My doctor told me that 51 is the average age most women enter into the passage of menopause. She could not tell me that HRT was good for me, so I decided to go without it. Finding my way through menopause without HRT has been like trying to run through a mine field. Since moving into this next phase of my life I’ve been inspired to share what I have learnt about it with other women. I have discovered that the passage through menopause can be mapped. There are stages through menopause that are similar to the stages outlined in healing, grief and loss.
Much has been written about the physical changes, but less is said about the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of self-care that are essential during the passage through menopause. Many women seem to fight the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual changes that come with this stage of life. We can’t stop the physical changes, but we can continue to grow and evolve emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Fighting menopause will drain away these energies. When we have no physical, emotional or mental energy available to fuel our day to day activities, our spirit begins to sag instead of being uplifted. We think we need a face-lift or a piece by piece body lift, but in reality, an emotional, mental and spiritual lift is required. Balancing the care of our 4 bodies, the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies, is the only way for contemporary women to manage the passage through menopause. You can read more about self care in my Fountain of Youth Experiment here and Inner Beauty here . Find out How to Move from Static to Dynamic and the 5 Barriers that Stop You here. If you would like a complimentary copy of my book “A Question of Balance – Colour, Energy and Healing with Chakras” contact me here.
When the body is exhausted, and the emotions are drained, and the mind is too tired to think clearly anymore, then we have created a breeding ground for stress. Ongoing stress leads to anxiety. Prolonged anxiety generates panic attacks. This physical, emotional and mental situation is spiritually debilitating. This is how we deplete our spirit. The outcome of a dwindling spirit is varied, depending on our personality type, our current physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health, our past and present bad habits and addictions, inherited health factors and genetic precursors, and lifestyle. Illness, or mild unhappiness, or depression, or terminal unhappiness is the consequence. In this unhealthy state, many menopausal women become very sick, and some find they have no energy left to live.
Menopause appears to follow a similar path to the ten stages of healing. It involves grief and loss. It’s a loss of youth and a grieving of this loss. I’ve outlined these stages as the “Ten Stages of Healing” here on my blog in December 2012. Here are the ten stages of healing, adapted to outline the passage of menopause, that I‘ve discovered from my own experience so far. For some, each stage may occur very distinctly from the next. For others, they may overlap or even occur simultaneously. Some may find themselves skipping a stage, to return later for integration.
- Moving On
I went into SHOCK when I fully realised, right down to the depths of my soul, that I was never, ever going to be young again. So I went into DENIAL. I tried to pretend that I was not getting older, and menopause was not happening. I spent a lot of time thinking about going to cosmetic and surgical extremes in an effort to look young again. But I couldn’t bring myself to do anything to me that was not natural. I couldn’t let my body be cut, chopped, sucked, sliced, spliced and stitched up to cover up the fact that I was getting older. By avoiding these things, it gave me time to comprehend what was really happening to me physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
I did not like what was happening to me. Immediately, I was shot like a body out of a cannon ball into the next stage of PAIN. I was consumed by emotional pain and mental anguish. I felt upset, frustrated and angry, angry, angry at the thought of losing my youth and getting older.
I believe this is one of the danger points in the stages of menopause. If we allow physical, emotional and mental stress to accumulate, and we don’t bother to nurture the body, and get the support of professional spiritual counselling to support our emotional, mental and spiritual bodies, then over time, muscle tension, spasms and physical pain lead to a noticeable decrease in emotional wellbeing, and our mental and spiritual health.
After a while of self nurture, I realised that being upset and angry was not making things any better, so I tried BARGAINING instead. I tried to think of something I could give up, but since I lead a fairly healthy lifestyle, I couldn’t find anything to sacrifice. So I decided to give something back to my community instead. I started a local community market in my home town, with no money at first, but we got it going with the help of my husband a few dedicated friends, and their time and energy. Our goal was to create a self-sustainable and self-sufficient local market where local people could earn a bit of extra money on the side. After 3 years, we had reached our goal. The market was earning enough money to support the venue hire and other running costs. We had also raised enough to money to give away, in the form of quarterly micro grants, to young entrepreneurial local people. I dedicated my time and energy to community service projects hoping that bargaining would make things better.
Often through the bargaining phase, I kept thinking ‘If I did this or that then this might not have happened’ or ‘I should have done so and so’, or ‘if I do this then it might make it better’. I went through periods of regrets about what I did or did not do in the past. I had to resist the temptation not to punish myself. From my experience as a counsellor with grief and loss, I knew that bargaining is something we are meant to do. It’s a subconscious way of trying to balance the scales. Every stage of the process has its place along the passage through menopause, and bargaining over past events to buy a better future is one of them.
One day, I woke up and realised that denial, pain and bargaining were not working. So I quit coordinating the local market. Then almost immediately, I found myself in a period of DEPRESSION. I couldn’t do anymore bargaining. In fact, I couldn’t do much of anything anymore. I had lost interest in many of my usual pursuits. My spirit was low, so my physical, emotional and mental energy was feeling flat too. I was beginning to lose hope of ever getting my life back to normal again. I felt sad, but often did not want to express it. I went into a dark and gloomy state where I did not want to interact with others. My feelings were suppressed and this stopped my energy from flowing. My energy field was getting blocked. I felt a sense of hopelessness and despair. I lacked motivation and enthusiasm. I was feeling lifeless and unhappy. I wondered if I was also in the midst of a spiritual crisis that is typical of the Dark Night of the Soul. The only thing I could do was to nurture my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies so that I could stay healthy at this time.
In such an unhappy state, eventually I SURRENDERED to the reality of the situation. I had reached my emotional and mental limits and had enough, so I finally gave up fighting menopause. Self-forgiveness was in order because I had been expecting too much from myself. I was being too hard on myself.
I resigned myself to menopause. Surrendering to menopause, as it is “here and now” helped me to move on to the next stage of acceptance. It meant letting go of perfectionism and entering into wholeness of being, where I began to accept the good, the bad and the ugly in my life.
Did surrender mean I was losing control, or was it about me taking control by agreeing to go with surrender to menopause instead of fighting it? Fighting my way through the passage of menopause was not working. The moment I gave up the fight, my stress was dramatically reduced and my emotions stabilised, my mind cleared and my spirit was uplifted.
I finally, truly and deeply realised that I could not change the situation. I had disliked the loss of youth through menopause so much; I could not even change my perspective on it at the time. The only way for me to surrender was to stop resisting the situation and accept the reality of it as it was in the moment. Resistance creates enormous stress, so surrendering released it. Surrender cleared the way for me to experience a sense of relief. Then, and only then, could I let go of the things I could no longer have. It was then I began to appreciate what I had, by turning my attention to all the good things in my life. I began to embrace the idea of embodying emotional, mental and spiritual elegance.
Surrender opened the door to acceptance and the recovery of my spirit. When we accept our situation, it means we’ve come to terms with what has happened. We’re ready to take full responsibility for how we feel once again. Menopause is a chance for women to get to know themselves all over again. This means we might want more time and space to be left alone to do this, as we prepare ourselves for REBIRTH.
I began to get ready to renew my life by reviewing everything that was important to me. I revisited my responsibilities and obligations. I redrew my personal boundaries and limitations. I rewrote my values. l made sure I had enough quiet time for me to do this. It helped me to move on and to create a new beginning for me.
I changed many areas of my life in order to MOVE ON. I scrutinised my career, my friendships, my relationships, my finances and my health in order to clear out anything that was no longer important to me. As I came out of this time of change, and after grieving for the youth I had to leave behind, I found that I attracted new friends and relationships into my life. I took up more study. I changed my career goals. I was quietly pleased with my efforts. I had moved on to create a new and better life for me.
For some women, one of the final stages of menopause may include a desire to be of active service to others during their passage through menopause. After experiencing menopause, some find they are called to support, inspire and empower others through their passage, in a professionally paid capacity, or in a less formal helping manner. Personal experience of menopause and moving on after can often be a valuable source of wisdom, insights and guidance for others during their times of change and loss.
We will always regain a degree of control and reassurance when we know what is happening to us. This is possible when women are aware of the phases of menopause. That way, instead of remaining stuck, or left without passion, joy or enthusiasm long after experiencing loss of youth and the physical, emotional and mental changes, we realise there is a good life waiting for us beyond our current difficulties. Each stage is a normal, natural step through the passage. Attempting to deny your body, soul and spirit’s natural urge to move through it will block the flow of emotional, mental and spiritual energy and health. The hard truth is that unless we stop fight menopause, we may grow resentful and bitter instead of getting better and growing wiser from it.
Once we identify which stage we are at in the passage of menopause, then we can deal with the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual changes in a more conscious and pro-active way. After being lost in the desert for so long, there is now a map of menopause. Women can find their way back home into the heart of their true selves. The difficult experiences and the subsequent strengths and resources we’ve developed will transform us.