“It’s Just Menopause”

Perception can be a major roadblock to the successful navigation of menopause.

I was diagnosed with “it’s just menopause” when I was 48.

“This can’t be just menopause” I said earnestly. “There is something terribly, horribly wrong with me.”

“All your labs are perfect, there’s nothing wrong with you” the P.A. assured me.  “It’s just menopausal“.

Sitting in the doctor’s office in my examination gown, I felt my jaw clinch.  I leaned forward, looked her in the eye and said “It may be menopausal, but this” I said, pointing to my mid section and making a circular motion with my finger, “This is homicidal.  You have to help me.  I can’t live like this. I’m crazy.  I’m a crazy person. ”

A month later I landed in the emergency room with my very first full-blown anxiety attack. Backed into a corner of the examination room, knees buckled, sobbing and  twitching uncontrollably, I seemed powerless over my own body.  I told the resident psychiatrist I felt like I was possessed.

Night after night my husband held me while I sobbed “I’m broken.  I’m just so broken.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I just don’t feel good”.

There was nothing wrong in my life.  There was nothing wrong with my body. Yet, I became increasingly dysfunctional until I locked myself in the house with the blinds and curtains drawn and refused to answer the phone or shower for days.  I quit going to work.  I was hyper sensitive to light and sound and every cell in my body ached. I didn’t want people to look at me or talk to me.  But more than anything else, I didn’t want anyone to know how desperately out of control I was.  I didn’t want anyone to know my anxiety medication was my fail safe clause for checking out.

It took a year and a half for me to get the help I needed because I was up against a perceptual roadblock that had me beating myself up for not handling this better.  I felt like I was tied to the railroad tracks and the menopausal freight train was bearing down on me, threatening to annihilate me.  My support group was standing by saying “don’t worry, it’s just a train”.

The phrase “it’s just menopause” is a very dis-empowering phrase that trivializes what can be a cataclysmic, life altering, and irreversible event developmentally equal in magnitude to puberty and death. I believe the paradigm “it’s just menopause” programs women to automatically invalidate, question and even deny the powerful forces at work in their life during menopause. Believing “it’s just menopause”  suggests that menopause should be easy, a walk in the park, something she should buck up and get over, without too much complaining, if you please.

The perception that menopause should be easy, natural, mildly uncomfortable and something I should be able to handle alone was crazy making.  It was the first roadblock I had to overcome to survive it.

As long as I perceived it as “just menopause” I felt inadequate, broken, and incapable.  I felt there must be something wrong with me because my experience did not match the paradigm I had been handed.  The more incapable I felt, the more anxious I became.  It was a vicious cycle.

When I changed my personal perception of menopause to “a cataclysmic, life altering and irreversible event developmentally equal in magnitude to puberty and death” it didn’t make it any easier, but It began to change my perception of myself. I began to see myself as a super hero for getting out of bed in the morning and managing to shower every third day.  Instead of feeling inadequate to the task, I felt competent when I managed to feed myself three times a day.

One of the the paradigm shifts that empowered me to change my perception of  menopause occurred while I was researching the symptoms of heroin withdrawal and discovered they are identical to the symptoms of estrogen withdrawal.

In theory, a woman going through menopause is subjected to the same physiological and emotional challenges that accompany recovery from heroin addiction, yet recovering addicts have 12 step programs, meetings, counselors, recovery centers and a support system cheering them on every step of the way.

According to the blue book of Narcotics Anonymous, no addict can recover alone.  They must have a powerful support system in place to be successful.  The same holds true for women navigating menopause.

Changing the story you tell yourself changes your perception and transforms your life.  What story are you telling yourself today?  Does it empower or invalidate you?

Love, Tonjia

Comments
7 Responses to ““It’s Just Menopause””
  1. Yes..this is a great.. menopause as rouge waves.. I see it as a process and at time I feel so alone… it helps me to write though..thank you!!

  2. I love it. You write the truth for many women, and I wish you success in all of your coaching and noncoaching endeavors.

  3. Your wrds ring so true. Forced into menopause at 38 by a complete hysterectomy, I am trying to cope with the changes my body is going through the best way that I can. A positive attitude helps, but you are right, a positive attitude alone can’t take you through major withdrawl. I look forward to reading more of your words.

    • Tonjia Rolan says:

      Wow! I read your blog. You have a beautiful family. I got a real education. The challenges you are facing are enormous. I would like to know what your coping strategies are. Love Tonjia

      • We laugh a lot. As often as we can. Usually until my belly hurts. My husband is sarcastic and I appreciate his humor. Its how he copes, and it helps keep us all smiling. And I read. ANYTHING and everything I can get my hands on! 🙂

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