Menopause and the fight or flight response

My husband and I were watching television one evening when a commercial aired for New Mexico, inviting tourists to experience the land of enchantment.

I made a disgusted sound.  “What’s the matter?” my husband asked. “Really?” I asked. “The land of enchantment?  It’s. a. desert! There’s no water anywhere, we’re in a drought, all the wells are drying up, and it stinks like dairies. It’s a friggin’ rock.”

My husband laughed, “True, but you can’t beat the weather,” he said.

I went into full menopausal launch mode and made a noise of utter disgust.  “Only people who have been born and raised in this god forsaken place think it’s a great place to live,” I said angrily.  “Other people, who have lived other places think it’s the arm pit of hell.  The only reason you like it here is because you’re all just a bunch of back woods, red neck, lizard licking cowards without the balls to step foot outside the state.”

Yes.  I really said that to my husband, the electrician, the ex-bull rider, the man who suffered through two bone marrow transplants in an unsuccessful attempt to save his brother’s life, and I meant it.

I had two strategies that guided my life; fight or flight.  I had tried to fight menopause with every tool I could imagine and it wasn’t working.  My flight instinct had kicked in.  I wanted out of here. Nothing else was working, it must be New Mexico, right?  I became convinced that a vacation or mass exodus would solve everything.  It had too.  I had nothing left to try.

I was still trying to fix menopause from the outside in, and the harder I tried, the worse my symptoms became.  I changed my hair, changed my wardrobe, changed my prescription, changed jobs, actually took a vacation and then changed jobs again.  I was changing everything except the one thing that needed to be changed, me. More specifically, my mind.

The fact that I just couldn’t power through this made me feel helpless, and imagining that I was helpless was terrifying.

I wanted menopause to get better, while I stayed the same and continued with my comfortable life, in my comfort zone. I didn’t realize that the symptoms were screaming at me to initiate desperately needed spiritual and emotional change.  I didn’t know what needed changing or why it needed changing.  I had functioned perfectly well in my life until now.  I needed someone to guide me through the next step.

Most of us have two coping strategies, fight or flight.  When neither of them works we become lost, stuck and immobilized by fear.

We are often unaware that another coping strategy even exists.

The mindset that helped me deal with debilitating menopause turned out to be acceptance, something completely foreign to my way of thinking and about 200 light years out of my comfort zone.

I quit fighting it.  I quit trying to fix it or run away from it. I started to work on me.

Shortly after making a pact with myself to feed myself and shower and walk at least once a day, I caught myself thinking “Taking care of myself is such a burden.”

I stopped.  Where did that thought come from?  Who told me I was burden? Why did I believe it? What was the evidence to support the theory that I was a burden?

After answering these questions, I found myself freed from this false belief and energized, empowered and motivated to take excellent care of myself.

Another trick I often use to help adjust my perspective is imagining myself as a little child.

Close your eyes and imagine yourself as a small child, who is feeling what you are feeling, thinking what you are thinking, and going through what your are going through.

What would you say to her?  How would you feel about her?  What would you do for her?

You would most likely feel an immense swelling of compassion for that little lost girl.  You would probably pick her up, hold her in your arms and comfort her.  You might tell her how much you love her and how important she is to you.  You might promise to take care of her no matter what.

When was the last time you accepted and confirmed your little child?  What is keeping you from doing it?

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can  and the wisdom to know the difference.

Love, Tonjia

One Response to “Menopause and the fight or flight response”
  1. Hi Tonjia,
    I can TOTALLY relate to the ‘fight or flight’ impulse. In my case….’flight’ was my choice. I moved house five times in 3 years! What’s that about? I couldn’t work due to this damned depression with the result that I’m now up to my neck in debt. It’s a tough one to get out of. I came to France for 3 months courtesy of my little sister and although it took some weeks, I am at last starting to relax and enjoy myself. And I’ve started my blog. That one was on the back burner for probably 4-5 years at least. Although now I find I’m wondering what will happen when I go home to Ireland. What will I do? How will I earn money – who is going to employ a 50 year old? Where will I live? etc etc. I’ll keep reading your blog and hopefully find the solutions. Keep up the good work. Linda

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