4.30am they increase in frequency again to every half hour or fifteen minutes and I get a lot of broken sleep until I finally get up. They used to magically disappear upon my leaving the bed, but now they can sometimes follow me into the day.
And they don’t travel alone, they are often accompanied with another symptom, heart palpitations. It’s no fun at all having a heart that is racing like a demented Duracell bunny. I worry at times that, like a bee who gets only so many flaps of its wings before it simply has had its quota and will keel over and die, my heart is using up all its beats, bringing my life to an inevitable early end. In typical negative focus, I forget to factor in that as I am generally a fairly sedentary human being, one who likes reading, writing, painting, and plenty of things done sitting on one’s arse and am not taken to marathon running and the like, I probably have plenty of leeway in such a scenario. Nevertheless, I also worry that the speed and strain my heart is going through at times like these could mean, at any moment, it will simply explode.
Finally, there are the chills, or should I more accurately call them the shivers? They seem to come hand in hand with the hot flashes, sometimes alternating, but not as frequent. I find myself so cold that, although my teeth do not actually chatter, my whole body is shivering with such intensity that every bit of me feels like it is in movement, except my teeth. I pull my luxurious German-engineered duck feather duvet up over my head and snuggle down as deeply as I can, but it still takes at least five or ten minutes for the shivering to stop. I’m not sure if this is a true menopause symptom or the result of the sweat on my body from the hot flash cooling and making me cold. It still amazes me that I can be boiling hot one minute and literally freezing the next!
My only compensation for all this was the hope that all these hot flashes with the sweating and shivering and the heart palpitations banging out ten to the dozen, I must be burning up a hell of a lot of calories, so at least I’m losing some decent weight, right? No such luck, it has simply made me ravenous and my in-built system that tells me to stop eating when I am full is suddenly and inexplicably awol, so if anything, I’m gaining weight. What a bitch!
I’ve checked out the male menopause on the NHS Choices website, I’ve got some bad news for my husband. There is a ‘thing’ some call the male menopause but it’s mis-named and it has little to do with what us women experience. Sounds to me like another word for the male mid-life crisis where the guys go out and buy a sports car or have an affair. Well, my husband did that a few years back and luckily for me it was the sports car. In any case, it doesn’t seem to involve hot flashes. I’m not putting the fellas down, I would hate it if anybody did that about the menopause, I’m sure that anybody experiencing the ‘andropause’ as it’s called (which is funny because my hubby’s name is Andrew) isn’t having fun and doesn’t deserve to be belittled, but my husband is not one of them.
As we lie in bed talking about the differences in our hot flashes, he looks and sounds pained to hear what I am going through. He tells me he can’t believe there is nothing I can do to help. He tells me he wants so badly to take it away for me.
I do take black cohosh, one a night, it may help a bit, I’m not completely sure, so I’ll keep it up for now. When I get to the end of the packet I’ll stop and see if it makes any difference. I tried sage and soya supplements but they did nothing for me and cost me over £40. I was so shocked at the price, the labelling on the shelves at Holland & Barrett was so bad I couldn’t tell how much they were until I got to the till, thinking, “I’ve got to give this a go, anyway,” hoping against hope they worked. Well, they didn’t.
I also found drinking a glass of wholebean soya milk just before bed had a positive effect but it didn’t work every night. However, the taste was just awful so I’ve stopped drinking it, but I may give it another go as soon as I can muster the willpower to handle the sickly smell and flavour.
As me and my hubby turn out the light and settle, I turn to see him moving his hands strangely in the dim light. Watching, I soon realise what he is doing. He’s employing his healing skills and trying to manipulate energy to take away my hot flashes by drawing the psychic energy away from me. “So that’s why you’re getting hot too,” I say to him, “you’re taking it off me and putting it onto yourself, aren’t you?” Aw, bless him.
3 July 2016
Symptoms are funny things. It’s hard to know what’s a symptom and what is just life, or oneself, what’s important and what to dismiss.
I had known I was experiencing the peri-menopause for some time. After a period of depression symptoms lasting about ten days and appearing completely out of the blue, for no perceivable reason and against my usual demeanour of contented, calm cheerfulness, I went to see the GP.
My appointment was with a female doctor who appeared to be in her mid-forties. You may think she would be sympathetic, I quite wrongly assumed this. She asked me what my problem was and I told her I thought it was the menopause. Big mistake. She scoffed and said: “If I had a pound for every woman of a certain age who comes in here telling me that their problem is because of the menopause, I’d be wealthy, and it’s rarely the case!” “Great,” I thought.
I told her about the depression symptoms lasting ten days completely out of the blue. She told me I was suffering from clinical depression. To be fair, the GP didn’t know that working with people with depression is my day job or that part of that job involved helping GPs to recognise depression, so before she reached for the prescription pad I pointed out to her that my single episode of depression symptoms did not last longer than two weeks, which, according to NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) guidelines, ruled out a diagnosis of clinical depression (GPs must really hate people like me).
She acquiesced and agreed to a blood test and that is how I already knew I was in the peri-menopause when things properly kicked off some years later.
It was November 2014 when a period of dizziness affected my ability to drive or go to work for a few days, and led me back to the GP surgery. This was just the most noticeable symptom out of a number of weird things going on at the time.
This time, I hit the GP jackpot, and just by luck ended up seeing probably the best GP in the practice. Before I went, I wrote out a list of 21 symptoms that were plaguing my life at the time. Here is the list I wrote:
1. Dizziness, loss of balance.
2. Disoriented, ‘cross-eyed’ feeling.
3. Eyes going in and out of focus.
4. ‘Spaced out’, ‘out-of-body’ feeling.
5. Lack of focus, ‘vacant’ mind, not able to focus on what someone is saying or remember what I was talking about, not finishing my sentences.
6. Agitated, ‘wired’ feeling in my body.
7. Physical and emotional feeling I associate with difficult times in the past, like ‘despair’ but with no negative cognitions.
8. Low motivation, lethargy.
9. Tiredness, lack of energy.
10. Low, sad, feeling sorry for myself, tearful.
11. Saying the wrong words when speaking.
12. Making lots more typing mistakes than usual, typing the letters in the wrong order in words.
13. Feeling very hot.
14. Not sleeping, often also restless, tossing and turning at night.
17. Over-active mind.
18. Strong dreams and uncharacteristic nightmares.
19. Frequent bowel movements, going to the toilet anything from 3 to 15 times a day, lasting one or several days.
20. Rash coming and going on forearms, especially after a shower (heat?)
21. Overly sensitive tear ducts causing watery eyes daily.
So here it was, the symptom list of all the strange things that were going on for me and had been for several months, some for the last few years. This time I was going to ensure my communication with the GP was as well prepared as possible.
The first surprise was he listened to me, and I mean really listened. He asked sensible questions. He asked me what I thought. He collaborated with me on a plan of action.
He asked me if I had experienced any unusual visual anomalies and I told him that a few weeks ago I had this visual experience of a curly, sparkly, shape, like a line of linked prisms, starting off very small in my field of vision and growing slowly larger and larger until, after about thirty minutes it had grown so large that it had completely left my field of vision. I told him I remembered having the same thing twice previously, but not for many years.
He asked me if I had a headache with it or after it, I told him I didn’t remember. He told me he wanted to refer me to see a neurologist.
The neurologist was brilliant. My appointment lasted the best part of two hours. I gave him my list of 21 symptoms which he seemed very interested in, although he began with several written tests and set questions. Then physical and movement/balance tests, then a long consultation with lots and lots of questions, asking me to describe symptoms, mostly focusing on headaches.
That was strange to me because headaches seemed to be the least of my problem. Yes, I got the odd headache but doesn’t everybody? According to the neurologist, no, and if they do, there’s a reason for it (still not sure about that).
Then he told me that all I had said led to a diagnosis of migraine with aura. I was very surprised. I was convinced my symptoms were menopause-related. He told me every one of the symptoms on my list was a migraine symptom. “What, all of them?” I asked, incredulous. “Yes,” he said, “although very few people explain it as accurately and clearly as you have.”
Well, it took me a bit of time to get my head around this, and to accept that my problem was all migraine (still not convinced every single symptom on my list is actually migraine).
We talked further and agreed that my migraine was associated with the menopause as the migraine attacks were always triggered by my periods. The neurologist thought I had always had migraine but with the onset of peri-menopause it had become somewhat more pronounced, and, to be honest, that certainly explained a few things.
We both thought that when my periods abated my migraine attacks could very well stop too. Well, I had my last period mid-January 2016 (I know, you have to wait twelve months to be sure, I am 99% certain, although time will confirm it). Mid-January was also the start of the hot flashes and heart palpitations and when the ‘despair’ feeling became much worse and when I had migraine symptoms every day for two months, the longest stretch I have experienced. The symptoms only stopped because I started taking Propranolol. I am no longer taking any prophylactic medication out of choice.
So it was that my journey into the world of migraine began. A google-search uncovered an exhaustive list of symptoms much larger than my 21. I visited the Migraine Action website and downloaded their information on migraine and work. I also sent for their migraine diary, which I have kept up with and use to share my journey with my work supervisor and the GP, although the really good GP has left and so far no other GP has shown any interest in my migraine diary.
I have gone several months without symptoms and I have had symptoms every day for two solid months. It’s a
6 July 2016
‘The Feeling’ is the name I give to a particular symptom that came into my life about four years ago, at the start of peri-menopause. It arrived with trumpets blazing, a ten-day spectacular of depression that arrived out of the blue and did not feel like it belonged to me at all. Over the following years I noticed a feeling that spontaneously occurred from time to time, lasting mere seconds, but felt negative. The feeling is experienced in my body and emotions but my mind remains the calm observer when it is short and mild. However, over the last four years there have been a handful of difficult nights lying in bed with the feeling all night and these nights have left my thoughts far from calm. These nights are very much like the experience expressed here.
Six months ago, when my hot flashes and heart palpitations began, the feeling changed, it still randomly presents as a momentary feeling but now it also grips me for hours or days and is more intense.
The poetic prose below is my attempt to capture the experience and was written whilst it was occurring.
“As the feeling grips me now, I write. Suddenly, I plunge into the feeling, instantly perceiving the change, soft, yet clearly somatic, and at the moment it appears an ice wall is created between myself and the previous moment, between myself and the world, myself now and myself a single moment ago. At the same infinitesimal moment my eyes spontaneously fill with tears but do not overflow and the tears quickly go, but with them comes a depth of sadness, a pool of woe, coupled with a sickly, cloying remembrance of forgotten senses, bringing a physical lurch at the heart within my breast and a raw pull between my legs, for this feeling is also, for an instant, sensual in the most disturbing and yet compelling manner.
The feeling grows and evolves. Loneliness beyond belief, desperate despair, depth of bleakness, sordid sexuality, all of this combined with bodily awareness of liquids and chemicals coursing through my anatomy, alien, both renounced and embraced, desired and repelled, intense attraction coupled with profound repugnance. Remorse.
New emotions take over, anguish, sadness settles and seeps deep, low, falling into the bleak, black hole of despondency, absolute absence of hope. Even now, my mind remembers normality only seconds lost, cannot fathom the difference and reaches to grasp a handhold on the ordinary, but fails. My thoughts lurch between cool observation and stressful fear of the experience. I wonder how long the feeling will last this time. Self-sorrow is not far, weariness and resignation descend. So lonely. So sad. Such despair. Not me, no, not me at all. Alien feeling, complete antithesis of truth, I do not own you.
But you grip me, imprison me now, in the silence and the stillness of the dark night. Where time stops. Timelessness is my enemy, holding me prisoner within the feeling, trapped and hopeless, the moment is eternal, relentless, interminable. The bleakness of the dark night with the feeling is near impossible, unacceptable, when the clock refuses to move, when the world sleeps and I do not. Wired. Restless. How is it possible to endure this?
In the day, there are different challenges. How do I interact in this world, manage these day-to-day demands whilst you coil through me and leech away my lightness and cheer? How do I speak? How do I move? How do I live? Separateness engulfs me, no words, tears prick again but tease and fail to fall, will not flow, will not bring release. Weight presses at my chest, pain pressures at my temple, my eyes close and the inner blackness is a welcome momentary respite.
How can I express this experience to another, could I burden another with the knowledge? It is not to be shared, alone it is endured. Alone, so alone.
Even as all this occurs a spark exists within, a fire and fight that is my indomitable spirit. I can still perceive my self within, beyond the fear and fight. I can sense my real being which is not this, but it is so deep, so far, so lost. It is there but hazes in and out of view, oscillating between substantial and tenuous. Strength and weakness duel. Unfolding and folding, unfolding and folding until, with sleep or by the pull of necessity the fog dwindles, leaving weariness, inertia, a blur.
Then, in a moment, a day, a week, perhaps more, I am my own self again; peaceful, excitable, content, forthright, fortunate, testing, playful, obdurate, optimistic, heartened, comforted, caring, flourishing and satisfied. The feeling does not exist.”
As I read through what I have written, although it is accurate for the moment it is experienced, I also think now it sounds worse than it really is. That is to say, when it's going on it can be tough but as the intensity varies, so does the difficulty in coping with it. And when it's gone, which is the majority of the time, I don’t even think about it and my life is more than good, it’s excellent.
The feeling I experience is not clinical depression as medical guidelines indicate that depression symptoms are consistently present for at least two weeks and this is not the case. However, the feeling clearly has a lot in common with clinical depression.
Depression, as a symptom, is associated with both the menopause and migraine. In my case, the feeling started a few years before the distinct migraine symptoms began.
If you are struggling you may like to consider talking to The Samaritans. They are always available, you don’t need to give your name, they are confidential and you can talk to them whenever you need emotional support for any reason. Their telephone number is free to call, it’s 116 123.
9 July 2016
The End of the ‘Little Deaths’
I have come to the conclusion that women are not meant to be working full time or coping with other generally stressful or demanding responsibilities like caring for elderly parents, during the time they are going through menopause (and I include peri-menopause here). I really don’t think Nature intended it that way. But nowadays, often, that’s just the way life is.
What we need, what menopause requires, is the chance to reflect, withdraw, meditate, become introspect, be completely with ourselves.
I often think that if I didn’t work full time maybe I could manage this difficult experience, but the problem is trying to do a full time job with all this stuff going on and that can really get me down.
Let me tell you a little story, my story:
‘Once upon a time, I had somehow made a deal with a powerful Goddess which meant I would be killed every month. She appeared dark and terrible, her power was immense. She demanded of me my death as payment for that she had previously given me.
I went to speak to Hare, a magical, immortal being, he stands on two legs at the height of a man and talks like a person. I asked him to take the sacrifice for me, knowing he would only be killed once and would return to life after the experience unharmed. Hare agreed.
When I saw him hanged he appeared much smaller, about the size of a normal hare. I saw blood flow from the rope at his neck. It took a while for him to be strangled and in this time the pole appeared to become shorter so that there was not enough clearance from the ground for him to hang successfully. Hare struggled and then broke free from the noose. He stood there, hurt and fearful. I approached cautiously, aware that he was not responding as the powerful being he was, but as a frightened creature.
Hare suddenly bolted across a busy road and I set off after him. A number of my friends went with me. We followed Hare to an earthy bank where there was a hole going into the earth with a trail of blood so we knew he had gone in there. We sat on the bank and waited.
After a long time, Hare appeared, once again back to his powerful self and full size, he was completely unharmed. I ruffled his fur and hugged him. He told me the sacrifice had not been accepted so I would still have to experience the little deaths every month. Because of his act and because it had just been a full moon, I would not be killed for the first time for a month.
I was disappointed. I then turned my attention to the fact that I and my friends ought to
get off to school. I focused for a moment on what I was wearing but as I looked into a mirror, I saw my right eye had a film over it making it milky-white so that the pupil and iris were not
visible, and there was a great plug of wax in my ear. I was pleased when I realised this meant I had an excuse not to go to school that day.’
This narrative is a dream I had on Saturday 4th August 2007, a dream that, unusally, has the clear linear path of a proper story. I awoke remembering the whole dream and wrote it down.
It was a surprise to me that I met my friends and was going to school near the end, because I was forty-six at the time and had not been conscious of being a school-age person in the dream. It didn’t take me long to see the symbolic links to the menstrual cycle, but the idea that this monthly event was some kind of payment for a deal I had made was intriguing to say the least. The description, a ‘little death’ seems apt, for at each bleed a seed, a potential life is lost, although, in the dream it seemed more about my death than that of a potential child.
Now that I have reached menopause I find myself thinking about this dream again. Here, perhaps, may lie some clues to the nature of menopause, for menopause is the ending of the payment, of the ‘little deaths’.
I have long thought that menstruation is about claiming power (power from within, not power over) and blood is often synonymous with power. This story is also about ‘sacrifice’. Sacrifice is power, for by letting something go we are freeing ourself to take on or become something more, or we are emptying ourself, which brings its own power.
Menopause is complete absence, the womb becomes the Void.
The Void is the dark place that existed before Genesis, before The Big Bang, from which Light and All-That-Is was born.
And the Void eternally exists.
Is it only the Crone’s Void womb that can give birth to All?
The blood-womb of the Mother gives birth to one thing, to the Child, or that which the magical Child represents, according to the laws of manifestation.
The Void is Nothing, it is Everything, it is Absence, it is All.
We are in the realm of particle/wave, wave/particle, everything/nothing, nothing/everything,
We are oscillating between the dualities of existence, dualities that are illusion, for there is only One. That is the power of the Void.
From the lovely coming-of-age film ‘Sing Street’, I’m reminded of this quote:
‘ “What’s happy-sad even mean, anyway? How can you be both things, it just makes no sense?”
“It means I’m stuck in a shit-hole full of morons and rapists and bullies and I’m going to deal with it, okay? That’s how life is. I’m going to try and accept it and get on with it. I’m going to make some art.” ‘
Menopause is happy-sad.
Well, I’m stuck in a fairly shitty experience of hot flashes, palpitations, despair, depression and migraine and I’m going to deal with it. I’m going to make some art too.
21 March 2017
Here we go again……
I just googled ‘despair’ in thesaurus.
‘anguish, desperation, despondency, gloom, melancholy, misery, sorrow, dejection, disheartened, forlorn, ordeal, trial, tribulation, wretchedness.’
I also googled ‘sordid’.
‘sleazy, squalid, degraded, despicable, base, ignoble, mean, miserable, seedy, wretched, contemptible, abhorent, despisable, detestable, hateful, inferior, low, worthless.’
Why? Well, here I sit on the sofa this evening having had a fairly normal day. I came home from work feeling okay, settled into a comfy, cosy evening and I’m just playing a game on my laptop when ‘the feeling’ happens. It just happens. There it is. Unmistakeable. It’s just a momentary thing, then it’s gone. A while later, there it is again, lasting a moment longer, minutely stronger. As the feeling is experienced I am aware that my eyes well up for a moment. My thinking is objective and I am curious to put a word to the feeling. Over the years of having this odd experience I have come up with two words that sum up how I feel at the time, ‘despair’ and ‘sordid’. When it occurs I feel really sorry for myself, but only for a moment. Within seconds I am perfectly my normal self again.
It’s been a while since my last entry, July last year. After that entry I seemed to get my act together psychologically. I became more of my fighter self and kicked the ass of this menopause business. I did make some art.
Then, at work, an unexpected opportunity came up to go for a somewhat challenging job, one that I would have to be my best self for. The job was a 6 month contract, so if it all went pear-shaped there would be light at the end of the tunnel. I went for it. It took over my life somewhat. Challenging, scary, but also it felt really good.
Within a month, in September, the menopause symptoms started to reduce in intensity until they eventually disappeared altogether, no more sleepless nights, hot flashes or adrenaline rushes. The migraine symptoms likewise disappeared. There was a week of migraine symptoms in October and a day in December, but apart from that, nothing for months.
So, it was with the hope that it was all over that I entered 2017.
What a surprise, then, that in January I had a proper, normal period, a year and ten days after my last period had occurred. And following that, creeping in gradually at first, the return of the dreaded hot flashes, adrenaline and, of course, ‘the feeling’.
Just over two weeks ago I had a proper full-blown migraine again. The symptoms lasted a week with a totally debilitating day mid-week and I haven’t been my natural well self since, always feeling somewhat ‘off’. Last week, I was proper depressed for 24 hours, I felt so sad and completely lost my sense of perspective, thinking so little of myself and my abilities, believing that others really hated me, it really got in the way of my job for a short while. In fact, I cried at work three times throughout that day, feeling dreadful and dreadfully embarrassed at the same time.
I don’t know if the depression comes with the menopause or the migraine, does it really matter? For some reason, it does. The menopause symptoms are gradually increasing. If I can, I will utilise the learning from last Summer and do some more art, but right now, no chance, I don’t have the energy or the motivation.
30 May 2017
Healing and enlightenment
I have been getting some healing support from a special source. I've been seeing a Chiropractor who specialises in something called Neurological Integration System (NIS) and it has been a blessing.
I started going to see him for an old ankle injury but also mentioned the menopause and migraine problems and this holistic system has been working with it all. At first, the NIS practitioner discovered a number of neural pathways that were awry, so he unblocked them. At my next appointment only one had stayed unblocked so he cleared them again. Within two further appointments they were all remaining clear.
It's a bit complicated to explain what it's all about but here goes. It's all to do with the brain 'talking' to the body via the neural network. When something goes wrong, emotionally or physically, for example, the NIS practitioner facilitates the resetting of the neurological circuitry so that the brain can correct the problem.
He does this by finding where the system is not working properly using muscle strength testing and then taps or touches parts of the body, like accupressure points, to 'reprogramme' the brain (my words). It's simple, fast and effective.
In my last session, my practitioner pointed out that the pain in my ankle, and more recent pain in my left knee, was being generated due to emotional imbalance. He also discovered that I was struggling with sensory overload and anticipatory anxiety. At the same time, he found no further problems with regard to hormonal issues. Hmmm, I thought, sounds like the main problem for me is now work stress rather than going through the menopause.
My recent change in job role is testing me to the limits in terms of its demands on my time and stress levels. It's like a roller-coaster, there are days I am doing well and then days when I am teetering on the brink of coping. At those times, I lose my equilibrium and become self-critical as my usual self-confidence disappears.
However, despite such times of despair and doubt, the strongest part of me thinks this is an opportunity for me to overcome the lack of balance as I strive to take myself to the furthest limits of my personality's capacity to serve through work.
And now I've got my NIS practitioner who can help me get myself back to a place of balance and strength whenever I need a bit of extra help.
More recently, I started to read Marko Pogacnik's book 'Nature Spirits and Elemental Beings' and got to the bit about the elemental being that we humans are each partnered with throughout our life. My first thought was that the NIS seemed like a perfect fit for communicating and supporting this elemental being to function at its best.
In his book, Marko says:
"...in our culture confusion has resulted because we have neglected to create conscious rituals for our transitions from one phase of life to the next. The rituals once signalled that a person was beginning a new phase in his or her development and that the elemental should actively support this process.
Since this communication is missing today, the elemental is unable to follow through with the transformations, which can lead to negativity on the emotional level. If the personality then loses its inner balance, a conflict between the 'partners' may result where the elemental will become more and more negative and may lose control over the finely tuned cooperation between the organs of the body. It is unable to maintain the perfect cohesion of the energetic and the physical body. The loss of order becomes evident first on the emotional level, then on the energetic level, and finally on the physical level of the body, possibly ending in severe illness. Christopher Tragius [a spiritual angel master that Marko Pogacnik's daughter communicates with] calls this condition an 'active block' and he recommends getting the help of a healer who can assist the sufferer in realigning the elemental being with its original state of neutral caring. The same effects on the elemental can be achieved by the ill person practicing positive feeling and thinking."
As I read this and applied it to my experience of getting NIS healing, it seemed that this was what my practitioner was doing, even though he is undoubtedly unaware that there is an elemental being involved at all. Through my Shamanic practice, I have applied some ritual and symbolic actions as part of my personal transition into menopause from time to time and have no doubts that this has gone a long way to helping me.
However, there is another part of going through menopause for me, that of becoming the crone or wise woman, of evolving into wisdom and opening up my spiritual centres for a greater flow of energy. This has been going on alongside the less pleasant side-effects and has allowed me to become stronger and more stable than ever before, although not consistently so, yet. Now, it is the new challenges that life is bringing to me through work that are testing my capacity to expand as a whole person.
I can see that my route towards reaching my potential and succeeding in being the best that I can be is through working in unity with the elemental being within me to find balance, harmony, strength and wisdom. Through Marko's book I know it's going to be through grounding myself, finding and maintaining a state of inner peace and stillness and through the regular practice of gratitude. I will be able to gauge my emotional stability by its manifstation as physical pains in my ankle and knee. I will strive to remember at the toughest times that, since we are all energy and all energy is interconnected, there is no 'I' to be stressed.
16 December 2017
The end of the menopause story
Today is the first day of my life after retiring from work.
What a journey it has been from starting this blog to arriving at this day. This day is not the end, it is another beginning.
Even though I had a wonderful final day at work yesterday with so much love and support expressed, today I am in tears, very sad for the huge loss I feel.
The numerous health problems that I have catalogued here have been, in part, a reason for bringing my working career to an unplanned early end. However, I can see that the health issues have transitioned within the last eight months from being about migraine and menopause to being about the stress of my job. I have had migraine symptoms for three days in this, my last week at work, but this is rare and it was clearly brought about by the impact of leaving my job.
As for the menopause, it can be difficult to tell the cause of some symptoms sometimes. At the end of October, about six weeks ago, I thought there had been a return of some menopause symptoms, difficulty sleeping, agitation and palpitations, depression and tearfulness, but now I can see these were the beginnings of the grief process I have been going through in leaving my current job and my career of 35 years. This process culminated in my final week, a week I wondered if I could cope with at all, so emotional and sad was I feeling, and in the end, my body manifested more than one physical condition, migraine and a cold virus, which enabled me to channel the emotional and psychological difficulties into an outward expression. It was a struggle, but I stayed at work most of the last week and I am so glad I did.
Now the healing starts. I know it will take some time to regain my emotional balance and composure in order to do the work I need to do to heal myself. I have a lot to look forward to. Time to paint, time to dedicate to this site, time to heal myself and evolve my spiritual practice.