Reframing the Menopausal Mind

When I was a kid and frequented t-shirt stores during vacations, I frequently saw a t-short that said, “Watch out! I’m low on estrogen–and I’ve got a gun.” Of course, these days wearing such a shirt would invite visitors from Homeland Security, but as a woman of “a certain age,” I can appreciate the sentiments of the shirt.

This type of thinking about the menopausal mind, though, has also worked against women. Growing up, as women started to take charge of their careers and seek greater levels of leadership, I often heard the question, “What if a woman President, while in a menopausal temper, hit “the” button?” The implication of course, is that a menopausal woman cannot handle her mood swings–and that men don’t have them. Yet I often observed in my work life that the men most concerned about my emotional nature had high levels of emotion themselves.

Yet, while I have confident in my abilities not to do anything (too) foolish, I have a few days a month when I feel my world crashing down around me. Fatigue and depression smother me, the deep-in-the-pit kind that partners closely with despair and hopelessness. It doesn’t make me less capable, but it ain’t pretty, either.

Through supplements and herbal tonics, which I’ll discuss in more detail in future blogs, I have been able to even out my moods more during the month, and I have hope to quiet the storm a little bit. I hold on to the words of my late, beloved mother-in-law Jenny, who promised me that I will feel liberated in my post-menopausal years. Oh, Lord, I hope she’s right!

For a while I medicated with birth control pills, but after two years of taking them, without much relief, I was concerned about continuing a dose of artificial hormones. I also didn’t like the idea of masking whatever I might be feeling. Just as I stopped coloring my hair because I wanted to see its real color, more and more I wanted to see, and feel, the real me.

What I find most interesting, though, is that I am changing my attitude about those mood swings.*

It’s tough to get through the depression, but the other side of it, which always comes, fascinates me. While in the funk, I ask myself, “What are you trying to tell me?” Usually it’s something I need to do, or not do, or to do differently.

This time around, the message was about completion. I had too many projects laying around in some stage of progress, and nothing getting done. So, I made some adjustments. First, I hired an editor to work with me on two of my writing projects so I can get them done more quickly. Time will tell, but so far she impresses me as someone who “gets” my work but who will provide honest feedback to make it better.

Second, I changed my routine so that I get my daily word count in early in the day, before taking on errands or housework. Only the gardening comes first, and that’s to beat the worst of the heat. Most days, I’m getting to work on my word count by 7:30 a.m.

Once I made these simple adjustments, I felt clean and shiny and new again. By listening to my depression and taking its counsel, I found my way back to joy. I hit my word count by 8:30 a.m., got some exercise, and wrote some more. More and more, I believe that the menopausal mind is one that insists on truth, even when it’s unpleasant, and that’s a good thing. Better that than pulling out a gun, anyway!

 

*If you suffer clinical depression, please do not hesitate to get help through therapy and, possibly, medication. The kinds of mood swings I’m talking about here tend to come and go quickly and do not qualify as clinical depression.

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