Short Circuit To Menopause
A bad day in menopausal terms can be the pits, so what can we do to make it through in one piece? My menopausal First Aid kit helps me. It may help you too.
Menopause, at its worst for me, is like continually being plugged into the mains and shorting every few seconds. Sparks going everywhere. Some hitting my own body and mind, others hitting anyone or anything in proximity.
It’s like a street lamp flickering madly on and off, until finally it gives up the ghost and goes dark.
One power surge (a name several of my female pals call their hot flushes), followed by another, then another, then a sudden dip in power (like going from headlights on full beam to blackness).
It’s knackering, frustrating, infuriating, debilitating, tear inducing and so much more.
On the worst days, even the simplest of tasks like putting the rubbish out, doing the washing up or making a phone call, can feel like a massive deal.
And the very fact that it feels like such a big deal just compounds all those conflicting emotions.
My logical brain is screaming for common sense and calm to prevail. The very fact it’s screaming, though kind of gives a clue that all is not well.
Where and when were we, as women, prepared for this moment, and given a glimpse into what peri-menopause and menopause might be like?
And sometimes, in these moments, is it wrong of me to say a part of me is grateful for that?
Would I have wanted to know just how truly shitty it can be? No, no I wouldn’t.
A Complete and Utter Brain F**k
Could I or, indeed, would I have wanted to be prepared for that moment?
Like most major life experiences and times of transition, no-one can truly know what it’s like unless they’ve lived or are living through it.
We’re all affected differently and to varying degrees. And that’s what makes it a complete and utter brain fuck.
I would apologise for the expletive, but at this moment I find it kind of comforting and liberating all at once.
Right now, the queen of clichés has never been so apt. Take each day as it comes. It’s the only way.
One day I’m up, the next I’m down. On the up days I can see me again. It might be only a passing glance but I’m there and smiling, laughing even.
I know that because I feel it. It’s a throwback to the distant past. A 30-something me, freshly out, in love with life and all the adventures ahead.
A far cry from the me that sobs in frustration at my pathetic attempts to open a jar of pickled beetroot or successfully create an online signature for a piece of household paperwork.
Mental Health Matrix
Aaargghhh! When this happens, it’s like the aliens have landed, sent down a probe (preferably not anal) and tuned me into the messy mental health matrix that is my brain of late.
On those bad days, the sobbathon days, when even a TV ad can set me off, I break into my menopausal first aid kit.
1st Step: Write about my feelings (just what I’m doing now). It may make sense, it may not. To be honest, it doesn’t matter. If it helps me, fabulous. If it helps me and one other person, super fabulous.
2nd Step: Exercise. Hahaha. Every time I write this word it makes me laugh. For someone who has spent a good part of my life as an armchair sports enthusiast, I’m still in the honeymoon period with my exercise. I may not feel like it a lot of days, I may curse and throw my trainers out of the pram in a bid to avoid it, but it works! Honestly, it does!
When I discovered virtual challenges and invested in an exercise bike last year, it was a total game changer. It’s never too late. If this peri-menopausal/menopausal, cynical git can benefit from it, so can you so try it!
I started at 5km on my exercise bike and now I’m regularly cycling 40km plus. My personal best is 110km in one session. I may not be the quickest but so what? It gets me moving and helps get rid of some of the negative energy that descends sometimes.
3rd step: Spend time in nature, whatever the weather. It doesn’t have to be sunny and hot to benefit from getting outside. Sometimes the rain and wind is just what’s needed. That blow away the cobwebs phrase has some weight to it.
Getting out into nature doesn’t have to mean travelling far either. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, get out in it. This week I’ve spent loads of time in my garden, mainly on blackbird watch after one of my canines chased a fledgling which we had to rescue. The joy we got from saving this little one, creating it a makeshift nest and then watching as it and Mum were reunited was priceless. You don’t need to rescue a bird in peril to feel the benefits though. Even a 10 minute break in the garden can bring those serotonin levels up — one of the happy hormones we all need.
It’s Good To Talk
4th step: Talk to someone. A someone who will truly listen, who will not judge, just hold space for you to cry, scream, swear, rant, sit in silence, whatever you need in that moment.
This is so important and one, I must confess, I’m not so good at. I’m learning how to trust more though and when I do share, it’s so worth it.
5th step: Take a breather and check in on yourself. What’s your internal weather like today? In my menopausal moments it’s like a fierce storm lashing and battering the coastline, waves 10 foot high, the wind howling, the rain hammering.There’s no let up.
Make yourself a cuppa (though a hot drink can bring on hot flushes) or, better still, top up your water levels. Stop. Breathe. Meditate. Switch off the phone, your emails, close the curtains and be with you. Whatever is happening outside of this moment, it can wait. Breathe deeply, deep from the diaphragm. Know that you’re loved, you’re amazing and that this moment will pass.
Check in with yourself, what’s your internal weather like now? Mine? Not cloudy with a chance of meatballs, but clean and fresh, like the earth after rain, with the sun poking out from behind the cloud and a rainbow on the horizon.
Life is good. You can be too. So can I.
PS I’ve just added Red Clover to my First Aid kit and it’s helping with hot flushes already so may be worth a try for others.
Asha Clearwater is an NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualified journalist who’s been a news reporter, features editor and arts editor, as well as editor of several national business magazines.
Today, through her business Turquoise Tiger, she coaches SMEs on the art of great storytelling to promote their products and services.
Asha occasionally freelances as a writer for national magazines and is even behind some of the information boards you’ll find strolling through Woodland Trust Forests.
She is also curator of TEDxPeterborough. www.tedxpeterborough.com