She had been a therapist for four decades, and had helped hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men and women overcome serious life challenges and move forward into the life God wanted them to have. Her wisdom was palpable. I was looking forward to sharing this meal together.
“Why do you think perimenopausal women have such a difficult time emotionally? Do the hormonal changes really affect their thinking?” She had noticed repeatedly that a majority of women who came to her for help were either a few years before or a few years after menopause – the perimenopause period. And it wasn’t always present-day issues that caused them to ask for help. Often the “cry for help” involved trauma from many years previously.
Sure, women are facing a lot of factors women when they’re somewhere in the neighborhood of age 50. Hormonal changes are only one factor. These women are often managing multiple generations (both children and elderly parents), trying to work, and are perhaps experiencing challenges in their marriages. The loss of fertility can be especially painful for women who have not been able to have the children they desire. And the future suddenly seems much shorter than one would like. Facing one’s own mortality can be very unsettling.
So where does menopause fit into this? In the few years prior to menopause a woman’s hormone levels go through much more dramatic swings than at any time previously. The highs are higher, and the lows are lower. And once those volatile changes cease, a woman is left with much lower levels of estrogen than she has experienced at any time since childhood. Her brain may struggle to function normally through all these dramatic swings.
Many women going through the menopause transition have a harder time with memory than they’re used to. They may feel more irritable and unable to manage seemingly small triggers to their emotions. They may feel mentally fuzzy and struggle to function at the level to which they’re accustomed.
Some of these changes may directly reflect the dramatic hormonal fluctuations most women experience during this time. And to answer my therapist friend’s question, all the mechanisms by which a women managed to remain emotionally stable in previous years may suddenly be gone. The hormone swings make it much easier for small problems to rock her emotional world than it was previously. She has no mental margin. And if she’s had issues buried in her mind for years, she may not be able to hide from them any longer.
Let’s look at the positive side of this phenomenon. If there are things in life that you’ve needed to deal with for a long time, this may be the perfect opportunity to face them and put them behind you. If you’re feeling a little crazy around the perimenopause time of life, here are a few things that can help:
- Give yourself some grace. You’re not superwoman, even if you pretended to be in the past. It’s OK to be vulnerable and imperfect.
- Care for your body. The simple measures of adequate rest, physical exercise, and a healthy diet will help you feel less crazy and give you an increased sense of control. Caring for your body might also mean a medical evaluation.
- Deal with your stuff. If you’re carrying baggage from domestic violence, abuse, addiction, anxiety, or other unfinished business, get some help for it now. It’s not too late!
- Welcome a life re-evaluation. Your fifties and sixties, and beyond, can be the most joyous and productive years of your life. Look at any past mistakes for what you can learn, and then move forward.
- It’s never too late! Even though you’re not 29 any longer you can still try new things, learn new things, and make a significant impact for the people God’s placed in your world. You’ve got some wonderful things to pass on. Don’t hold back from doing so.
Use the challenges of the perimenopausal period of your life as a stimulus to finally deal with any unfinished stuff from the past and focus your efforts on what you have that’s most valuable to give. You’ve still got a lot of living to do!
Your Turn: Has the periomenopausal period made you feel crazy? What factors do you think have made it so? Leave a comment below.
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