Sunday, January 31, 2016
Menopause, Medication and Meditation
I don’t write a lot of health related articles because that isn’t really my thing but I do touch on it all the time indirectly in terms of being sensitive to your body's messages and increasing awareness of the thoughts in your mind. In a way, this article is no different. I fearlessly turn 50 this year and I’ve begun the right of passage every woman ascends too. Yes, I said “ascends to,” because I do not view this as a bad thing even if it throws all sorts of weird symptoms for us to contend with. I’m talking about Menopause. Guys, you can skip this one if you want or you can read and understand what your wife or partner or even mom or grandmother is going through. It helps to understand people. Once you understand the seeming burden they carry, you tend to take things they may say or do less personally and can use love and compassion much more liberally when needed.
My focus in this article is on something I’ve learned. When arrived at the gates of this particular part of every woman’s journey, we begin to experience things we might deem discomforting, alarming or even greatly disturbing. It can be scary if you don't know what you're dealing with. Some of the things I have experienced is higher anxiety out of the blue, heart palpitations, sleeplessness, hot and cold rapidly cycling, hot flashes and transient pain, migraines, water retention and oh my, the dreaded weight gain. The anxiety was the worst for me so I did what most do and reached for medication assistance. Oh my did it help and having sleep again was so wonderful. The rapidly increasing weight gain of the medication created 4 wardrobe changes in just 2 years and that was alarming but it seemed like the anxiety was worse so I persisted on my chosen course. I never for a moment considered that I couldn’t stay on the medication and shouldn’t or that I could have just as easily modified my diet, exercised more if I had committed better to making the time or even spent more time doing something it seems I’ve always done, meditation.
So, I’ll share with you now, I’m actually withdrawing from the medication the doctor gave me that really helped for a time because I realized and I strongly felt within my body that it just did not want the medication anymore. That was a good decision. What I didn’t know was that it would take 7 months to withdraw from that medication safely. So, fine. I began it and I’m more than half way done. A few weeks more and I’ll be done and the symptoms of withdrawal I find are very similar to the menopausal symptoms and the extreme fatigue, stress and depression I was feeling before I began the medication. So, no big deal, I'll deal with it all and as I understand it, it will take many months for my brain to start engaging its processes in full swing again after this medication disrupted my brain's normal processes. GREAT! I didn't know that when I began. I should have done better research and you can bet in the future I will with any medication.
So, I’m learning again or re-membering what it was like to be fully me in my body and to feel everything, every twinge, every adrenaline rush, every rapid cycling shift from hot to cold, irritability, other emotions, some depression which is just a process to me I don't get too alarmed about now and sleeping challenges despite the other medication I also have to taper off of for sleep. Shocking I know but I talked to a doctor and they thought these things might help when I was in dire distress for many reasons, some natural and some external. I will readily admit that for a while, they did help but then they stopped and I didn’t want to take the medication any more. My intuition told me that I didn't need it and I listened for the first time in many years.
So after this experience I have to say that the one thing that has been with me all along has been the one thing that helps the most. The thing is, you have to make time for it just like exercise. That thing is meditation. Only I’ve shifted more to mindfulness meditation and yoga every day. I get up early whether I’ve slept well or not and I do yoga for 15-20 minutes in the morning and if I have time, I’ll do a meditation for another 15 minutes. If I don’t have time, I’ll make sure I take a lunch break at work and do another 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation and I do it again right before bed to calm my body from the day and prepare it for sleep whether or not it comes. If you don’t know about mindfulness meditation, Google it, research it and learn it. It is a lifesaver for many things. I find that the more you educate yourself about whatever it is you face, you can turn fear, worry, misinformation, and belief into facts you are better able to manage and accept with peace and equanimity.
If given the choice to do everything all over again, I might have done a few things differently. I’d have put myself first to alleviate a little bit more of my stress a lot more quickly, I’d have grabbed hold of my meditation and yoga practice and made more time for them and I’d have realized what I faced did not need a cure but rather understanding and my own acceptance. What we resist persists (this is an old teaching but a very true one especially today). What we begin to understand, accept without reservation or fear and embrace with dispassionate observation in a very healthy way, can be one of our life’s greatest teachers. I may have taken the long way around the block on this one. I accept that and everything that comes with it and honestly, I don’t really regret it because I did the only things I knew how to do at the time and, well, I learned a LOT. I’ve learned that beating myself up for things is just not a good idea or a loving expression of self-respect. I learned the key importance of monitoring my thoughts and not grabbing hold of the negative ones that generate emotion I can acknowledge fully without reaction. I can now just observe them and let them be as they are without changing them and then let them go like the clouds that float across cerulean blue skies. What a great lesson and if the longer walk brought me there, perfect!
What a vulnerable piece to write about today but I’m feeling a little more authentic than usual and much more open after what I’ve been through these past couple years of this particular life lesson. This part of every woman’s journey is not a disease to cure but a process to grow through. I don’t sit in judgment of the choices of others, mind you. Every woman has to decide for herself what is right for her and what is right for her body as she approaches the gates to the right of passage called Menopause. I offer up my learnings and challenges as food for thought for those who may be of a mind to try something different, to try self love, to try self-acceptance, who wish to seek greater understanding and know there are alternatives that really only take a lot of courage to hold and a really positive attitude amidst ominous seeming storm clouds of emotion and physical symptoms. Life will get back to a new and even better normal if you simply make sure you take care of you, that you stop making yourself last and that you realize you’re okay and will ultimately always be okay. The process may take years to complete but that's okay. It's not a death sentence or even a fate worse than death. It is something all women share and as more of us share, more of us can learn. This is why we should fully respect our elders. They have great wisdom if we take the time to listen and work to understand.
Since this has been a long enough article for now, I will end it with some positive thoughts. You are amazing and wonderful even if Menopausal symptoms make you feel very not amazing or even remotely wonderful. This is a right of passage and with patience and perseverance, you'll see it through in whatever amount of time it takes. You can do it. It is a beautiful transformation that needs no fear or worry. Talk to your medical practitioner about any fears or worries and get educated. Get counseling to help you manage anxiety or depression and know that your transformation is uniquely about you and it is beautiful as are you.
Blessings of love and courage to all for whatever it is that you face. I wish you peace, joy, balance and much happiness on your journey.
© 2016 Jaie Hart (photo/words)