My late mother-in-law used to tell me, “Just wait until you’re finished with menopause! You are going to feel so liberated!” At 52, I’m still waiting for that time! Despite my best intentions to keep a good attitude, I’m not totally excited about entering what feels like a second puberty. Just as when I was twelve or so, the clothes don’t fit right, and I grapple with overwhelm, anxiety, depression, and irritability. The other women in my family have had hysterectomies, so I have no one to give me a clue as to how much longer this will go on.
Still, I am nothing if not stubborn and determined. I’ve examined and re-examined my diet. I’ve adjusted my exercise regimen. I am religious about getting sleep. I manage my stress with regular massages and a dedicated yoga practice. Recently, though, in my continuing attempt to find inner peace in the midst of menopause, I turned to herbal remedies. One day I discovered an article on www.herbmentor.com by Susun Weed, an herbalist with a national reputation.
With quiet confidence, Susun calmed my fears and soothed my angst. She told me the same thing my mother-in-law once did, assuring me that I would feel better. She comforted me by validating my experience and not trying to “make it wrong.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve met women who come through menopause with just a few symptoms and assume that the rest of us should, too. Susun, instead, honors our individual experience. I was delighted to find a compassionate mentor and guide, so I bought her book, New Menopausal Years: The Wise Woman Way.
NMY is not a new book. Originally written in 1992, Susun last updated it in 2002. In fact, she has a new book out called Down There–but I haven’t read that one yet. I think, though, that when a book is good, it’s worth talking about no matter how old it is.
One of Susun’s great contributions in this book is to create a road map that she calls The Six Steps of Healing (she refers to the same process elsewhere as the Seven Rivers of Healing, in case you’re familiar with some of her work). For those of us making decisions about how much medical intervention to seek out, she suggests that we start with the first step — “Do nothing.” This does not mean take no action at all, but to wait and observe a symptom for a period of time that feels comfortable. Sometimes symptoms abate, and if we leave them alone they won’t go away. Other times, we find the symptoms increase, and then we may jump one or more of the steps of healing. Along the way, we empower ourselves to add interventions as we deem necessary that may include herbs, vitamins, or, in the sixth step, surgery or other more invasive medical treatment. With each symptom, Susun suggests treatments for each step of healing.
When recommending herbs, Susun also provides detailed instructions on how to prepare teas, infusions, and tinctures. Since reading her book, I have settled on a daily infusion of stinging nettle and oatstraw to provide energy, adrenal support, and mood regulation. When I am faithful to the regimen, I definitely feel better.
You may or may not agree with Susun on her methods, but she invites you to make up your own mind. She never insists that her way is the only way, but her ability to help us see our symptoms as manageable so that we can make informed decisions is invaluable. Reading New Menopausal Years, I started to see this time of my life as positive, not just intellectually, but in the deepest layers of my being. We are embracing a new identity, going from “mother” to “baby crone,” and it is, truly, an exciting time–as long as we can help ourselves with the layers of discomfort that accompany this transition.
For more information on Susun, who offers courses, other books, and a forum among other things, visit www.susunweed.com/.